Dip Pens vs. Fountain Pens

In a world of touchscreens and tablets, there’s something to be said about tangible writing instruments that are steeped in history and craftsmanship. Despite constant updates and endless ways to customize our devices, no gadget or gizmo on the market can mimic the experience of putting pen to paper. When it comes to the written word, keyboards can’t hold a candle to the artistry, intricacy, and timelessness of dip pens and fountain pens.

Digital tools may have become our primary mode of communication for work and daily life, but hand-held pens continue to captivate writers, artists, and nostalgia-seekers. For many, classic writing instruments evoke a sense of creativity and connection that transcends their utilitarian purpose. Finding your perfect pen means pure self-expression at your fingertips! In this article, we’re discussing the differences between the dip pen vs fountain pen, their history, and factors to consider.

Dip pens versus fountain pens - a nib comparison

What is a Fountain Pen?

A sophisticated piece of technology, fountain pens are made up of three functional parts. The barrel holds the ink, the nib applies the ink to the paper, and the feed transports the ink from the barrel to the nib. From a historical context, a fountain pen was any pen that contained ink inside of it, unlike dipping pens. Fountain pens work with a delicate balance of applied pressure, ink and air exchange, gravity, and a process called capillary action. This is what draws ink from the barrel, housing the reservoir, and feeds it down and out through the nib. If you want to nerd out on further information, Fountain Pens Demystified goes into further detail for beginners.

What is a Dip Pen?

In comparison to the fountain pen, the dip pen doesn’t store any ink. It is made up of two simple parts; a metal point, or nib, and a solid handle that holds the nib. While fountain pens have an internal reservoir that can be refilled, there is no internal reservoir or capability to use cartridges with dip pens. The nib functions similarly to the fountain pen, with capillary channels that allow for smooth strokes. Dipping pens are submerged in ink between every few lines of writing or drawing, transferring the ink collected on the nib to the paper.

Dip Pens vs. Fountain Pens

While it may seem so on the surface, fountain pens aren’t the more convenient cousin of dip pens. These two writing instruments differ significantly in their construction materials, ink capability, portability, nib flexibility, and recommended use. Let’s look at the main differences in dip pens vs. fountain pens within each of these categories now.

Trait Dip Pens Fountain Pens

Construction Materials

Metal, Wood, Glass.

Plastic, Acrylic Resin, Celluloid, Ebonite, Wood, Precious Metals.

Ink Capability

No ink reservoir, require frequent dipping in external inkwell.

Built-in ink reservoir, typically cartridge or converter.


Less portable as they require external inkwell.

Self-contained, pocket-friendly, suitable for on-the-go writing.

Nib Flexibility

More flexible nibs.

Varying degrees of nib flexibility.

Recommended Use

Suited for calligraphy, drawings and artistic writing.

Suited for practicing handwriting, everyday writing, note-taking and journaling.

The History of Fountain Pens

With origins in ancient Egypt in the year 973, fountain pens were a huge upgrade from dipping pens for our ancestors. Instead of a few chunks of words at a time, you could write pages before needing a refill. Fountain pens were designed to hold a supply of ink inside for an uninterrupted flow. It is believed that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written with a rudimentary form of fountain pen made with a bamboo reed. The reed would have been shaved down to a triangular point, with gravity drawing the ink down and out through its hollow center.

While the invention of the fountain pen was a collaborative effort over centuries, Lewis Waterman is considered the inventor of the “modern” fountain pen. As a traveling salesman in 1800s New York, he had every incentive to improve the design. Carrying around an ink bottle was highly inconvenient, and the pens with built-in reservoirs from 19th-century inventors weren’t always reliable. Waterman’s main innovation was perfecting a simple feed system that could effectively exchange ink and air for a smoother writing experience, i.e. “capillary action”.

The Pros and Cons of Fountain Pens

Fountain pen PRO's Fountain pen CON's

Smooth Writing Experience

Initial investment can be costly

Can be refilled with ink using cartridge or converter

Ink may take a while to dry, possible smudging

Professional status symbol

Expect a learning curve

Wide variety of nibs for every preference

Need regular maintenance to prevent ink flow issues.

Popular Fountain Pen Models

Lamy Safari 

One of the most beloved fountain pens for beginners, the Lamy Safari comes in a rainbow of colors. Study and reliable, its unique designs feature a flexible brass clip and plated steel nib. It can be refilled with cartridges or bottled ink with a converter.

Kaweco Calligraphy

Compact and light, the Kaweco Sport classic design is made of high-quality plastic. It’s available in multiple different widths to suit all handwriting styles. Hand-assembled, this calligraphy pen has a noticeably soft writing feel.

Pilot Metropolitan

The Pilot Metropolitan is a one-of-a-kind fountain pen that handles all forms of writing. Clean and classic with a smorgasbord of colors, Pilot is a trusted brand. Choose from medium, fine, and extra fine nib sizes.

