With so many options to write (or type) digitally, it seems like an analog lifestyle is now counter-culture. But there are so many reasons to use physical pens even today. Physical writing utensils allow a tangible connection between our mind and body with the paper and our creation that a digital alternative can’t replicate.
Table of Contents
- Best Beginner Fountain Pens
- More Great Beginner Fountain Pens
- Why choose a Fountain Pen?
- How Do Fountain Pens Work?
- How to Take Care of Fountain Pens
Some studies show that physically writing something down helps us better remember what we’ve written than typing on a computer or phone. I think writing with a pen is a great excuse to get off of technology and help our brains be less distracted, with the bonus of reducing eye strain. And fountain pens seems to be the most analog option out there.
Fountain pens can be intimidating in the beginning, but they’re really manageable, even for casual writers. Another misconception is that fountain pens are expensive. But you don’t need to pay much to find the perfect one. Below we’ll walk through our list of the best fountain pens for beginners to get you started in the world of fountain pens without spending a ton of money or getting in over your head with the most complicated models.
Read Also: Beginner’s Guide to Fountain Pens
Best Beginner Fountain Pens
Our Recommendation: Pilot Kakuno
Pilot Kakuno is my favorite fountain pen for beginners. It has a plastic body that comes in various color options and either a fine or medium nib that also comes with other fountain pens from pilot. You’ll notice a smiley face stamped on the nib to help remind beginners to keep the nib facing up. I like that the pens come in various styles and colors while mixing the typical fountain pen look with the casualness of a regular ballpoint pen. I personally like the clear body and cap.
The Pilot Kakuno is also great because it uses cartridges, meaning you’ll be able to keep the same body to use over and over (like a standard fountain pen), while keeping the cost down and not yet venturing into the sometimes complicated refilling process of more luxury fountain pens.
Inexpensive Pen: Platinum Preppy
Need proof that a good fountain pen doesn’t have to be expensive? Then check out the Platinum Preppy. It doesn’t have an overly stylish or expensive design that is typically expected of fountain pens, the Preppy really shines where it matters—the nib. Platinum’s nibs create a consistent and remarkably smooth writing experience. The Preppy nib wouldn’t be out of place in a considerably pricier pen body.
For ink, you’ll have to use Platinum ink cartridges or a converter with bottled ink. You can even try an eyedropper conversion.
The Preppy is possibly the best fountain pen to try if you’re not completely sold on them yet. Not only are they inexpensive, so you don’t have to shell out a ton to try it, but you can convert the pen into a highlighter or marker with their felt tip replacement.
Higher-End: TWSBI ECO
If you have a little more money for a really great pen, you need to look at the TWSBI ECO. TWSBI (“twiz-bee”) is a Taiwanese brand with a deep appreciation for high-end design and quality. You can easily find beautiful designs on a budget with TWSBI.
The ECO is TWSBI’s most thrifty fountain pen, sporting a high-capacity piston filling mechanism—a frill generally saved for pens for hundreds of dollars. Because of this, you can use bottled ink in the ECO without the need for a converter. This allows the pen to hold roughly 3x’s as much ink as a standard converter permits.
The has a transparent body that shows its internal mechanisms and watch the ink moving within the pen. You can find the entire range of nibs for the ECO from broad down to extra fine, as well as a 1.1mm italic stub nib to give add flair and makes it a great beginner calligraphy pen.
One drawback to the ECO pen is also one of the advantages: the built-in piston. This makes it so your only option is bottled ink and not cartridges. This makes it a little more difficult for new fountain pen users to get used to. If you’ve done a lot of research, feel confident you will love writing with fountain pens, and don’t mind a high-maintenance fountain pen, then you won’t find another pen with as great a value.
Zero Maintenance Pick: Pilot Varsity
The Varsity (also called the “VPen”) is a ready-to-write disposable fountain pen. There’s no ink refills, cartridges, or converters. It’s an excellent pick for those curious about fountain pens but don’t want to deal with the mess or maintenance. This was the first fountain pen I ever tried because it was available easily at Walmart.
I would only recommend these for very beginners, not because they’re bad quality, but because if you’re into fountain pens, or you know you will be, spending a little more on a reusable body, and having a slightly classier look (like the Kakuno), you’ll be able to change out inks, and continue to use the pen for a long time and a cheaper price than continuing to replace the Varsity over and over.
So if you want to try your hand at fountain pens but aren’t sure if you’ll enjoy the writing experience, give the Pilot Varsity a try before shopping around.
