A guide to writing with a fountain pen

fountain pen on paper with ink

Writing with a fountain pen takes a certain level of experimentation and practice — your success is also very much dependent on factors such as your pen, your paper, and your technique.

So, writing with a fountain pen is a somewhat subjective experience. That being said, if you are struggling to write with a fountain pen in a way that is comfortable or smooth, then we have gathered together some tips in this article that may help.

Choose quality writing tools

When it comes to successful writing with a fountain pen, it’s essential to be using high-quality equipment. This doesn’t have to mean expensive — you can spend very little and buy a reliable cartridge pen with good ink flow and a quality nib.

For example, the Lamy Safari or Lamy AL-Star are great options for beginners and those who are more experienced, as they are such a pleasure to write with.

Lamy Safari fountain pen

The Lamy Safari fountain pen, available in a wide range of colours

Choose some fountain pen-friendly paper also. The best paper for use with fountain pens tends to be high quality — not too thin, not too absorbent, and semi-coated, ideally.

You want to avoid paper that causes feathering. Lined paper can be useful for practising with your fountain pen, also.

Pen considerations

There are a few additional factors you need to consider when it comes to which fountain pen to use.

Firstly, it’s essential to consider the size of your hand and choose an ergonomic pen; cramping and fatigue will occur if the pen is the wrong size for you.

Secondly, give some thought to the size of your handwriting before choosing a nib width; as a general rule, broad nibs suit larger handwriting styles and fine nibs suit smaller script, but you may need to experiment to find the best nib for you.

Another note on nibs: round nibs create consistent lines regardless of direction whereas italic nibs do not.

Thirdly, this may seem unexpected, but it pays to think about the speed of your writing. How fast or slow you write can determine which fountain pen would work best.

Of course, this may vary from project to project — you are bound to write slower when carrying out a calligraphy project than when penning a letter to a friend.

So, if you’ll be writing quickly, opt for a lighter pen with a broader nib for a fuss-free writing experience.

If you’ll be writing slowly, you can use a heavier pen but make sure you take regular breaks to avoid cramping or hand pain.

Likewise, with a light pen, resist the urge to grip it harder than required.

Technique considerations

fountain pen on paper

Find the ‘sweet spot’ with your fountain pen, which is the position in which your pen can smoothly and successfully write on the paper.

To find the sweet spot you need to:

  • Post the cap on the end of the pen to balance it out (if the new length of the pen suits you).
  • Hold the pen between your thumb and index finger, with your fingertips placed on the grip section. The barrel of the fountain pen can then rest on the bottom knuckle of your index finger. Holding the pen in this manner gives you optimum control over your handwriting and is less likely to result in hand fatigue.
  • Hold your pen at a 40°-55° angle from the paper for perfect ink flow. Try writing at various angles within this range until you find the ideal one for you and your pen.
  • Practice a steady grip, but don’t squeeze excessively as this is unnecessary and will result in fatigue and pain.

Once you have located the sweet spot, you’ll need to practice and make sure you write using your arm rather than your hand.

If you write by moving your hand continuously, you’ll lose the sweet spot, so instead, it is essential to power all movements with your lower arm and keep your hand in the same position.

By doing so, you’ll be able to keep the correct pen rotation and elevation, while saving your hand from unwanted strain.

 

If you’d like more advice regarding fountain pens, you might find our How to revive a dry fountain pen article useful.

As a long-term stationery lover, I adore working for The Pen Company. My childhood saw me carrying around a little red briefcase covered in stickers and full of pens, paper and other such goodies; my adulthood sees me doing pretty much exactly the same!