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Can I dip my fountain pen in ink?

January 13, 2023 8 min read

Can I dip my fountain pen in ink?

Many people think that fountain pens and dip pens are the same thing. The nib and flowing ink in a fountain pen make it ideal for calligraphy, right? This post will help you see that the answer isn't as simple as you might expect. Find out what sets these two pens and pencils apart and decide if you really need to shell out for both or if you can get by with just one for now.

Despite Appearances, Fountain Pens and Dip Pens Have Significant Differences
To begin studying calligraphy, most novices naturally wonder, "Should I start with a pen that dips into ink, or do I start with one of those pens that already has an ink cartridge in it?" (This would be interpreted as a fountain pen.) A fountain pen is often seen as little more than an upgraded version of the traditional dip pen by its users. It is, in a sense, yet there are significant differences between the two writing implements. Today, we'll go over those variations so you can pick the pen that works best for you.

The Pilot Falcon fountain pen and graceful cursive handwriting add a touch of grace to this letter.
This letter was written in perfect cursive with a Pilot Falcon fountain pen, and it is a thing of beauty.

Exactly what does it mean when someone says "fountain pen"?

Years and years ago, the Egyptians developed the first fountain pen. Invented as a solution to the problems associated with using a traditional dip pen, these pens are now widely used. A modern fountain pen has been around for a few thousand years. In its most basic form, a pen has a nib that fits into a feed. A cartridge supplies the ink, and the whole apparatus is housed in a barrel.

Can fountain pen write on any paper?

Photo picture of an antique ink fountain pen background

What You Don't Know About Fountain Pens and Dip Pens | The Knock of the Postman
There is a plethora of fountain pens available at a range of price points. Ink for fountain pens is readily available in a wide variety of cartridge and jarred colors. For regular note taking, most people prefer to use a fountain pen. (They're great examples, too.)

A Dip Pen is defined as.

To put ink into a pen with a dip pen, you simply dip the tip of the pen into the ink well. The fountain pen has essentially replaced the dip pen as the preferred writing implement. Calligraphy is the primary usage for dip pens nowadays, and they are far more finicky than modern fountain pens. The way you hold the pen, the thickness of the ink, and the type of nib you use will all affect the final product.

Calligraphy of "Happy Birthday"

Several variations of dip pens exist. By "dip pens," I mean those with pointed nibs, as opposed to broad edge nibs.
Regular dip pens come in two basic shapes: vertical and horizontal. The nibs of most dip pens can be swapped out for others of similar or different styles. A dip pen can be used for regular note taking, although it is not the best tool for the job. In the first place, most nibs are too pliable to make writing, say, a grocery list, really pleasurable. Second, dipping again and again can become a chore after a while. The versatility of dip pens as well as the ease with which their nibs can be bent make them perfect for calligraphy.

As Old as Time Itself, Iron Gall Ink

Many pen nibs designed for use with a pointed pen can be used to draw both thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes. That produces an appealing, compact impression, making it a favorite for use on wedding invitation envelopes and other similar tasks.

Business accessories on desktop

Comparison of Fountain Pens vs Dip Pens

People often make the unfair comparison of fountain pens to dip pens, but a more accurate comparison would be to regular writing utensils (like gel pens). That's because most people use fountain pens for more mundane activities, including sending letters and signing legal documents. Fonts written with a fountain pen have a distinct look and feel due to the ink's vivid hue, the pen's delicate appearance, and the somewhat uneven stroke widths.

Writing with a Fountain Pen vs. Writing with a Gel Pen

The writing on the left was done by me with a Pilot Falcon fountain pen. To the right, you can see some handwriting that I made using a Pilot G2 05 gel pen (same brand, totally different product). Do you recognize the distinction?
In contrast, dip pens are the standard tool for writing in calligraphy. One other key distinction between fountain pens and dip pens is that:

Capability to remove and replace the nib - Dip pen nibs are replaceable writing implements. In fact, the nib on a modern fountain pen may last you a lifetime of writing without needing to be replaced.
You can use fountain pen inks with a dip pen if you thicken them up with gum arabic, but only if the ink is a specific color. However, fountain pen ink cannot be used in dip pens. The fountain pen could get gunked up by the binder in the dip pen ink and become unusable.
Both fountain pen and dip pen nibs can be found in a variety of flexibilities. In modern times, fountain pen nibs tend to be stiff to enable lifelong practical use. Flexibility in dip pen nibs is virtually limitless, allowing for the wide variety of line widths and thicknesses that are so characteristic of fine calligraphy.
The Difference Between a Fountain Pen and a Dip Pen | The Knock of the Postman
When it comes to pens, the Lamy Safari is a top pick due to its dependability, longevity, and smooth ink flow.

