When one discusses about the writing experience of fountain pens, a common topic is the combination of the three big elements of FP writing: pen, paper and ink. If one starts the fp hobby, more or less inevitably end up becoming a paper connoisseur and with one or more tri-part favorite combos. Perhaps less mentioned is the recurrence of the topic with other types of pens, specially with ballpoint pens which have a double reputation of "writing on almost anything" (including paper, plastic surfaces, etc. due to water insoluble, high viscosity ink) and also of being really temperamental hard-starting and skipping writers.
After writing with fps for a while, I discovered that I like writing marks on paper as much as I like my fountain pens. lately I got back to (mechanical) pencils and ballpoints and started exploring into gel ink (rollerball?) pens. I am gladly surprised at what ballpoints can deliver in terms of smoothness, saturation and overall writing experience. Not what I remember of ballpoints as hideous disposable writing instruments. My current theory is that those poor pens are actually the remnants of once ok pens that suffered horrific mistreatments and kept painfully going despite this
So, for new-out-of-the-package ballpoints (modern ones, of course) the writing is not nearly as bad... well, most of the time. I have noticed that paper quality is of great importance for ballpoints, maybe even as much as with fountain pens! Let me explain why I think this is the case: After trying some brand new pens, I noticed that they wrote sometimes allrigth and sometimes very badly. This behavior coincided mostly with the end of pages where my arm and hand have passed many times, in contrast with fresh empty pages where writing was easy at first. At other times, the pens skipped on one particular part of the page and refuse to write no matter how hard I push. In this cases, the writing sensation was quite distinct, and can be described as if the point of the pen slides over a very smooth surface. This can be proven by looking close to the area where the pen is not writing where the surface looks polished and even slightly shiny. In normal writing, ballpoints have a drag feeling due to the viscosity of the ink but this was obviously not the case here. In order to write, the ball at the tip of a ballpoint pen needs to be constantly covered in ink, which is achieved by means of the rotation of the ball caused by the friction with the paper. So, to write, a ballpoint needs that the friction of the tip with the paper be more than the friction of the ball with the ink above it. If, for any reason the ball gets stuck, or the friction with the tip diminishes enough, the ball does not rotate and ink cannot come out.
The issue with paper is then if the paper can grip the point strongly enough to make it roll. In a fresh page, the surface is still rough enough to make this happen (Ink may also contribute to stick the point to the paper), but in the polished surface at the end of a page, it may become more and more difficult until the pen starts skipping and refusing to start. Other contributing factor that is relatively easy to observe is that small fibers can shed off the surface of the paper, then stick to the ink at the point of the pen and collect at the side of the nozzle making the ball stuck. this becomes visible as a little ball of inky fibers at one side of the tip. When you remove this material by wiping the borders of the tip in a clean paper, the pen starts out smooth again. This is very much reduced in other kinds of paper. I discovered that coated papers tend to grip the point much better, which eliminates skipping and makes starts much easier. the same papers tend to make a variety of pens to write nicer and smoother. Lines also look much more saturated and uniform. On the other hand, the tendency to smearing is more pronounced.
So, in practice, there may be also good (even ideal) ballpoint friendly paper.
I'd like to know if any of you have also had similar experiences and what is your favorite paper in combination with ballpoints.