11 Best Ballpoint Pens to Buy in 2020

Ballpoint pens utilize a fast-drying, oil-based ink which provides the primary advantage over the fancier types of pens. This ink is much less likely to smudge, bleed, or clog — all disadvantages of rollerballs. Of course, fountain pens are messy and fussy in their own way, which means you have to really want to put in the work to use them. Both rollerballs and fountain pens will leak or otherwise spill ink, which is an extreme rarity for ballpoints. If you’re a fan of this workhorse implement, which will ably guide you through your studies, here’s our list of the top 11 best ballpoint pens for students.

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History of the Ballpoint Pen

Let's get this out of the way first thing: ballpoint pens have neither the cachet of fountain pens nor the absolute ease of use of rollerball pens. Ballpoint pens aren't exactly exciting or cultured in any particular way. If you want to get a sense of their standing, as well as read up on their history, take a look at the comments on this Gentleman's Gazette profile on them. People are serious about their pens.

That being said, ballpoint pens are the workhorses of the pen world. Since their initial patent in 1888 (and their refinement by László Bíró in 1938) right on through today, ballpoint pens are the most common ink-based writing implement.

As a matter of fact, Wikipedia tells us that the venerable Bic Cristal is the best-selling pen worldwide. Those branded stick ballpoints are the pen of choice for every hotel-branded pen you'll find on the dresser as soon as you check in. They've earned their place, even if purists want to pretend they can't live up to other types.

Ballpoint vs. Rollerball

It's important to note that ballpoint pens differ from rollerball pens in a couple of ways. While they both rely on a rolling ball mechanism, the rollerball is a bit smaller than the ballpoint and uses different ink. We dive into rollerballs here, but what you need to know for this post is that the primary difference is in the ink.

Finally, of all the pens available on earth, ballpoint pen ink lasts the longest, requiring the least amount of ink to write. The trade-off is that ballpoints require a bit more work compared especially to rollerballs, which can eventually lead to hand fatigue.

For me, the ballpoint pen is best. I'm from a blue collar background and used to inexpensive but reliable ballpoints that I toss in my pocket and forget about. They accommodate my heavy-handedness nicely, and they last forever. I distinctly do not like the water-based ink in a lot of rollerballs and I find the flow of gel pens disconcerting. Give ballpoints their due; they've never let me down before.

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