Ballpoint Pens Vs Fountain Pens – Differences and Comparison

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

Fountain Pens and Ballpoint Pens

When it comes to the world of writing instruments, two of the most common choices are ballpoint pens and fountain pens. Each has its unique characteristics, ink delivery mechanisms, and writing experiences.

In this ballpoint pens vs. fountain pens guide, we will delve into the comparison between ballpoint pens and fountain pens, highlighting their similarities, differences, pros and cons, and ultimately determining which pen is better suited for different situations.

Fountain Pens Vs. Ballpoint Pens

Aspect Ballpoint Pens Fountain Pens
Ink Composition Oil-Based, Thick Liquid-Based, Thin
Ink Delivery Ball Bearing Mechanism Nib & Feed Mechanism
Ink Capacity More Less
Color Range Extensive More Limited
Design Simple; Focus on practicality and functionality Elegant, Sophisticated
Refills Easily Accessible Not As Accessible
Writing Experience Standardized, Consistent Personalized, Fluid

Both ballpoint pens and fountain pens serve the purpose of writing, but they differ significantly in terms of their design, ink delivery mechanism, and overall writing experience.

Ballpoint pens use a small ball bearing that rotates to transfer ink onto the page, while fountain pens utilize a nib that draws ink from a reservoir and releases it onto the paper.


Both are pens for writing and are available in various designs, colors, and sizes. They come with different grip options, allowing users to choose based on their comfort preferences.

Both pens are capable of producing permanent marks on paper, making them suitable for official documents or archival purposes.

Differences Between Ballpoint Vs Fountain Pen

1. Ink Composition


Ballpoint pens employ oil-based ink that dries quickly, providing a consistent flow and smooth writing experience. On the other hand, fountain pens use liquid-based ink, resulting in a more fluid and expressive writing style.

Find out more how a ballpoint pen work here!

2. Ink Delivery


Ballpoint pens use a small ball bearing located at the pen tip. As the ball rotates, it picks up thick, oil-based ink from the pen’s reservoir and transfers it onto the paper. The ink dries quickly, resulting in a consistent and reliable writing experience.

Fountain pens have a nib, usually made of metal, that draws ink from a reservoir or ink cartridge. The ink flows onto the paper due to capillary action, providing a smooth and fluid writing experience. Fountain pen ink is liquid-based, allowing for more expressive and varied writing styles.

3. Ink Capacity


Ballpoint pens typically have a larger ink capacity compared to fountain pens because their design allows for a larger quantity of ink to be stored. As a result, ballpoint pens make a practical choice for situations where a large amount of writing is required without the need for frequent refills.

Fountain pens, on the other hand, generally have a smaller ink capacity compared to ballpoint pens. Their ink reservoirs are smaller, so there can be steady and controlled ink flows. Though they may require more frequent refills, this design feature ensures optimal writing performance, preventing issues such as blotting or excessive ink release.

4. Color Range


Ballpoint pens typically offer a more limited range of ink colors compared to fountain pens. The most common ballpoint pen colors are black, blue, and red. Some ballpoint pens may offer additional color options such as green, purple, or pink, but the selection is generally more limited.

Unlike ballpoint pens, fountain pens come in an extensive selection of colors, shades, and even specialty inks with unique properties. Additionally, fountain pen users have the ability to mix and create custom ink colors by combining different ink cartridges or using bottled inks.

5. Design


  • Ballpoint pens are known for their simple and practical designs.

They are typically slim and cylindrical in shape, providing a comfortable grip for writing.

Many ballpoint pens often have a retractable mechanism that allows the pen tip to be extended or retracted with a push or twist of the pen barrel. As it eliminates the need for a separate cap, it is quite convenient for everyday use.

The materials used in ballpoint pen construction can vary, ranging from plastic to metal. Plastic ballpoint pens are lightweight and affordable, while metal ballpoint pens offer a more premium look and durability.

  • Meanwhile, fountain pens are renowned for their elegant and sophisticated designs.

They are often regarded as a symbol of fine craftsmanship and style. The materials used in fountain pen construction are typically higher quality, such as precious metals like gold or silver, premium resin, or luxurious finishes like lacquer.

