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How to Write With a Fountain Pen

12 Jul

How to Write with a Fountain Pen by Cole Imperi for EuropeanPaper.comIf you are looking for something new this school season (whether you are in school or not!) then you may want to look at a fountain pen. Fountain pens come in all kinds of makes and models, colors and styles and each produces a different ‘look.’

No matter what fountain pen you have; whether it’s a $2 drugstore find or a $1,000 special edition, it’s important to understand what the tool was designed for so you use it properly. It’s also useful to find other people who use fountain pens and ask them for their tips and advice. That said, here are my tips for how to write with fountain pens (and I’ve been writing with them since I was in grade school … and my collection of them is overflowing):

A Fountain Pen is Not a Ballpoint Pen

Image courtesy of Cole ImperiBallpoint pens require pressure in order for them to work. Pressing down and sliding the tip of the pen across the page produces an line of ink. It’s the pressure that turns the ‘ball’ that allows the ink to adhere to the paper. That said, a fountain pen does not work the same way. Now, that’s not to say you can’t hold and use a fountain pen the same way you do a ballpoint, but recognize they work in totally different ways. You can literally just rest a fountain pen on paper and glide it very gently across the page and you’ll get ink flow.

Relax Your Grip

Most of us grip our pens pretty tightly. When you use a fountain pen, don’t grip as hard as you normally would. Try writing with the pen mostly ‘resting’ in your hand. Allow the nib to slide across the page. There really is no need to press down and drag the nib to release ink (unless you are going for that effect or are using something like a flexible nibbed pen).

Just Getting Started? Write Smart.

If you are just getting used to a fountain pen, it’s best to start writing things when you have a little time. Scrawling out a shopping list on the dashboard of your car in front of the grocery store that’s about to close is not a very good time to start using a fountain pen. When you are just getting the feel for it, make sure you have some time on your hands—or at least enough time to write a little slower.

It’s also important to spend some of that initial time just holding the pen in different ways as you write. You will probably have a preference for how to hold it but only after you play around a little to find it!

Write Often

Now, I know I just said above that you should take time to write, but I mean especially at first. Once you get the feel for it—the feel of it in your hand and how to hold it—by all means open the floodgates! The more you write, the better you’ll get. You may even begin to notice changes in the appearance of your handwriting (for the better!).

Try Lots of Pens

One day, you may find yourself with a fountain pen collection. This is normal and happens to anyone that finds they enjoy the ‘experience’ of a fountain pen. The reason people who like fountain pens generally have at least two or three at a minimum is because each pen has its own personality. You’ll find that you prefer certain pens in certain seasons of the year, or for certain activities. Right now, I use my white LAMY Safari for general daily notes and list making. I use my vintage Prosperity Pens 14kt nibbed flex pen for letter writing and I keep a Kaweco Sport in my purse. In a month or two, I’ll bring out my Pilot Cavalier and my Sheaffer Agio (I love these pens in autumn and winter!). A fountain pen enhances the actual act of writing, and the more you write the more you’ll notice certain pens are ‘better’ at the time than others. Fountain pens are an expression of the mood you’re in.

Take Care of Your Pens

As you use fountain pens more and more, you’ll pick up your own habits. However, I’m going to say this and I may upset some true diehard fountain pen aficionados, but if the only thing you ever do is flush your pens regularly with water and let them thoroughly dry, you are set. I essentially treat my antique pens the same way I treat my new pens and I’ve never had a problem.

Do Your Homework

Whether you are buying a cheaper fountain pen or an expensive one, make sure you do your homework. Read about the pen, the company that makes it, and customer reviews. Search blogs for reviews on the pens you are interested in. A few minutes of research is time well-spent on a writing instrument you’ll treasure and use forever.

Do you have a fountain pen tip to share? If so, please add them in the comments!


Meet the WriterCole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.


Editor’s Note: This is the fifth article in the How to Write series. Read the others here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes

How to Write: Thank You Notes

10 Responses to “How to Write With a Fountain Pen”

  1. ken July 12, 2012 at 3:17 PM #

    Most of my writing experience is on a keyboard. After reading this, I really want to try a fountain pen :)

  2. Maybelline July 13, 2012 at 1:06 AM #

    Great article. Useful for those who are starting out on using fountain pens! I always see articles on beginner fountain pens but not specifically “How to write” with one. Thanks and keep it up!

  3. Nathan Zalman July 21, 2012 at 8:39 AM #

    As a lefty I’ve found that round or ball-tipped nibs work the best for me, as do pens with round barrels. That way I can experiment with different writing angles until I get something with a smooth flow. Once you get that liquid rhythm, gliding across the page will be such a pleasure that you’ll never go back.

    Nice article! I agree that cleaning your pens periodically is important. If you’re not going to be using a pen, then clean it out. You don’t want that ink to evaporate!

    • Cole July 30, 2012 at 12:20 PM #

      Nathan….true words my friend! Keep those pens clean!
      Maybelline and Ken, glad you enjoyed!

  4. Angela Allen September 5, 2012 at 11:44 AM #

    Nice blog!

    I love the look and feel of a fountain pen, but found that fiddling with a cap makes me less likely to use one on a regular basis. When I purchased my Pilot Namiki pen, I had the best of both worlds.

    Granted, I do my WORK writing on the MacBook, but everything else from shopping lists to handwritten notes is done using my fountain pen (or, in a pinch, my Retro 51 rollerball.)

    • Fountain Pen Collector January 22, 2013 at 12:30 PM #

      This post shows the author’s passion and affection. Using a Fountain Pen requires more than the simple desire of being different from the others. People who use fountain pens are probably the ones who write less but show more on their writing.

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