Fountain pens are a symbol of sophistication around the world and there is no reason why you shouldn’t at least try one. Of course, there are a lot of fountain pens out there which can make your choice difficult. From the nib to the pen to the specific ink, there are a lot of features you need to consider when looking for the best fountain pen for your purposes. With that in mind, we have scoured the internet and put together this list of the top 11 best fountain pens. These pens have been ranked based on their grip, ink flow, nib flexibility, price, and more. Without any further ado, let’s get to it.
Quick Overview: Top 11 Best Fountain Pens
|Waterman Carene Black Sea St. Fountain Pen|
|Pilot Custom 823 Fountain Pen|
|Cross Townsend Star Wars Limited Edition R2-D2 Fountain Pen|
|Pelikan Fountain Pen|
|Lamy 2000 Matte Black Fountain Pen|
|Parker Sonnet Black Lacquer Fountain Pen|
|Kaweco Sport Fountain Pen|
|Luxun Vintage Bamboo Fountain Pen|
|Beiluner Luxury Fountain Pen|
|Picasso 902 Gentleman Collection Fountain Pen|
|Dryden Luxury Fountain Pen|
So, What are the 11 Best Fountain Pens of 2020?
1. Waterman Carene Black Sea St. Fountain Pen – Best Overall Fountain Pen
Let’s start out this list with a strong entry. The Carene Black Sea St. fountain pen is a classically designed fountain pen from Waterman that provides an unparalleled smooth writing experience. Waterman has been producing excellent writing utensils for over 130 years and the Carene is the synthesis of those many years of design and engineering sophistication
The pen itself is made from a glossy black lacquer that fits well in the hand and is smooth to the touch. The Waterman has a uniform cast so it works equally well for righties and lefties. Palladium plated trim along the midsection of the pen and the clip provides a sense of elegance and makes a bold modern statement. The pen nib is made from a rhodium-plated 18 karat gold that is resistant to corrosion, ink build-up, and glides effortlessly over the page.
Aside from the default black option, the Waterman comes in 13 different color options including red, black, silver, and 8 different ink colors. Each pen is meticulously crafted and hand-assembled in France where it is heavily checked to meet the high-quality Waterman is known for. The Waterman comes with 1 of 3 pen nibs: ballpoint, rollerball, and the traditional fountain tine nib. Refilling the ink is easy too; just unscrew the top cap, remove the ink converter, and fill it with your desired ink. It is recommended to stick to water-based inks as other inks can dry out and clog the converter.
2. Pilot Custom 823 Fountain Pen – Best Classic Nib Fountain Pen
Pilot has really offered something great with their Custom 823 series of fountain pens. The defining feature of the custom 823 is its see-through design that lets you see the internal ink chambers as the pen is in action. The Custom fills its ink cartridge using a vacuum pump system. Place the nib tip in the desired ink, turn the top knob and pull back to suck ink into the cartridge. This plunger system is capable of holding 1.5mL of ink, more than many other fountain pens. The Custom comes with the classic fountain pen nib attachment that is conducive for elegant sloping lettering.
The Custom has a 14-karat gold nib that offers moderate softness and toughness for writing. The Custom is a Japanese-made pen, so the tine is finer than the standard tine in the West as its made for writing complex Japanese characters. The pen actually comes in three models of differing length: from longest to shortest, B, M, and F. Each version of the pen is available in 2 colors, black and traditional brown. The pen is on the heavier side but it is balanced extremely well and is easy to write with.
3. Cross Townsend Star Wars Limited Edition R2-D2 Fountain Pen – Best Limited-Edition Collectible Pen
The Cross Townsend Star Wars Fountain Pen is a limited edition pen perfect for Star Wars fans. The rollerball pen looks just like R2-D2 with the same color scheme. It is a collectible pen that is only available for a limited time and a perfect gift for people who like to write. Fountain pens reflect sophistication, which Cross Townsend replicates as well with this special pen.
