The Beginner's Guide to Fountain Pens

In a world of disposable ballpoints and rollerball pens, there’s only one writing instrument that has the potential to last you a lifetime. Sturdy, long-lasting, and stylish to boot, the modern fountain pen will elevate your writing to a whole new level. From journaling to check-signing, if you don’t have a fountain pen in your collection, you’re missing out! Fountain pens aren’t just for calligraphers and CEOs: they’re for anyone who appreciates the finer things in life.

Today, we’re compiling all the information we’ve published in the past into one article about best fountain pens for beginners. We’ll go over everything from buying your first fountain pen to refilling it and even using it to improve your handwriting. Consider this post your complete fountain pen guide.

Buying Your First Fountain Pen

Inks, nibs, and cartridges, oh my!

Think back to the first time you heard about fountain pens. As most of us do, you likely went into detective mode and Googled “fountain pens” only to be inundated with article after article, including those focusing on fountain pen drawing.

You may have researched different pen models and read endless reviews in your pursuit to make the right choice. While brand reputation and quality are important in your fountain pen search, too many options can get overwhelming for newbies.

When buying your first fountain pen, ask yourself if it meets these 4 criteria:

  1. Is it easy to use for beginners?

  2. It is inexpensive?

  3. It is durable, not disposable?

  4. Does it have reliable performance with consistent quality?

If it does, you’ve likely found yourself a good beginner fountain pen. Many reliable retailers offer warranties depending on the brands they sell. Our warranty information can help narrow down your choices by brand.

There is such a thing as too much information, especially for beginners. We’re here to help make buying your first fountain pen simple, straightforward, and fun.

The Best Beginner Fountain Pens

Choosing your first fountain pen will ultimately come down to personal preference, but these are our best beginner fountain pen recommendations. The top beginner fountain pen brands are known for their quality and affordability.

Lamy Safari

The German-made Lamy Safari is one of the most popular beginner fountain pens. This pen is reliable and functional without sacrificing style. Starting at $29, it is a popular choice for both students and professionals.

Filling System: Cartridge-filling or converter-filling system

Pilot Metropolitan

Pilot is a Japanese brand that manufactures high-quality fountain pens beginning at $23. These pens come in a variety of fun metal colors with stainless steel accents. This classic pen offers an elegant design with an affordable, luxury feel.

Filling System: Bladder Filler, refillable

Kaweco Sport

The pocket-friendly Kaweco Sport fountain pen is designed with convenience in mind. The opaque inner cap seals the pen when closed, keeping the nib fresh with ink. Starting at $25, its sturdy yet lightweight body comes in a variety of vivid colors.

Filling System: Cartridge-filling or converter-filling system


Often pronounced “twiz-bee”, the TWSBI Eco is a great starter fountain pen at just $35. The transparent resin barrel gives you a clear view of the ink level. And speaking of ink, this pen can hold an impressive amount.

Filling System: Piston-fill mechanism, bottled ink only

Watch the video below for more starter fountain pen recommendations.

What Is A Fountain Pen?

Before we dive into pen anatomy 101, we must answer the question "What is a fountain pen?" A fountain pen is a writing instrument with a metal nib that applies water-based ink to paper. It utilizes a cartridge, converter, or other internal reservoir to provide a continuous ink supply. Unlike disposable pens that you toss when dry, fountain pens can be refilled for repeated use.

The Anatomy of Fountain Pens

Getting to know your fountain pen is key to a lifetime of writing. Your pen needs regular maintenance to preserve its longevity and prevent issues like clogging or drying out. Fountain pens have a reservoir, or cartridge, that holds the ink. This flows through a feed system that regulates the ink flow. When you write, the ink is drawn onto the paper via the nib through a process called capillary action. Since some brands offer replacement nibs, you might choose to upgrade as you become a more experienced fountain pen user (i.e. switching from a stainless steel nib to a gold nib).

