Fountain Pen Calligraphy (?!)

Have you done modern calligraphy with a dip pen, brush pen, or brush before? I love all of those tools, and recently I’ve begun using flex fountain pens for modern calligraphy, too. I had no idea that fountain pen calligraphy could be so satisfying!

When I use the term “modern calligraphy,” by the way, I’m talking about modern script calligraphy with a flexible pointed pen, not calligraphy with a broad edge nib such as italic.

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Historically, more formal types of script calligraphy, such as Copperplate, were only done with a dip pen. But, as modern calligraphy has become less formal and more open to variation, other tools with flexible tips or nibs have become popular, too (for instance, brush pens like the Tombow Dual Brush.)

While a dip pen will give you the finest hairlines and is the best choice for formal calligraphy applications, read on for another fun, portable option.

There’s another tool you can use, too, for modern pointed pen calligraphy – a fountain pen with a flex nib. Note here, a flex nib is a special type of nib that, well, flexes! It’s different than a classic fountain pen nib. Lately, I’ve added several modern flex fountain pens to my pen collection. They’re so portable and convenient (and fun.)

Fountain pens have not typically been thought of as pens for calligraphy. After all, for many years, there weren’t any flex nibs available for fountain pens, unless you wanted to spend a bunch of money on a vintage pen. Fountain pen collectors, in general, are not calligraphers!

Now, though, I consider my flex fountain pens to be additions to my calligraphy and brush lettering pen arsenal. Flex fountain pens are kind of a middle ground for me, between the fine and precise results of a dip pen and the more craft oriented, thicker lines of a brush pen. Just another portable way to create pretty lettering.

I had originally become interested in trying to find a flex fountain pen to use for modern calligraphy, a few years ago, when I was looking for a more portable solution than a dip pen, other than only brush pens, for daily practice. I wanted to just pick up a pen and practice anywhere I wanted.

As I mentioned before, fountain pens typically aren’t thought of as pens for calligraphy, so flex fountain pens aren’t as common as typical fountain pens. So, for a few years, there really weren’t a lot of options.

modern flex fountain pens

While fountain pens may not be for everyone, (they’re a little more work than other kinds of pens), I’ve always loved fountain pens, in general.

Now, there are a few modern fountain pens with very flexible nibs that work well for modern calligraphy, without having to spend a bunch of money on a vintage pen. So, I thought I’d share my personal favorites with you.

Fountain Pens with Modern Flex Nibs

The flex fountain pens I own are all relatively affordable and are less expensive than vintage ones. The costs of the pens I own range from roughly $21.00 (plus shipping) to $88.00 (plus shipping.)

Although fountain pens are a bit more expensive than some other kinds of pens, I figure I’ll have them to enjoy for years.

I have several of these pens because I like to keep several inked up with different colors (and, as I said, mildly obsessed!) But, of course, one pen is plenty to give it a try!

My pens have either converters or piston filling systems, which means I buy bottled fountain pen ink to fill them. This is another fun thing about these pens – so many pretty inks to try.

There’s a little bit of a learning curve with fountain pens, but it’s definitely worth it, in my opinion.

Here are some of the flex fountain pens I own:

Fountain Pen Revolution (FPR): I have several Fountain Pen Revolution (FPR) pens. FPR offers both a steel flex nib and a steel ultra flex nib, as well as standard inflexible nibs. You will need a flexible nib for modern calligraphy.

You have an option to choose the nib, when ordering. Again, that’s important to note because the pens can be purchased with regular nibs – extra fine, fine, medium, etc. or with flex nibs – steel flex or steel EF ultra flex. There is an upcharge for the flex nibs, due to the flex modifications.

The steel flex nib is not quite as flexible as the steel ultra flex, but still nice. You just have to press down quite a bit harder, and there is less line variation.

The steel EF ultra flex nib is my favorite. It’s so flexible and buttery smooth.

I have several FPR pens with the #6 steel ultra flex nib, including a Himalaya V2 and a Jaipur V2. I have put the #6 ultra flex nib on a Noodler’s Konrad, too. (It’s easier just to buy the FPR pen with the nib already on it, though!)

I also have a few pens with FPR’s #5.5 ultraflex nib, too, including a Himalaya V1, and it’s even slightly easier to control than the #6 ultraflex but has slightly less flex. On any given day, I prefer one more than the other.

modern calligraphy with an FPR Himalaya V2 fountain pen with ultra flex nib

Fountain Pen Revolution (FPR) Himalaya V2, above, with the ultra flex nib and Diamine Marine ink

My FPR Himalaya V2 has an acrylic body and has no odor, but the pens from FPR that aren’t acrylic, ebonite, or metal have a slight odor to them. (Not intolerable to me at all, although it can be bothersome to some.) The odor comes from the vegetal resin material that some of the pens are made with. The acrylic, ebonite, and metal pen bodies don’t have any noticeable odor, and the descriptions at the site state which pen bodies are acrylic, metal, or ebonite.

FPR has frequent sales, and BOGO offers, so check often for sales.

BlueDew Flex: I have a couple of BlueDew flex pens. These are the most expensive pens that I have, and the nibs are more delicate. The proprietary nibs on these are patterned after dip pen nibs, so the BlueDew flex pens feel more like dip pens and less like fountain pens. This means the nibs are a bit more scratchy than the nibs on typical fountain pens, but that is by design.