Read More: The Best Bullet Journal Notebooks
My Favorite Option: Kaweco Sport
The Kaweco Sport is the perfect fountain pen option for those who need a portable pocket-sized option that can also be your regular-size daily pen. The great thing about the Sport is its unique size and body to cap ratio. The cap is rather long while the barrel is short. This sounds like an odd combination with it only being 4.25” long when capped but barely 5.5” long when posted (the cap on the back while writing). But this allows you to comfortably write as you would with any other pen, but have a small size for carrying around on the go.
The Sport is available in a broad spectrum of styles and colors, but the plastic Sport options—like the Skyline, Chess, Ice, and Classic—are the most inexpensive. They also come in other metal types like steel, carbon fiber, brass, and aluminum. They really are special and stylish but are too pricey to suggest as your first fountain pen.
But don’t think the plastic options are cheap. They still have a high-quality nibs made from steel. This is the third fountain pen I ever owned (after the Varsity and Kakuno) and by far my favorite to write with. I love the look of the cap and body, and I am keen on the brass option that gives a great classy fountain pen look for a relatively low price (the brass is more expensive than the dark green that I own now). It’s a great beginner fountain pen because of its value and great writing experience.
More Great Beginner Fountain Pens
Since its debut in 2012, the Metropolitan has redefined the standard of what an starter-level fountain pen can offer. Featuring a high-quality metal body and a super-smooth nib, the Metropolitan looks and feels like it should cost way more.
For a closely related, more youthful alternative, check out the Pilot Kakuno. It features a colorful plastic body and the same great fine and medium nibs that come with the Metropolitan. The smiley face printed on the Kakuno’s nib helps remind beginners which side of the nib should face up.
The Pelikan Twist is a whimsical fountain pen that’s a great mix because classic and down-to-earth. It might not look like it, but the unusual design makes it comfortable to hold, no matter what hand you write with. Its design isn’t for all writers, especially if you’re going for a more high-end fountain pen look. and
One reason the Twist isn’t more popular is the lack of nib sizes. With only one option there isn’t room for customization. But if you want to try out a fountain pen and want a cute option, the Pelikan Twist is for you.
The Petit1 from Pilot is a compact yet sturdy little pen that is great to toss in your backpack or purse while on the go. But it definitely is for beginners in that there is only one nib option and a very small choice for ink colors in their cartridges. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means that more advanced fountain pen users or those who want more options might want to look elsewhere.
But if you’re feeling adventurous, you can try a more advanced method of refilling a cartridge with bottled ink from a syringe or try a conversion with an eyedropper. However, the fiber wick feed on the Petit1 can make it hard to clean out the old ink before you add new. This means that once you’ve started using a color, it is difficult and time-consuming to change to another.
The LAMY Safari was a favorite with beginner fountain pen users until the Pilot Metropolitan became popular. The LAMY Safari is still a well-loved pen, and it’s easy to see why. Made from ABS plastic—the same plastic LEGO bricks are made of—Safaris are practically unbreakable. Their design isn’t the classic fountain pen style, but they’re neutral appearance makes them great for any occasion. You can choose any body color, I personally love the burnt orange and green colors above. They also have all of the standard nib sizes and they’re easy to change out when you need a different writing style.
The Safari does have some drawbacks. Its look isn’t for everyone (though it’s one of my favorite pen bodies), and it can feel awkward to hold for those who don’t hold the pen in the traditional way (me…). LAMY nibs also run broad, even by Western standards, so if you’re looking for a very fine nib you may need to choose another option.
Why choose a Fountain Pen?
So now you know my top recommendations for beginner fountain pens. But let’s go back a step. Why should you even choose a fountain pen in the first place? Here are just three of many reasons.
1) Easy Writing with less strain
Fountain pens don’t need the same force to write as a ballpoint or gel, meaning you won’t have to grasp them or push down almost at all, so this makes for a great writing experience that is actually easier on your hand and reduces strain.
2) Good for the environment
A fountain pen produces much less waste than a single-use pen, particularly if you choose bottled inks over cartridges.
While I don’t always think spending more money is the way to go, there are times in life when spending a little more for quality is the way to go. If you write a lot, a fountain pen might be the option for you to get the best possible experience with the longest lasting value for your initial investment.
