There are as many reasons to make the switch from regular pens to fountain pens as there are fountain pen lovers. Some love the way the ink flows from the nib. Others like the individuality and expressiveness of the characters they scribble. Still others say that it’s more comfortable, that it’s traditional, and that it’s just plain fun.
Whatever your reason for picking up a fountain pen, there’s one thing that’s the same for every new user: the learning curve.
Is it harder to write with a fountain pen?
Writing with a fountain pen isn’t hard; it’s different. Even if you’ve used a fine writing instrument before, ballpoint pens and rollerball pens still function differently. It will take some trial and error to become comfortable using a fountain pen so that you can write without thinking about it.
What makes a fountain pen different?
It’s all about the engineering. Fountain pens are designed to draw ink down from the reservoir to the nib at the slightest pressure. However, to get a continuous line and to avoid scratching your way across the page, you need to hold your fountain pen at an angle—a 45-degree angle.
5 Tips for Beginner Fountain Pen Users
First, you’ll need a fountain pen, ink, and some paper to practice with.
If you’re buying your own fountain pen, try an inexpensive one to start so that you don’t blow your budget on a shape or weight that isn’t comfortable in your hand.
Your pen will likely come with an ink cartridge, but you’ll want to have refills on hand. As for the paper, you’ll want a thicker sheet that won’t let your ink bleed through to the back side. Pick a smoother piece to start. It’ll be easier to learn how to use your fountain pen without navigating the bumps and ridges on fine, heavier-weight stationery.
Ready to get started? Read on for our beginner’s tips for writing with fountain pens:
Tip #1. Hold your pen close to the nib.
Choke down on your pen—way, way down. As you figure out how to use your fountain pen, you’ll want to start with a basic grip. Hold your pen between your index finger and your thumb, with the tips of your fingers positioned right above the nib. Practice writing with it like this before you experiment with how you hold it.
Tip #2. Try writing with the cap on and off.
Even an inexpensive plastic or resin fountain pen feels heavier than a cheap plastic ballpoint or rollerball from an office supply store. The pen cap seems like it might add an insignificant amount of weight to your pen, but that’s not true with a fountain pen. Try using yours with the cap both on and off. There’s no right way—continue with what feels best.
Tip #3. Ease up on the pressure.
Most people in the 20th century write with ballpoint pens, which require you to push heavily on the tip to create a line. A fountain pen is quite different. Its ink flows with the slightest amount of pressure. In fact, pushing too hard on a fountain pen’s nib can make it wear faster. It can even crack under excessive pressure, rendering it useless.
Tip #4. Change the angle.
A fountain pen has a so-called sweet spot. That sweet spot is an angle—a 45-degree angle between the nib and the paper, to be precise. While they’ll write at different angles, too, the 45-degree angle is ideal. The closest you can get your nib to that angle, the more control you’ll have over your writing.
Tip #5. Write with your whole arm.
When we write with ballpoint pens and rollerball pens, we tend to move our wrists and hands rather than our entire arm. It comes more automatically, but it also leads to cramping, hand pain, and even carpal tunnel syndrome if you do it frequently enough.
While you adjust to writing with a fountain pen, try to write from your upper arm, using your shoulder and your elbow to change positions on the page instead of your wrist or your hand. It’ll take time to make the swap. Once you do, though, it’s a change you can apply to writing with other pens, too. You’ll find that your hand tires far less quickly using this method.
Writing with a fountain pen is big change, but it’s a rewarding one, too, once you get past the learning curve. Keep practicing, and you’ll discover a way of writing that lets you truly express yourself beyond the words you put on the page. Everything from the weight of your stroke to the color of your ink, to the flourishes you use to embellish your work will set you apart from the crowd.