Besides the color scheme of R2-D2, the top part of the pen also features the iconic look of Star Wars’ popular robot. It is a good-looking pen that allows its users to experience unparalleled writing experience. The pen’s distinctive look is perfect for commemorating the upcoming third movie of the third Star Wars trilogy series.
Besides the pen, it also includes a pen stand and a keepsake box. The stand also has R2-D2 design details. It is an impressive box and packaging for when giving the pen as a gift. Even though it is more of a decorative or collectible pen, it does work well for a variety of writing uses. It works excellently for signing documents, taking notes, and simple doodling.
Star Wars is one of the most successful movie franchises in the world. It has already two different sets of successful trilogies while the third is nearing the end of its saga. Besides the trilogies, Star Wars reign in all other media. Thousands of people in the world admire and love the characters, and that includes even robots such as R2-D2.
Now that the latest Star Wars movie is about to be released, it is likely many fans are looking for commemorative items. Cross Townsend Star Wars R2-D2 fountain pen is perfect for this. This limited-edition collectible pen is meant to give happiness to lots of fans around the world. It is not only the fact that the pen looks cute in R2-D2 style, but also that it can also work well as a pen for daily use.
4. Pelikan Fountain Pen – Best Beginner Fountain Pen
The first thing to notice about the Pelikan is its affordable price. It’s almost $100 less than comparable fountain pens and does not sacrifice quality. So it makes a great option for a beginner who wants a decent fountain pen but doesn’t want to drop $300+. The body of the pen is made from a sleek black acrylic and is topped with a gold-plated clip and fitting along the body of the shaft. The pen itself is about 6” from tip to tip and features a gold-plated stainless steel tip that resists rust and corrosion.
The Pelikan features a see-through ink chamber and a classic plunger fill mechanism. Dip the pen nib into the ink and pull back on the plunger to fill the cartridge. The nib itself unscrews so you can clean it and the pen base and the pen is very light for a fountain pen. The Pelikan may not be a $500 fountain pen but it writes like one. Each stroke is smooth and the fine-tine nib keeps the pen from depositing too much ink. In other words, the Pelikan is a great economy class fountain pen that will give you a great writing experience without burning a huge hole in your wallet.
The sole drawback of the Pelikan is the materials of the pen body. The acrylic is not very high quality and it is prone to scratching. It is also light and some writers prefer a heavier fountain pen for more precise control.
5. Lamy 2000 Matte Black Fountain Pen – Best Value Fountain Pen
Out of all of our reviewed products on this list, the Lamy 2000 has the best price/quality ratio which is why it wins our pick for the best value fountain pen. The pen casing is made from a black fiberglass and stainless steel composite material called Makrolon, which is robust and lightweight like glass but has the toughness of a metal. The pen features a 14K gold platinum-coated nib along with 4 barrel windows that let you check on ink levels. The pen is filled using a piston mechanism and can only be filled with bottled ink, not ink cartridges.
The Lamy 2000 is an exceptionally well-made pen that is on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art and has won many design awards. It is extremely light at just under 1 oz. and the pen comes with an elegant carrying/display that looks great on your desk or bedside table. Additionally, the Lamy 2000 is much more affordable than some fountain pens, with a price point of $155. Considering that some fountain pens can cost upwards of $500, the $150 price tag is unbeatable for the quality of pen you are getting. The Makrolon outer casing has a texture similar to brushed stone; cool to the touch and very smooth. This texture also keeps the pen in your hand without slipping so if your hands tend to get sweaty when writing, no worries.
The only potential downside of the Lamy 2000 is that is can only be filled with bottled ink. A lot of fountain pens nowadays come with preloaded ink cartridges. These preloaded cartridges make it much easier to load the pen with ink, but they do not offer the rustic raw aesthetic of a piston filled fountain pen. So if you are not very familiar with fountain pens, you may want to try a cartridge loaded one first then move on to a dip-filled pen.