Fountain Pen Nib

The nib is intrinsic to the fountain pen and central to your writing experience. Most nibs have an engraving of the point size and are available in various metals like gold or stainless steel. To avoid skipping or scratching, your nib must be properly aligned.

Fountain Pen Feed

The feed controls the flow of ink from the reservoir (supplied by a cartridge filling, converter, or piston mechanism) to the nib. Feeds are designed to maintain a steady stream of ink while you are writing and prevent leaking when you stop. The moment you touch nib to paper, the feed channels ink to each stroke.

Fountain Pen Barrel

Think of the barrel as the "handle" of your fountain pen. The ink reservoir is contained inside, be it a cartridge filling system, converter, or piston mechanism. Some pen barrels offer a more ergonomic design and feel in your hand than others.

How to Use a Fountain Pen

Writing with a fountain pen is an experience like no other, but it can take a bit of practice to get the hang of it. Start with a smooth writing surface and normal paper. Unlike most pens, fountain pens are designed to be used with very light pressure. The weight of the pen and the flow of ink will do most of the work for you. As the old adage goes, "Practice makes perfect". So practice your strokes, write at a consistent angle, and clean your fountain pen often for the best results.

How To Fill a Fountain Pen With Ink

One of the most eco-friendly aspects of owning a fountain pen is that you don't have to toss it once the ink runs dry. You simply refill it based on the filling system. Most modern fountain pens utilize cartridge or converter filling systems, giving you the option of using pre-filled ink cartridges or bottled ink.

Ink Cartridges

A cartridge-filling system involves a pre-filled, plastic ink capsule.

  1. Insert the smaller end into the pen section.

  2. Once it's pierced, you'll see the ink begin to flow from the cartridge through the feed and to the nib.

  3. Wait for the ink to fully saturate the feed or prime the pen by squeezing the cartridge.

  4. Dispose of or refill the cartridge when it's empty with a blunt needle syringe.

Bottled Ink

One of the oldest pen-filling methods is using an eyedropper or syringe to transfer ink into the barrel. In this case, the barrel lacks a filling mechanism so it can hold the most ink. When using this type of fountain pen, be mindful of any drastic changes in air pressure, as atmospheric changes can lead to interrupted ink flow. Not all fountain pens can be converted into eyedropper fill pens, so when in doubt, do your research.  

  1. Pour ink into the barrel until the level reaches the inner barrel threads

  2. Keeping the barrel upright, screw on the section.

  3. Apply a small amount of silicone grease to the section threads for a watertight seal.

  4. Perform the last turn with the nib down, ideally over a rag, to help prime the feed

Here we go into greater detail about how to fill a fountain pen, with how-to video tutorials.

How to Hold a Fountain Pen

Just like a musical instrument, a fountain pen has the capability to produce beautiful art. However, upgrading from a ballpoint pen or rollerball to one of these fine writing instruments comes with a learning curve. Your physical comfort will be reflected in the quality of your writing, and it all starts with how you hold your pen in your hand.

  1. Posture.
    Sit in a comfortable chair with your back straight and your feet on the ground. Be relaxed, but don't slouch.

  2. Correct Angle.
    Keep your pen at a 45 to 55-degree angle on your writing surface. Aim for a position where you can freely move your writing hand, arm, and elbow. If you're left-handed, you may have to angle your paper a little differently to match your writing style.

  3. Light Grip
    Grip your fountain pen lightly with your thumb and middle finger acting as a fulcrum. Your index finger should be doing most of the work. Keep the rest of your arm loose and free-flowing.

How to Write with a Fountain Pen

Writing with a fountain pen requires a bit of patience. Unlike disposable pens, fountain pens work by laying down a fluid line with a light touch. Holding the pen correctly, using minimal pressure, and choosing the right paper all lead to a better writing experience. Experiment with different nib sizes to find the one that suits your handwriting style, including those found in top piston fountain pens, which offer a superior ink capacity and smooth writing experience. Take your time and allow yourself to adapt to the unique feel of your fountain pen.

The "Three T's" of writing with a fountain pen are as follows...

