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Anatomy of a Ballpoint Pen:
Parts of a Pen and How They Work

updated: June 9, 2023

Pens printed with a custom logo are some of the most popular promotional products out there. Why? Because promo pens are lightweight and portable, useful, and are also incredibly affordable. Perfect for education, financial, and other business institutions, custom pens come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Let’s explore the parts of a pen, and some frequently asked customer questions, to see which features are right for you!

What are the Parts of a Pen?

View the components of a ballpoint and multi-functional pen below:

Pen Anatomy Infographic

How Do Pens Work?

The type of mechanism of a pen determines how it works. Stick pens, the simplest and most affordable kind of pen, have no retractable mechanism and come with a removable cap, so that the ink will not dry out. The caps have are vented with a hole at the end to prevent choking if swallowed. Stick pens have a straight stick-like shape and usually do not come with a comfort grip. An example of a stick pen is our best-selling BIC® Round Stic® Pen.

Click pens have a retractable mechanism and are the most popular type of pen. With retractable pens, the user simply clicks a button to reveal the ink tip. Popular ballpoint choices include the classic Easy Writer Pen and multi-functional Starlight Highlighter Pen, featured in the above infographic.

Other pens have a twist mechanism.  Twist-to-open pens work just like they sound: twist the grip or barrel one way to reveal the ink tip and twist the other way to close. Twist-to-open pens include a wide range of styles and designs, including those with a built-in stylus and even a light-up logo feature.

How Many Inches is a Pen?

The typical length of a pen is somewhere between 3.5 and 5 inches long. The average ballpoint pen is said to have enough ink to last for 900 meters (that’s about half a mile)!

Types of Ink Delivery

Common types of ink include ballpoint, rollerball, and gel. Ballpoint pens use a thick, fast-drying ink, whereas a rollerball pen uses a smooth-writing liquid ink that takes longer to dry. A gel pen uses a thick, water-based ink that shows up well on darker paper colors. All three types of ink can come in a variety of color options, the most popular being blue and black.

Pen Tip Sizes and Types

Common pen tips include extra-fine, fine and medium point sizes, the most popular being a medium point size.

Have other questions about what pen style will work for your brand? Get in touch!

Types of Pens

Common types of promotional pens include:

  • Basic Pens- Our most affordable and popular styles
  • Executive Pens- Pens at a higher price point, often with metal components
  • Novelty Pens- Themed pens, fun pens and pens with unique features
  • Stylus Pens- Pens with a stylus tip for use with touchscreen devices
  • Multi-Functional- Pens with additional features such as a stylus, highlighter tip, multiple ink colors, and more
  • Pen Sets- A great corporate gift idea, pen sets often come with another writing utensil or promotional gift

Have questions about what pen style will work for your brand? Get in touch!



Frequently Asked Questions About How Pens are Made

The clicky part of the pen is called the cam or the thrust device. This part sits above the ink cartridge and pushes it into position when the user is ready to write.
Most ballpoint pens have a barrel and an ink cartridge. If they are retractable, they will also have a thrust device to move the ink cartridge into position.
The parts of a pen will vary depending on the type of pen. For example, a simple stick pen will only have a cap, barrel, and ink cartridge. However, a fountain pen will have a cap, barrel, nib, feed, section, and converter.
The metal part of the pen that clips to your shirt is simply called the clip. It is the perfect place to print your logo for promotional and branding purposes.