Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Fountain Pens

Do you still remember the good old fountain pen?

Even in the modern era of computers and texting, the fountain pen is still beloved by people that love elegant handwriting.

For decades the fountain pen was considered to be a status symbol that was related to wealth, success and sophistication.

Fortunately, we now live in a time where every can buy a good budget fountain pen without paying the big bucks.

In this guide, we will go over finding the best affordable fountain pens and how to use them to improve your handwriting.

Best Fountain Pen

Many fountain pens look similar on the outside. So why does one cost almost a thousand dollars while the other only costs a hundred?

A very big part of the price difference is due to clever marketing by some of the major fountain pen brands. So going for the best cheap fountain pen does not necessarily mean you will end up with a vastly inferior product.

What to Look for when Buying a Fountain Pen

If you are debating which fountain pen to buy, you might want to keep the following criteria in mind.

  • Nib Material: it was customary to make the tip of fountain pens out of gold, hence the high price. Nowadays nibs pen can be made out of a wide variety of different metals and alloys. Depending on the material, the price and performance of the pen may fluctuate.
  • Nib Size: normally the nib is categorized as one of the different sizes: extra fine (EF), fine (F), medium (M), broad (B), or double broad (BB). You want to use a size that suits your handwriting. In general, small nibs go well with smaller handwriting and vice versa.
  • Nib Shape: the type of letters you can make depends on the shape of the nib. The two most common variation is the rounded tip. No matter what direction you move the fountain pen, you will get lines that are of equal thickness. The second popular type is the italic nib. These are flat at the end. When writing this will result in broad vertical strokes and thin horizontal strokes. Fortunately, many fountain pens allow you to swap between different types of nibs.
  • Filling System: depending on the type of your fountain pen, they can be refilled with ink using either cartridges or bottled ink. If you used a cheap fountain pen in primary school, you are probably familiar with the ink cartridges. Ink cartridges make it easy and fast to refill. However, if you use bottled ink you will be able to choose from a much wider range of colors.

Best Fountain Pen under 100

If you want to buy a fountain pen to improve your handwriting or for creative endeavors, we recommend buying a pen that can be refilled with bottled ink. You will be able to use the perfect color depending on the special occasion.

The Waterman Hemisphere is one of the best affordable fountain pens. These pens are hand-crafted in France and are sold with either a fine or medium sized stainless steel nib. Additionally, you can choose between 9 different colors to fit your personal preference. They come in an elegant give box, which makes them great as a gift too.

Best Fountain Pen under 200

Unlike cheap fountain pens, if you buy a one around this price point you can start to expect some higher quality nibs. These nibs often include a certain amount of gold as well. This will allow the nib to be a little flexible and the fountain pen to be used in combination with more elegant writing styles.

If your budget allows you to go up to 200, we strongly recommend you check out the Lamy 2000. It is made out of black fiberglass and brushed stainless steel and the 14kt gold, platinum coated EF nib will smoothly move across the paper. The nib is slightly flexible and by changing the pressure you apply to it, you can bring you handwriting to live. Additionally, it used piston filling system so you can freely use bottled fountain pen ink. The Lamy 2000 is a favorite of many and has received many positive reviews.

 

Also read our other article to find other good fountain pens to start with.

Best Fountain Pen Ink

Fountain pens are amazing for writing elegant letters. And many choose to purchase additional fountain pen ink in different colors to give their writing additional flair and personality.

Especially if you use bottled ink, you will be able to choose between a wide variety of colors.

Indeed it’s difficult to find the best bottled ink for fountain pens since everyone has their favorite color they swear by.

It will probably not be a huge surprise that the famous fountain pen manufacturers are also some of the best fountain pen ink brands.

If you are using a fountain pen with cartridges, it is advisable to buy new ink cartridges from the same brand to make sure they fit. But if you fountain pen can use bottled ink, feel free to experiment with inks from different brands.

Fountain Pen Ink Review

Since there are so many different colors, it might be difficult to find the best ink for fountain pens. However, if you buy from one of the major brands such as Waterman or Pilot you can’t really go wrong.

We have summarised some of the most used colors and brands in the table below.

Be aware that even though the names are often the same, they might look a little different on paper. For example, not every single “Black” fountain pen ink listed in the table below is exactly the same.

 

Black

Sailor - Black

Waterman - Black

Pilot - Black

Sheaffer - Black

Parker - Black

Blue

Waterman - Serenity Blue


Mont Blanc - Royal Blue


Pilot - Dark Turquoise


Diamine - Majestic Blue


Pelikan - Royal Blue


Red

Waterman - Audacious Red


Pilot - Crimson Glory Vine


Diamine - Oxblood


Sheaffer - Skrip Red


J. Herbin - Rouge Hematite


Purple

Waterman - Tender Purple


Pilot - Beautyberry Purple


Green

Waterman - Harmonious Green


Pilot - Bamboo Forest Light Green


Orange

Pilot - Sunset Orange


Thornton - Orange


Brown

Waterman - Absolute Brown


Pilot - Golden Brown


How to Improve Handwriting

If you have your fountain pen and ink ready, it is time to start working on your handwriting.