I also think there are times when spending a few more dollars to have a more rewarding experience can help in our day-to-day lives. Choosing to buy one $20 pen that will last us years is beautiful and makes us feel happy to study is better than buying the $1 pen over and over again, even though it’s much more expensive initially.
If you aren’t someone who typically cares about the aesthetics of things, I encourage you to try it out on something little like a pen. If it helps, then great. If not… you still have a great pen.
How Do Fountain Pens Work?
While it’s not essential that you know how a fountain pen works to write with them, it allows you to care for your pen properly, troubleshoot any issues, or choose the best pen for your life and writing style. I’ll cover the basics here, but If you want to know more, my post on How Fountain Pens Work goes over the basics in an easy beginner-friendly way.
All of the fountain pens on our list are great for beginners, but, aside from maybe the Varsity, they are more advanced than your overage ball-point pen. The three main parts of fountain pens are the nib, feed, and ink resevoir (shown as converter above).
The Nib is the metal piece at the tip of a fountain pen. It is the most recognizable and iconic part on fountain pens and is the piece that differentiates a fountain pen from a rollerball or ballpoint pen. You’ll notice that there is a slit down the middle of the nib. Each side is called a tine. The nib draws ink from the small slit using capillary action. When you touch the nib to paper, you put pressure on the nib, which pushes air in and lets ink out.
The Feed sits right under the nib. It supplies the nib with ink from within the pen. It is typically gray or black plastic. Most feeds have one ink channel that pulls ink from the reservoir down to the nib by the same capillary action as the nib. The feed also usually has fins that hold surplus ink to regulate the flow of ink.
The Ink Reservoir holds the ink, as you could probably guess. It can be a straightforward ink cartridge or a special filling mechanism for sucking in and containing bottled ink. Sometimes it may even be a barrel that’s been filled with an eyedropper. There are also devices called converters which essentially allow you to use cartridges with a pen that doesn’t typically use them, making them easier to fill. With this list of beginner fountain pens, we’ve chosen pens that use cartridges as they’re the most beginner-friendly and easier to get used to.
How to Take Care of Fountain Pens
Knowing how to properly take care of your fountain pen will ensure that you have a great pen to last years into the future. You can protect your investment (especially if you opt for a more luxury fountain pen body) to ensure you get your money’s worth. Here are the top 3 ways to take care of your fountain pen.
1. Store it Properly
While many of us store our pens in cups by our computer, it’s not recommended for fountain pens. The best way to store a fountain pen is horizontally. This minimizes the chance of the nib either leaking or drying out between uses.
If you must store vertically (say in your bag while heading to school or the coffee shop), make sure to store it tip up, so the ink doesn’t leak. This may cause your nib to try out, so you’ll have to scribble a few times to ensure your ink is flowing and avoid ink skips when writing.
This might be surprising because most people suggest storing single-ended markers and pens (sharpies, highlighters, gel pens, fine liners, etc.) upside down to make sure the ink stays in contact with the tip fibers and ensure it won’t dry out. But, there is much less of a risk of ink leakage with those kinds of writing utensils.
2. Clean it Periodically
Over time fountain pens can get clogged up with tiny fibers and microscopic dust and dried ink. It’s recommended to clean your pen every 1-2 months for the best writing experience. You can find out more about how to clean fountain pens here.
3. Write Correctly
Hold the pen right
Writing with a fountain pen isn’t much different from other writing instruments, but depending on how you typically hold your pen, it might take some getting used to. To write correctly with your fountain pen, hold the pen so that the nib is above the feed at about a 45-degree angle to the paper. It won’t write fell if it’s too high or low of an angle.
Also, try not to twist the pen in your hand. The two tines on the nib should rest evenly on the page as you write. Otherwise, the ink slit will lose contact with the page and will cause the pen to slip or the pen to stop writing.
Don’t press too hard
Fountain pens don’t need a lot of pressure to work. Actually, too much pressure will prevent the pen from writing well and can even damage them. You can break or disfigure the tines, causing too much or not enough ink to be released, or you might find too much ink leaking out and causing a mess.
4. Keep it Capped
Fountain pens should always be capped (or retracted) when you aren’t using them. Otherwise, the ink in the nib will dry out, and the pen won’t work the next time you try to write. If your nib does dry out, you can usually get it writing again by scribbling for a few seconds or by adding a drop of water to the nib to rehydrate the ink.
For more on how to take care of your fountain pens, check out our beginner’s guide to fountain pens here. And if you’re already an expert in fountain pens, leave us a comment to tell us your favorite pen right now.