  1. Technique
    When writing, don't press too hard on your paper or you may bend the nib. Fountain pens are designed for easy ink flow without too much pressure. You'll find that the fountain pen experience is much different than writing with other pens.

  2. Tools
    The right tools will make your introduction to fountain pens easier and more fun! Ink is the lifeblood of your pen and an important part of elevating your handwriting. If you're a lefty, fast-drying inks can prevent accidental smudging. Fountain pen-friendly paper is another often overlooked component of fine writing. Thin, recycled paper leads to ink feathering and bleeding through, so it's worth investing in suitable paper for the best results.

  3. Training
    Hand-eye coordination and muscle memory is the key to good handwriting. Practice sheets can be repetitive but they're a great way to get used to the way your fountain pen writes. When first unboxing a new pen, some beginners are perplexed when the ink flow isn't immediate. It can take a little time before the ink flows freely through the converter or cartridge and into the nib. Once the ink is visible, keep your strokes light and you'll be on your way toward flowing hand movements in no time.

Watch in-depth tutorials on how to write with a fountain pen.

How to Improve Your Handwriting with a Fountain Pen

Consistency is key when it comes to writing with fountain pens. The eye is attracted to shapes that are symmetrical, aligned, and evenly spaced. It's hard to understand messy handwriting because it is the opposite of how we expect letters to look. The exact height and spacing of your letters will depend on your nib size and personal handwriting style. Using the best fountain pen accessories can also enhance your writing experience and contribute to the consistency and quality of your handwriting.

Imitation is the best form of flattery, and this is the best way to develop your personal style. Look online at calligraphers, bullet journals, and planner addicts and watch their movements when they put pen to paper. This will expose you to new techniques, tools, and styles.

Here are some general pointers for better handwriting:

  1. To improve clarity, keep all your letters grounded on a baseline.

  2. Make sure ascending letters rise to the same height, and descending letters drop to the same level.

  3. Keep capital letters the same size as other capital letters, and lowercase letters the same as other lowercase letters.

  4. Maintain uniform spacing between your letters.

How to Clean a Fountain Pen

When buying a fountain pen, you're buying a pen that is built for years of use, if not a lifetime. Cleaning your new pen regularly is worth the effort to keep it working smoothly and to prevent issues like a fountain pen not flowing. Even if you always use the same ink color, we recommend cleaning your pen at least twice a year. If you switch colors often, you should clean it before installing a new ink cartridge to ensure uninterrupted ink flow and optimal performance. For more detailed instructions or troubleshooting, consulting a fountain pen forum can be incredibly helpful.

A cartridge fountain pen is the simplest to clean and the most common type of fountain pen for beginners. Here's how to clean one in five short steps.

  1. Unscrew the front section from the barrel of the fountain pen

  2. Pull out the empty cartridge from the feed post in the section

  3. Dispose of the ink cartridge or rinse it out and refill it with a blunt needle syringe

  4. Rinse the front section, nib, and feed under cool, running water until the water runs clear

  5. Let all your fountain pen parts air dry on a paper towel

We explain how to clean different types of fountain pens in this article.

Choosing Your Fountain Pen Nib

By now, you already know that the nib is the heart of your fountain pen. What you might not know is that the type of nib you use will depend on your writing style, and your preferences may change over time. In general, the best fountain pen nib size for beginners is fine or extra-fine, as their line width is similar to a ballpoint or gel pen. As you become more accustomed to using fountain pens, discovering the best way to store fountain pens becomes just as important as selecting the right nib, ensuring the longevity and performance of your pen.

Let's take a closer look at the three fountain pen nib sizes.

Fine Nibs

These produce a thin line that is suitable for smaller, more deliberate writing styles. Fine nibs work best on high-quality paper where the ink can flow smoothly without feathering. If you naturally have neater handwriting and like a calligraphy style, a fine nib might work well for you.

