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How To Write With a Fountain Pen: The 3 Simple Steps (2021)

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 you've been experiencing difficulty using a fountain pen, you’re not alone. Writing with a luxury fountain pen requires a little 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 write with a fountain pen, through three helpful steps:

  1. Ensuring you're using the correct fountain pen
  2. Holding your fountain pen correctly
  3. Getting your writing movement right

By the end, you'll have gleaned some of the wisdom on the ol' fountain pen.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Ensure You're Using the Correct Fountain 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 a small handwriting style 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.

Whether you have the imperious writing finesse of a Victorian gentleman or you new to writing with a fountain pen, 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 unsplash.com

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

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 unsplash.com

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.

The weight of a pen determines how well it balances and fits in your hand. Ideally you want a weight that feels comfortable and requires the least amount of effort to maneuver when using a fountain pen.

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.

Also consider trying a quick drying fountain pen ink so you don't smear your pen writing as you go.

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.

The Type of Characters You'll be Writing

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

Especially with the cursive style, there is less lifting of the pen from the page as you use a fountain pen. 

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.

Writing like that of Chinese and Japanese have characters that contain many fine details and much lifting of the pen from the page. Fine nibs are the best suited to bring out these details thanks to the thin ink lines they produce.

Step 2: How To Hold Fountain Pens

Next, 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.

Use the Tripod Grip

Hold your 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 while you write.

This position allows for smooth ink to 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 nib that allows for the smoothest ink flow to your paper.

Ballpoint pens are designed to write from many angles. But writing with a fountain pen 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.

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 While Writing with a fountain pen

Most writers use their fingers and flex their wrists to move the fountain pen when they write. This can lead to a hand cramps 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 also 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 using fountain pen ink. You need more force to displace the ink onto your paper.

Fountain pen ink is water-based to allow ink flow from the reservoir to the nib without getting gummy. (A ballpoint pen has oil-based ink).

Which means you shouldn't press down too hard when writing.

A smidge of pressure on the nib of the fountain pen 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 while writing will damage 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.

Bonus tips for your fountain pen writing

As you explore using your fountain pen there are some extra little things that can make the experience even better.

Using the right paper

Because of the liquid ink, not all paper is made equal when writing with a fountain pen.

The thinner the paper, the more trouble you will have with bleeding and feathering (when the ink spreads across the paper instead of sinking in).

Try using some paper of different weights and sizes to find what you prefer.

Trying out different types of ink

You can find fountain pen ink in any color, fast or slow drying, some even change colors as you write or have special shimmers and sheens to them.

Changing out your nib

There are fountain pen nibs out there in all shapes and sizes for anything from regular note-taking to calligraphy and drawing.

Practice with a worksheet

Do a little googling and you can find some really cool, fun worksheets to practice writing with your fountain pen.

Semi regular cleanings

Because fountain pens have water-based ink, if they are left uncapped for too long the ink can dry out or leak.

All you need to do for this is 1.) keep your fountain pen capped at all times when not in use, and 2.) when swapping out your ink cartridge or refilling your converter do a little clean.

Simply run some clean water over the nib and feed if you are using a cartridge, or submerge the nib in a cup of water and draw water in and out of the converter to rinse it.

For more detailed instructions, check out my article How to Load and Use a Fountain Pen.

Get Your Perfect Pen at Dayspring Pens

Dayspring Pens is a dedicated team of professional that 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.

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 pen market by:

  • Providing you with pens tailored for different purposes
  • Working with different brands to give you more choices
  • Providing free bespoke engraving on every item standard
  • Providing free, fast, and convenient shipping
  • 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.

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