Lets Get Inky Fountain Pens: An Inktober Series

Recently we talked about dip pens in the Let's Get Inky series.  While we're on the topic of nibs, lets talk about fountain pens today.

fountain pen art, waterproof fountain pen ink, inking with a fountain pen, inktober
Inked with a Noodler's Flex, filled with Sailor Storia pigmented ink in Lion, watercolor.

Fountain pens behave very differently from dip pens, but can serve as a portable option for looks reminiscent of dip pens.  They range from under $3 (Platinum Preppy, Pilot Petit 1, Jetpens Chibi) to over $100, although the pens that are of most interest to artists, sketchers, and inkers are mostly under $50.

Once you've become familiar with fountain pens, and have found a couple that suit your needs, you'll find they're a versatile addition to your inking arsenal, and a fun hobby in its own right.

There's a huge variety of fountain pens available, but you don't need to spend a lot of money to get a great pen for inking.

Pen Vocabulary and Parts of the Pen:



Tip: Although some nibs are pointed, most have a small ball or blunted edge at the tip of the nib, referred to as the Tip.  The material used to coat this is a Tipping Material.
Ink Channel:
Tine: Most nibs have a slit that allows for ink to flow and sometimes for the nib to flex.  The metal surrounding this slit are the tines.
Shoulder: The shoulders of the nib
Breather Hole
Feed Channel

O Ring

Eye Dropper Conversion


For success with fountain pens, you need a trifecta- The Right Pen, The Right Ink, The Right Paper

fountain pen art, waterproof fountain pen ink, inking with a fountain pen, inktober
De Atrementis Document Blue Black

The Right Pen:

Introduction to Fountain Pens for Sketching
Inking and Lettering with Fountain Pens
Recommended Inexpensive Pens To Get You Started 

For artists, the right pen is often not the grail pen of fountain pen enthusiasts.  Artists are often interested in

  • Steady inkflow
  • Interesting markmaking
  • Flexible Lineweight
  • Affordability
  • Easy maintanence

Fortunately all of the pens covered in today's post hit multiple points on that list.

Inking with Fountain Pens: Pen Overview

About Nibs:

Unlike with dip pens, fountain pen nibs are not mix and match.  While you can replace nibs, it's often with another nib from the same maker, and swapping nibs between brands is fairly uncommon.

If you're looking for a truly flexible nib, you're going to have to go vintage.  The closest you'll find on the current market are semi-flex nibs, or a fountain pen modified to take a dip pen nib.  Although you can pay big bucks for a Namiki Falcon (the enthusiasts swear by it), I think the Noodler's pens are a better fit for most artists.  If you're looking to spend a little more, Platinum's Cool is a great soft nib that has a little flex to it as well.

fountain pen art, waterproof fountain pen ink, inking with a fountain pen, inktober
Sailor Storia Magic, Inked with a Noodler's Flex

Types of Nibs: 
Italic Nibs
Oblique Nibs
Semi Flex
Flex (only available in vintage pens)

The material used to make the nib often affects the writing and inking characteristics.

Steel- Most commonly used material for inexpensive nibs.  Harder than gold, difficult to flex.
Gold- Softer, springier, far more expensive

My recommendations for artists are going to be nibs that make unique marks, like the Sailor Fude de Mannen, or inexpensive nibs with semi flex, such as the Noodler's Flex, Ahab, and Konrad.

My Favorite Pens to Ink With, in order of preference

Noodler's Ahab
Noodler's Flex
Noodler's Konrad
Platinum Cool
Modified Jinhao x750 with a G Nib
Platinum Preppy
Sailor Fude de Mannen

Noodler's Pen Comparison: Flex, Konrad, Ahab

Individual Pen Reviews:
Platinum Preppy
Noodler's Flex
Noodler's Konrad
Noodler's Ahab

Pilot Prera Demonstration: 

Platinum Carbon Desk Pen Unboxing: 

Fountain Pen Illustration Tips: 

Inking with Fountain Pens: Modified Jinhao x750:

Noodler's Ahab Field Test:

Ackermann Pen Anatomy and Review:

Ok, so maybe these semiflex pens just don't offer enough flex for you.  And vintage is so daunting- you don't know what you're looking at, looking for, or how to fix a broken vintage pen.  Fear not!  You can convert an inexpensive fountain pen, such as the Jinhao x750 to hold a G nib

Jinhao x750 Mod:

Preparing Your New Pen for First Use:

Cup clean water
Your Pen
Paper Towels

Pen Flush (I use Goulet's)

Add a couple drops of dish detergent to your cup of clean water.  Fill your pen (if it's a converter or piston type, draw the clean water through the nib+feed+filling mechanism) and expel the water multiple times.  Fill pen, allow water to sit in barrel to dissolve factory grease and solvents.   Dump water, refill with clean water (no detergent) and rinse pen multiple times.

You may opt to also soak the cap and barrel.  This is particularly recommended for eyedropper conversions.

Dry the pen thoroughly before first fill with ink- I usually let it airdry overnight, and may use a syringe to blast air through the feed to help push water out, depending on the fountain pen.

fountain pen art, waterproof fountain pen ink, inking with a fountain pen, inktober
Organics Gregor Mendal inked with a Pilot Preppy 

The Right Ink

You should NEVER used a shellac or acrylic based ink in your fountain pens, unless you want to ruin that pen.  Ideally, you would only use inks formulated for fountain pens, such as the inks listed below.  If you absolutely must use another kind of ink, do yourself a favor and use it in a pen you can part with- a Platinum Preppy is ideal for this purpose.