Extra-Fine Nibs

Extra-fine nibs are great if you write small, neatly, and not necessarily in large amounts. Because the tip of this nib is so delicate, you might experience some scratchiness on the paper. Extra-fine nibs use the least ink, so they dry faster and are less likely to smear. Both fine and extra-fine nibs are adaptable to various types of paper, making them ideal for beginners.

Medium Nibs

Most fountain pens use a medium nib size by default, but most offer other choices. A higher flow of ink onto the page means a higher probability of show-through, so you shouldn't use cheap paper with this nib. Medium nibs are ideal for signatures and writing for extended periods of time, as they do not require much pressure to write with.

Broad Nibs

Characterized by a wider writing tip, broad nibs allow for thicker lines and greater ink flow. This means they lay down more ink on paper, resulting in a smoother (and wetter) writing experience. Broad nibs create distinctive lines that are visually striking, enhancing the sheen properties of fountain pen ink. If you like bold and expressive writing and can invest in fountain pen-friendly paper to prevent bleed-through, the dramatic broad nib may be for you.


Advanced Fountain Pen Nibs

Flex Nib

Flex nibs offer the widest variation of line widths. Because of its non-rigid point, the flex nib allows you to control the line width based on the amount of pressure you apply. Increased pressure will result in thicker lines, while lighter pressure will give you thinner lines. Vintage flexible nibs tend to have a higher degree of bend, but they can be hard to find. Overall, flex nibs are great for everyday use in addition to flourishing writing styles like calligraphy.

Italic Nib

Also known as the cursive nib, this nib has a broad and flat tip with a straight cut. You'll find this nib often used in calligraphy. Italic nibs can be stiff and scratchy to write with because they are the sharpest nib type available. If you like crisp, thin lines and don't mind using a lot of ink, then this nib might be fun to explore.

Stub Nib

A stub nib has a broad, flat tip with rounded edges for slightly thicker lines. It is similar to the italic nib without the sharp edges. This is a common type of fountain pen nib that is great for larger, shaded handwriting. If you enjoy a bold, decorative look, the stub nibs may work for you.

The Best Beginner Fountain Pen Inks

The sky is the limit when it comes to choosing your favorite color inks! When you're a fountain pen beginner, consider the purpose of your writing. Are you taking notes for school? Then you may prefer a muted color like blue or black, and pairing your ink with one of the best notebooks for fountain pens can significantly enhance your writing experience. Are you writing a letter or a card? Then you might like a more vibrant color like green or purple to add some flair.

Fountain pen inks come in a range of properties, including water-resistant, permanent, and quick-drying. Inks are available in bottled form or in colored ink cartridges. It's important to consider the properties of the ink if you plan to use it for a specific purpose.

Various inks behave differently depending on the type of paper you're using. For the best writing experience, use fountain pen-friendly notebooks. Since ink can be expensive, we recommend starting with a small bottle first to see if you like the color before investing in a larger one. Experiment, have fun, and start with what sparks your interest.

At Goldspot, we offer shimmer, water-resistant, scented, and colored inks for all your writing endeavors.

Now that we've come to the end of our beginner's guide, we'd like to cordially welcome you to the fountain pen world. We're all a little bonkers here, but our handwriting is superb. From handwritten letters to artistic designs, the creativity that comes with fountain pens is endless. We hope this post has offered you the tools to get the most out of your fountain pen experience, including how to manage your fountain pen on an airplane to ensure it remains in perfect condition during your travels.

Part of being a beginner is asking questions, so leave them in the comments below. Or, indulge your inner nerd and browse through our library of knowledge for all things fountain pen education!

About the Author

Madeleine is a copywriter and video script whiz for creative and inventive brands. As an empathy-based marketer, every website, landing page, blog, email, and video she writes showcases her clients at their best. Some say she's a mind-reader, but she's really just an expert listener with one goal in mind: to inspire readers (and viewers) to take action. A true logophile, she's the one who (unabashedly) keeps a hard copy thesaurus on her desk. When she's not on set or crafting copy, you can find her nose in a book sipping a matcha latte.

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