Calligraphy Pens Vs Fountain Pens: Are They The Same?

A Fountain Pen and Notebook In The Background Title Card For: Calligraphy Pens Vs Fountain Pens: Are They The Same?

The world of pens is a large one. You have so many kinds of pens and each of these have their own learning curves to get over. One example is the distinction between fountain pens and calligraphy pens. How similar are they exactly?

Are Calligraphy Pens The Same As Fountain Pens?

Both types of pens have their own distinctions and are not interchangeable in most cases. Fountain pens are built to last and have less line variation. Calligraphy pens are often dip pens, which have more emphasized line variations. Professional calligraphers mostly use calligraphy pens.

Suffice it to say, while the two pens are oftentimes viewed as similar, the usage and parts are different. This is mostly because of their nature of having nibs and separate ink sources.

Also, it’s important to note that while there is a distinction between them, these distinctions aren’t always dividing factors. There are some models on both sides that blur the lines between the two pens, and allow more flexible usage.

The truth to the matter is that the internet is littered with varying opinions on the fine distinctions of each one. In this article, we’ll focus on the nib and body and the lines they produce on the page.

Essentially, both pens originated from one source: that is the dip pen or even quill. As technology developed they split into different designs that prioritized different usages.

If you want to learn some fountain pen history, check this out:

Who Invented The Fountain Pen: What They Don’t Tell You

Differences Between Calligraphy Pens Vs Fountain Pens

Traditional Calligraphy pens are mostly disposable, as their nibs are made of spring steel to enhance line variation. Their nibs often wear out after a period of use while fountain pens are designed to last for decades or more. This means fountain pens use more durable materials.

The difference in nibs mostly focused on the types of lines they produce. Calligraphy pens produce thicker lines on the down stroke, and thin lines on the upstroke. Fountain pens, since they are more for everyday use, produce uniform lines, although there is still some line variation.

Traditional calligraphy usually calls for the use of dedicated calligraphy pens, meaning the traditional dip pens that generally use two kinds of nibs: pointed & chiseled.

Pointed nibs, being made of spring steel, tend to flex more depending on the amount of pressure applied by the user. This is mainly what produces the thicker down strokes sought after in traditional calligraphy and what makes them desirable to professional calligraphers.

Chiseled nibs, their tips being square cut, are able to produce thick down strokes despite the lack of pressure from the user. Alternatively, having a broad tip, they make thinner upstrokes and cross strokes. Professional calligraphers often choose the type of nibs they used based on the style they are using for a certain project, or personal preference.

A calligraphy pen’s body is mostly just a nib holder. It’s shaped to be ergonomically fit your hand for extended periods, but aside from being able to fit your nib, there are no other parts to it.

Fountain pens, being designed to last for decades and for everyday use, have harder materials used for their nibs. While their standard nibs still flex when writing, it is significantly less compared to calligraphy nibs.

This is not to say that fountain pens cannot be used to make calligraphy, as there are certain styles like Faux or Modern Calligraphy that allows the use of almost any kind of pen.

The body of a fountain pen, unlike the calligraphy pen, has many parts to it. There is the ink reservoir where the ink is stored, the section, the feed, the nib, and other parts depending on the model of the pen.

There are some calligraphy pens that store ink, but they are mostly disposable.

Can Fountain Pens Be Used For Calligraphy?

There may be some difficulty using fountain pens for traditional calligraphy. However, it is possible to use fountain pens for modern and faux calligraphy. There are also certain nibs that allow normal fountain pens to produce a style similar to traditional calligraphy.

These are:

  • Music Nibs
  • Flex Nibs
  • Italic Nibs
  • Cursive Italic Nibs
  • Stub Nibs
  • G Nibs
  • Soft Nibs

The nibs mentioned above are mostly nibs that have a certain flex to them or are “softer” allowing the user to apply more pressure resulting to more line variation.

Italic nibs, cursive italic nibs, stub nibs, and music nibs, all have a broader tip or are square cut, allowing the user to make thicker down strokes without the use of pressure. That said, having these nibs will allow you to use a certain style or font of calligraphy.

These nibs, however, when used with a fountain pen may have some ink problems as the feed isn’t designed for the thicker strokes. These may result in lines with hollow insides called railroading. While some like this effect, others don’t. It really comes down to personal preference.

Flex nibs, G nibs, & soft nibs, have a more pointed tip. This means you will need to use pressure to create the thick down strokes that are needed in calligraphy. Again, these nibs will not produce lines as pronounced as calligraphy nibs, but these will certainly make your everyday writing more aesthetically pleasing.

Here are some great sources when it comes to nibs. Below, I’ll even include a short video that explains these nibs and certain terms very simply but aptly:

To learn more about fountain pens and calligraphy, check this article out.

Alternatively, these nibs are also popular for drawing and sketching as they can provide varying lines that can highlight a certain feature. Learn more here:

Are Fountain Pens Good For Drawing?

Is Calligraphy Ink The Same As Fountain Pen Ink?

You cannot use calligraphy ink for fountain pens. While both water-based, calligraphy ink has more viscosity than fountain pen ink, and will clog your fountain pen feed when used there. While you can use fountain pen ink for calligraphy pens, the opposite is not true.

India ink and calligraphy ink will pretty much ruin your fountain pen if you use it there, but the opposite isn’t exactly true. Fountain pen ink can be used for calligraphy by dipping your pen in it.

Since the viscosity is much thinner, it may not work as intended, but the fountain pen ink will work on certain surfaces. It’s use on calligraphy pens will most be based on personal preference and style considerations.

There are some calligraphy pens designed to store ink much like a fountain pen, however, they tend to be harder to clean as they have thicker ink. This also means that they may not last as long as regular fountain pens.

Some even use gouache as calligraphy ink, mixing it in water to get the right viscosity for their calligraphy pen. The exact proportion of water is based on the material you are using and your preference for the work.

To learn more about fountain pen inks, take a look at this article:

Are Fountain Pen Inks Permanent?

Can I Use A Fountain Pen As A Dip Pen?

You can use your fountain pen as a dip pen only when the ink used is mainly used in fountain pens. Any other ink and you will still clog the feed of your fountain pen, effectively ruining it. It is important to take note that the ink is designed for the fountain pen.

Some stores actually test out pens with this method. This will allow you to sample how they write and if the ink acts the way you want it to.

Can I Use Any Ink In My Fountain Pen?

Fountain pens can only use inks specifically designed for them. These inks are dye-based, pigment-based, iron-gall, & bulletproof ink. If the ink you have does not fall under the list, chances are they are not suitable for a fountain pen.

The fountain pen is a precision instrument. That means you need to maintain and take care of the parts. If you do, you’ll find that it will perform better than most pens for a long, long time.


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