When you think of the fountain pen and its uses, drawing or sketching wouldn’t normally be the first thing that comes into your mind. You’d think of those bullet journals, calligraphy, and lettering, however, there are numerous people who draw and sketch with them too. Curious, I went around and gathered information on how they really are for drawing.
Are fountain pens good for drawing? Fountain pens offer artists benefits like:
- Great line variations
- Variety of inks
Artists usually work for prolonged periods of time, meaning the instruments they use need to be comfortable. It is also a great investment for them as some art tools need to be constantly replaced.
I’ve always said that the ones who appreciate the fountain pens the most are people who do a lot of writing, for work or maybe for a hobby. They are the ones most familiar with hand fatigue and would really notice the difference in line variations and the way a writing instrument glides through the paper.
Students, for example, are people who would appreciate the benefits of a good fountain pen. After reading this, they’d be glad to know they can use it to doodle on their books just as well, or even, better than a regular ballpoint pen or pencil.
While I wasn’t very familiar with drawing with fountains pens, I have dabbled with art for some time. Those works don’t deserve to be shown here, or anywhere for that matter, but I do understand the benefits and how they can help with some first-hand experience.
If you are an artist who would like to learn the different advantages and benefits the fountain pen has to offer, or maybe you own a fountain pen and just want to try other ways you can thoroughly enjoy your pen, this article will help gain a new perspective on this fine writing instrument.
The Benefits of Drawing with a Fountain Pen
As mentioned above, artists work for long periods of time. An hour or two would just be the start depending on what project they have started. That means a lot of hand fatigue, aching body parts(shoulders, back, and whatever else your form requires), and constant buying of art supplies(the costs can get pretty ugly).
So here let’s discuss some of the benefits you can get with fountain pens.
The thing with artists is they experience a lot of aches and pains in their body. Outsiders may take it for granted but drawing hurts when you do it constantly. Switching to a fountain pen to sketch or line your drawing can help you alleviate some of that stress on your body.
I’ve done an article on the benefits of fountain pens that is related to this, while it focused on writing in general, writing is drawing in a sense. You can check it out here.
Take note, it won’t take away all the aches and pains on your body immediately or totally, still, it will help.
Like different artists’ hands, the fountain pen comes in many different shapes, sizes, and forms. Some are much bigger than the rest, some are thicker. Some might be thinner and lighter, but still, be perfectly balanced on your hand.
In other words, there’s a fountain pen out there that will suit you perfectly. It might require some trial and error, so you might want to start with inexpensive or very affordable pens first.
Having a fountain pen perfect for your hand will contribute greatly to lessening hand-fatigue during those long hours of drawing, as you won’t need to tense your hands as much. Of course, with fountain pens, it also means less pressure is needed when writing, so that will greatly affect the stress on your hands as well. All-in-all, this would mean having a more relaxed grip that, in turn, lessens the strain on your forearms onto your shoulders.
Great Line Variations
Line variation is one of the best aspects of fountain pens, whether you enjoy calligraphy or not you can’t deny that those more nuanced lines give out more of that dynamic feel to your writing. The same goes for sketching and drawing, if not more so.
You can achieve different line variations in multiple ways. Some artists simply just change the way they hold the fountain pen, or how they apply pressure, while some prefer to leave it all in the nib. Depending on their styles, they are both right.
For artists who prefer, using just one nib. They can achieve different line variations through practice.
Liz Steel, for example, simply just adjusts the pressure she uses to control the thickness of the lines in her work.
Posture and Angle
Liz can control her lines through her grip, where she holds the fountain pen at 45° and where the natural stroke would produce thicker downward lines.
- Normal pressure = Lines equal to the nib’s size
- Heavy pressure = Thicker lines
- Back of the nib = thinner lines
- Horizontal lines = thinner
- Vertical lines = thicker
Here, Liz still holds the pen at a 45° angle, however, she angles it in a way where the thicker strokes flow horizontally. This is mostly to control the thickness of lines when it comes to vertical and horizontal orientations.
- Horizontal lines = thicker
- Vertical lines = thinner
For more on that, check out her site.
Of course, the fountain pen still has many different nibs to offer for different purposes. While western nibs usually come as medium-sized nibs, you can choose between many different sizes that will suit your needs. It is also important to note that Japanese fountain pen nibs are mich finer, or produce thinner lines than western nibs.
Here is a chart detailing the sizes of each nib, and the thickness of the lines they produce.
|Nib Tip Size||Line Thickness Western Measurement||Line Thickness Japanese Measurement|
|Extra Fine||0.5 mm||0.3 mm|
|Fine||0.6 mm||0.45 mm|
|Medium||.075 mm||0.6 mm|
It’s important to note that the size of the nib tip will have an effect on your art as well. If you are going for smaller, more detailed, drawings or sketches, you might want to go with finer nibs – Japanese nibs if you are going really detailed. For larger drawings with thicker lines, you might want to go with medium-sized nibs.
While there are various ways to hold a pen, as well as the size of the nib, there are also different types of nib types. Not all of the nib tips will have an impact when you use them for drawing, however, you might want to familiarize yourself with them because you never know what will come in handy in the future.
