The Most Common Rollerball Pen Issues and How to Fix Them.

Common Rollerball Issues and How to Solve them

The rollerball pen is one of the most common pen types and relies on water-based ink, which may bleed, dry up or skip the paper after a period of time. In this post, we will teach you how to fix the 3 most common issues reported about rollerball pens, so you don't have to worry about if it happens to you.

When your pen stops working, it could possibly be one of the most annoying occurrences, especially when you're in the middle of writing. We know you want your pen to work, whether you've had it for years or if it's brand new, so we’re here to help you.  We here the questions: how do I fix a rollerball pen, and why is my rollerball skipping more than any other question, so here is a run down of how we solve our Rollerball issues.

What are the most common issues, and why do they happen? 

Very similar to a ballpoint pen, a rollerball pen uses a small ball at the nib that rotates around as you glide it on the paper, which deposits ink onto the page. They use a more fluid water-based ink which has its benefits as we discover in our Ultimate Rollerball pen article - but can also be hard to adjust to if you're used to ballpoint pens that use oil-based ink, which often doesn't experience the same issues as rollerball pens.

The most common issues of rollerball pens are:

  1. The pen has dried out and will not write anymore,
  2. The ink of the pen skips over the paper which makes the writing look sloppy
  3. The ink bleeds through the paper, which again doesn't look good visually. These issues have very simple solutions and take very little time, so you will be back writing in no time! 
How to fix a Rollerball Pen

How to fix a dry rollerball pen.

Fix 1. Check that your pen's ink cartridge hasn't run out of ink!  Before doing anything, check this.  The last thing you want is to start the process of fixing your pen only to find there was a simpler solution. Find our wide range of ink cartridges here

Fix  2. There are a few ways to fix this issue so stay with us. Try holding the pen under some warm water, this may loosen the ink if it has dried up or if it is extra cold (the ink can become viscous at really cold temperatures and clog the tip) You just need to hold the tip under the water for a few moments.  If this doesn't do the trick, then move on to the next tip.

Fix 3. If that didn't work we can imagine you're feeling a bit upset, don't worry there's more! Try writing your pen on a grippy surface like the bottom of a shoe you're not bothered about (as the material is usually a high friction rubber), or just some regular paper. Do this in circles until the pen writes again.  This is a very good tip for both rollerball pens and ballpoint pens as the mechanism is the same.  What you are trying to do is get the ball rolling again if it is stuck.

Fix 4. Still not working? The final straw, take out your anger on the pen by shaking it vigorously up and down and then trying again to write with it, this will help to unclog the ink of your pen if it has dried. 

The pen should work after at least one of these, however, if it doesn't, it may be the refill itself, a lot of pens start off great but the refills inside just don't do it justice.  You may have damaged the nib of the refill slightly for exampl eif it has been dropped, this can jam the ball mechanism.  In this case, a new, better-quality refill of ink for your pen is probably your best bet at this point. Here's our best range of ink refills just for you, please remember to check which one is suitable for your pen or you won't get very far. 

How to fix a rollerball pen that skips when writing. 

The first thing to check is that your pen isn't drying out, easily done now that you know all the ways to check from above!

Really the most common issue when pens are skipping and making sloppy writing, is the way that you are actually holding the pen. This seems silly but don't be fooled, the angle and pressure you use can greatly affect the pen's ability to write normally.  Sadly, it's not the pen, it's you.

Fix 1. Try writing with a different position of the hand, make sure the actual rollerball has a connection with the paper and you aren't moving enough to break that connection. 

Perhaps altering the pressure you use to write with at the same time. Try different angles and pressure until you find one that works for both you and for your pen. 

If changing your style doesn't work for you, another suggestion we sometimes recommend is to change the refill to a medium nib.  Generally rollerball pens come with a fine nib as standard.  These can sometimes be scratchy on shallow angle writing styles.  A medium nib allows more ink to flow and give a shallow angle writer more fluid to lubricate the movement.

Fix 2. Alternatively, your pen's ink may not be wet enough. Gladly, it isn't you, it's the pen. This fix ensures you'll be able to write again but is more technical and we recommend getting a professional to do this for you.

Using a small syringe, remove the ink that is already in your refill and mix it with a small amount of a surfactant (you can find this by searching for “surfactant for pen ink” in your search engine), then reinsert it into the cartridge. The surfactant loosens the ink up, making it wetter, which means less dragging and missing the page, leading to fewer or no skips. 

This one is not really recommended by us, as it can be messy, damage the refill if you don't know what you're doing, and is more trouble than just buying a new refill as described above.

How to fix a rollerball pen that bleeds through the paper. 

If your pen bleeds through the paper it can be quite a bother, turning the page to use the back of the paper and finding you can't because your writing has miraculously become double-sided is not what you want. 

Fix 1. If you're left-handed, the problem is probably you. Unfortunately, Rollerball pens aren't usually recommended for lefties as the ink is wetter than usual, leading to smudging when you're writing.  You can adjust your style so that your hand doesn't run over the ink as you write, but some people find this difficult.  We generally recommend a good quality ballpoint pen for left-handed people as we know you don't want an ink-stained hand or a messy piece of writing. 

Fix 2. Try using a finer nib on your pen, or finding a pen with a finer nib included. The finer nib will refine your writing and restrict the ink flow meaning there is a lower volume of ink being distributed and it is far more controlled. The finer the nib, the less bleeding through the paper you should have. 

Fix 3. Of course, the paper may be too blame, some notepads are just made from thin cheap paper.  Try getting some good quality paper that is the correct GSM and that may help the issue.  This also helps with Fountain pens.  Wet ink means bleeding is always a possibility through thin paper.

In conclusion

Rollerball pens are great and can be a brilliant addition to your stationery collection. Knowing the quickest and easiest way to solve any pen issue is a must for any pen lover. Invest in a good quality pen and most of the time it will be an issue-free experience, we recommend the Parker Rollerball Pens as they work great, are durable and their refills can be found in any good stationery store.  Plus they come in a range of designs, colours and price brackets so there is something for everyone.

Feel free to comment below and take a look at our other blog posts, and guides. Check out our full blog here.

1 comment

  • Ron Giuntin

    Thanks. I just opened a box which contained a NewWaterman Rollerball pen that is at least 14 years old. It wouldn’t flow no matter how many circles I scribbled. Running it under hot water for about two minutes and my pen is writing fine again. Also am finally using my expensive fountain pens which are also new in their boxes. Had no time until I retired to play with them.

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