Fountain pens have been popular writing tools for years, with avid supporters preferring not to write at all than use a ballpoint pen. Among the many reasons for this loyalty are that fountain pens require less pressure on the paper, allowing slow-drying ink to form lines consistent with your movements, without indenting the page. The result is more natural, less rigid letters and movements than those created by ballpoint pens.
The best fountain pen for you can depend on whether you want to refill the pen directly from an ink bottle, use replaceable ink cartridges, or if you want a fountain pen capable of both refill methods. You also may consider the size and shape of the nib, which is the tip of the fountain pen that opens to distribute ink. The products below have been selected as some of the best fountain pens available in each respective category, based on product efficacy and overall value.
- BEST OVERALL: Wordsworth & Black Fountain Pen Set
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Jinhao 450 Normal nib Fountain Pen
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: AmazonBasics Refillable Fountain Pen – Medium Point
- BEST LUXURY: Waterman Carène Deluxe Fountain Pen
- BEST FOR DRAWING: PILOT Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen
- BEST CARTRIDGE: LAMY Safari Fountain Pen (19M) Black
- BEST CONVERTER: Black Forest Fountain Pen Fine Nib Classic Design
- BEST PISTON: Lamy 2000 Matte Black Fountain Pen – Medium
What to Consider When Choosing a Fountain Pen
Before choosing the best fountain pen for your next project, take a few minutes to read about some of the most important shopping considerations to keep in mind.
Fountain pens can be made from almost anything, but the most common materials include sterling silver, plastic, acrylic resin, and base metals, like brass, stainless steel, and aluminum.
- Sterling silver is a high-quality choice that will display engravings beautifully, making it an option for a gift or a commemorative award. However, silver is heavier than other metals so it may be prefered by those who enjoy a weighted pen.
- Plastic is typically lightweight and inexpensive, making it a budget-friendly option. Plastic fountain pens also can be very durable, but they don’t usually look as elegant as other options.
- Acrylic resin is more brittle than the other fountain pen materials, so these pens are normally made thicker to compensate for their fragility. The benefit of an acrylic resin fountain pen is that you have more options with barrel colors and patterns. If you want to make a style statement, then an acrylic resin fountain pen may be the best choice.
- Base metals, including brass, stainless steel, and aluminum, are the most popular type of material used to make fountain pens. These metals are lightweight, durable, easy to engrave, and relatively inexpensive. You can even choose from a variety of lacquer colors for the pen, so you don’t have to settle for a brass or steel coloring.
Fountain pens can be separated into several different types including disposable, cartridge, converter, and piston.
- Disposable fountain pens come with the ink chamber pre-filled, similar to ballpoint pens. The nib works like a regular fountain pen, dispensing ink when pressure is applied. However, when the ink runs out, you simply get a new pen instead of refilling the ink.
- Cartridge fountain pens have ink cartridges that must be replaced when they run out of ink. This is done by opening the pen, removing the old cartridge, and pushing the new cartridge into the nib until it clicks. The click indicates that the nib has punctured the cartridge, so ink can now flow into the chamber of the pen. This type of pen is good for new fountain pen users who may not be comfortable refilling a pen directly from an ink bottle.
- Converter fountain pens are designed to give you the option between using cartridges and refilling with ink from a bottle. Not all converter pens come with the converter part needed to do this, so make sure to check the product specifications before purchasing. Converter pens also may have an ink bladder mechanism that can be refilled in a similar way to a piston pen.
- Piston fountain pens are a more classic style of fountain pen. These pens are refilled directly from an inkwell and are better suited for more experienced users. Piston pens typically hold more ink than a cartridge pen making them a good option for long periods of writing.
Depending on the type of fountain pen and your level of experience, fountain pens can be used for many different activities ranging from letter writing to expert pursuits, like calligraphy.
- Writing letters is easy with any type of fountain pen. However, if you will be writing for a long period of time you may want a piston pen or converter pen that can hold more ink at one time in the collection chamber. This allows you to write uninterrupted for a longer time frame before you must refill the ink. If you are a beginner, then a medium nib is recommended, but fine and extra fine nibs may be more appropriate for smaller writing.
