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The Rollerball Pen

When it comes right (write?) down to it, a pen is really only as good as its ink refill. Sure, you want a nice looking pen and a reliable pen, but a functional pen depends upon the ink cartridge.  So, what do you need to look for when making a decision on purchasing an ink refill?

The Basics of Rollerball Pen Refills

Rollerball pen ink refills have a couple of major points that should be considered.  These are the basic factors to consider:

  • The thickness and material of the point
  • The quality and quantity of the ink
  • The stiffness of the cartridge

Point Thickness - Rubber Meets the Road

Schmidt 888 Fine Black Ink compatible refill
Schmidt 888 Fine Black Ink compatible refill

Just like a high-performance car's tires, the quality of your writing experience depends upon where contact is made with the paper.  The size of the tip, along with the material that it is made from will determine how well your pen will write.

It may sound obvious, but you first need to determine if you want an Extra Fine, Fine or Medium point refill.  The size of the refill's point is often expressed in millimeters (mm), such as .5mm, .6mm or .7mm.  The larger the number, the wider the line that will be left on the paper.

Also, you need to consider the material that from which the rollerball point is made. Often, you have two choices:  ceramic and steel.  The ceramic time is a little smoother and may last longer when writing on harder materials.

Quality and Quantity of the Ink

The lasting mark of your writing will be the ink.   You want an easy, smooth flowing ink that will write nicely and stand the test of time.  There are options available, which include inks that are more like gels, but they tend to clog the rollerball so that it acts more like a ballpoint pen.

Choose a high-quality ink from reputable manufacturers such as Schmidt, Schneider and Cross.  These companies make good quality product and have good ink.  Also, be aware that some of the larger refills contain more ink that some of the less expensive refills.

Stiffness of the Cartridge

An often overlooked quality of a pen refill is the material from which the body is made.  Typically, these are made from plastic, but some of the high-end refills have a metal body.  This is not just for show (although it dos look sharp), but it changes the writing characteristics of the pen.

Plastic bodies tend to flex slightly while writing. This flex is transmitted to the point which can give the pen a softer ride and cause the tip to sometime skip.  The metal bodies of some refills help eliminate this problem and give a more consistent writing experience.


For starters, the Schmidt Safety Ceramic Roller 888 and the Schmidt Safety Ceramic Roller 5888 are both excellent refills and are compatible with most refills on the market today.  Unfortunately, the Hauser bill 7o7 SF is no longer in production so I can no longer recommend it.   The Schneider TopBall is a good product as well as Cross.  All of these refills have options, but only the Schmidt offers metal bodies with a ceramic tip and is my favorite.