6. Parker Sonnet Black Lacquer Fountain Pen – Best Mid-Range Fountain Pen
Calling all writers with thin wallets—this one’s for you. The Parker Sonnet Black Lacquer fountain pen wins our choice for the best mid-range fountain pen for its affordable price and comparable quality. It is just over $80, which is practically free in the world of high-quality fountain pens. Featuring a glossy black lacquer barrel, fold-finished trim, and a stainless steel 18K gold-plated nib, this fountain pen has all the class and elegance of a $500 pen for a fraction of the price.
Each Sonnet pen is hand-crafted and individually inspected for quality control. Laser-etched designs on the nib and clip give it an air of sophistication and it is weighted and balanced for optimal comfort and writing flow. The pen also comes in a box with a woven exterior cradled by a soft felt material in the interior. The main model comes with a traditional fountain pen nib but there is also a model with a more modern rollerball nib if that is more your style. The pen uses ink cartridges so you cannot fill it by dipping, though it does come with a spare ink converter that can be filled with the ink of your choice.
As it is on the cheaper side of the spectrum, the Sonnet is slightly lacking in quality compared to some more expensive alternatives. This is not too much of a big deal however, as even though the materials might be lower quality, the Sonnet still offers an excellent writing experience. Some users may be turned off by the ink cartridge fill mechanism and may prefer a dip pen. The ink cartridges make it easier and neater to fill your pen, but they have a tendency to get clogged if not regularly cleaned.
7. Kaweco Sport Fountain Pen – Best Compact Fountain Pen
Coming in at only 4.1” long, the Kaweco Sport Fountain pen is our pick for the best compact fountain pen. The small design easily fits in any pocket and the time-tested German engineering gives it amazing writing quality. It is also one of the best inexpensive fountain pens at just under $100. It is about ½” in diameter so it fits well in the palm despite its size and has a good amount of weight. The nib is extremely fine and capable of producing thin and thick lines and it also comes in a retro-inspired carrying case.
One of the more unique features of the Kaweco is that the barrel is made from solid brass. This makes it extremely durable so the Kaweco is a good fountain pen for when you are on the go or need a pen that can be roughed up without fear of damaging it. The nib is made from stainless steel and preened to an extremely fine tine, offering great precision with writing strokes. The pen does come in plastic and acrylic versions, but the brass version is by far the highest-rated.
One of the drawbacks of the Kaweco is that it only takes ink cartridges. Further, it does not come with a refillable cartridge and it only works with a special converter made specifically for the Kaweco Sport line of fountain pens. Some users report that the cap does not stay on the top properly when writing, however, this issue can be fixed by just making sure it is screwed on tightly.
8. Luxun Vintage Bamboo Fountain Pen – Best Cheap Fountain Pen
Calling all writers with cheap wallets—this one’s for you. At only $20, the Luxun Vintage Bamboo fountain pen wins our pick for the best “cheap” fountain pen. Don’t let the word “cheap” fool you; the Luxun may be inexpensive but it still offers great quality compared to the price. The pen casing is made from solid brass and bamboo, a wood known for its strength, light-weight, and insulating properties. The Luxun also comes in a Rosewood version if bamboo is just not your thing. The nib is made from an iridium plated stainless steel with an ultra-fine point and it also comes with an eco-friendly bamboo carrying/display case.
Despite its extremely low price point, the Luxun is a great cheap fountain pen for beginners. It is lightweight and easy to control, looks classy and sophisticated, and works well for everyday uses like signing business documents or more artistic endeavors like calligraphy and lettering. The ultra-fine tines are responsive to pressures so you can lay down thin or thick lines depending on how hard to press. It is also easy to refill; just unscrew the top and insert a new ink cartridge when the old one dries out. Lastly, the Luxun comes with a 1-year warranty that will cover replacement if the pen is damaged.
The one major drawback of the Luxun is that it only takes ink cartridges. Further, the pen itself does not come with any ink due to safety regulations, though it does come with an empty converter you can fill with your fountain pen ink of choice.