With the right ink, handlettering and calligraphy with the Bluedew feels much like a dip pen. The hairlines are very fine, and the calligraphy I can achieve with it looks exactly like my dip pen calligraphy. Be aware, you have to be gentle with the nib on the BlueDew, to avoid springing it, but I don’t find that a problem.

My favorite inks for this pen are Aurora Black and Noodler’s Cactus Fruit Eel. These inks are very smooth and lubricated.

calligraphy with the BlueDew flex nib fountain pen

BlueDew flex nib fountain pen, above, with Noodler’s Cactus Fruit Eel ink

Noodler’s: The Noodler’s pens are affordable and are considered “tinkerer’s pens.” Their flex pens include the Nib Creaper, the Ahab, and the Konrad. I have both the Ahab and the Konrad, and I’ve had the best results with the Ahab. They can be finicky to get started. But, the recent Noodler’s Ahab that I purchased from Goulet Pens, worked like a dream, right from the start.

Also, the Noodler’s pens that aren’t acrylic (the Nib Creaper and the Ahab) are kind of infamous for their strong odor. They are made with a type of resin that smells, well, bad (much stronger than the FPR pens that are made from a similar resin.) The recent Noodler’s Ahab I purchased from Goulet Pens, though, barely had any odor, even though it is made from that vegetal resin. (Maybe I got lucky.) The advice I often hear is to put the pen in some coffee beans, and let it sit there for a day or two, to help remove the odor. Your pen might then smell like coffee, but that is definitely an improvement! And, the Noodler’s Ahab pen is really affordable.

The nibs on the Noodler’s pens are quite a bit more stiff than the others I mentioned, but they still flex some and are easy to control. You have to apply quite a bit of pressure to get the flex, but it seems to improve with use. There isn’t a huge amount of line variation, either, but there is some.

You may have to tinker with these Noodler’s pens a bit at the beginning, so they aren’t really the best for beginners. (As I said before, though, the Ahab I bought recently from Goulet Pens worked well right away. I just gave it a quick flush with distilled water and a drop of dish soap, before I used it.)

In Conclusion

I have to say, this journey has been fun, and discovering modern flex pens that deliver lovely line variation for pointed pen calligraphy has been so rewarding. I love that I can practice my calligraphy in the family room, on a clipboard, while still hanging out with my husband and our Sunny dog. No dip pen needed.

For very formal calligraphy, you will still want a dip pen and proper posture at a desk. And, even for modern calligraphy, obviously, sitting at a desk is optimal! But, sometimes I just want to pick up a pen and write, without having to get out a dip pen and ink, and my flex fountain pens are great for that.

Years ago, when I was only doing italic calligraphy, I decided my personality wasn’t geared to the rules of very formal calligraphy. I even kind of left it for a while. As modern calligraphy evolved, I re-entered the world and haven’t looked back! There are fewer rules and so many more options for ways to create beautiful lettering now.

Whether you use a fountain pen like the ones I’ve mentioned here, a dip pen, brush pen, or any other tool, enjoy the process, and practice, practice, practice.

Linking to:

Imparting Grace, Artsy Fartsy Mama, Happiness is Homemade, A Morning Cup of Joe, Building Our Hive, Creative Jewish Mom, You’re the Star, Create with Joy, Sum of Their Stories, Life and Linda, Esme Salon, Mostly Blogging, Lou Lou Girls , Stone Cottage Adventures, All About Home, Tuesday Turn About, Creative Muster, Wonderful Wednesday, Thursday Favorite Things, The Answer is Chocolate, Shabby Art Boutique, Friday with Friends, Pieced Pastimes

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  1. I love your beautiful calligraphy Pam. Thanks for sharing about the pens to use. By the way, I love your new blog look. Thanks for the blog visit and enjoy the week Pam.

  2. Such beautiful calligraphy. I wish I could do that. I bought a book and tried, but I just didn’t enjoy trying to be perfect, and decided that just journaling in my own handwriting was better because it was me.

    1. Thank you, Amy. Like you, I don’t like to have to do “perfect” calligraphy, and until modern calligraphy came along I stopped for a while. I hated the idea that each stroke had to be according to certain rules. Now, though, calligraphy is much more free and open ot individual style. And, I agree, journaling in your own handwriting is the best!

    1. Thank you, Dorabella! If you really want to write with one, don’t give up! Fountain pens can be quirky, but they are so fun.

  3. Thank you so much for detailing which materials will have the infamous odor, and why! Now I’m much more confident to choose something that will work for me. I know a weird odor would for sure put me off…

  4. Pam, your calligraphy is beautiful! I learned how to do penmanship on a fountain pen when I was in elementary school back in the day with ink cartilages that would be inserted inside. I always feared having a blot of ink ruin my work and using blotting paper and “white out.” Thanks for a special memory!

  5. Hi I’m new here arriving from Katharine’s Corner Blog Hop, I had no idea that calligraphy had been updated so much, I tried it a few times in the past using a dip pen but I just couldn’t get the hang of it.

    I’ll have to look into a flex pen as it would look amazing if I could write my own sentiments on cards rather than relying on stamps xxx

    1. Hi Dawn, So glad you came by!
      Yes, calligraphy is so much more versatile now, and there are so many ways to enjoy it. Flex fountain pens really do make it fun!

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