Ballpoint FAQs

1. What is rollerball ink? How is it different from ballpoint ink?
2. Do I need a rollerball or ballpoint refill?
3. How do I choose the correct ballpoint refill for my pen?
4. Which pens brands use the 3 7/8" standard 'Parker'style' ballpoint refill?
5. What is the different between a liquid soft-roll and gel ballpoint?
6. What new colors are now available for ballpoint pens?

Q1: What is rollerball ink? How is it different from ballpoint ink? 

A: A ballpoint refill has an internal chamber filled with a viscous ink that is dispensed at the tip during use by the rolling action of a small metal sphere (usually 0.7 mm to 1.2 mm in diameter) of brass, steel or tungsten carbide. Below is an image of a ballpoint tip highly magnified.

Ballpoint tip

A rollerball refill is a liquid ink filled tube which has a golf ball like dimpled ball which delivers this liquid ink to the paper. Rollerball liquid ink is similar to liquid used in fountain pen ink. 

Compared to rollerball and fountain pens, standard ballpoints typcially dispense wax based ink and require more pressure and thrust to push the ink from the tip. Ballpoints lack the free flowing supply of ink that other types have, requiring the writer to apply more pressure to the page. As a result, the ballpoint pens are less likely to leak. Their robustness makes them suitable where a firm press is required, namely for carbon copy-type forms where a layer of carbon paper transfers the writing, but not the ink, to subsequent copies.

They have difficulty writing on surfaces such as plastics, shiny surfaces, and wet or oily surfaces. Due to the pen's reliance on gravity to coat the ball with ink, most ballpoint pens cannot be used to write upside down; however, there are special pens that do work upside-down such as the Fisher pressurized ballpoint pen refill.


Q2: Do I need a rollerball or ballpoint refill?

Does the pen require that you remove the cap to write?

A: Rollerball refill.

Does the pen require that you twist or click the pen to begin to write?

A: Ballpoint refill.


Q3: How do I choose the correct ballpoint refill for my pen?

A: Measure the total length of your and the fitment area from the tip to the barrel by using a ruler. To determine your exact fitment you should ignore your refill's tube color and any numbers on the refill tube. They are production dates and are meaningless to us.

The ballpoint refill shape most commonly used around the world is referred to as the 'Parker-style' ballpoint refill. It's distinguishing feature is the 'crown' type end opposite of the writing point and the length of the refill.

<Parker Standard Refill>

Many brands of pen will accept the above refill. However, some ballpoints are not at all the shape shown above. Here is an example of another ballpoint shape. This is a ballpoint commonly found in multi-pens (two to five differently colored refills which deploy upon your command):

<Monteverde mini soft-roll ballpoint>
Although the 'Parker-style' (shown above in silver and blue) is used in 95% of all ballpoint pens there are always a few exclusions to the rule. You should always compare your old refill with the image and measurements of the new refill before you make your final purchase as pen manufacturers may change refill requirements for different model years or specialty models.


Q4: Which pens brands use the 3 7/8" standard 'Parker'style' ballpoint refill? 

A: A 3 7/8" standard 'Parker'style' ballpoint refill can be used with these brands:

Bossert & Erhard
Caran d'Ache
Conway Stewart

Faber Castell
Jean Pierre Lepine
Jorg Hysek
Libelle New York
Museum of Modern Art

Retro 1951
ST Dupont

Q5: What is the different between a liquid soft-roll and gel ballpoint refill?  

A:  Never before in the history of ballpoint writing have this many new technologies in inks and ink colors been available. If you have a ballpoint pen which uses the standard 'Parker-style' ballpoint you now can choose:

1. Standard wax-based ballpoint ink

2. Liquid soft-roll and easy-FLOW ink ballpoints


3. Gel ballpoints

Liquid soft-roll ballpoint:


Liquid ink refills use a water-based liquid ink as opposed to the oil-based inks found in ballpoint refills. This is essentially the same liquid ink found in a roller ball refill. These inks tend to saturate more deeply and more widely into the paper than ballpoint ink; a fine tipped liquid ink ballpoint may lay the same line as a medium standard ballpoint.


The liquid ink ballpoint refill was initially designed to combine the convenience of a ballpoint with the smooth "wet ink" experience of a fountain pen or rollerball.


A liquid ink ballpoint refill has two main advantages over a ballpoint refill. Less pressure needs to be applied to the pen to have it write cleanly which facilitates holding the pen with less stress on the hand.

Gel ballpoint:


What distinguishes a gel refill from a ballpoint are pigments suspended in a water based gel. Gel refills are favored by many writers for their bold colors and solid lines. Gel refills use the same basic rollerball mechanism as a rollerball pen, but the ink is noticeably thicker than standard rollerball refill ink.


Another trait of Gel ink is that it resists common laboratory forensic analysis. The pigments in gel ink do not dissolve, and therefore cannot be analyzed with thin layer chromatography. Many believe that a check's signature is safer when written in Gel ink. We make no guarantees however.


Q6: What colors are available for which ballpoint pens? 

A: There are now ten fabulous colors available in Liquid ink 'Parker Style' ballpoint refills as well as Monteverde alternatives for Cross, Sheaffer, and Waterman standard ballpoints.