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Fountain pens are classy and they make a statement. Writing with one is considered something of an art form. And that’s all nice, but what most people don’t realize is that these pens are very practical as well, especially for those who do a lot of writing.
Other pens, particularly ballpoints, require that you exert some pressure on the paper to leave your mark there, but fountain pens work on something called the capillary system. When you touch the nib to paper, the ink more or less automatically flows to that point. This is easier on the hand, although the pens do have to be angled just right to produce this effect—thus the art form.
Some fountain pens are better at some things than others. This list should help you zero in on one that meets your needs.
Ahead, the best fountain pens you can find.
Best Overall: Scribe Sword Fountain Pen
Scribe specifically balances its Sword pen for utmost ease of use. The ink flow from its medium nib is consistent, designed to literally glide across paper. It’s appropriate for signing documents or even checks—you won’t experience any unsightly blobs—although it's hailed as a pen for calligraphers thanks to that great nib.
The Sword fountain ink pen is elegantly crafted and you can get it engraved for that extra touch, all for a very reasonable price—although the ink is sold separately. There are a lot of good fountain pens out there, but this one’s value, looks, and writing quality combine to set it above the rest.
Best for Beginners: Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen
Maybe you’re thinking about trying out a fountain ink pen, but you don’t want to drop a bundle in case you end up not liking it or you can’t figure out how to use it efficiently. The Pilot Metropolitan is one of the best pens out there for beginners, although it’s not just for beginners. It's easy to write with, so it’s perfect for just about anyone.
The Metropolitan comes with an ink-control system, so you don’t have to be an expert to create smooth, perfect lines with the fine nib. You won’t even have to practice much before committing your signature to paper for the first time. There’s no need to invest in ink, either, at least not right away. This Pilot fountain pen comes with a starter cartridge. The barrel is brass, and you have your choice of three accent colors: silver, champagne, and black.
Best Value: Pilot V Pen Disposable Fountain Pens
The Pilot V is marketed as disposable and is trickier to refill if you want to keep it around, but the process is manageable when you get the hang of it. But why bother? Just pick up a new pen. The nib is medium-sized, and the Pilot V has an ink control feature to prevent blobs, which is nice, particularly for the price. The body is clear plastic, so you can easily keep track of the ink supply. Each fountain ink pen comes with a pull-off cap. It’s also designed and manufactured in Japan.
Related: The Best Gel Pens
Best for Durability: Lamy Safari Fountain Pen
Constructed of sturdy, yet lightweight ABS plastic, the Lamy Safari Fountain Pen is sure to withstand years and years of use. The fine point pen features a black-coated steel nib and charcoal body, along with the included Lamy T10 blue cartridge. The fountain ink pen also accepts Z24 cartridge converters, though they're sold separately. With a durable grip and flexible chrome clip, the Lamy Safari is a stylish, practical pen option.
Related: The Best Pens
Best Disposable: Platinum Preppy Rainbow Fountain Pen Set
What good are disposable pens if you have to keep buying more to replace them? The Platinum Preppy Rainbow Fountain Pen set includes seven pens for less than $50. They’re billed as disposable because, at that price, you can toss each one as it runs dry, but Platinum is quick to point out that refills are available (and you can get a nine-color set of extra cartridges).
These pens' contours and surfaces are smooth and comfortable in the hand, and the ink flow is comparable to that of many more expensive fountain ink pens. The 0.3-millimeter “02” nib is Japanese in design, and Japanese pens are known for their fine, distinct lines and no feathering. This pen will write well even upside down, although you probably don’t have to worry about that too much unless you work in a field like construction.
Related: The Best Pens for Lefties
Best Splurge: Lamy 2000 Fountain Pen
This pen earns raves from fountain pen purists, those willing to open their wallets for a touch of gold. The body of the Lamy 2000 is sleek and smooth—reviewers called it “minimalist” and “classic.” It’s made of black Makrolon, which is a substance something like fiberglass. It’s a little on the substantial side, but it’s not at all clumsy. In fact, it’s comparatively lightweight and it actually warms up comfortably in your hand as you continue to write.
And then, of course, there’s that gold nib, which is 14 karats and platinum-coated. You’ll need just a light touch of pen to paper with the Lamy 2000 because gold is so much more pliable than steel or other substances. Exert too much pressure, and it will bend, so there might be a bit of a learning curve if you have a heavy hand. You might also find that the ink delivery is a little “scratchy” if you press too hard, although the flow is flawless and attractive when you get the grip down right.
Best Design: Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen
Made in Germany, the Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen borrows the same octagonal design as the original Kaweco Pen from 1935. Its portable, travel-friendly size (4.1 inches when closed) fits perfectly in your hand, reinforcing the brand's slogan, "small in the pocket, great in the hand." And when closed, the pen's cap screws tightly to protect the nib and your pocket from any ink stains. Featuring a gold, stainless steel nib, the fountain ink pen is made of durable, ABS plastic and uses the standard, international size mini ink cartridge. Note that it comes with one short cartridge of blue ink.
Best Blue-Ink: Parker Jotter Fountain Pen
From timeless pen brand Parker, the Parker Jotter Fountain Pen is adapted from the iconic Parker Jotter, which has been revered since 1954. This sturdy, beautifully-crafted pen features a stainless steel barrel, Parker's famous arrowhead clip, and a feather-shaped, medium nib. Plus, the pen comes packaged in a gift box, along with one cartridge of water-based blue ink. The blue ink pen is available in a variety of barrel colors, too, including red, black, and blue.
Best for Small Hands: Pelikan Classic M205 Fountain Pen
Pelikan has been making fountain ink pens since 1838, and it offers some of the finest available for purchase. The Classic M205 is just heavy enough to be durable, but it’s sleek and light enough to accommodate smaller hands and more gentle writing styles. If you find that it’s still too large for you, Pelikan also makes the M600 and the M400 series, both of which are even more dainty.
The M205 nib is stainless steel, and it’s replaceable if it turns out that you love the pen and want to upgrade to a gold nib. It has a piston filling system, so it uses bottled ink, and it sports the little ink window that Pelikan is famous for, so you can easily see when it’s time to refill. And it’s pretty, made of striated blue-green resin with a silver clip and rings.
The Scribe Sword pen (view at Amazon) is a great, all-around fountain pen for its reasonable price, classy look, and reliable ink flow. If you really enjoy fine writing and care to treat yourself, the Pelikan Classic M205 (view at Amazon) is a classic piston-filled fountain pen that can grow with you (and even be upgraded to a gold nib).
What to Look for in Fountain Pens
The nib size and how it’s made is really what differentiates fountain pens from each other. The size of the nib, which ranges from extra-fine to fine to medium, will determine how much ink will flow when you write. If you want thick, bold lines, then a larger nib size would work better, but if you have smaller handwriting, go for a finer size. The nib itself can be made of stainless steel or gold, so that’s really a matter of style and preference. Still, keep in mind that gold isn’t as strong as steel.
Size and Weight
The feel of the pen in your hands is important, so it’s worth picking up a few to see what’s best for your hands' size and the type of writing you typically do. Pay attention to the grip as well to make sure the pen feels comfortable and doesn't slip when you write.
Think about how you'll refill your pen's ink: does it use a cartridge system, cartridge converter, or piston system so you can fill it with bottled ink? Some fountain pens are also disposable and therefore, less expensive.