Pilot Falcon

Also named the Namiki Falcon, this fountain pen delivers ink in smooth, controlled style with rich jewel-toned colors. It is famous for its soft nib that allows for satisfying line variation in your writing. The grip is subtle and allows for some of the most beautiful drawings imaginable.

The History of Dip Pens

In antiquity, quill pens and dip pens were used to write with a pot of ink ready for re-dipping after every few words. From the Roman Empire onward, most writing instruments were made from bird feathers. The end was sharpened to a fine point, dipped into an inkwell, and put on parchment paper. Metal nibs of copper and bronze date back to ancient Egypt, and later steel. The first dip pens with steel nibs were mass-produced in 1822 by John Mitchell of Birmingham, England. They lasted longer than quill pens and didn’t have to be constantly re-sharpened.

By the 1850s, dip pens that were cheap and easy to produce were available in England, Germany, and most of Europe. As a result, those who previously couldn’t afford writing tools experienced an uptick in education and literacy. Accessories like the nib holder, leather writing pad, and blotting paper made one’s writing experience more enjoyable. Inkwells that held ink into which a dip pen was dipped were made of glass, porcelain, silver, brass, or pewter. Affluent writers often used an inkstand, which had designated spaces for ink bottles, spare nibs, pens, and blotting papers

The Pros and Cons of Dip Pens

Dip pen PRO's Dip pen CON's

More budget-friendly

Less portable as you need an external ink bottle

More nib options are disposable and easily switched out

Frequent dipping and posesible spills on hands and clothes

Nibs are more flexible for artists and calligraphers

With more flexibility comes less durability.

Wide variety of line variation, from hairline strokes to bold.

Inconsistent ink flow as nib only holds so much with each dip

Popular Dip Pens


Brause dip nibs are a great choice for dip pen enthusiasts and beginners. They are known for their consistency of performance and ability to fit into dip pen handles by other brands. As true multi-use tools, these nibs are great for writing, drawing, and calligraphy.  


A Japanese stationary brand, Kakimori is known for its aesthetic designs. This is an exquisite writing instrument for any occasion. The uniquely rounded nibs are versatile, long-lasting, and suited for ink swatching, lettering, and different kinds of artwork.


The aircraft-grade, drill-shaped nib of Drillog dip pens is distinctively eye-catching. Recommended for delicate lettering and sketching, both Drillog and Kakimori nibs have high ink capacity. The nib and pen barrel can be customized due to their detachable structure.

Fountain Pen vs. Dip Pen: Which Is Better for Calligraphy?

The ease and speed at which nibs can be interchanged make dip pens a star for calligraphers. However, flex nibs work well for a range of strokes and calligraphy fountain pens are also a solid choice. The viscosity of calligraphy pen ink can vary. Typically, the higher the viscosity, the more bold and expressive your lines will be.

Calligraphy with a J Herbin glass dip pen

Dip Pen vs. Fountain Pen: Which is Better for Writing?

For everyday writing, note-taking and journaling, we recommend you reach for a fountain pen. The internal ink reservoir is more convenient, there’s less mess, and no need to carry around an ink well. That being said, dip pens can still be used for normal writing. Stream some chamber music, light a candle, and dip into your ink pot like a medieval scribe to set the scene.

What are the different types of fountain pen nibs?

Fine Nibs

With a narrow and precise point, this nib is ideal for small, neat handwriting. Fine nibs are great for everyday use.

Medium Nibs

Striking a balance between thick and thin lines, medium nibs could be considered a standard nib size. They are a versatile choice for your general writing needs.

Broad Nibs

If your preference is bold, expressive writing, consider the broad nib. It’s perfect for signing your name and attention-grabbing letters.

Calligraphy Nibs

Italic Nib

The flat angle of the Italib Nib produces crisp, calligraphy-style lines. Choose from a variety of nib width sizes depending on your desired look.

Flex Nib

These nibs have a spring-like quality. The thinness or thickness of your lines will depend on the amount of pressure applied.

Oblique Nib

Oblique Nibs are cut at a sharp angle for a different kind of writing experience. The natural slant makes these nibs a preference for left-handers.

What are the different types of dip pen nibs?

Nikko G Nibs

Coined as the “Goldilocks” of nibs, the Nikko G is sharp but not too sharp, flexible but not too flexible. It’s great for beginners since it doesn’t require special paper.

Brause Steno Nibs

Nicknamed the “blue pumpkin”, the Brause Steno Nib is one of the best for beginners who love bold lines. Its dull tip and medium flexibility make it forgiving to work with.

Hunt 101 Nibs

Slightly sharper than the Nikko G Nib, the Hunt 101 Nib creates thicker lines with minimal pressure. Beginners should expect a bit of a learning curve as the nib can feel a bit scratchy.

