Calligraphy Fountain Pens: Everything You Need To Know

Calligraphy Fountain Pens: Everything You Need To Know Title/Cover Card

Calligraphy can be quite confusing at the start. There are many blanket terms and so many tools that it might seem complicated. Don’t worry, it’s not. For Calligraphy and fountain pens, here’s all you need to know as a beginner.

Can Fountain Pens Be Used For Calligraphy?

Fountain pens can be used in calligraphy. Depending on the nib, you’ll be able to use it to write pointed pen, broad edge, or even faux calligraphy. The type of calligraphy script you can do will be solely based on the nib.

The fountain pen is a very precise writing instrument. While there has been many contributions throughout history to shape it into what it is today, calligraphy in turn has been shaped by the tools used to write it as well.

As there are different types of fountain pens you can use to write, there are certain types of calligraphy script for each one.

What determines the types of script you can do? Well, it’s all in the nib of the fountain pen you are using.

Fountain pens come with different nibs. This means that some nibs can write with thicker or thinner lines, different effects, and some are even interchangeable.

Calligraphy, in turn, has different scripts for each of those nibs. As scripts have been adapted to the writing tools of the time, it’s only natural to expect a variety of them for each nib.

Let’s discuss each of them further, and watch out for some of our recommendations for which pens to use. We’ll even link a great exemplar you can use to start your calligraphy journey!

Exemplars, by the way, are the references you use for each letter of a certain script. Think of it as an illustration of each letter that you can copy.

For now, the simplest way to put it is that certain nibs are used to make certain scripts. I’ll list them below:

Pointed Pen Scripts = Flex/Soft Nibs

Broad Edge Scripts = Calligraphy/Broad Edge Nibs

Faux Calligraphy = Any Fountain Pen Nib

Are Fountain Pens And Calligraphy Pens The Same?

While you can certainly do calligraphy with fountain pens, they are different from calligraphy pens. Calligraphy pens are usually dip pens, or certain types of pens specifically designed for calligraphy, mostly broad edge.

Fountain pens are more for everyday use. Their nibs are built stronger and more durable than dip pens and calligraphy pens.

Sure you can use them for calligraphy, and the results will still be great. Your writing will still be beautiful and you have the option of using the pens for other things than calligraphy. Unlike normal ballpoint pens, though, fountain pens can offer the closest results to traditional tools. However, for traditional calligraphy scripts, nothing beats dip pens and calligraphy pens.

The term “calligraphy pen” is often used as a blanket term for dip pens, and other pens used for calligraphy. While we’ll discuss dip pens here, you can see all the types of calligraphy tools here.

Dip pens have different variations as well. Much like fountain pens, it’s all in the nib. The main difference between a fountain pen and a dip pen is that the latter is composed of two main parts: the nib, and the pen holder.

Dip pen nibs also have pointed and broad edge variations, and they basically work the same way as their fountain pen counterparts.

The main difference between these pens’ nibs, is that dip pens can make more line variations and produce more solid and crisper lines. 

Line variation is the line thickness that the nib can make. A normal pen can make one straight line, you call this a monoline. A fountain pen can make more line variations depending on the pressure you apply and how much the tines of the nib spread.

Tines are basically the tips of the nib. It’s where the ink travels onto the paper via capillary action. Fountain pens, since they are built for everyday use, have nibs that are more durable than a dip pen. This means the tines won’t spread as wide to make really pronounced, thick lines.

Tines on pointed nibs for dip pens spread very wide, but they only last depending on how often you use it. If you practice calligraphy heavily, you can expect a nib to last a month or two before having to swap it out.

The pen holders dip pens use also have different types:

  • Straight Pen Holder
  • Oblique Pen Holder

A straight pen holder is basically a normal pen where you can fit the dip pen nib into.

The oblique pen holder has a socket for the nib extending from the end of the pen holder, called a flange. The dip pen nib goes into the flange and will help you achieve a certain angle that helps produce better lines.

The nibs, pointed and broad edge, and the pen holders, straight and oblique, are what makes a dip pen.

Calligraphy pens, like Pilot Parallels, are calligraphy pens made with a reservoir of ink. They are used for broad edge scripts mainly and are something of a cross between a fountain pen and a broad edged calligraphy pen.

You can safely assume that it was not intended for everyday use or pointed pen calligraphy scripts.

Fountain Pen Nibs for Pointed Pen Scripts

  • Flex/Soft

Flex or soft nibs are the nibs you’ll want to be able to do pointed pen scripts like copperplate script.

