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Is sketchbook paper good for fountain pens?

January 12, 2023 11 min read

Is sketchbook paper good for fountain pens?

Because I am a collector of art supplies and stationery (by which I mean professional creative tools), I am prone to engaging in creative obsessions that endure only until the initial excitement wears off, at which point I buy yet another new tool. In recent times, it has been going on with fountain pens, which have become my preferred tool for taking notes and doodling.

In this post, I discuss why I moved from using ballpoint pens to fountain pens, which pen models I've purchased so far (there are quite a few), and my thoughts on using them for writing and sketching.

In this installment of Sketchbook Adventures, we will be drawing using fountain pens.

The reason I've decided to convert to fountain pens

You know how sometimes you browse the internet in search of amazing life tips and think to yourself, "I should certainly do this," but then you promptly forget about it? My experience has been that this will occur, but this one time it was different.

An album with helpful hints for decreasing plastic trash was published on Facebook by an environmentalist. The suggestions included using products with several uses rather than single-use ones; products packed in metal, glass, paper, or recycled containers were also included. The use of fountain pens rather than ballpoint pens was suggested as one of the helpful hints.

Reader, I went through quite a few ballpoint pens.

Is Moleskine good for fountain pens?

When I first started using them, I kept one in each of my bags and a few more in my office. (I especially liked the ones with several colors, but unfortunately, I always end up running out of black and blue before I do red and green, which is a bummer.) I don't even dare to tally how many pens I've thrown away throughout the course of my life because I know it would be embarrassing. Is it strange that before I saw that Facebook post, I hadn't given any thought to the potential negative effects that my writing and doodling habits had on the environment? Upon coming to this understanding, I resolved to make the permanent conversion to fountain pens and to refrain from ever again bringing a ballpoint pen into the house.

* An important disclaimer: despite their drawbacks, I continue to use white gel pens since they are the only portable tool that can produce tiny, opaque white strokes. I have not yet been successful in kicking the habit.

fountain pen on table
As soon as I realized that I wanted to make the switch, I met the science fiction writer Aliette de Bodard, who is a fan of fountain pens and nerds out on pens and inks on Twitter. It was through her that I learned there is a thriving community gathered around fountain pens, which made the whole thing more appealing to me. In order to locate the ideal pen for my method of writing and sketching, I immersed myself in research that was available online and shopped about in local stores.

And with that, the beginning of my journey down the rabbit hole of fountain pens...

How In a span of three months, I went from having two fountain pens to having nine (!) of them.
For the better part of two years, I used a pair of Pilot Parallel calligraphy pens. I didn't think of them as writing pens because of how wide they are (2.4mm and 6mm), but for the purpose of accuracy, I'll let it be known that these two were my starting point—other than them, I didn't have any other fountain pens.

My current assortment of fountain pens that don't break the bank. The closeup of writing samples can be found down below.

Before shelling out money for brand new ones, I looked for old pens that I had used when I was in primary school to check if I still liked using them. I had a good feeling that there was a wonderful Parker among them, but unfortunately, my mother was unable to locate it, and I did not have the opportunity to search through all of the boxes containing my old belongings. My mother did find a different pen without a brand name that I was unfamiliar with, and I began using it. Even though it is fine, dry, scratchy, and hefty (built entirely out of stainless steel), it served me well in the early tests that I ran. Even while I find it less fun to use for extended writing sessions, I still use it for things like to-do lists and making brief notes on scrap paper.

After that, I walked into a Müller store near me with a gift card to spend and discovered that the business stocks products by two German brands, namely Lamy and Online. I had heard positive things about the Lamy Safari and the Al-Star, but I was unable to locate a single one that had an extra fine nib, and the plastic body was curved in an odd way that did not particularly thrill me. Instead, I went with a black aluminum Online Vision that came equipped with what was referred to as an extremely fine nib. In addition, I purchased a converter as well as a few inexpensive bottles of ink for the Pelikan 4001 printer so that I would not need to use any disposable cartridges. Even though it was fairly beautiful, the Vision was still too thick for my liking, and it was even thicker than the steel pen with no brand name. I found it to be satisfactory for writing and making notes, but I found it less than ideal for drawing. My investigation was not yet complete.

fountain pen in the hand with paper

After researching Japanese brands that have thinner nib widths, I settled on purchasing a Pilot Metropolitan, which is the most well-liked pen available for less than 15 US dollars. It felt like the ideal pen for my preferences, what with its aluminum body, aluminum nibs, and a wide selection of colors to choose from. After it arrived and I used it for the first time, I fell head over heels in love with it. It was moving over the page with hardly any effort on its part. The thin line was just as narrow as I had hoped it would be. I wasn't very pleased with the ergonomics of the pen, and the color of the ink, which was more of a brick red, but considering how inexpensive it was, I can live with it. It appeared as though I had located the ideal pen and would not need to purchase any more...

…until I grew greedy for flex.

My passion for hand lettering and calligraphy led me to become interested in flexible nibs, which are used for writing in cursive. I found that writing cursive with a dip pen was relaxing, and I was curious about how writing with a flexible fountain pen would compare. According to the findings of my investigation, the brand Fountain Pen Revolution provides the most amount of flex at the lowest possible price. I paid a total of $42 US Dollars for their Himalaya pen, selecting Sindoor Red as the body color and upgrading to an ultra flex nib (plus shipping).

