What is a Ballpoint Pen?

What is a Ballpoint Pen?

Posted by Cass Art on 6th Sep 2021

Many people regard ballpoint pens simply as writing instruments. But what is a ballpoint pen? It’s just a pen that dispenses ink over a small rotating ball at its tip, so there’s no reason you can’t use a ballpoint for drawing and sketching as well as writing.

Because ballpoint pens are designed for handwriting, they produce a smooth and consistent ink flow. The resulting marks have a very special ink intensity on the page. This is actually really great for drawing, as it can give you some interesting results on paper that are different from an average drawing pen.

There are various ballpoint pens on the market at the moment. Each pen utilises different technology in terms of ink flow and ball-tip, which will give you a different line and finish. This choice of pens means you have a wealth of options both in terms of drawing and in handwriting.

Here we talk through three different ballpoints you can try. All three pens write beautifully and clearly, while also giving you a range of results in your sketches. 


Sketch of a bird using the Lamy Noto pen

The Lamy Noto is described as an ideal every-day or office pen. But it’s more than that. It’s great for note-taking and handwriting and it’s also a handy little go-to for on-the-go sketching.

The hard-wearing ballpoint gives you very light coverage and a fine line when using a soft pressure. Apply a harder pressure and you get more defined lines and darker coverage. You can also layer the pen strokes to create variations in tone and texture. This means it’s also brilliant for practising techniques such as shading and cross-hatching. It’s retractable too so it’s ideal for carrying out and about as you don’t have to worry about losing the lid.


Uni-ball Air sketch on the cover of a notebook

If you are looking for something a bit more ‘inky’ then give the uni-ball Air a try. This pen promises to give you a similar writing style to a fountain pen with the security of a rollerball pen (i.e. you don’t have to worry about leaks). It does indeed write beautifully – so it’s a good pen if you want to try out beginners’ hand-scripting or calligraphy. 

Unlike other rollerballs, the Air’s metal ball is held in a plastic surround. This allows the tip to move freely so it gives you a more flowing drawing line. It also makes it excellent for loose, ‘inky’ sketches. Use a light pressure for a finer line as ink is transferred by the ball itself. Firmer pressure allows the ink to flow freely around the ball for a thicker line. Due to the strong line, we wouldn’t advise using this for shading or cross hatching but it’s wonderful for quick expressive sketches, intense ink coverage and strong, dramatic line drawings.


A sketch of two feathers using a Uni-ball Eye Designer pen

Uni-ball Eye Designer pens provide you with a very fine line coupled with dense ink coverage. These qualities make this ballpoint pen an excellent tool for producing beautiful drawings as it produces a variation in tone and line width.

The pen has a 0.7mm tip that gives you a fine, crisp line. This ensures the pen is great for handwriting but also makes it ideal for clear outlines and precise definition in your drawings. The rollerball pen also has a smooth, consistent ink flow which allows you to create areas of intense, dark ink coverage. The pen’s build guarantees continuous ink flow right to the last drop so you don’t have to worry about the pen jamming or ink running out. It even has an ink window in the barrel, which means you’ll know in good time when it’s time to replace your Eye pen.

This pen is also a good choice if you’d like your handwriting and drawings to last. The Eye Fine contains waterproof pigment ink, which is fade free, water resistant and tamper proof.