Generally, there’s a distinction between flex and soft nibs, with the flex nib’s tines spreading wider to produce thicker lines.

Flex nibs are “softer”, than Soft nibs. However, they’re often grouped together because the softness of the nib is really based on which pen you get.

The softness of the nibs are perfect for pointed pen calligraphy because you can make thin lines on the upstroke, and thick lines on the downstroke. More on this further down.

Fountain Pen Nibs for Broad Edge Scripts

  • Italic
  • Stub
  • Oblique

Italic nibs are fountain pen nibs that have a broad edge. Cursive Italic nibs are rounded by the edges and make less line variations but write smoother. True Italic nibs have sharp edges and produce crisp lines but reduce the smoothness when writing.

Stub nibs have rounded edges and might offer the least line variation out of all the broad edges.

Oblique nibs are basically Italic nibs with an angle cut on the edge. This mimics the effect of an oblique pen holder by letting you write an angle more suited to your hands.

Unlike pointed pen scripts, broad edge scripts don’t rely on manual pressure to create line variations. They depend on the edge of the nib and the angle of writing.

Fountain Pen Nibs for Faux Calligraphy

  • Regular FP(fountain pen) nibs

Almost any nib can create faux calligraphy.

If you aren’t familiar with faux calligraphy, this style depends on reinforcing the strokes of each letter to mimic the effect of pointed nibs.

Think of it as writing then drawing in the effects afterwards.

This means that almost any fountain pen, and any pen for that matter, can make faux calligraphy.

Fountain Pen Inks Vs Traditional Calligraphy Inks

Fountain pen inks are different from inks used in calligraphy. Fountain pen inks are water-based and are required when using fountain pens if you want to avoid blockages on your pen.

Using any other inks on a fountain pen might cause blocks on the feed. Calligraphy inks like sumi or walnut will block the passages of a regular fountain pen when they dry. Once this happens there is no way to clean or restore the fountain pen, and the feed or blocked part will need to be replaced.

Since fountain pen inks are water-based, it’s important to remember that most are not waterproof.

So if you have a work you want to save, you’ll  have to store it carefully, in an album or place without light.

You do have the option of using waterproof or bulletproof ink. These inks are water resistant and “archival” which means they are more resistant to fading and water. However, you have to regularly maintain and clean your pen. If not, these inks can also dry and block your fountain pen, much like sumi or walnut ink.

In summary:

Fountain Pen Inks:

  • Dye Based
  • Pigment Based
  • Bulletproof
  • Iron Gall

All the inks that are not dye based will need regular cleaning to avoid blockages. Check out our guidelines to clean and avoid blockages in your fountain pen, and to keep it running like new.

Calligraphy Inks:

  • Walnut
  • Sumi
  • Gouache
  • India Ink

All of those listed will cause blockages in your fountain pens. DO NOT USE unless you are using a dip pen.

Fountain Pen vs Calligraphy Pens: What To Use? (My Take)

All in all, to decide what you want to use, you have to decide the purpose of what you will be doing with each pen.

Do you want an instrument that you can use everyday, with practicing calligraphy as a hobby? If you prioritize everyday use, with calligraphy as a consolation, by all means go with a fountain pen that has a soft or flex nib. If you want to practice broad edge scripts, use a stub or italic nib.

If you want to focus solely on calligraphy and wish to produce the best results, you will need the traditional dip pen or calligraphy pen. You won’t be able to use this for everyday stuff, still if you’re in it for art, this may be your preferred option.

Faux calligraphy your style? Well, get a normal fountain pen. It combines the everyday use of a fountain pen while letting you create the calligraphic aesthetics.

That said, if you take a look at the prices. You can have all of these options for less than 50 usd. Personally, I have both beginner fountain pens in our recommendations, and a pointed nib with a straight pen holder.

I use my fountain pen for faux calligraphy and dip pens for calligraphy.

Go with 1 option, you spend 20 to 30 usd. Go with both, you spend about 50 usd. The choice is all yours but remember that both options are good and are quite affordable.

More Resources For Calligraphy and Fountain Pens

Tool Recommendations:

Starter Fountain Pens

Feel free to swipe left or right for more information on our recommendations for fountain pens.

Traditional Calligraphy Tools

Feel free to swipe left or right for more information on our recommendations for calligraphy tools.

What Is Copperplate Calligraphy?

Faux Calligraphy:

Copperplate Exemplar(Font Reference/Alphabet)


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