How to Write with a Fountain Pen

A silver Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen sits on a blue Ink+Volt 2020 Planner Limited Series, next to the Ink+Volt Task Pad and a pair of tortoiseshell eyeglasses

The beautifully unique fountain pen is nothing to fear or be intimidated by, we promise.

If you love paper and writing by hand as much as we do, we know you will enjoy — if not love — the many options you have to choose from when it comes to writing with a fountain pen. Depending on your interest level, budget, time, and writing goals, there is a fountain pen out there to fit you and your writing needs. 

Though it may seem like a daunting writing tool that is only meant for the experts or requires specialized skills (especially if we have an entire post written for you on how to write with one!), don’t be discouraged from giving it a try. A fountain pen does take more effort to maintain, and a little bit of knowledge, compared with disposable rollerball or ballpoint pens, but we think the benefits outweigh this extra effort. You’ll be rewarded with a great writing experience! 

We love using fountain pens because of:

  • Their variety. Fountain pens come in a wide variety of price points, colors, ink colors, and options, perfectly suitable for beginners and those with more experience.
  • Their versatility. You can use a fountain pen for every day writing like note-taking or signing checks and documents, or for those extra special greeting cards, invitations, scrapbooking crafts, etc.
  • Their expressiveness. Fountain pens allow you to write more expressively by taking advantage of its design to write in different thicknesses, use flourishes, and use uniquely colored inks. 

Below, we’ll share tips and tricks on how you can successfully write with a fountain pen. Enjoy!

Fountain pen overview

To orient you with the basic components of a fountain pen and how it works, here are a few things to note. These elements differentiate a fountain pen from other pens you use regularly:

  • Fountain pen ink flows from the ink reservoir through to the nib; the tip of the nib touches the paper. 
  • The ink reservoir is refillable based on the pen’s filling system, such as a cartridge, cartridge converter (converts a cartridge pen into a pen that can be filled with bottled ink), or a built-in filling action through a piston or vacuum.
  • The nib comes in various shapes and sizes, e.g. fine, medium, and broad nib tips. This affects how your writing looks and how the ink appears on paper. A finer nib will deliver thinner, finer lines because less ink is allowed to flow through. 
  • The nib is split down the middle, about halfway up (called the slit) and separates into two tines; there is also a little breather hole. The more pressure you apply, the more the tines split or open, which is another way to create a thick line or flourish. 
  • Fountain pen ink is sold in a cartridge or bottle. Both have pros and cons that may be more appropriate for you depending on your skill and comfort level with fountain pens and the type of pen you own.

How to write with a fountain pen

To write with a fountain pen, you have to adjust your alignment slightly to take into account how the pen operates and distributes ink best.

Tip #1: Angling your fountain pen.

Unlike other pens, like a ballpoint, you cannot write with a fountain pen at any angle you want to, in any position. Angle the fountain pen at approximately 40-55 degrees to the paper, with the smoother side of the nib facing upward (this side has detailing or engraving and the breather hole). Because you have to keep this angle to allow the ink to flow, it’s important not to rotate the pen, but rather keep this alignment as you write. If you struggle to get the ink flowing consistently, check your writing alignment first.

Tip #2: Hold your fountain pen between your thumb and index finger.

To start, your hand should be right around the grip part of the pen. You could also hold it a bit higher, between the barrel and the grip, to encourage ink flow.

Tip #3: Write by using and moving your lower arm.

Try to keep your wrist stable, rather than flexing your hand and/or fingers to move the pen or make it write. This will ensure you continue to write at the correct angle and it reduces muscle fatigue.

Tip #4: Keep the pressure light and guide the pen across the paper. 

Guide — don't press — your pen across the paper. This is also more easily done when you write with your arm. It doesn’t take much effort for the ink to flow from a fountain pen, compared to a rollerball or ballpoint pen that relies on applying pressure. 

Tip #5: Write with singular strokes.

When you're first starting, try to use single strokes rather than connected ones (like when you write in cursive) to practice or until you get used to writing with a fountain pen. This can help you feel more confident with holding and angling your fountain pen the right way.

It’s pretty straightforward! With these basic tips, you can easily transition to using a fountain pen every day. It doesn’t take much more than that. 

What to anticipate from the fountain pen writing experience

If you’ve never used a fountain pen before, you’ll be surprised at what a different experience it is compared to ballpoints or other common, everyday pens. Here are some things you can expect to feel or experience when writing with a fountain pen:

  • Your hand won’t get tired as easily. The ink flows from a fountain pen much more smoothly than other pens, requiring minimal to no pressure. You don’t have to press the pen down on the paper at all to get the ink to flow, which will save your hand muscles from cramping up.
  • Depending on the type of nib you use, there may be some give. The more pressure you apply with a more flexible nib, the more the tines spread and the nib opens up, resulting in a thicker line. Though it’s unlikely you would write this way if you use a fountain pen every day, it’s perfect for smaller writing projects. 
  • As long as you angle the pen the right way, you should have a smooth, gliding experience; the nib will only scratch the paper if you rotate it, which is best to avoid.
  • You might feel just a little more important! Writing with a fancy pen can make you feel fancy!

Our favorite fountain pens

If you’re ready to get started and want to write with a fountain pen, we’ve got the perfect suggestions for you.

A great beginner fountain pen we (and our customers) love is the Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen. It’s the ideal first fountain pen for you, because you won’t spend a fortune, it’s got a sleek and simple design, and comes with a reusable case! 

Another reasonably priced alternative is the Lamy Safari Fountain Pen, which comes in some colorful selections and a good nib that can handle everyday writing. Plus, Lamy products write well in all of our Ink+Volt paper products! If you’re interested in a slightly higher end fountain pen, customers love the Lamy LX Metallic Fountain Pen, with its ergonomic grip and easy to replace cartridge. With the luxurious metallic color selection, you can’t go wrong.

Give fountain pens a chance and you won’t regret it! Then tell us what you think on Facebook and Instagram

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