Ping Pong, also known as table tennis, is a fast-paced, fun sport that is played in homes, schools, recreation centers, and other venues across America. The sport’s popularity isn’t limited to the US however, as there are an estimated 300 million active players around the world. Recognized as an Olympic sport since 1988, its accessibility is one the sport’s biggest selling points, with just a ping pong table, 2 rackets and a ping pong ball needed to play.

When it comes to buying ping pong balls it would be easy to assume that all ping pong balls are the same, but that certainly isn’t the case. There are significant differences between different ping pong balls, with the performance and durability of the ball determined by its ‘star rating’.

This guide has been produced to help you understand the differences between ping pong balls which on the surface, all look the same. The guide outlines the regulation sizes for all table tennis balls and details the materials used to make the balls. It also covers the meaning behind the star ratings found on balls and explains how this affects the performance of ping pong balls, to ensure you have all the information you need to choose the right ping pong ball for your needs.

ping pong ball dimensions

Ping Pong Ball Sizes

The size of a ping pong ball stays consistent worldwide regardless of the age or ability levels of the players. In this section we will cover the diameter, volume and weight of all ping pong balls to make sure the balls you buy conform to U.S.A Table Tennis (USATT) regulations.

Using a ping pong ball that conforms to USATT rules is essential to be to have the most enjoyment when playing table tennis. Practicing and playing against your friends with the right size ball will allow you to develop key skills such as applying spin to your shots and learn a variety of shot types such as a smash, backhand slice or a forehand block.

Diameter of a ping pong ball

The regulation ping pong ball diameter, as stated by USATT, is 40mm/4cm. The rules also state that the ball must be spherical in shape. As mentioned above, this is the regulation diameter of all table tennis balls across the world, with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) rules handbook including the same regulation sizes. Whilst not covered in the ITTF ping pong ball rules, the standard circumference for a ping pong ball, that is 40mm/4cm in diameter, is 125mm/12.5cm.

Mass of a ping pong ball

Ping pong balls are very light due to the hollow design off all balls. USATT outline that the weight of a ping pong ball should be exactly 2.7g. This is standard for all ping pong balls used around the world.

Volume of a ping pong ball

Whilst there are no official laws regarding the volume of a ping pong ball the volume for a regulation size ball is 33.5cm3. This is assuming the ping pong ball is exactly 40mm/4cm in diameter and weighs exactly 2.7g.

Ping Pong Ball Materials

Ping pong balls for many years were made from a transparent plastic known as celluloid. In 2014, the ITTF changed its rules to ensure that celluloid table tennis balls were no longer being produced, due to the manufacturing process being highly flammable and dangerous. Since this rule change, ping pong balls are now being made from plastics that contain no traces of celluloid and countries around the world are now following suit. However, there was still a crossover period where balls of both materials were being used in competitions, to deplete the remaining supply of celluloid ping pong balls.

This rule change has significantly changed the performance characteristics of ping pong balls and has forced some players to change their playing style. Plastic table tennis balls bounce much higher off the table and travel at a greater speed off the racket than the old celluloid balls, which suits players who play a fast attack game and are looking to play smashes to win points quickly. Plastic ping pong balls don’t spin as much off the racket and table either, which can make defending an attacking player with backspin shots to slow the rally down much more difficult. Some attacking players who use top spin to extract extra bounce off the table to beat their opponents also initially struggled to adapt to the new plastic balls.

Ping Pong Ball Colors

Rules from the ITTF state that all ping pong balls must be white or orange in colour with a matt finish. Orange balls tend to be used in more casual ping pong games between friends or work colleagues. Players of lower ability will tend to use orange balls as they are more visible than white balls. White balls are more for tournaments as venues have different coloured tables and floors, and the players will be wearing different colored apparel, making a white ball easier to pick up for players and judges.

ping pong balls
ping pong bat and ball

Ping Pong Ball Star Ratings

All ping pong balls are rated from one star to three stars based on the quality of the ball. Balls with a one-star rating are entry-level balls that are ideal for beginners, whilst three-star balls are used in competitive tournaments and are the highest quality ping pong balls available.

Below we will outline the performance characteristics for each ball star rating. We will also suggest the skill level that each star rating is suited for, so you are able to choose a ping pong ball that is suited to your requirements.

1-Star Ping Pong balls

Most suited to beginners and recreational players, 1-star table tennis balls are the cheapest balls available which also typically means they are the lowest quality and least durable. That’s not to say that they aren’t good quality or durable though, as they are a great option for many. In terms of their performance, 1-star balls travel at a slower speed through the air and don’t bounce as high, giving less experienced players with slower reaction times a greater chance of being able to react and return the ball over the net. 1-star balls don’t spin as much as 2 and 3-star balls either, which makes them a good choice for beginners, kids and lower-level players.

2-Star Ping Pong Balls

Ideal for intermediate players playing recreational games, 2-star ping pong balls are a great gateway for players looking to further develop their game towards competition level. These balls are of better quality, offer a steeper bounce, and allow intermediate players to begin learning how to apply spin to their shots. Professional players will also sometimes buy these balls in bulk to use in fast paced, multi-ball training drills.

3-Star Ping Pong Balls

3-star ping pong balls are used in all top-level competitions around the world such as the Olympics. Approved by the ITTF, 3-star balls are most suited to advanced players who are training for competitions and looking to reach the highest level. The balls offer the highest, most consistent bounce and greatest ball speed through the air, encouraging fast paced matches and entertaining rallies. 3-star table tennis balls have greater levels of spin, so clever serves and defensive shots are slightly easier to execute. The plastic structure also gives these balls the greatest durability out of the different ping pong ball types, making it a reliable, long-lasting option for pro-level players and anyone else looking to use the best ping pong balls available.

Ping pong ball stars explained

After reading our guide, why not take a look at our premium quality Vermont table tennis balls? We carry 1-star, 2-star and 3-star balls so no matter whether you are taking up ping pong for the first time or you’re an established tournament player, we’ve got you covered with ping pong balls to suit your skill level. All Vermont balls are manufactured to official standard sizes using outstanding waterproof poly material, making these balls perfect for indoor and outside use. At Net World Sports, we pride ourselves on the quality of our Vermont ping pong equipment. As well as balls we carry a range of ping pong tables, ping pong paddles, nets and more to make sure you are fully equipped to take your game to the next level.