Zebra G Nibs

Those who prefer thin, pointed lines should explore the Zebra G Nib. There is just enough flex with this nib to accommodate shading as well.

Fountain Pen Care: Cleaning and Maintenance

In order to keep your fountain pen writing smoothly for the long term, you need to maintain it. For optimal performance, aim to clean your pen at least twice a year. If you switch ink colors often, you’ll need to flush it before using the new color.

All you need to clean your fountain pen is water and a towel. The best cleaning method will depend on the kind of fountain pen you’re using, be it cartridge-filling, piston-fill, or a converter system. Watch How to Clean Your Fountain Pen for a step-by-step tutorial for each kind of fountain pen.

Dip Pen Care: Cleaning and Maintenance

You can clean your dip pen in the same way you might clean a paint brush. As long as you don’t dip the nib so far in your water that it gets into the nib’s vent hole, clean-up is simple. Dip it into a glass of water, swish it around, then quickly dry the nib with a paper towel. It’s important to dry your nib completely so rust doesn’t build up and damage it. If old ink has dried on your nib, vinegar or rubbing alcohol with a cloth should do the trick.

How to clean a dip pen

Can I use any ink with both pens?

Don’t use ink designated for dip pens in fountain pens: the ink is too viscous. The binder in dip pen ink can easily clog up a fountain pen and ruin it. However, you can use fountain pen ink with dip pens if you use a bit of gum arabic to thicken it up.

What Are The Best Brands For Each Pen Type?

Fountain Pen Brands


With a long-standing tradition of Japanese craftsmanship and fine attention to detail, Pilot pens are exceptional writing instruments. They are known for their fountain pens and metal caps, but also offer ballpoint pens.


Made in Germany, Lamy pens are famous for their streamlined designs and high level of comfort. Constructed of high-quality stainless steel or gold nibs, they are a timeless choice to hone your handwriting.


Originally founded in Tokyo, Platinum pens are now available worldwide. The high-quality nibs write like a luxury fountain pen at a great value. It’s an excellent starter pen for beginners with fun designs to choose from.

Dip Pen Brands


Nibs by Brause are considered among the best by calligraphers around the globe. These tiny but mighty nibs put Germany on the map! They offer a delicate balance of elasticity and resistance for clear, easy strokes.


Designed to replicate the ease of a fountain pen in a dip pen, the Kakimori is truly one-of-a-kind. Highly recommended for artists, the capillary slits in the conical nib are capable of holding more ink near its surface. That means more time spent drawing and less time dipping.

Pilot Iro Utsushi

This unique pen combines the nib of a fountain pen with the flexibility of a traditional dip pen. The non-detachable stainless steel nib won’t rust and is rounded for a smooth writing experience.

Can I use my fountain pen as a dip pen?

Yes, it’s possible to use your fountain pen as a dip pen. However, there are a few factors to keep in mind. Fountain pens have a feed mechanism that guides the flow of ink. When you bypass that mechanism by using it as a dip pen, there is a risk of the feed getting clogged. Be sure to thoroughly clean your fountain pen nib after using it as a dip pen to prevent affecting its future performance.

Is a dip pen or fountain pen better for drawing?

The answer to this question depends entirely on your preference as an artist. The dip pen vs fountain pen each have pros and cons based on the kind of drawings you create. Dip pen nibs come in endless varieties of widths, sizes and textures at a fraction of the cost of fountain pen nibs. They are also easy to clean and swap out for a different one mid-art project. Dip pens are compatible with many different kinds of inks, like India ink, calligraphy and acrylic inks that come in all colors.

While dip pens rank high in adaptability, fountain pens are higher in consistency. Instead of having to repeatedly dip into an inkwell, their internal reservoir allows for a steady ink flow. They are less messy and more portable for traveling. Many artists use both pen types, dip pens for expressive, bold strokes and fountain pens for more detailed, controlled lines.

Is a dip pen better than a fountain pen?

What kind of projects do you do most often? Are you more of a writer or an artist and calligrapher? Your answer will help determine the better pen for you.

While fountain pen calligraphy is a thing, dip pens are ideal for calligraphy. They are more involved than fountain pens and the ink viscosity will differ depending on the kind used. There are a plethora of affordable dip pen nibs available, which is a huge pro. Fountain pens are better for everyday tasks: writing letters, making signatures, and using stationary. Generally speaking, we recommend fountain pens for writers and dip pens for calligraphers and illustrators.

Before You Dip Out…

When considering a fountain pen vs dip pen, it comes down to durability vs flexibility. Fountain pens are generally more durable and less flexible, while dip pens in comparison are less durable but more flexible. It all depends on your desired aesthetic and personal preference.

While you can’t have the best of both worlds, we hope this article helps you find the best pen for your world. Let us know in the comments below which way you’re leaning in the dip pen vs fountain pen discussion!

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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