Many people buy a fountain pen in the hopes it will automatically fix their handwriting.

Unfortunately, this isn’t really true. Even if you own a fountain pen you will have to practice to improve penmanship.

However, a skilled user of the fountain pen can produce much more attractive writing than anyone with a regular ballpoint pen.

Analyzing Your Own Writing

You might have a certain writing style in mind you want to start practicing, such as the Spencerian or italic handwriting. With repeated penmanship practice you can definitely achieve that. However, regardless of your ultimate goal, the first step should be to fix your current handwriting.

There are a few things that can easily make your handwriting look bad or even illegible. So get some of your recent writing and see if you can find any of the following flaws.

  • Slant: by putting your writing hand at an angle with the paper, you can easily write letters under a slant. If done right, this can give you an elegant italic or cursive font. However, too much of a slant will make your letters impossible to distinguish. Make sure not to write under very big angles.
  • Size: remember using lined paper and double lined paper when you learned how to write? I absolutely hated them when I was younger. But they are great to teach proper sizing. You want all the letter to be the same height and start at the same horizontal line. Also, don’t forget that upper case and lower case letters should clearly differ in size.
  • Spacing: give every letter enough space such that they can be clearly distinguished. But don’t write them too far apart, since that will make your handwriting look loose and sloppy. Similarly, you want to leave enough space between not just letters but also words.
  • Consistency: this is basically the above three points combined. You will only be able to obtain neat handwriting if the slant, size, and spacing are consistent throughout. One of the main culprits of inconsistency is not realizing the natural motion of your elbow and wrist. As you move from one side of the paper to the other side, your arm has a natural tendency to rotate and change your writing. Prevent this by constantly moving the paper underneath your hand.

Best fountain pen using the best fountain pen ink

Basic Penmanship Practice

We can’t teach every single handwriting style in this article. But there are a few general tips and techniques you can implement that may help.

Some of these points probably will sound a little like a no-brainer because you might have learned them in school already when you were younger.

But most of us have acquired a few bad writing habits while growing up and paying some extra attention to the following points may make a bigger impact than you expect.

  • Stretching: you probably don’t think of writing as heavy exercise. But in our world of texting and instant messaging, it may be beneficial to do some quick stretching before writing.
  • Warming Up: the best way to quickly improve your handwriting is to do a little warm up before you start. Most of the letters in the alphabet are build up out of circles and lines. It can be helpful to practice these basic shapes by filling a piece of paper with a variety of different circles, lines and loops before any serious writing.
  • Writing Speed: many times we write something down it is just a quick reminder and we try to write it as fast as possible in an almost mindless state. During this process, many letters become smaller or are only written partially. If you want to change your handwriting for the better, allow yourself the time to write at a pace that allows you to consciously focus on the letters while you are writing them.
  • Posture: if you are writing a longer letter or document, bad posture can quickly make you feel uncomfortable and deteriorate your handwriting. Make sure your desk and table are adjusted to you personally and follow the natural movement of your arm while writing.
  • Holding your Pen: if you are holding your pen in a comfortable position you will be able to write for hours and produce neat handwriting while doing so. If you hold your pen wrong, it might result in bad handwriting and pain in no time. Most people hold the pen around 1/3 from the bottom between index and middle finger. Keep your fingers relaxed and let the end of the pen rest against the web of your hand.

A great way to get into the daily practice of improving handwriting is by starting a daily journal. Set aside 10 minutes in the morning or evening to practice by writing down what has happened. You can also copy pangrams or inspirations quotes to practice penmanship.

Fountain Pen Maintenance

Buying the best fountain pen in the world would cost you a small fortune. But even owners of relatively cheap fountain pens of get attached to them so much that they never want part from them again.

Good reasons to take good care of your fountain pen!

The first thing you want to keep in mind is to always put the cap back on as much as possible. This protects you pen in two ways. Obviously, it will keep your pen safe if you accidentally drop it. But just as important, it prevents the ink from drying up on your nib. If you frequently store your fountain pen without its cap on, you will end up with a blocked fountain pen in no time.how to make your handwriting neater

Secondly, it is important to frequently do a thorough fountain pen cleaning. This will prevent a clogged fountain pen by removing the residue ink. To clean a fountain pen, you normally have to unscrew the pen first. Make sure you don’t spill if there is ink left in the reservoir. Then take the nib and hold it under cold running water for several seconds.

Let the nib soak in a decent sized cup of water for one or several hours, while changing the water if it changes color. If the water doesn’t change color anymore you can take the nib out and let it dry in air. For a more thorough cleaning, you might want to rinse the entire converter or built-in filling system several times with water as well. Cleaning is a crucial part of fountain pen care, so make sure to allocate some time in your schedule and do it on a regular basis.

Finally, just remember that a fountain pen is a delicate tool. It is best not to lend it to anyone that doesn’t know how to properly use one. After long periods of use, the fountain pen nib will slightly change to fit your own writing style. If you lend it to someone else for a long time, it might not feel or write the same as before.