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Ballpoint, Roller-ball or Gel? Pick the Right Promotional Pen!

In terms of ownership, writing instruments are the most popular promotional product - just ahead of promotional shirts. The average pen goes through about 8 to 10 owners before it is lost or runs out of ink, which means that your promotional pens are walking billboards for your logo.

If you are looking to purchase promotional pens for your organization, here are some tips to consider:

There are three main kinds of pens: ball point, roller-ball and gel.

Ball Point Promotional PenBall Point Pens: The kind of ink in this pen has a very thick paste and creates somewhat of a drag when writing. This is because you have to force the ball to roll to get the ink to come out.

Pros of purchasing a ball point promotional pen:

  • Lowest cost
  • Longest write-out (Average: 1.2 miles)
  • Longest shelf life
  • Has the broadest appeal
  • Quick drying - doesn't smear


  • Not as smooth as roller or gel pens
  • Difficult to start on glossy paper
  • No paper absorption - meaning that the ink sits on top of the parchment. Ball point pens should never be used when writing or signing important documents because the ink is so easily removed.

Roller Ball Promotional PenRoller-ball Pens: The ink in this type of pen is very fluid and water-like. Roller-ball pens are always a capped pen because it easily wicks out when it comes into contact with paper or cloth. Very little movement or friction with the ball is necessary for the ink to be released from the tip. These types of pens tend to produce a finer line than ball ink pens.


  • Smoothest write
  • Fadeproof
  • Waterproof
  • Vibrant colors
  • Difficult to remove from paper


  • Shorter write out
  • Tendency to leak if not properly capped
  • Stains fabric

Gel Promotional PenGel Pens: This kind of ink is hybrid between ball point and roller-ball ink. It is very thick, (like ball point), until any friction is applied, then it liquefies to almost a roller-ball ink state. Gel ink pens are colored using pigment color which are more vibrant then the dyes that are used to color ball ink. These pigments soak into the fibers of the paper and are permanent. Without destroying the fibers of the paper they are almost impossible to remove and this fact makes them the best option for writing or signing important documents.


  • Fadeproof
  • Waterproof
  • Vibrant colors
  • Waterproof
  • Resistant to paper washing


  • Shortest write out (Average: 3/4 mile)
  • Longer dry time - may smear

Additionally, left-handed writers generally don't like gel pens. This is because gel pens take a moment to dry and lefties bring their hand across what they have written too quickly, causing the ink to smear. This shouldn't be a huge concern because only about 10% - 15% of people are left handed - but it is helpful to know.

Have more questions about promotional pens and your logo? Ask your Account Executive or contact us. If not - check out our selection of brand name pens like Zebra, BIC(R), Paper Mate, Sharpie and more! Happy shopping!