How To Write With a Fountain Pen: The 3 Simple Steps

Fountain pen on stationery

"None of us can have as many virtues as the fountain pen, or half its cussedness, but we can try." - Mark Twain

If the advent of the ballpoint pen was like electricity to the fountain pen’s steam, then the rise of email in the nineties almost pushed the humble fountain pen to the brink of extinction.

This fact notwithstanding, writing with a fountain pen sprinkles charm onto your correspondence. It makes your recipient feel valued because you took the time to write them a letter by hand. Which is a lot more than we can say for an email consisting of bits and bytes.

If you've been experiencing difficulty using a fountain pen, you’re not alone. Writing with a fountain pen requires finesse. Like any artistic undertaking, you can learn and fine-tune your skill through research and practice.

Congratulations on taking the first step.

In this article, you're going to learn how to choose your fountain pen, how to hold a pen, and how to write with a fountain pen. By the end of the article, you'll have gleaned some of the wisdom of the fountain pen sages.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Ensure You're Using the Right Pen

Before you learn how to write with a fountain pen, let's make sure you have the right one in your hand.

We'll go over five of the essential factors that you need to consider before choosing a fountain pen.

Your Handwriting Style

If you've got small handwriting with tight-knit strokes, use fine nib fountain pens.

An extra-fine nib pen writing on white paper in black ink
Image by Michelle Sandlin on Pinterest

Your small, compressed characters will be more legible. Ink flow from the fine nib will be a little on the lesser side, so you won't have to worry about ink smearing on your paper.

If you've got big handwriting with bold letters and strokes, you need to use broad nib fountain pens.

Pen with a broad silver-colored nib lying on a white paper surface with many sentences written in bold
Image by Esther Kim on Pinterest

Broad nibs provide generous ink flow. They are best suited for the large characters and strokes of big handwriting.

You might have the imperious writing finesse of a Victorian gentleman. You might be starting in the fountain pen world. Whichever the case, there is a fountain pen out there to suit your handwriting style.

Size of Your Hand

Choose fountain pens according to your hand's size. This will ensure that said pens feel comfortable in your hand.

If you have big hands, get girthier fountain pens.

Wide barrel fountain pen lying on a notebook page with the words ‘notes’ written on the page in black ink
Photo by David Travis on

If you have small hands, go for light fountain pens with a narrow girth.

Narrow barrel fountain pen lying on a brilliant white paper pad with the poetry lines: ‘I never writ, man ever loved’ written in deep black ink
Photo by Every Angle on

The Type of Characters You'll be Writing

Western alphabets, like those of the English language, tend to have simple shapes. Take the letter 'i' and 'a', for instance. These simple shapes allow writers' hands to glide through the paper while writing.

Accordingly, there's less lifting of their fountain pens from the page. This is the cursive style.

A broad nibbed fountain pen is best suited for this cursive writing style. It enhances the legibility of the connected letters and words in sentences.

Asian scripts like Chinese and Japanese have characters that contain many fine details. Fine nibs are the best suited to bring out these fine details thanks to the thin ink lines they're able to lay on the paper.

If you're into calligraphy, there are fountain pens and nibs created for that sole purpose.

The Weight of The Pen

The weight of the pen is crucial to how your handwriting will pan out on your paper. Everyone will have a specific fountain pen weight that is right for them.

If you have big hands, then a heavier and thicker pen will be your best option. Look at this Woodmark Edward Fountain Pen. Its barrel diameter is 15mm thick.

If you have small hands, then you need a lighter and less bulky fountain pen. Look at this Cross Classic Century Black Fountain Pen. Its barrel diameter is only 9mm thick.

Your Writing Speed

Fast writers will appreciate a lightweight fountain pen; one that will allow them to glide along the paper's lines while writing.

If you're a slow and deliberate writer, you might find yourself gripping your pen too tight. This will lead to muscle fatigue, and you might also tear through your paper. To remedy this, use a fountain pen with a bit more heft to it if you write slowly.

Step 2: How To Hold Your Pen

There are three key factors to keep in mind when holding your pen to write:

  1. Balance
  2. Grip
  3. Angle

Balance the Pen

One way of ensuring your fountain pen is well balanced in your hand is by matching its weight to the size of your hand.

The other way is to use the cap of your fountain pen.

Now, there are two camps in the fountain pen cap question.

Camp 1: Fountain pen users who use their fountain pen cap to provide more balance when writing. They like the cap 'posted' on top of their pen.