- Calligraphy frequently involves a piston fountain pen or converter pen. Since you don’t normally need to change ink colors, you can take advantage of the large ink chamber. Calligraphy also can benefit from a range of nib sizes, though extra fine and fine nibs are necessary for traditional calligraphy.
- Artwork pen choice depends on whether you need just one color or more than one. If you are working on a single-color piece, a piston pen could be used. If you are working with a range of colors, a cartridge pen or converter pen is recommended because it is easier to switch between different color cartridges. You also may want to consider a range of nibs sizes for different pen strokes. A fine nib is usually a good choice for most art projects.
- Studying does not have one fountain pen type that is best for everyone. Instead, the best fountain pen type for you depends on how you study. If you meticulously write page after page of notes, then you may want a piston or converter pen with a large collection chamber. However, if you prefer bullet point notes with color highlighting, then a cartridge pen is the way to go, allowing you to change ink cartridges when necessary.
The nib of a fountain pen is the metal tip at the end of the pen where the ink comes out. This tip is created by two tines or prongs that meet in the middle. When pressure is applied to the nib the prongs separate, allowing the ink to flow through the gap and onto the paper. Nibs are available in different sizes, including extra fine, fine, medium, and broad. A variety of shapes are also available, including standard, italic, and oblique. Keep in mind that the larger the nib, the more ink is used when writing.
- Extra fine nibs are used for writing very thin lines, such as when you are doing calligraphy, or completing detailed drawings.
- Fine nibs are typically used in drawing, though they also may be suitable for people with smaller handwriting.
- Medium nibs are the most frequently used because they are suitable for most writing purposes and they are usually standard on many fountain pens.
- Broad nibs are a better option for very large handwriting, but these nibs will use your ink at a quicker rate.
Standard shaped nibs produce a line that has a consistent thickness from beginning to end.
- Italic shaped nibs produce thin vertical lines and thick horizontal lines, which are frequently used in calligraphy.
- Oblique shaped nibs are a good choice for left-handed writing because they allow you to hold the pen from below the line, preventing smudging as you write.
Cap and Barrel
When selecting the cap type, consider how the fountain pen will be used, and how frequently you will use the pen. There are slip-and-seal caps, screw caps, and click-on caps.
- Slip-and-seal caps are intended for decorative pens that are usually only used occasionally. These caps are able to seal the pen and prevent ink from drying for up to two years without use.
- Screw caps are a good idea if you travel with your pen because the threaded cap will remain secure despite bumps and other impacts.
- Click-on caps are quick and convenient, only needing a little force to remove or replace the cap, making them a great choice for daily users.
The barrel of the pen comes in a range of diameters from slim 6-millimeter fountain pens to fat 14-millimeter pens. Choose a pen diameter that fits comfortably in your hand so that you are not straining your hand muscles unnecessarily while you write.
The aesthetic of a fountain pen may be one of the most important factors for your purchase, especially if you are looking for a decorative item that may be rarely used. Aesthetic features include a range of patterns, colors, and accents for all types and materials of fountain pen.
However, if you want an engraving on the barrel, then you will need to choose a metal barrel. Base metals like brass and stainless steel are ideal for engravings and have a modest color selection.
If you are not interested in engravings, and you love color, then look for acrylic resin or plastic fountain pens. These materials are much easier to color and work with.
For a more luxurious look when you display your pen or give a fountain pen as a gift, consider a decorative box that will keep it safe and show off the pen.
Fountain pens have different maintenance requirements. The upkeep can make them easier or more difficult to use, depending on the type of fountain pen and your experience with fountain pens.
- Disposable fountain pens are very easy to use and are temporary possessions. Typically, disposable fountain pens will be used by those who have not decided what type of permanent fountain pen they want to use. This type of pen has no maintenance requirements, but you will need to replace it when the ink runs out. However, without the ability to refill the pen, it can become inconvenient if you run out of ink partway through a project.
- Cartridge fountain pens are low maintenance, only requiring semi-regular cleaning and replacing cartridges when the old cartridge runs out of ink. Switching a cartridge also is a very convenient way to change between multiple ink colors, allowing you to use this pen for drawing or highlighting. However, these cartridges do not hold as much ink as the collection chamber on a piston or converter fountain pen, so a daily writer may need to change the cartridges more frequently.
