Fountain Pens Guide: How To Choose A Fountain Pen

If you’re looking for a new fountain pen, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide looking at all the elements you should take into consideration when choosing your pen. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, you will find tips and advice about the weight, size, nib shapes and more. If you would like further information after reading, get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to assist you in finding a fountain pen to suit you and your needs.

Should You Choose A Fountain Pen At All

If you’re looking for a high-quality pen, your attention is most likely to have been drawn to that of a fountain pen. Fountain pens are elegant, efficient, help improve your handwriting and they look the part. While they have many advantages, they aren’t your only option. If you’re looking purely for practicality, you won’t find anything more convenient than a ballpoint pen – and you don’t have to get lumbered with a plastic biro just because you have a more simplistic need or purpose. There are a range of luxury ballpoint pens with the same elegant casing of a fountain pen but with the softer more versatile nib choice. Likewise, rollerball pens have a similar functionality to ballpoints but they use a thinner, more water based ink.

Before looking at the fountain pen options, you should consider your writing needs and confirm that a fountain pen will serve your purpose.

Fountain Pen Basics: What You Should Know

If you’ve decided a fountain pen is for you, there are a few basic things you should know. Fountain pens comes with a variety of nib types. Their shape and style differs and you should opt for a nib that matches with your handwriting style. You should also consider comfort when choosing a fountain pen. Different materials can make fountain pens more pleasant to hold and retractable/capped fountain pen options allow you to distribute the weight of the pen more evenly to make writing fluent. You should also bear in mind the different ink capabilities. While cartridges are a more convenient ink choice, filling systems and converters provide you with access to a wider range of ink colours. We will discuss all of these factors in greater detail in the upcoming sections.

Nib Type

The nib of a fountain pen is the metal pointed end that you write with. When looking to buy a fountain pen you will notice you have a few different nib options to choose from. The shape of the nib is important as this will affect your handwriting style. For example, certain nib tips are better suited for wider characters and thicker strokes.

The main nib shapes you should know about are oblique, italic, rounded and stub. Oblique nibs are slightly angled and they have been designed for those who hold their fountain pens at a slant when writing. The angle of these nibs has been adapted specifically to that writing style to make it easier for those when writing. Oblique nibs are designed for right handed users but you can get reverse oblique nibs for left handed writers.

Italic nibs or stub nibs are cut straight across on the tip of the nib. Stub nibs are rounder and have a wider tip than italic and they tend to be easier to use. These tend to be better for people with larger handwriting as they create thicker strokes. Italic point nibs are sharper and are intended to pronounce characters better when writing. Stub nibs are great beginner pens and tend to be used for everyday use, likewise with oblique nibs. Italic nibs, however, tend to be used for more formal writing - they are also used for calligraphy practises.

Aside from the nib shape, you should also consider the thickness of the nib tip when choosing a fountain pen. Our nibs guide will contain more details about the size in mm but you tend to have a choice ranging from extra fine nibs to broad and scroll. This also determines how thick your pen strokes will be when writing.

Ink Filling System

Modern fountain pens most commonly use ink cartridges. They are small plastic tubes already filled with ink, that you can purchase in bulk, and slot into your fountain pen when ready. These can be disposed of pretty easily after use. Most modern fountain pens have this cartridge functionality; we have a guide on how to fit an ink cartridge but essentially you push the cartridge into a tube in the grip.

Ink cartridges are convenient and easy to use, yet they aren’t the most environmentally friendly option and you may find they are limited in coloured ink options. Some fountain pens come with a converter, or have an option to purchase a converter to fit the fountain pen. Pen converters include a plastic cartridge but you fill them up with liquid ink (there are a variety of liquid ink colours) and they are reusable.

When buying a fountain pen check the ink filling system. You will also need to buy cartridges or converters compatible with your pen as they can differ on a pen by pen basis.

Pen Design

Material

When considering the material of the pen, you should consider that of the nib and the fountain pen casing. Most pen nibs are made from some heavy metal such as steel. This is to ensure they don’t break easily and guarantee their longevity. Gold plated nibs and more decorative nibs come reinforced with heavier metals such as stainless steel to provide you with both the style and practicality elements.

In regards to the pen casing, you will find there are various options to choose from. Some people prefer to base their decision on style and elegance, for example a fountain pen used for business purposes should have a degree of formality about it. Others may tend to base their material choice on comfort, particularly if they plan on using their pen for long periods of time. Quilted fountain pens are popular for comfort.

Weight

The weight of a pen, while it may sound trivial, is actually an important consideration when choosing a fountain pen. You need to be comfortable when writing especially if you plan on writing for a considerable amount of time. If the pen is too heavy it could cause strain injuries for your hands. The weight of the pen tends to come down to personal preference. Some people prefer heavier pens as they feel they can control their handwriting more, whereas some people prefer light fountain pens so they can move more freely when writing. Consider how heavy the pens you are currently writing with are. You don’t want to go from one extreme to the other so find something similar that you know you’re comfortable with.

Size

If you have small hands and you like to have the cap on the end of the pen, it’s not going to sit comfortably in your hands. This may make it more difficult to control when writing. Size is an important factor in your fountain pen positioning and handwriting so bear this in mind when choosing your pen.

Capped/Retractable

Most commonly fountain pens come with a detachable cap that fits on the grip and protects the pen nib. You can also however buy fountain pens that are retractable. You push a button on the end of the barrel for your nib to appear. This, again, is down to personal preference. Some people don’t like having the cap on the end of their pen when writing so they may be better opting for a detractable cap fountain pen.

Fit For Purpose

You should also consider your writing purpose when choosing a pen. As hinted at earlier when discussing the different nib options, we mentioned certain nib sizes and shapes will create larger or sharper pen strokes. Stub pens have a wider surface tip and they create less refined pen strokes. These and oblique nibs are perhaps more suited to faster handwriting tasks such as notetaking. Business documentation and signatures may require a sharper character definition when writing and for these scenarios you may be better opting for a fountain pen with an italic nib.