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Among the different types of pens available, from fountain ink pens to gel pens, ballpoint pens continue to be one of the most popular options on the market. These oil-based ink pens work on almost every kind of paper and are fairly viscous, meaning they tend to last longer. Whether you prefer the convenience of disposable pens or investing in a quality writing instrument you can refill, we researched the top picks.
Here are the best ballpoint pens for your needs.
Best Overall: Uni-Ball Jetstream
With so many office supplies designed for right-handed people, the Uni-Ball Jetstream is a perfect alternative for lefties, though righties will find it equally comfortable to write with.
Left-handed people tend to smear ink on the page, so they need to be incredibly vigilant when taking notes or writing a check—otherwise, the page starts to look messy. But the brand's high-quality Super Ink dries quickly, allowing for smudge-free writing. Even more, the ink is water-, fraud-, and fade-resistant, which is essential for documents or paperwork. Available in black, blue, or red ink, the ballpoint pen's fine 0.7-millimeter tip also makes it a great, everyday pen.
Nib size: 0.7 millimeters | Quantity: Pack of three
Best Refillable: Pilot The Better Retractable
For those with an eco-friendly mindset, refillable pens are ideal as they’re less wasteful than disposable ones. In addition to being refillable, Pilot's The Better Ballpoint Pen is also retractable. There’s no cap and, as such, less plastic is used in the manufacturing process.
These well-priced, fine-point pens are sold as a single pack, a box of two, or in quantities of a dozen. Choose from blue, black, or red ink. The non-slip, ribbed finger grip also helps you hold the pen steady in your hand for effortless writing. And while it's hard to keep track of ink levels with refillable pens, the barrel of the Pilot ballpoint pen is clear, so it’s easy to monitor the ink supply.
Nib size: 0.7 or 1 millimeters | Quantity: Sold individually or in packs of two or 12
Best Value: Bic Cristal Xtra Bold
You can’t go wrong with the classic, Bic Cristal Ballpoint Stick Pens—the extra-bold 1.6-millimeter point is one of the largest available. It’s also disposable, inexpensive, and easy enough for most people to write with. These ballpoint pens are sold as packs of 12 or 24 pens in blue and black ink. The transparent, hexagonal barrel makes it easy to see the reservoir and keep track of ink levels, while Bic's EasyGlide ink technology offers smooth writing.
Keep in mind that while the cap of the pen has a clip, it isn’t ideal for attaching to a notebook. Still, the pens are slim enough for storing a handful in your workbag or pencil case.
Nib size: 1.6 millimeters | Quantity: Packs of 12 or 14
Related: The Best Pens for Lefties
Best Retractable: Schneider Pulse Pro
If you tend to lose pen caps or worry about the cap falling off and the ink ruining your bag, opt for a retractable pen like the Schneider Pulse Pro Ballpoint Pen. Highly lauded by pen aficionados, these pens are easy to write with, thanks to a stainless steel, medium point tip. Better yet, the rubberized surface of the barrel feels nice on your hands, making long note-writing sessions strain-free.
Available with black ink only, these ballpoint pens are sold individually. They're formulated using the brand’s Viscoglide technology for a smooth, high-quality writing experience. Plus, this ink is waterproof.
Nib size: Not listed | Quantity: Sold individually
Best for Drawing: Muji Gel-Ink
Known for making quality products at a reasonable price, Muji's Gel-Ink Ballpoint Pen is perfect for doodling or drawing. A great value, they're sold in a pack of 10.
Whether you're an artist by profession or just doodle as a hobby, gel pens are ideal for sketching and drawing because the ink flows easily. Gel inks also tend to be fade-proof and smudge far less often than regular ink. While the 0.38-millimeter tip is fine, it’s still sizable enough to make bold lines and shade them in, no matter what you're drawing.
Nib size: 0.38 millimeters | Quantity: Packs of 10
Related: The Best Drawing Pens
Best Mini: Paper Mate InkJoy Mini Retractable
If you’re looking for a more travel-friendly option, consider Paper Mate’s InkJoy Mini Retractable Ballpoint Pens. They’re slightly smaller than the standard ballpoint pen, which makes them convenient for carrying around in a briefcase, backpack, or even your pocket.
The pens also come with a metal clip-on cap so you can easily fasten them to a notebook, binder, or pocket. In case you're concerned about ink getting on your stuff, the pens come in a resealable pouch. Each pack has 10 different ink colors including magenta, orange, lime, and turquoise. With a slim build, the pens feature a 1-millimeter medium ballpoint tip that'll easily fit into your palm, so there’s no catch or drag while you’re writing.
Nib size: 1 millimeter | Quantity: Packs of three, four, 10, or 16
Best Large: Kaweco Classic Sport
Although it’s on the shorter end at 4.1 inches long, this Kaweco ballpoint pen is an excellent large alternative with a chunky build. The body of the pen comes in several different colors, including this classic black option.
Despite its size, it’s light and the ballpoint tip ends in a heart-shaped curve. With a 1-millimeter point, this retractable pen is perfect for everyday writing tasks. The oil-based ink won’t disappoint, either—it has a low viscosity for smooth lines and an even flow.
Nib size: 1 millimeter | Quantity: Sold individually
As the best ballpoint pen, the Uni-Ball Jetstream Pen (view at Amazon) is a great, smooth-writing option that won't leave any stray streaks or smudges. The Bic Cristal Ballpoint Pens (view at Amazon) are also a classic pick; though simple in design, they're a lightweight writing instrument to keep handy for everyday use. Either way, both pens are reliable and affordable options.
What to Look for When Buying Ballpoint Pens
With a variety of sizes and shapes to choose from, it’s important to find a pen that comfortably fits your hand. A pen that is too small or too large can throw your grip off and make it uncomfortable to write for long periods of time. The same goes for lefties: the right pen should fit in the palm of your hand.
The tip of a pen determines the viscosity of the ink on paper. Smaller pen tips, or fine tips, are used for more detailed, intricate writing while medium-sized pens are better for everyday use. A good size for a ballpoint pen is between 0.7 millimeters (fine) and 1 millimeter (medium).
What type of ink can be used with ballpoint pens?
Most ballpoint pens use oil-based inks, although there are other types of ink such as gel-based ones. Though they don't come in as many colors, oil-based pens dry faster than other inks—ideal if you’re constantly using a pen. Oil-based pens also generally have a thicker consistency and lower viscosity than other inks, which means less ink is used and the pen lasts longer.
How do I know which style of pen is best for me?
A good rule of thumb is to think about what you’ll be using it for: for college students or office workers, go for a durable pen that is good for everyday use and lengthy writing. If the bulk of your writing consists of signing documents, then you should splurge on a luxury pen that'll last for years. For artists, consider fine-tip pens.
Meet the Expert
This roundup was written by Amanda Lauren, a lifestyle writer who covers fashion and office accessories for The Balance and The Balance Small Business. Her work has also been published in Forbes, Real Simple, Reader’s Digest, and more.