- Converter fountain pens can use cartridges or they can be filled using an ink bladder mechanism which quickly draws ink up into the collection chamber. These pens are a great choice for amateur to expert users because they offer the options of either filling manually or using disposable cartridges.
- Piston fountain pens are best for long writing projects that require a lot of ink. This is because they have a large collection chamber that can be easily refilled with one color as you write. These pens are not the best option if you want to use a variety of colors with the same pen, because the collection chamber will need to be emptied and cleaned before it can be filled with a different color ink. If you have some experience with a fountain pen and are only using a single color, then piston fountain pens can be your best option.
Our Top Picks
The top-rated picks below were chosen for quality, price, and customer satisfaction to help you find the best fountain pen for your desk.
The Wordsworth & Black Fountain Pen Set comes safely tucked in a premium leather case inside a deluxe gift box, ready to give to a colleague or a loved one. You can choose from 13 different barrel colors and designs for a unique look. This converter fountain pen has a converter cartridge that can be filled like a piston pen and six refill ink cartridges, including three with blue ink and three with black ink.
This fountain pen has a medium stainless steel nib that is appropriate for most writing tasks and a balanced weight along the pen that makes it easy to handle for both left- and right-handed writers. The pen is 5.47 inches long and has a screw-off cap that is useful for keeping your pen safe during travel. A bonus for beginners is that you also get a full instruction booklet.
Beginners may not be interested in spending a lot of money on a fountain pen until after trying a less expensive version, like this converter fountain pen. There are five barrel color choices including black, dark blue, dark red, golden, and black with white lines. This converter pen also has a converter cartridge that you can fill like a piston pen, or you can take the converter cartridge out and use one of the 10 refill cartridges that come with the pen.
The included refill ink cartridges include two blue, two brown, two green, two purple, and two red ink cartridges. The fountain pen is 5.55 inches long with a medium stainless steel nib, and has a lacquered metal barrel with a contoured grip for better control while writing.
If you are just starting to use a fountain pen, then the AmazonBasics Refillable Fountain Pen is a great starting point. It has a simple cartridge refill system and you have the choice between fine and medium stainless steel nibs.
The brass barrel is painted black and has stainless steel accents on the nib, clip, and parts of the cap to give this pen an elegant appearance. It measures 5.5 inches long, comes with three ink cartridges, and has a screw-off cap that makes it a great option for students traveling to and from school.
The converter fountain pen is designed to have a luxury appearance in your hand or on display in your office. While you can choose between 10 different color and trim options, the deluxe black selection has a black lacquered metal barrel, and comes with a 23-karat gold clip, and a solid 18-karat gold nib with rhodium plating.
The fountain pen is 5.6 inches long, has a chiselled silver-plated cap with gold accents, and either a fine- or medium-sized nib. It is hand-crafted and hand-assembled in France and can be engraved with a unique phrase, a date, or a name to add a personal touch to a gift for a colleague or a loved one.
If you are looking for a gift for an artist, this PILOT converter fountain pen may be an ideal option. It has a fine, stainless steel nib that is designed for everyday use, and a quick cartridge replacement system that can be used for switching between colors. The converter fountain pen also can be refilled with a piston system if you want to work with one color for a long period.
The pen measures 5.47 inches long and has a brass barrel that is painted black with stainless steel accents on the clip, cap, and nib. It comes with a case and has contoured grips to make the fountain pen easier to hold and use.
Writing with a fountain pen doesn’t need to involve the potentially messy job of filling up a pen collection chamber with ink directly from an ink bottle. Instead, with the LAMY Safari Fountain Pen you can simply switch out an empty cartridge for a new one in a matter of minutes, without getting your hands covered in ink. The cartridge fountain pen is 5.5 inches long and comes in seven different barrel color options, including black, pink, red, and white.
The barrel is made of strong ABS plastic, which is inexpensive and resistant to impact damage if the pen is dropped. This pen has a medium-size standard nib that is made of polished stainless steel, and it has a chrome-plated metal clip so you can attach it to a notebook or a pocket for added security. With this fountain pen you also get five extra ink cartridges.
Both amateur and expert users may enjoy the versatility offered by a converter fountain pen, like the Black Forest Fountain Pen. It can be refilled using ink cartridges for a quick switch between various colors, or you can use a traditional piston system to fill the collection chamber for long writing tasks. This fountain pen is available in black, blue, dark green, purple, or silver colors, and gives you the choice between an italic, extra fine, or fine nib for a variety of functions.
