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Fountain Pen Basics and Tips for Beginners

There is something calming and beautiful about writing with fountain pens.  I’ve loved writing with them since I was 12 or so, but I seemed to forget them for a while.

Fountain Pens Tips for Beginners

Writing a letter, or in a journal, or even a grocery list with a fountain pen, makes writing a little more fun. (And I’m talking about just your regular handwriting, not any kind of special lettering.

I do have several pens with calligraphy nibs at the bottom of the post, and I love to use flex fountain pens for modern calligraphy, but you don’t have to be interested in calligraphy to fall in love with fountain pens. Most fountain pens are simply to be used with your everyday handwriting.

Fountain Pens for Beginners

As I got back into journaling, recently,  I loved seeing how many people were using their fountain pens in their journals. I dug out my fountain pens a while back, (some from a couple of years ago, and some from a couple of decades ago), and sort of rediscovered a little bit of myself.

There are very inexpensive fountain pens out there, as well as some that can cost hundreds of dollars. Some of the less expensive ones are very  nice, actually, and there’s no need to spend a fortune on a fountain pen, (unless you just want to. But I don’t.)

First of all, just a quick bit of info about the  most basic parts of a fountain pen:

  • Nib:  The metal tip that touches the paper (extra fine, fine, medium, etc.) In general, the nibs write a bit more smoothly as they get bigger. I typically use a fine point or a medium point, but extra fine is nice for writing in smaller spaces.
  • Feed:  The part that fits under the nib and “feeds” the ink from the cartridge or converter
  • Ink Reservoir:  The part that holds the ink (can either be a cartridge or converter)  Cartridges are generally easier to use, and converters are nice because they can be filled with bottled ink. There are less color choices in cartridges, but I recomend them for beginners, as they are simple to just pop in and go.

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Fountain Pens for Beginners

  • If you would like to start with an inexpensive fountain pen that can be refilled with different colors of inks (via cartridge or a separately purchased converter), you might like the Platinum Preppy.  They have these at JetPens also, for $4.00 or $5.00.  (Jet Pens is one of my absolute favorite sources for all kinds of pens, not just fountain pens.) The Preppy is one of the very  least expensive fountain pens out there (that isn’t disposable) and a risk free way to enjoy writing with a fountain pen. I have two of these – one with an extra fine point nib, and one with a fine point nib. Of course, the Preppy doesn’t have the elegant look of a finer fountain pen, but it’s still fun to write with one. I’ve found that it can tend to skip just a bit, depending on the ink, but for such a small cost, it’s a fun way to try out writing with a fountain pen.

The picture below shows the Preppy pens with a packet of ink cartridges I bought separately (Platinum Carbon Ink.) It’s a water resistant ink I like to use when I watercolor over the ink.  I don’t really recommend water resistant inks for beginning fountain pen users, though, as they can be a bit tougher to clean from the pen sometimes. But, I love this ink!

Fountain Pens for Beginners
  • The Pilot Metropolitan is often recommended as a good first time fountain pen, because it’s smooth and reliable. Although it’s a few times more expensive than the Preppy, it is still a relatively inexpensive fountain pen. It includes an ink cartridge, as well as a converter. (The converter is used with bottled ink.)  I’ve not tried this one, but it has great reviews, is recommended for fountain pen beginners (and for anyone who enjoys fountain pens.)
  • The Lamy Safari is another popular starter fountain pen with great reviews. 

Other Miscellaneous Fountain Pens that I Own

  • Disposable fountain pens – For a really, really inexpensive introduction to fountain pens, without any set up, you can try out the Varsity disposable fountain pen.  I picked up a few of these Varsity fountain pens a few years ago. The Varsity is about the least expensive way to try a fountain pen and is actually nice quality for a disposble pen. (Made by Pilot.)  They aren’t refillable, they don’t come apart, and there’s no cartridge or converter.  Just a simple pen with a fountain pen nib.(Kind of a basic pen, like inexpensive gel pens.)  They’re  disposable, so they aren’t very environmentally friendly, but they write smoothly and come in fun colors, and the nib is fun.
  • Flex nib pen – I bought The Noodler’s Ahab, (below), because I liked the idea of a flex nib, to possibly get a little line variation in my letters, without using a calligraphy pen. The nib, although a little flexible, doesn’t give huge line variation (it’s pretty stiff), but it does allow for some. Its a finicky pen, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a first fountain pen. It’s not so great straight out of the box, but once it’s flushed and the feed is heat set, it works much better.  The ink that you use with this pen will make a big difference, too. The wetter Diamine inks have worked well for me with it. It is fun to write with, and it lays down quite a bit of ink. It’s a fun pen for someone who would like to get a slight flex from the nib and who doesn’t mind a little bit of pen tinkering to get the ink flow just right.
  • Update: I’ve purchased a few other flex nib fountain pens since this post, and you can see those pens and how I use them for modern calligraphy at this post: Modern Flex Fountain Pens for Modern Calligraphy
Fountain Pens for Beginners
  • Italic Calligraphy fountain pens – I recently dug these old Shaeffer beauties (below), that I had bought in the ’90s, out of storage.  They were sold with calligraphy nibs (broad edge nibs for italic calligraphy, not modern pointed pen calligraphy.)  I was just learning italic and had not yet learned to use a dip pen.  I used these old faithful pens for addressing wedding invitations and for personalizing a few clients’ wedding albums.

