What is the Difference Between Gel and Ink Pens?

Good question, indeed!

There’s a lot to be considered when looking for pens. One variable is the ink type, what it delivers, and how it affects the writing experience for each individual user. So then, what is the difference between gel and ink pens, and which varieties do they belong to – ballpoints, rollerballs, or fountain pens?

The goal of both devices is to create a writing tool that can distribute a fast-drying thick ink for writing, drawing, or sketching. Though ultimately how users perceive a pen’s performance is somewhat subjective, it’s important to understand these two pens so that you know which ones are most compatible with your writing requirement.

Let’s differentiate!

A ballpoint and fountain pen


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What is the Difference Between Gel and Ink Pens?

What is a gel pen?

Gel pens allow for even writing and drawing and its tip doesn’t wear out like a felt-tip marker. They combine characteristics from ballpoint and rollerball pens. They use water-based gel ink that has a uniformity between both types of ink, making it less likely to smudge but still flows freely enough for easy writing.

Colorful gel pens

The ink in a gel pen is thick and opaque. This is why it shows up more clearly on dark surfaces than other pens. While the ink provides finer and more controlled lines of color, it has a slower drying time.

Gel pens are popular for their writing flow and quick-drying properties. If you are using the fine-point 0.7-millimeter tip, it is highly rated for its comfort in the hand, smooth writing, and bleed proof qualities.

Gel pens generally come in vivid neon colors making them popular for writing and drawings that require bright colors. The pens can be used on smooth and non-absorbent materials since they are less likely to bleed through the other side of the paper. If you are into coloring books,  using gel pens will get you a lovely outcome. Gel pens are also used by business executives, teachers, and other professionals in color-coding presentations, report charts, or texts on planners.


What is an ink pen?

This one seems like a very common question, but apparently, a very interesting one. My mind jumbles whenever someone uses the term ‘ink pen.’ All pens I believe use and contain ink. Therefore, stating that something is a pen automatically means “with ink.”

While all pens are ink pens, the closest example to an ink pen is the fountain pen or better known as the ultimate luxury pen. This pen utilizes water-based liquid ink that is delivered through a tip. The ink flows from a tank through a “feed” to the tip, then through the tip, due to passageway action and gravity.

fountain pen beside a bottle of ink and feather

Filling and using fountain pens requires a little know-how as they typically use dye-based inks, which are contained in disposable cartridges or in refillable converters. The fountain pen’s tip is known as a nib, and the size of the nib affects the flow of ink from it. Though fountain pens can be used on any type of paper, the pen’s watery ink may likely bleed through a thin page. So a thicker paper material may be recommended for best results.

Ink pens in general can be used with permanent or non-permanent inks.

They are one of the most common and well-known pen types that utilize oil-based inks. Because they dry faster compared to other types of ink, there is less-blotting when writing. Since the ink is thick, ballpoint pens use less ink as you write, increases the longevity of the ink on the surface you’re writing on. Another point to consider is that thick ink is more prone to clunking so you have to apply more weight when writing.

Some people don’t find ballpoints the best choice for long writing. However, if you’re just looking for a simple pen for everyday use, ink pens are an easy and reliable option.

A ballpoint tip

Which is more affordable? Gel pens or ink pens?

Okay, this is where it can get kind of puzzling because gel ink is used in both ballpoint and rollerball pens. The ink is a water-based gel that isn’t as dense as a distinctive ballpoint. Because gels use pigments, rather than peroxides, there is also more variation in the colors available.

Gel pens (like liquid ink rollerballs) create bold, rich lines. But since the ink is thicker, they also tend to clump up or don’t always coat the ball evenly; leaving skips in the line. Unlike ink pens, gel pens are priced high because of their quality. One cannot deny the writing quality of gel pens so manufacturers are confident to set their prices high.

Ink pens, on the other hand, are the most affordable types of pens. Considering how ink pens have now become hybrid pens, they now embody fairly new progress in ink pen technology. That means ink pens line now can provide what gel rollerball pens can do giving you the endurance of a ballpoint pen.

In conclusion

Whether you’re a writer, teacher, or student, choosing the best pen makes you want to buy everything. Be wise enough to choose the pens that are comfortable to write with. That’s the most important. The other features are just bonuses.

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