Fountain pens often showcase embellishments, such as engraved details, decorative clips, or unique textures. Some may even feature gemstones or other ornate elements.

6. Refills


Ballpoint pen refills are generally easily accessible and widely available.

They come in the form of standardized ink cartridges or refills that are compatible with various ballpoint pen models. These refills can be found in most stationery stores, office supply outlets, and online retailers.

Fountain pen refills, on the other hand, require fountain pen ink, which comes in bottles or disposable cartridges.

Fountain pen ink is specifically formulated for use in fountain pens to ensure smooth ink flow and prevent clogging or damage to the pen’s nib and feed system. The process of refilling is slightly more complicated than that of ballpoint pens. Therefore, it is not as convenient as ballpoint pens.

7. Writing Experience


Ballpoint pens generally provide a more standardized writing experience with limited line variation. The ink is typically viscous and dries quickly, resulting in a relatively consistent line width throughout. That being said, ballpoint pens are often preferred for everyday writing tasks, where a reliable and no-fuss writing tool is needed.

Fountain pens offer an expressive and more personalized writing experience. The flowing liquid ink of fountain pens provides a smooth and fluid feel as the nib glides across the paper, and minimal pressure is required. So, hand fatigue is not as common, even when writing for long periods.

Pros & Cons


Ballpoint Pens

  • Consistent performance
  • More ink per pen
  • Wide color range
  • Accessible and easy refills
  • Less fluid writing experience
  • More pressure required when writing
  • Simpler design

Fountain Pens

  • Sophisticated design
  • Fluid writing experience
  • Minimal pressure required when writing
  • Less ink per pen
  • Limited color range
  • Less accessible and more complicated refills

Ballpoint or Fountain – Which One Is Better For You?


As you may have noticed, ballpoint pens and fountain pens are designed to serve very different purposes. Ballpoint pens prioritize ease of use to be a daily driver, while fountain pens offer features for all things creative.

Read the scenarios below to learn which type of pen fits which purpose.


  • Everyday Writing: Ballpoint pens are ideal for everyday writing tasks, such as jotting down good notes, filling out forms, or writing to-do lists. They offer a reliable and consistent ink flow that works well on different paper surfaces.
  • Writing On Different Surfaces: Ballpoint pens perform well on a wide range of surfaces, including rough paper, carbon copies, or non-standard materials. They are less prone to ink bleeding or feathering compared to fountain pens, making them suitable for various writing conditions.


  • Creative Writing and Journaling: Fountain pens enhance the writing experience, making it more enjoyable and engaging.They offer a smooth and flowing ink delivery that can inspire creativity and encourage a personal connection with the written word. Fountain pens are often favored by writers and journal keepers for their unique and pleasurable writing experience.
  • Calligraphy and Artistic Writing: Fountain pens with specialized nibs, such as italic or flex nibs, are preferred by calligraphers and individuals interested in decorative handwriting styles. The use of this pen produces line variation and good control, allowing for artistic expression and the creation of visually appealing written pieces.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are fountain pens better for signatures?

Yes! When you write with a fountain pen, you can vary line widths to create a distinct and memorable signature.

What if I want the best of both worlds?

You can try looking for a fountain pen with a ballpoint nib. It will not be easy to find, but it is worth the search if you want the best of both worlds!

What are some brands offering thick ballpoint pens?

You can consider Paper Mate, BIC, Pentel, and Uni-Ball. These are all well-known brands for thick ballpoint pens.


When it comes to ballpoint pens vs. fountain pens, the decision ultimately depends on personal preference, writing style, and intended use. Ballpoint pens offer convenience, affordability, and reliability, making them suitable for everyday writing tasks.

On the other hand, fountain pens provide a more luxurious, expressive, and customizable writing experience, perfect for those who appreciate the art of handwriting and desire a touch of elegance in their writing instrument.

So, whether you prefer a cheap, no-frills pen for everyday use or a high-quality, fancy pen writing for a more exquisite experience, the choice between ballpoint pens and fountain pens is yours to make.

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