11 Frequently Asked Questions About Ballpoint Pens Answered!

The trusty ballpoint pen is without a doubt the most popular pen option in the world with it being the dominant option for decades due to the low price tag, reliability, and solid performance. Although Rollerball pens are becoming more and more popular, at the time of writing, the ballpoint pen still reigns supreme.

Due to the massive popularity of the ballpoint pen, we see a huge number questions spread across a wide range of topics every single month. Due to this, we have decided to publish this dedicated article going over the more popular questions that we see asked about ballpoint pens. Our hope is that we are going to be able to help as many of our readers as possible who are looking to pick up a better ballpoint pen and improve their writing experience.

As we are covering eleven questions in the article, we have added our table of contents below to try and make sure you are able to quickly and easily navigate directly to the question that need answers to. This should be able to help save our readers time instead of them having to skim over the whole article.

Are Ballpoint Pens Waterproof?

The majority of ballpoint pens currently on the market are not waterproof or water-resistant and will have issues if the paper that you are writing on ends up getting wet. That said though, the Uni-ball Powertank ballpoint pen is a solid option for anyone that will be working around water but needs their pen to be able to hold up against the elements.

You are able to take this a step further by opting to pickup the Rite in the Rain All-Weather Durable Clicker Pen that is the best waterproof pen on the market right now due to its proprietary ink that holds up against water. You can usually pick it up for between $10 and $20 too depending on where you purchase the pen making it a bargain if you know you need a waterproof pen.

Do Ballpoint Pens Smear?

Although ballpoint pens can smear when writing with them, a ballpoint pen does tend to smear considerably less than other pen types due to its oil-based ink. A rollerball pen with its water-based ink will smear more often than that of a ballpoint pen and a fountain pen will often smear more than a ballpoint pen but not as much as a rollerball pen.

This is why decent, cheap ballpoint pens are so popular with people who are left handed. The oil-based ink tends not to smear much so anyone who is left handed is able to write fast without having to worry about smearing the pen ink with their hand as they drag it over their work.

Keep in mind that the type of paper that you are writing on will also come into play but even on paper types that tend to smear more than others, a cheap ballpoint pen will usually smear much less than other pen types. Although there are some “specialist” ballpoint pen models on the market that are advertised as smearing even less than usually ballpoint pens, they tend to be a money grab with a minimal boost in performance if any at all so just go with a regular ballpoint pen with the cheaper price tag.

Do Ballpoint Pens Bleed Or Ghost?

Although a ballpoint pen can bleed or ghost when writing, they tend to have less issues than fountain pens or dip pens. If your ballpoint pen is bleeding or ghosting when writing then it can be due to using thin paper and upgrading to some cheap, high GSM paper that is thicker than regular paper can help to prevent the issues with bleeding.

Over the years, the cost of higher GSM paper that is thicker than standard or low GSM paper has came down making it much more budget friendly. This will often be enough to prevent you from having issues with ghosting or bleeding with your ballpoint pen although the majority of people should not have issues it anyway.

Keep in mind that if the nib or ink cylinder of your ballpoint pen is damaged in anyway then this may cause more ink than usual to transfer from the nib to the paper resulting in a bleeding or ghosting effect. Thankfully, it is usually easy to see if the nib or ink cylinder in your pen is damaged as you will usually have issued with the pen leaking when not in use too helping you confirm the fault.

Is Ballpoint Ink Permanent?

Ballpoint pen ink in not permanent and although there are some ballpoint pen models on the market right now that do have long lasting ink, it is not permanent and will end up fading over time. Without going into a lengthy explanation on ink permanence, the main reason for this is due to the way the actual ball mechanism works in a ballpoint pen.

Unlike other pen types, the ballpoint pen requires an oil based ink and due to the chemical compounds in the ink, it is difficult to formulate the pigments or dyes as required to product ink that will permanently last and not fade over time. As this is due to the mechanics of a ballpoint pen, other pen types such as permanent fineliners will almost always be the better option when you require permanent, long lasting ink.

Are Ballpoint Pens Archival?

Ballpoint pens do not come with archival ink capabilities due to their ball mechanism needing an oil based ink to work. As it is extremely difficult to produce archival oil based ink that is cheap the majority of pen brands just stick to producing archival quality fineliners that is fade resistant as the process is easier and cheaper.

Do Ballpoint Pens Write Upside Down?

Although most ballpoint pens can write upside down for a short period of time, once the ink has ran out that is already on the ball mechanism, it will stop writing. This is due to ballpoint pens needing the assistance of gravity to keep a constant supply of ink on the ball to ensure that the pen is able to writing continuously.

Although there are a number of anti-gravity pens on the market that are able to write at any angle, the do tend to be more expensive than a normal ballpoint pen. Due to this, we would recommend our readers to try and decide if having a pen that is able to write upside down is really worth the additional cost or not.

What Is The Finest Ballpoint Pen?

The Uni Jetstream is one of the finest ballpoint pen models currently on the market with its 0.38mm nib size offering a very fine font when writing with the pen. Although there are a few other 0.38mm nib options for ballpoints, the Uni Jetstream does tend to be the best due to its low price tag and excellent performance.

As we have touched on a few times now, it is difficult to get a ballpoint pen to work efficiently with a nib smaller than 0.38mm due to its rotation requirements. If you do need an ultra fine font when writing then something like the G-Tec-C may be a better option as it has a 0.25mm nib size but it is a gel based rollerball pen rather than a regular ballpoint.

Are Ballpoint Pens Lightfast?

The vast majority of ballpoint pens are not lightfast as the oil based ink required for a ball mechanism to work does not formulate well with lightfast properties. That said though, the Pentel Arts Hybrid Technica is an excellent option that is lightfast and although it does use a ball mechanism to transfer ink to the paper, as the name suggests, it is a hybrid, not a traditional ballpoint pen.

The lightfast properties of the ink in the Pentel Arts Hybrid Technica perform well though and allow artists to use the pen with their work and not have to worry about the ink fading under display conditions. The low price tag and great reputation of the Pentel Arts Hybrid Technica range make it an excellent choice and we would highly recommend it to any of our readers who require a lightfast pen.

Is A Bic Pen A Ballpoint Pen?

Although Bic do make other pen types, the Bic ballpoint pen is the most popular model within their range with it being one of the most popular pens in the world. As the name suggests, this particular model is a ballpoint pen but all Bic pens are not ballpoints so be sure to double check prior to purchasing if you do specifically require a ballpoint.

Are Ballpoint Pens Indelible?

Ballpoint pens are not indelible due to their oil based ink not performing well with indelible additives in it. Due to this, if you do require an indelible pen you may be better off opting to go with some indelible fineliners. Although they are not ballpoints, they do have indelible properties during use ensuing that your work will last.

Do Ballpoint Pens Expire?

Although ballpoint pens do technically expire, their oil based ink lasts for so long that it is very unlikely that the ink will expire before you run your ink cartridge dry and need to get a new pen or replace its ink cartridge. This is one of the main advantages of ballpoint pens as they are cheap and easy to produce while they last for longer than many other pen types making them an ideal purchase for many people.


That brings our article going over some of the most commonly asked questions about ballpoint pens that we see to a close. We hope that you have found it helpful and that we have been able to answer your question. There is many reasons that ballpoint pens have not only stood the test of time but remained their dominant position as the most popular pen type in the world. Even a cheap, disposable ballpoint pen can get the job done for the majority of our readers without issue making it a decent pen option for many people.

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