Himalaya Ultra Flex, a product of the Fountain Pen Revolution (FPR)

It is a wonderful tool for practicing calligraphy and may be a lot of fun to experiment with, but it is not a pen that I would use on a daily basis. It's exactly the same as the Online Vision EF when it's at its thinnest, but it's a lot wetter and it absorbs ink much more fast. Because I have to wait for a few moments before I can turn the page, taking notes with this book is impracticable. In addition, it must be written on paper of a higher grade in order to avoid feathering, although the majority of papers may be written on by my other pens without any problems. However, the cursive writing as well as the flourishes look fantastic, and I couldn't be happier that the flex nib has lived up to my expectations in this regard.

Because Fountain Pen Revolution gives away a free low-quality pen with any order that is more than $25, I got a Muft pen that was made of clear plastic and was labeled as a "demonstrator." Along with my expensive Himalaya, I got this pen. Even though I didn't require it, having an additional one that you can load up with a variety of inks is always helpful. This pen has a good feel when you write with it, but it reeks of cheap plastic.

Writing examples from Nela Dunato's fountain pen collection 2019, available now!
Examples of writing with a fountain pen on copy paper with a weight of 200 gsm
Ink used: 1. Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black. 2. Pelikan 4001 Violet. 3. Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black. 4. Pelikan 4001 Violet. 5. Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Red. 6. A black shade of the Pilot Mixable Color. 7. Pilot Mixable Colour Blue Black (diluted with water). 8. A red pigment that can be mixed with the pilot. 9. A red pigment that can be mixed with the pilot.

Fountain Pen with Ink Bottle on a wooden table

In the course of doing research on pens and inks, I experienced a resurgence in my passion in calligraphy. As a result, I decided to complete my collection of pens by purchasing the two remaining sizes of the Pilot Parallel pen. This increases the total number of pens that I own up to nine; I now have five standard writing pens and four calligraphy pens.

Calligraphy italic Pilot Parallel pen 3.8mm

This is the tale of how I came to possess such a magnificent fountain pen collection. I don't think I'll need to go out and buy any more pens for a while... Despite this, the possibility of another Pilot with a "stub" nib for even finer italic cursive writing is intriguing.

After writing this, I procrastinated for a few weeks, but eventually I gave in and got a Pilot 78G with a B nib. Because of how fantastic it is, I use it to compose the majority of my notes and greeting cards these days. You'll find examples of my writing done with this italic pen in my "graphic essays" for the year 2020, which are as follows:

I ended my relationship with Instagram (a graphic essay)
A graphic essay on the importance of expressing oneself Big Mouth update: My collection now includes an additional vintage pen, which I use almost exclusively for drawing and sketching. Near the end of this post, you'll find some new information that I've included regarding this pen.

Writing with ballpoint pens versus writing with fountain pens
The transition from writing with ballpoint pens to writing with fountain pens was simple, and I don't find that I miss it at all. Smudging or bleeding was less of an issue for me because I write primarily with fine nibs and because I write with my right hand. Due to the fact that some notebooks allow some of the ink in some of the pens to feather or bleed through, I simply need to be more careful when matching different pens, inks, and papers together.

When I write with a fountain pen, the resulting handwriting is far more attractive to my eyes than when I use a fine-liner, ballpoint pen, or gel pen, respectively.

A comparison between writing with a fountain pen and with a ballpoint pen
As of the beginning of 2019, my handwriting is a combination of script and printed letters. One year from now, we'll evaluate whether or not I was able to craft a more polished script from it.

Signature on old paper with old fountain pen


When compared to ballpoint pens and fine-liners, sketching is best done using fountain pens.
This was not as straightforward as I would have liked it to be. During my time in college, when I first started drawing on a regular basis, I did so almost exclusively with a ballpoint pen. I liked them not only because my pen drawings didn't smear as much as my graphite drawings, but also because I learnt to appreciate the feel of the paper they were made on. Using a pen like my all-time favorite, the Pilot Better Retractable Fine, it was simple to get a shading effect that was more progressive. I would not make use of any pencil outlines; rather, I would simply use a pen, and by the time I was through, the basic construction lines were hardly discernible. That was very enjoyable to me.

2005 was the year I started doodling with a ballpoint pen.

The finest delicate lines produced by ballpoint pens are impossible to imitate with fountain pens, nor is it possible to reproduce the tonal diversity of graphite with a fountain pen. They are more comparable to fine-liners, and you may generate shade by hatching, stippling, scribbling, and using washes. That is not a terrible thing, but getting used to it will take some time. I'll miss ballpoint pens for sure.

The inks Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black and Pilot Metropolitan F are contained within a Handbook Journal.

Since I mostly use pens that are compatible with ink, I have found that practically all of the sketchbooks I have tried can readily accommodate fountain pens. The Canson Art Book Universal is my personal favorite (I even devoted an entire post to discussing it), and the paper included therein is suitable for use with both dry and wet pens. Below, you'll find a few of sketches taken from this sketchbook for your perusal.

Doodles of caricatured faces drawn with a fountain pen and a brush pen in a Canson Art Book Universal sketchbook. I used a Pilot Metropolitan F fountain pen and a red Pentel brush pen.

Because I am unable to generate fine gradients by delicate hatching with a ballpoint pen, I have been experimenting with various forms of shading and generating more emotive drawings with a large number of wavy lines as opposed to lines that are clean and accurate.

The fact that I did not need to first sketch out the contour with a pencil before using a ballpoint pen was one of the things that I liked best about using those pens. What if I didn't sketch with a pencil first and then added some fountain pen work on top of that? What kind of shifts would occur in my drawings if I didn't have a clear idea of the best way to proceed? (That's a glove flung directly into the face of my tendency to be perfectistic.) I gave myself permission to play and used texture to cover up the early, exploratory lines that I deemed to be "incorrect." The end result was drawings that were extremely different from what I typically produce.



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