A hand holding a fountain pen and about to sign a letter.

It Is Possible to Use Fountain Pens for Calligraphy

It's safe to say that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fountain pens. The answer is yes, you can use a fountain pen for pointed pen calligraphy. Those fountain pens may be antiques from the time when the elegant Spencerian script was commonly used. Those pens are now highly sought after by collectors. Remember that flexible fountain pen nibs were mainly phased out because they wear out easily. Nibs nearly always sacrifice mobility for sturdiness.

Working on the Janet Style Worksheet Set with the Osprey Scholar Pen
Some fountain pens can be used to do pointed pen calligraphy, but not many.
The current Osprey Scholar fountain pen, for example, can take a pointed pen nib. (Here is my verdict on the pen.) Theoretically, "Frankenstein" fountain pens like the Scholar are great since they make it possible to write in a pointed hand without having to constantly refill the pen. Nibs on pointed pens, however, weren't made to withstand heavy use for more than a few months at most. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time and effort to frequently swap out the nibs of an Osprey pen. Since the viscosity of the ink cannot be adjusted using a fountain pen, calligraphy can be difficult to create. Because of the necessity for a fluid ink, such as that used in a fountain pen, some feathering may occur on some media.

Ink from the Osprey Scholar Pen

Look how the ink on this mailing address somewhat feathered as I wrote it. For the simple reason that most inks designed for use in fountain pens are somewhat watery.
Keep in mind that changing ink colors with a fountain pen is not always easy. Every time you switch ink colors, you must first let the old one dry completely. To add insult to injury, this is just another reason why I dislike using fountain pens for calligraphy. If you're using a dip pen, you have the freedom to switch ink colors whenever the mood strikes you, and you can use paint-like inks like Bleed Proof White that wouldn't work with a fountain pen.

Extreme close up of nib of a fountain pen on dark backround

Regular Use of Dip Pens for Everyday Writing

Writing with a dip pen is a pleasure for certain people, and they prefer to use them for everyday tasks. It's true that writing with a dip pen can be relaxing if you use the correct nib, ink, paper, and atmosphere. You can't rush when using a dip pen; you need to stop every so often to re-ink the nib, clean it with water or a paper towel, and have a well-organized workspace (ink, art water).

This beautiful letter was written by calligrapher Jodean Cooper and sent to me via "The Postman's Knock." Walnut ink (which is lovely and thin) and maybe a crowquill nib were used.
You should use a thin ink like iron gall if you want to create handwriting with a dip pen. The ideal nib is a thin crowquill or other rigid material. Ink feathering can be avoided by using high-quality paper, although this is also true of fountain pens. A Rhodia pad is ideal, and you can get advice on selecting other high-quality papers here.


I don’t purport to be a fountain pen specialist. Like many pen enthusiasts, I have a single favorite fountain pen (the Pilot Falcon) that I use nearly exclusively. Check out the Fountain Pen Network or Azizah Asgarali's Gourmet Pens blog if you're interested in finding others who share your passion for fountain pens. This page on Wikipedia is also very informative.

Types of Calligraphy Explained (with a Test)

Though I adore using my fountain pen for regular tasks, pointed pen calligraphy is my true calling. With just one dip pen and a few different inks or watercolors, you can create amazing things.
This article was inspired by my enthusiasm for producing pointed pen calligraphy. So many individuals who want to get started with calligraphy come to me asking if they may use a fountain pen instead of a dip pen. The switch seems appealing because fountain pens require less maintenance. But the truth — and what I hope this essay conveys effectively — is that the two writing devices are far from interchangeable. While there are always exceptions to any rule, people looking for a more elegant writing experience should probably try a fountain pen. It is recommended that those interested in creating pointed pen calligraphy use a dip pen. And for those who wish to maximize their options? Get two types of pens!

Beautiful cursive writing.

You can use fountain pens to write your letters, and then use a dip pen to create a lovely calligraphed envelope to send them in.
Do not hesitate to post questions or comments below! I'm hoping that this article has been enlightening and/or has inspired you to consider trying out a new pen. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your week and weekend.

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