A black fountain pen with gold accents around the nib and cap lying on a plain white surface with its cap posted on its rear end
Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels

Camp 2: Fountain pen users who feel that their fountain pens are more balanced without the cap. They like their pen caps 'unposted'.

A black fountain pen with gold embellishments around its barrel lying on a sheet of paper with its cap off and lying beside it
Photo by Kyle Johanesson from Pexels

You'll know which camp you belong to by writing both with a posted and unposted cap. It won’t take long to work out what feels more comfortable for your hand and writing style.

Hold Your Pen in a Tripod Grip

Hold your fountain pen between your thumb and your index finger. Rest the pen on your middle finger's knuckle. This is the tripod grip.

The rest of your fingers should sit on the writing surface. This way, they support the fingers holding your fountain pen when you write.

This position allows for smooth ink flow. When writing, the pen will remain firm in your grip, and your hand will be able to glide fluidly across the paper.

Hand holding a yellow pencil in a tripod grip
Image Source TheSchoolRun videos on Youtube

Hold Your Pen in the 'Sweet Spot'

The 'sweet spot' is the part of your fountain pen's nib that allows for the smooth ink flow through to your paper.

Ballpoint pens are designed to write from many angles. Writing with a fountain pen, however, requires you to maintain the nib in its ‘sweet spot.’

You'll know when your pen isn't in its sweet spot when it feels scratchy against your writing surface. The ink will not flow well either, and your work will look untidy.

To maintain your pen in its sweet spot, hold it at a 45 to 50-degree angle to the paper’s surface.

This angle will allow ink to flow unobstructed from the reservoir to the tip of your fountain pen.

When in use, your pen's ink flow from the nib should feel smooth as your pen coasts across your paper.

Step 3: Get Your Writing Movement Right

You've learned how to hold your fountain pen. Now we'll look at how you should move your pen on your writing surface.

Use Your Lower Arm Muscles to Write

Most writers use their fingers and flex their wrists to move the fountain pen when they write. This can get exhausting very fast because the muscles in your hands are relatively small.

Solution: write using your lower arm muscles.

The muscles in your lower arm are bigger, so they won’t get fatigued as fast as your fingers' smaller muscles.

By using your arm to write, you maintain your fountain pen's posture. You don't rotate the fountain pen as much between your fingers. This ensures your fountain pen nib remains securely in the sweet spot.

Don't Press Down Too Hard

If you've been using ballpoint pens until now, it's probable that you use quite a bit of pressure when you write. This is because the ink in your ballpoint pen is thicker in comparison to fountain pen ink. You need more force to displace the ink onto your paper.

The ink you'll use in your fountain pen has a smooth flow from the ink reservoir to the tip of the nib. This is because fountain pen ink typically has a low viscosity.

Which means you won't need to press down too hard when writing.

A smidge of pressure on the nib is all you need to get the ink flowing.

Simply allow your arm to guide your pen across the paper.

Pressing down too hard on your fountain pen when writing also damages the nib, leaving it aslant. You might also pierce through your paper or leave unsavory blotches of ink on your work.

Deep black ink blotting on white paper
Image by Simply4D tutoriales

So far, you've learned how to choose, hold, and write with a fountain pen. Let's now look at where you'll find your perfect fountain pen.

Get Your Perfect Pen at Dayspring Pens

Dayspring Pens is a dedicated team of professional quill drivers. We specialize in providing you with custom engraved pens for any occasion.

We can engrave your name, signature, or logo onto your pen in-house at our shop.

Are you looking for a birthday present or professional gifts for your executive team? We'll make sure you get the right luxury pens and personalized customer service to nail the brief.

Have a look at our fantastic collection today to find the 'write pen' for you.

As soon as you order, we'll review your requirements and engrave your new pen with style and precision.

We’ll then ship your custom order for free as soon as it's ready.

Call us today on 1-888-694-7367 to get personalized help placing your order.

As a team, we’re committed to making sure you enjoy the purchasing process. From placing your order to you or your recipient receiving it.

We stand out from the rest of the players in the fountain market by:

  • Providing you with pens tailored for different purposes
  • Working with different brands to give you more choices
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  • Offering personalized assistance throughout the ordering process

Having trouble deciding on the most appropriate gift to get? Reach out, and let’s work together to make the best decision before you buy anything.


Featured image: Unsplash Image