A Guide to Pen Types and Features

fountain pen

01 Nov A Guide to Pen Types and Features

As you probably gathered from our blog post about using pens for your promo marketing, there are many different options to choose from when you are selecting a pen to put your logo on. Because navigating these many different options can be difficult, here is a brief guide to common pen types and features.

Pen Types


A fountain pen is the most sophisticated type of pen. It features a flexible nib tip through which liquid ink is expressed. Fountain pens require some skill to use, as you must hold them a certain way, and they must be refilled with liquid ink. Fountain pens are the stand-out favorite among pen connoisseurs.


Rollerball pens and ballpoint pens feature many of the same mechanisms, but there are some key differences between the two. Rollerball pens use water based ink rather than oil based ink, and they typically require less pressure to use—much like a fountain pen. Rollerball pens tend to have more consistent ink flow, making for a smoother writing experience. Four things to remember about rollerball pens: one, they require a cap in order to keep the ink from drying out; two, the ink can leak easily; three, they run out of ink more quickly; and four, they are not well suited for left handed people. Overall, though, you can consider a rollerball pen a more sophisticated take on the standard ballpoint pen.


Ballpoint pens are much like rollerball pens, only they use an oil based ink, allowing for more control and an overall longer lasting pen. The ink from a ballpoint pen also dries more quickly. The ballpoint pen is the most affordable and most frequently used type of pen.


Gel pens use a type of water based gel that is thicker than water based ink but not as thick as oil based ink. They actually deliver ink just as rollerball and ballpoint pens do—via a rolling ball. They represent a happy medium between rollerball and ballpoint pens because the ink dries rather quickly, and it flows more freely than in a ballpoint pen.

Pen Features

Click vs. cap vs. twist

Click pens, or retractable pens, feature a button and spring mechanism, which allow you to extend and retract the pen tip with a simple click. They are extremely convenient because you do not need to worry about losing a pen cap.

Cap pens, meanwhile, are more simple and feature a cap that covers the pen tip when it’s not in use. Caps can be slide-on or screw-on, depending on how sophisticated the pen is.

Twist pens have a two-part barrel, where the bottom portion of the barrel must be twisted in order to extend or retract the pen tip. These are convenient because there is no cap to lose, and the pen tip cannot be extended accidentally.


Many pens today feature a convenient stylus tip on the end opposite from the pen tip. This allows you to use one end of the pen for writing on paper and the other end for using a touchscreen mobile device.

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