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How To Write With A Fountain Pen

Writing with a fountain pen is different to a ballpoint or rollerball. It can be more of a task to get ink to flow correctly and to replicate the neat handwriting you’re used to. Fountain pens are a pleasure to write with however and when used correctly, can produce the most elegant handwriting. We’ve put together a guide, based on our experience, to help improve your writing quality. You might not have given much thought to your pen position, your choice of pen, or your writing movement but all can affect your writing style.

Holding Your Fountain Pen

  • Balance the weight of the pen with the cap

    Cap on, cap off? When writing with your fountain pen you need to decide how you feel about having the cap on the end of the pen. A posted fountain pen (with the cap on the end of the barrel) helps to balance the fountain pen so it feels more controlled when you write. An unposted fountain pen might be preferable however if you have smaller hands or a smaller pen. You need to experiment with both ways when writing – posted pens do help with balance and weight distribution but it’s all about personal preference.

  • Hold the pen between your thumb and index finger

    When you hold a ballpoint pen you don’t really think about your pen position. They are easy to write with and have a softer nib to make writing more easily. You can have a relaxed grip with a ballpoint pen. With a fountain pen however, if you want to control your handwriting you need to work on holding your pen correctly. Position the pen between your thumb and index finger, placing your fingertips on the top of the grip, just before the nib. Let the barrel of the fountain pen rest on the bottom knuckle of your index finger. The pen position might feel a little forced if you’re not used to it but it gives you more control over the pen, and with a fine writing instrument you need to be more careful.

  • Hold the pen at a 40°-55° angle

    Find the right angle for your fountain pen to improve ink flow. This is known as finding the sweet point. Different fountain pens have different sweet spots but the angle between the paper and the pen for optimum ink flow is usually around 40°-55°.

    You have a small ball underneath your nib that glides across the paper when writing. If you hold the pen too vertical or if you hold the pen too high up, the ball will barely touch the paper. Holding your pen further up the grip and at a smaller angle will achieve a smoother ink flow.

  • Find the right grip

    Don’t strangle the pen because you don’t want to break the delicate nib of your fountain pen, but do achieve a firm grip when writing. With a ballpoint or rollerball pen your grip can be very loose but to control your handwriting with a fountain pen you need to get a steady grip on the pen.

Writing Movement

  • Write with your arm instead of your hand

    When writing with your fountain pen try not to move your hand. Instead use your lower arm to shift the pen around the page. Most people do let their hand sit relatively still when writing but rather than using their lower arm, a lot of people transition the pen using their fingers. If you continually move your fingers not only will you lose the sweet spot, as you can’t maintain the correct holding position needed for complete control of the pen, your hands will get tired more quickly and you are more likely to suffer from strain injuries.

    Your arm muscles are stronger than your fingers and you won’t need to strain as much when writing. It also ensures you keep your fingers in the perfect holding position.

    It can be tempting with a fountain pen to add extra force and grip when writing as people often think this will help ink flow. The pen position, and cleaning your pen regularly, will help ink flow, a strong grip however will lead to breaking the nib. A firm grip will help when controlling the pen but be careful not to use too much force.

  • Don’t rotate the pen

    We’ve mentioned the correct angle for your fountain pen and referred to how important its position is for improving ink flow, but in order to prevent scratching and other issues, it’s important you don’t rotate your pen.

Choosing The Right Pen

Things to consider

  • - How big is your hand?
  • - How big is your handwriting?
  • - Your language
  • - How fast you write

The pen you choose will have an effect on how you write. Pens come with different nib types, shapes, weights, sizes and body designs. One of the first things you should consider is the size of the pen vs the size of your hand. If your hands are quite small, a large pen may not be ideal especially if you like the cap on the end also. You will also need to check if the body is quite thick and what the weight of the pen is. Likewise, what material is your pen made from. If you write a lot and write rather fast, in particular, you need to find an instrument that is comfortable and enjoyable to use. There’s more things than you might have realised that can affect how you write but it’s important you buy a fountain pen that is a good fit for you.

You should also consider the nip shape and size when looking at fountain pens. The fineness of your writing is determined by the tip size. You can purchase nib sizes from extra fine all the way to broad so you can match them to your handwriting. If you have larger handwriting or use your fountain pen for calligraphy, you may prefer a broader nib size. The nib shape will also play an important factor in the movement of your pen. Round tips can write a consistent line regardless of the direction but italic nibs, for example, widens vertical lines and thins horizontal lines.

This is only a brief guide to choosing the right fountain pen but it gives you an idea of how the type of pen can impact your handwriting.

What Paper To use

There are not too many do’s and don’ts about which paper to use, although you should steer clear of using chemically treated paper. This doesn’t absorb ink well so as you try to write, ink builds up in the nib and can clog the feed. Low quality paper can also lead to feathering. For those unfamiliar, feathering is when your ink spreads, away from your original strokes, in line with the paper’s fibres. It looks a little like when ink touches water. This doesn’t impact your writing as such but it does distort the appearance. High quality paper will help prevent this. Lined paper will also help neaten your writing especially as you get used to your new fountain pen.