I’ve since learned that Shaeffer no longer sells invdividual nibs for these anymore, which made me a little sad, because I would love to buy some nibs that aren’t calligraphy nibs to use these for everyday writing.  I was happy to learn, though, that there are sources where these older nibs can be bought,  so I will still be able to get a fine point or medium point nib or two and use the pens, not only for italic calligraphy, but for everyday writing.

Fountain Pen Basics
Fountain Pen Basics
Fountain Pen Basics

Pen- an old Shaeffer Prelude with an italic calligraphy nib (broad edge nib)

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little tour of fountain pens. They are simply fun to write with, and they force you to slow down a bit and enjoy the experience. (I wish I still had my first fountain pen from my youth. I wrote so many pen pal letters with it. It would be vintage, now.)  

I’ve discovered a wonderful fountain pen network that I didn’t even know existed, especially on Instagram and lots of other social media. Did you know there is even a reddit fountain pens group?

Fountain pens are a lot of fun to collect, but most of all, to use.  I especially recommend them to those who journal, those who love stationery, those who love to write real letters, and, of course, for anyone who just loves pens.


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Linking to:

Thursday Favorite Things, Blogger’s Pit Stop, Artsy Fartsy Link Party, Create, Bake, Grow, and Gather at Shabby Art Boutique, Inspire Me Monday at Mostly Blogging, Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy, Snickerdoodle Create Bake Make at Eye Love Knots, Craft Schooling Sunday at Creative Jewish Mom, The Good, The Random, The Fun at Good Random Fun, Love Your Creativity at Life and Linda, Happy Now at Jenerally Informed, Wow Me Wednesday at Gingersnap Crafts, Lou Lou Girls, Sum of Their Stories

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  1. I love to watch videos of people writing with these fancy pens – it's mesmorizing. I haven't attempted it myself – I find the thought quite intimidating.


    1. Most of the fountain pens in the post are just for everyday writing, so there's no need to be intimidated by them, Alexandra! (Only the pens at the bottom are actually for calligraphy.) Most of them are just pens for your regular handwriting. I was kind of afraid the post would come across as a calligraphy post, so I'll go back and update it a little. The only difference in writing with a fountain pen as compared to a ballpoint pen, is that you write slightly slower, so that the ink has time to lay down.

  2. Hi Pam, as a teenager I had a cartridge fountain pen which I really loved, and used all the time. Unfortunately I no longer have it, but your post reminded me of how much I used to write back then (I had numerous penpals back then). I just might go out and get me a new fountain pen now, although all I seem to write these days are to-do lists! Thanks for a wonderful walk down memory lane. 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading, Cheryl. We have the penpals in common. I had so much fun writing letters back then. Even for my lists, now, I love writing with a satisfying pen. I'm glad you were able to enjoy some old memories!

  3. Just got a fountain pen for my kiddo, he is getting used to it slowly- with complains though, will show this to him. Thank you for joining us in Bloggers Stop – Pit stop Crew

    1. That's so nice that he's having the opportunity to write with a satifsying pen. I'm sure he will grow to like it (and maybe, love it!)

  4. I used to use a fountain pen whilst at school but got out of the habit once I left. I was given one for a gift but just cannot seem to master writing with it now. Thanks for sharing this informative post.

    1. If it has a regular nib, (not a calligraphy nib), it will begin to feel like writing with any other pen. Just write a bit more slowly, and you will master it, I'm sure!

  5. Pam, thank you for reminding me of my preteen love for fountain pens! I haven't owned one in decades and now I must have one!

  6. Hi Pam, lovely post explaining fountain pens. I have always admired beautiful hand ✍️ writing. So much to learn about it all. Thank you for sharing your creativity at Love Your Creativity. I so appreciate your heart felt words about us losing our fur baby Chloe. Hugs

    1. Thanks so much, Linda. Thanks for the party each week! I enjoyed reading about your precious Chloe, and I hope the pain is easing a bit.

  7. Lots of good info here explaining these pens for those of us who didn't know. I've never used a fountain pen but have experimented with calligraphy markers. Now I want to get one of these pens!

    1. Thanks, Dee! Fountain pens are so fun to write with, and if you get one with an italic nib, you can explore some kinds of calligraphy with it.

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