The barrel of the pen is aluminum and it has a contoured grip to make writing easier for extended periods of time. This pen has a stainless steel nib, a click-on cap, and a metal case. It measures 5.43 inches long, and has a diameter of 11 millimeters.
If you are looking for a traditional piston fountain pen that can be filled directly from an ink bottle, then the Lamy 2000 Matte Black Fountain Pen might be perfect for you. The nib is medium in size, standard in shape, and made of 14-karat gold with a platinum coating for a high-quality look and effective writing results.
The fountain pen’s barrel is made with a combination of black fiberglass and brushed stainless steel to give it a durable weight with a matte black finish. The pen measures 5.46 inches long and its barrel features four windows so you can view the ink level. The pen is on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art.
FAQs About Your New Fountain Pen
If you still have questions about fountain pens, the following answers to some of the most frequently asked questions may help.
Q. What’s the difference between a fountain pen and a ballpoint?
There are many differences between a fountain pen and a ballpoint pen, but the most important are the pen type and how they disperse ink.
Ballpoint pens use a thick, oil-based ink that lasts a long time inside the pen and dries quickly, while fountain pens use a less viscous ink that flows smoothly but takes longer to dry.
Ballpoint pens use gravity to push ink down a tube onto a ball that swivels in the socket at the end of the pen to distribute ink. Fountain pens also use gravity to help the flow of ink, but the ink travels to a collection site that ensures only a specific amount is available. The nib is separated by two tines or prongs. When pressure is applied to the nib while writing, the pressure forces the two prongs apart to disperse ink.
Q. How do you use a fountain pen?
To use a fountain pen you can follow these simple steps.
- Place the tip of the fountain pen, known as the nib, on the paper and rotate it slightly in your hand until you find the spot where the pen writes smoothly and without scratching or skipping.
- Apply gentle pressure to force the tines or prongs of the fountain pen to open, allowing ink to flow onto the paper.
- Use light strokes as you write to prevent damaging the nib or disrupting the ink flow.
- After you feel comfortable with the basics, you can make adjustments to better suit your individual writing style.
Q. How do you fill a fountain pen with ink?
The way to fill a fountain pen can differ depending on the type of pen.
To change the cartridge on a cartridge pen:
- Unscrew the cap from the pen and the barrel, or body from the nib, to remove the empty ink cartridge.
- With the new ink cartridge, insert the small end inside the nib and push the cartridge into the nib until it clicks. This sound indicates that the inside of the nib has punctured the cartridge to access the ink.
- Screw the barrel back onto the nib and the cap back onto the pen.
- Sit the pen in a vertical position to allow gravity to pull the ink out of the cartridge and into the nib. It can take up to one hour before the pen is ready for use.
To refill a piston pen:
- Remove the cap from the nib and the back of the pen to access the end knob.
- Twist the end knob and extend the piston towards the front of the pen.
- Dip the entire nib into the ink, covering the hole on the back of the nib, and turn the knob in a clockwise direction to draw ink into the chamber.
- When the chamber is full you can turn the knob in the counterclockwise direction to let a few drops back into the bottle and remove air bubbles. Then, clean the nib with a cloth to remove excess ink.
Converter cartridges work in cartridge fountain pens, but either can be refilled like a piston pen following the steps above, or can be refilled using the steps below if it has an ink bladder mechanism:
- Dip the nib into the ink and gently press the converter at the back of the pen.
- Wait for air bubbles to appear in the ink, then slowly release the converter and allow ink to be drawn into the chamber.
- Repeat as necessary until the pen is full.
Q. How do you clean a fountain pen?
Cleaning a fountain pen involves the following simple instructions.
- Remove the cap from the pen and unscrew the nib from the barrel or body of the pen. If your pen uses a cartridge or a converter cartridge, remove it from the nib section.
- Rinse the nib under cool running water for a few seconds to wash away excess ink.
- Place the nib in a cup of clean water to soak, replacing the water when it becomes saturated with ink.
- Repeat step three as necessary until the water remains clean for at least an hour.
- Remove the nib and let it dry completely. This can take up to 24 hours.
- Reassemble the pen and use.