How To Use A Fountain Pen (A Beginners Guide)

how to use a fountain pen

Fountain pens add style, personality, and grace to your penmanship. Far from being an archaic writing instrument, fountain pens have seen a resurgence in popularity.

Learning how to use a fountain pen is a little different from using cheap, disposable ballpoint pens.

The art of using a fountain pen can be broken down into three distinct steps that every calligrapher needs to master. The three golden rules to using this respected writing instrument are:

If you follow our steps, you’ll learn how to use a fountain pen and become an exceptional penman with the most stylish handwriting in no time. 

How to Choose Your Fountain Pen

Before we can dive into the intricacies of unleashing your inner calligrapher, we need to discuss finding the right pen. There are thousands of different types of fountain pens, some with reservoirs, others with cartridges, some that even come with a bottle of ink. 

Not to mention the difference in price that many would-be writers are faced with. 

Choosing the perfect pen is a critical part of the process. That being said, it doesn’t have to be tedious. Following our rules to choose the perfect fountain pen will turn it into a fun adventure and part of a glamorous, memorable experience. 


Many people don’t consider the length of a pen when purchasing. You should go with a large fountain pen if you have big hands. If you have smaller hands, you should get a smaller pen. The length of your pen will determine how comfortably you can grip it.

Keep an eye on the width of your pen too. If it’s too broad, it will be uncomfortable to write with. Too thin, and it becomes a finicky nightmare that leaves you at risk of snapping the thing in twain.

There’s no magic bullet answer to figure it out. Everybody has different hands, and there are fountain pens for all shapes and sizes. Our best advice is to go for the pen that feels the best in your hand.


Another essential characteristic to consider is the weight of the pen. Today, almost everybody associates weight with expensive, durable products. In your pen, that weight might be a hindrance. If you were to write pages and pages using a heavy pen, you would only end up tiring out your hand.

Whether a pen is too heavy or too light depends entirely on your personal preferences. 

Filling Mechanism

Typically, the ink inside your pen is found in a cartridge. These cartridges are small, disposable tubes readily available at most stationary stores. 

To meet shifting demands, manufacturers have started making a variety of filling systems. 

Proprietary Ink Cartridges

Some brands do go with a proprietary design, forcing you to stick to their range of fountain pen ink. These tend to be more expensive than generic inks and refills. 

Cartridge Converter

Another great option, and the most common in modern designs, is the ink cartridge converter.

The difference with this filling system is a handy mechanism that allows wordsmiths to refill the ink manually. Using a fountain pen converter gives you the option to use any ink or ink cartridge on the market, not keeping you hemmed into one brand. 

If you’re concerned about the environment, you’ll be happy to know that this filling mechanism is also friendlier to the environment because there’s less waste. 

Reservoir and Piston

Last, but not least, is the traditional piston mechanism. The piston method is a more elegant way of replenishing the fountain pen, but it also takes a bit more practice getting used to. 

To use it you turn a spindle on the side of the fountain pen. This moves a piston inside the pen up and down. This movement creates a low-pressure vacuum that sucks from the ink reservoir into the pen. 

All three options have their benefits. We love the converter mechanism, though. Not only is it environmentally friendly, but you have a limitless range of inks and colors at your disposal.


There are as many types of fountain pen nibs as there are fountain pens. The nib is an essential part of your pen, especially if you want it to convey the quality of your penmanship accurately.

The softer and more flexible your nib is, the better the result. Unfortunately, the softer tip is also more expensive as it’s customarily manufactured from palladium and gold.

An excellent economical option is the industry-standard steel nib. While it remains cost-effective, you’ll have to use a slightly softer hand when writing. Either option is great, and it comes down to preference and budget

Three Easy Steps to Write with a Fountain Pen

Now that we’ve chosen the perfect pen, it’s time to let the ink flow. Don’t worry, contrary to popular myth, even lefties can use fountain pens. 

Step One: Holding Your Pen Correctly

Fountain pen calligraphy is entirely different from writing with a ballpoint pen. Yet, we tend to hold both types of pens similarly. 

Use your dominant hand to pinch the pen between your thumb and index finger gently. Done correctly, the pen barrel should rest comfortably against your middle finger. You may now use the rest of your fingers to help steady your hand on the paper.

Holding the pen properly dramatically improves your writing and keeps your hand from cramping.

Step Two: Placing the Nib on Paper

There should be a 45–55 degree angle where the pen nib touches the paper. Experiment with keeping the pen between these angles until you hit a sweet spot where you feel comfortable.

Keeping the nib angled feeds ink to the tip. If you hold it too steep or shallow, you’ll immediately notice that it scratches the paper with hardly any ink coming out of the tip.

Notice the two nib tines on your pen? It’s vital that while you write they’re constantly touching the paper. Not doing so will cause the pen to stop or slip since no ink will reach your paper.

Step Three: Pressure

You should be able to draw a line with a fountain pen by just holding it between your thumb and index finger and dragging it across a piece of paper. 

Always try to use a light stroke as you write. If you press down too hard, you might damage the sensitive nib or disrupt the ink flow. You could even end up scratching or damaging the paper that you are writing on.

We find that the best method is to write using your hand instead of your fingers. This ensures that you don’t use too much pressure, allowing the pen to follow behind your hand rather than forcing it to move.

Practise Makes Perfect

Now that we’ve learned all the basics of how to use a fountain pen, the next step is to practice every chance you can get. Try different combinations of pen, ink, and paper to see what gives your particular style of writing the best look. 

Writing with a fountain pen is a skill that demands patience and time to master.

Important Things to Remember

An esteemed writing instrument, such as a fountain pen, is a valuable tool to be cared for. That’s why we want to provide some basic rules to take care of your fountain pen.

  • Write frequently. Writing regularly not only gives you more time to familiarise yourself with your pen better, but it also ensures that nothing is clogging the inkwell.
  • Always cap your fountain pen after use. Capping the pen avoids ink spillage and protects the sensitive nib.
  • Try different paper stocks. Some papers may make your ink bleed, while others take a bit longer to let the ink dry. Experiment to find the type of paper that compliments your writing style.
  • Clean your fountain pen frequently. It’s a valuable tool and deserves to be treated with respect. A well-maintained pen will provide you with years of reliable use.

Final Thoughts

No matter how frustrated you get, don’t give up. No ballpoint pen allows you to bond with it quite like a fountain pen. Fountain pens are great to use as they offer writers a smooth flow, extra-fine control, and minimal pressure. 

If you’ve never tried writing with a fountain pen, we urge you to give it a go. Once you do, you’ll fall in love with it.

To learn more about fountain pens we suggest reading our article on how fountain pens work.

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