9. Beiluner Luxury Fountain Pen – Best Luxury Fountain Pen
The Beiluner Luxury fountain pen has our pick for the best luxury fountain pen, and with a name like that, how could it possibly not? This elegant specimen of a fountain pen is just under 5 ½” and is made from a stainless steel/silver mixture with polished accents. The grip of the pen is tapered near the center to fit the hand well and provide solid support when writing. The Beiluner comes with 6 extra ink cartridges and a beautiful faux-leather carrying/display case. It is made with a medium nib and a cap that is form-fitted to the nib for secure attachment. The pen comes in two color options: classic silver and an eye-popping, sensual red.
One of the immediately noticeable features of the Beilun is its affordable price. Even though it is cheap, the Beiluner does not skimp on quality. The pen is weighted in the center for optimal balance and the medium-sized nib gives consistent ink flow without blotting. The extra 6 ink cartridges are a nice touch, along with the cool case. Lastly, it does come with a refillable converter so you can use your ink of choice. Like most pens with refillable cartridges, it is recommended to use water-based inks so the cartridge does not clog from the ink drying out.
10. Picasso 902 Gentleman Collection Fountain Pen – Best Looking Fountain Pen
If fountain pens had a beauty pageant then the Picasso 902 Gentleman Collection fountain pen would without a doubt sweep the competition. This classy looking pen features a barrel made from a molded black acrylic and stainless steel nib, with gold/iridium plated plating along the barrel and nib. The Picasso also comes with an amazing gift/display case made from a tough soft pleather material. The Picasso comes in 4 color schemes: carnelian red, gold, platinum, and a relievo model featuring an etched cap and nib.
Aside from its good looks, the Picasso lives up to its namesake in terms of performance. The design of the Picasso is inspired by fountain pen designs from all over the world which makes it a remarkable image of multi-nationality. It is also very affordable so it makes a good entry-level fountain pen for beginners.
Some users report that the ink cartridge leaks if left upright while storing the pen. It is also rather bulky which may be a turn off for some.
11. Dryden Luxury Fountain Pen – Best Color Options
Rounding out our list is the Dryden Luxury Fountain pen which wins our award for most color selections. The Dryden comes in 10 different vibrant colors including red, pink, blue, green, and more. This elegant fountain pen model is made out of a tough resistant stainless steel with gold plated endings and nib. The Dryden is unique in that it can be loaded with cartridges or from an ink bottle, giving you more options for ink selection. Included is a spare ink converter and a sophisticated carrying case.
The Dryden is very sturdy and well-balanced, perfect for everyday writing or special occasions. The medium nib has a good mix of flexibility and rigidity and unscrews for easy cleaning. To refill the pen you unscrew the base and insert the new ink cartridge, or you can fill it with ink from a bottle. Even better, the manufacturer offers a 100% lifetime satisfaction guarantee. If you are not completely happy with your purchase, they will buy it back from you at full price.
Fountain Pen Buying Guide
What Is the Difference Between a Fountain Pen and a Ballpoint Pen?
The basic difference comes down to how they dispense ink. Ballpoint pens normally have a hollow tip that is made of tungsten with a small ball inside. When you press down to write, the ball moves back and ink flows onto the page. The rolling of the ball rubs ink onto the paper. Ballpoint pens are common because they are cheap to make, but they often are bad quality and dry out easily.
Fountain pens spread ink using the capillary action of the ink. Fountain pens have a tip (called a nib) that is separated into two fine points, called tines. When you press on the tip, the tines separate and ink flows from the reservoir, down the tines, and onto the page. They are called “fountain” pens because the flow of ink is very smooth, like a fountain.
Fountain pens either come with preloaded ink cartridges or are filled using an ink bottle. Some writing aficionados believe that bottle ink pens are the only “true” fountain pen, but opinions on the matter diverge. Fountain pens are generally higher quality than ballpoint pens, but they are more expensive and require more upkeep. They have many uses, from daily writing to more artistic endeavors like calligraphy and stationery.
Fountain pens tend to be more expensive than ballpoint pens, which makes sense considering that they are usually made out of better quality materials and write better (click here to see our picks for the best affordable fountain pens).
