The 8 Best Fountain Ink Pens to Buy in 2018

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.

Best Overall: The Scribe Sword Fountain Pen

Scribe specially 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 awesome nib.

The Sword fountain 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 Disposable Fountain Pen: The Platinum Preppy

What good are disposable pens if you have to keep buying more to replace them? The Platinum Pretty 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).

The Preppy’s contours and surface are smooth and comfortable in the hand, and the ink flow is comparable to that of many more expensive fountain pens. The 0.3 mm “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. Otherwise, you can leave it unattended on your desk without worrying how much it will set you back if someone walks off with it. 

Best Value: The Pilot V Pen

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 pen comes with a pull-off cap. It’s also designed and manufactured in Japan. 

Best for Beginners: The Pilot Metropolitan

Maybe you’re thinking about trying out a fountain 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. The Metropolitan comes with a starter cartridge. The barrel is brass and you have your choice of three accent colors: silver, champagne — a fancy way of saying gold — and black.

Best for Small Hands: The Pelikan Classic M205

Pelikan has been making fountain 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.

Best for Large Hands: The TWSBI Diamond 580

Yes, all that class and elegance in your hand can cost you a bunch, but there are some pretty good deals out there. The TWSBI 580 is one of them. One of the things that makes this pen such a great value is that TWSBI has designed its pens based in part on input, suggestions and wish lists from fountain pen users since it launched the TWSBI 530, one of this pen’s predecessors.

TWSBI is credited with creating the first-ever piston-operated ink-filling mechanism, and the Diamond 580 uses it to make that whole process much easier. It’s a little on the large side, so it’s perfect for bigger hands. The nibs are interchangeable. In fact, all the pen’s parts are removable for easy cleaning and maintenance. Or just take it apart for the fun of it, to learn all the intricacies of how a fountain pen works.

Best Pen With a Stainless Steel Nib: The Faber-Castell Ambition

Stainless steel nibs are a bit pricey so the Ambition will cost you more than some others on this list. Why go the extra dollars? Because this nib creates beautiful writing that’s almost on par with a gold-nibbed pen, but without the hefty price tag associated with gold nibs.

There’s a lot of variety with this pen as well. You get a wide selection of barrel designs to choose from, some made from exotic wood. The front and end pieces are plated chrome, giving the Ambition a polished, professional look. The nib is firm and a little on the dry side, limiting gushing and blobs.

Best Pen With a Gold Nib: The Lamy 2000

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 — at least one reviewer has called it “minimalist” and others have called it “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 to be exact 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. 

Disclosure

At The Balance, our expert writers are committed to researching and writing thoughtful and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your life and your family. If you like what we do, you can support us through our chosen links, which earn us a commission.