I’ll list some of them, as well as detail the lines they can make.
- Standard Nibs (Extra-fine, Fine, Medium, Bold,)
- Tips are rounded.
- While you can control the thickness of the lines, they will not have the same line variation as with other nibs that are designed specifically to make a certain line effect.
- More often than not, you will produce straight lines.
- Flex Nibs
- Flex nibs are more flexible than normal nibs, allowing you to control the width of your lines through the pressure you apply to the pen. While the tip of a flex nib may look similar to a standard nib, it is much more springy and soft.
- It allows you to highlight different areas of your art and allows you to add dynamism.
- This nib is highly adaptable and can be used for different purposes, one being art, another is calligraphy.
- This nib requires a lot more attention to the pressure you apply.
- Stub Nibs
- Stub nibs have flatter tipped nibs, allowing a different kind of line variation.
- While flex nibs are highly dependent on the pressure you are applying, stub nibs by default, create line dependent on its shape.
- Downward strokes create thick vertical lines.
- Sideward strokes create thin horizontal lines.
- Fude Nibs
- Nib tips appear to be bent upwards.
- Unlike the other nibs, fude nibs changes lines variation by way of changing the angle you hold it with.
- Holding it tipped more to the side will produce thicker lines, having more of the bent tip hit the paper.
- Holding it more vertically will produce thinner lines, as the tip of then bent part will be in contact with the paper more.
- Music Nibs
- Depending on which nib is used, the line variation will be different.
- Design for musicians, it makes it easier for them to write musical notes. Of course, artists can use them for different purposes.
- Regular music nibs create broad vertical strokes and thin horizontal strokes
- Cross music nibs create broad horizontal strokes and thin vertical lines.
- Much more expensive and requires more practice to use.
Variety of Inks
One of the greatest attractions with fountain pens is the ink. There are so many to choose from, with so many effects. From different colors, properties, ingredients, and effects, it’s an artist’s playground to have so many inks you can use.
There are a few things to remember, of course:
- Different inks will react in different ways
- Inks have different ingredients
You’ll need to know each of the nuances of these to get a better grasp of using fountain pens for drawing.
While there are many inks out there, the most basic thing to remember when it comes to using fountain pen inks for drawing is that they are water-based inks. That means they are water-soluble and your art may get messed up if you aren’t careful.
When buying inks, it’s important that you pay close attention to the type of ink you are buying because you can choose between the standard fountain pen ink and waterproof ink.
Standard fountain pen inks bleed/ smudge when they get wet. That means if you are using standard fountain pen ink when lining your watercolor painting, then I’ve got bad news for you. Your art will get messy, potentially ruining your work.
However, there is a caveat to this. Liz Steel, whom we earlier mentioned, actually uses the smudging effects to enhance her art. It’s really what you intend to do with the piece at the end of the day.
For waterproof inks, you can be sure that when you line your work and apply the watercolor, your lines will stay there and preserve the smooth crisp edges of your linework. This is perfect for more beginner watercolor artists.
You should also take note of what kind of waterproof ink you are using. Some waterproof inks are pigment based, which means they cannot stay in your pen long, and will block and potentially ruin your pen if not clean regularly.
If you do purchase pigmented ink, be sure to regulate your use, and clean it about once a week.
You can refer to this on how to clean your pen.
Lastly, when buying your ink, it’s also important that you do not use calligraphy ink on your fountain pen. They do not flow as well as fountain pen ink and can ruin your pen if you use them.
One of the hardest things about being a traditional artist is the supplies you have to buy. As a hobby, they can weigh you down, and even discourage you from continuing to do art. If you do it professionally, the art supplies are a constant expense, one that you’ll shoulder for the span of your art career.
The good news is that with fountain pens, you can just buy what you need to replace a certain tool, like felt tip markers, brush pens, and even pigment liners.
You can continuously change inks depending on what you need, and not have to worry about the ink running out as one bottle of ink will most likely equal 3 to 5 pieces of the tool you replaced. And, that’s on the conservative end.
So, while the fountain pen and a good selection of ink may cost you more than your normal set of supplies, it will last for longer.
You’d also be doing good for the environment, as single-use art supplies and pens equate to a sizable impact on the Earth. They take up quite a lot of space in landfills and usually find themselves floating in the oceans for marine life to eat or get tangled in.
You can refer to this on the eco-friendliness of fountain pens.
Now, you might think there are so many things to think about when using a fountain pen, however, also remember that you also need various types of art supplies that the fountain pen can take the place of. Felt tip markers, for example, brush pens(depending on the use), even pigment liners.
The many options you have with fountain pens could be seen as a hassle, or you could look at it with and recognize the opportunity you have with all the options and the investment you can save from not having to continuously buy art supplies.
Sure there’s a small learning curve, but as an artist, mastering new tools and equipment is part of the fun. You can enhance your style by adding more character to it, and even adjust your posture when your working.
If you want to learn more about the nuances of drawing with fountain pens, check out the comprehensive seven-part series by Liz Steel.
Teoh Yi Chie, from Parkablogs, also offered the most informative videos out there.