What to Look for in a Fountain Pen
Before buying, take some time to research the following features of your prospective fountain pen.
The nib is probably the most important part of the pen. The nib is the metal tip that deposits ink on the page when pressure is applied. Most nibs are made out of a softer metal, such as gold, plated with a harder substance to prevent deformation from pressing, such as iridium.
The nib is divided into small prongs called tines. The flexibility of the tines determines how thick the line of ink is. If the tines are very thin, then it is easy to transition between thin and thick lettering by applying and releasing pressure when writing. The thicker the tines, the more rigid and inflexible the nib is. Fine-tined nibs are commonly used for calligraphy, Japanese and Chinese lettering in particular. Broad tined nibs are used for more general writing purposes, such as letters and formal documents.
Nib size varies across brands, so an extra-fine from Waterman may not be an extra-fine from Lamy. Extra-fine nibs usually fall around a width of 0.4mm while broad nibs have a width of 1.0mm. Medium nibs normally fall in the 0.5-0.6mm range.
Types of ink
Most fountain pens are designed to use water-based inks. The water lets them take advantage of capillary action to deposit the ink on the page. Ballpoint pens, in contrast, typically use acrylic and gel-based inks. Gel, acrylic, and pigment-based inks can easily clog the nib of a fountain pen, and so are not recommended for use.
Aside from the dyeing agents, most fountain pen inks contain resins, pH modifiers, anti-foaming agents, and biocides to make the ink less viscous and more permanent.
The barrel is the main shaft of the fountain pen and is normally made of either metal, wood, or a polymer material. Common metals used include silver, tungsten, brass, and stainless steel, and common woods used are redwood, maple, and bamboo. Metal is a good material as it is durable and resistant to corrosion and weathering. Wood pens have great aesthetics and are very soft, but wood has a bad tendency to expand and contract, which can cause cracks.
Fountain pens come in two main types: dip-fill and cartridge-fill types. Dip-fill pens use vacuum suction to fill the barrel with ink. You place the nib in the ink source and pull on the mechanism, normally a plunger or piston. VAcuum suction fills the inside with ink. Dip-fill pens tend to have more expressive lines and an evener flow but they can be messy to work with.
Cartridge-fill pens, as the name would imply, are filled using preloaded ink cartridges. Most cartridge-fill pens come with a reusable cartridge called an ink converter. Cartridge fill pens are easier to work with and cause less mess, but can dry out easier and have a less even flow.
Beginners are recommended to start with a cartridge-fill pen to start with and graduate to a dip-fill pen later.
How Should I Clean My Fountain Pen?
Fountain pens require routine maintenance to stay in good working order.
First, you disassemble the pen into its component parts. Most pens allow you to remove the nib as the internal ink cartridge. Next, hole the nib under cold water for a few seconds to remove excess ink. Make sure to only use cold water as hot water can deform the pen’s parts.
Third, place the nib and ink reservoir into a glass of cold water, replacing the water when it becomes saturated with ink. You should leave both parts in the cup for about an hour.
Afterward, remove the parts and let them dry for 12-24 hours. For best results, leave the nib sitting upright so water can drain out. Use a q-tip or piece of paper towel on a toothpick to clean and dry the inside of the converter. Reassemble the pen, and you are good to go!
We recommend cleaning your fountain pen at least once a week, more if you use it frequently. Keeping it clean will extend its life and give a better writing experience.
Any writer worth their salt probably has a fountain pen. While the ballpoint pen is common and convenient in today’s world, the classic design of a fountain pen provides an unparalleled sophistication and class to your lettering. With time, a good fountain pen becomes like an extension of your arm, perfectly coordinated and molding to become a representation of your unique writing style.
Whether you need a reliable pen for daily use or something for artistic purposes, a good fountain pen will give your writing a lettering a unique style that represents your character and personality. Fountain pens also make great birthday/retirement/graduation gifts which are sure to put a smile on your loved one’s face.