When exploring inks, go for ink samples before buying a bottle.  Goulet Pens and Anderson Pens carry ink samples that allow you to explore an ink, and an ink's properties, before committing.

Waterproof Inks:

Pigment Inks:
Platinum Pigment Inks- Platinum Carbon Black, Platinum Sepia, Platinum Red, Platinum Blue
Sailor Storia- Magic, Knight, Fire, Dancer, Spotlight, Lion, Crown, Balloon

fountain pen art, waterproof fountain pen ink, inking with a fountain pen, inktober
Platinum Carbon Black Ink inked with a Platinum Cool

Iron Gall Inks
Rohrer and Klinger- Scabiosa and Salix
Platinum Classic- Khaki Black, Forest Black, Citrus Black, Cassis Black, Lavender Black, Sepia Black

Irongall inks aren't entirely waterproof.  Iron Gall inks are made up of two inks- the iron gall, which turns black over time, but is initially clear or very light, and the dye, which allows us to see the iron gall, and may influence the end color.  Iron gall inks darken over time with exposure to oxygen.

Dye Based Inks:

Only a few dye based inks are truly waterproof.  I've been working my way through various inks, testing waterfastness, and have shared the results on my Channel and on Once Upon a Tine.

Noodler's Inks:
54th Massachussets
Kung Te-Cheng
La Reine Mauve

fountain pen art, waterproof fountain pen ink, inking with a fountain pen, inktober
Noodler's La Reine Mauve inked with a Jetpens Chibi

De Atrementis Document Inks:
Document Black
Document Turquoise
Document Blue
Document Red
Document Yellow
Document Fuschia
Document Brown
Document Green
Document Dark Blue

fountain pen art, waterproof fountain pen ink, inking with a fountain pen, inktober
De Atrementis Document Red, inked with a Noodler's Flex

Noodler's Truly Waterproof Inks:

Pigment Inks:

Sailor Storia Lion and Dancer Swatches:

Putting Storia Ink To The Test with Watercolor:

Pigment Ink PSA:

Document Inks:

Waterproof Fountain Pen Inks: Documents and Pigments:

Irongall Inks:

Inking with Iron Gall- Rohrer and Klinger:

iron gall ink, fountain pen art, waterproof fountain pen ink, inking with a fountain pen, inktober
Watercolor over Salix and Scabiosa 

Non waterproof Inks

Although not suitable for watercolor, dye based fountain pen inks can offer a lot- bold, bright colors, fluorescents, shimmer, sheen, and shade.

Special Effects Inks:
Not necessarily waterproof

Shading Inks:
Noodler's Apache Sunset
Noodler's Navajo Turquose
De Atrementis Mint Turquoise
Noodler's Black Swan in Austrailian Roses
Diamine Marine
Noodler's Lexington Gray
Noodler's Golden Brown
Noodler's Ottoman Rose
Sailor Storia Lion
J. Herbin Vert Olive

Sheening Inks:
Not necessarily waterproof

Diamine Majestic Blue
Diamone Sherwood Green
J Herbin 1670 Emerald of Chibor
J Herbin 1670 Rouge Hematite
J Herbin 1670 Stormy Gray
Pilot Iroshizuku Tsutsuji
Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Rohrer & Klinger Alt- Goldgrun

Shimmer Inks: 
Not Waterproof

Diamine Shimmertastic Inks
J Herbin 1670 Inks

The Ahab Mermaid Timelapse: 

Tips and Tricks:

Platinum Preppy Eyedropper Conversion:

Watercolor Effects From Your Fountain Pen:

Easy Inkwash Hack:

The Right Paper

When it comes to fountain pen success, not all papers are made equally.  There are papers designed especially for use with fountain pens, but those papers aren't necessarily the ones that appeal or are useful to artists.  And many papers that artists prefer do not work well with fountain pens.

Basically, smooth, coated papers tend to do well with fountain pens, but may take awhile to dry.

Tracing Paper
Borden and Riley Bleedproof Pen Paper
Strathmore 500 Series Plate Bristol

Watercolor Papers:
Cellulose watercolor papers work best

fountain pen art, waterproof fountain pen ink, inking with a fountain pen, inktober
Platinum Pigment Blue inked with a Noodler's Konrad

Fluid EZ Block
Maruman/Holbein Mixed Media Sketchbook
Stillman and Bern Beta

Common Favorites in the Fountain Pen Community
Tomoe River Paper
Rhodia Paper

Pen Care and Cleaning

Ink can evaporate out of your pen's barrel, so if you aren't going to use a pen for a long period of time, you should clean your pen thorougly.  You can use the same methods used for preparing a pen for first use, or you can use a pen flush.  I've found that Goulet's Pen flush is ideal- the bottle allows me to dose out small amounts, the complimentary sample vial allows me to soak nibs in a minimal amount of pen flush, and I can store used pen flush for reuse.

Although you can use rubbing alcohol to clean dip pen nibs, do NOT use it to clean your fountain pens- rubbing alcohol can ruin your pens, especially resin pens.

Helpful Pen Maintenance Information
FP 101- Pen Maintanence
7 Biggest Mistakes Fountain Pen Mistakes
FP 101- Fast Pen Flushing
How to Clean the Body and Cap of a Fountain Pen

More from Me
Fountain Pen Playlist on Youtube
Once Upon a Tine

Great Outside Resources:

Goulet Pens Youtube
Goulet Pens Blog
Goulet Pens- Education
Fountain Pen Network

Outside Resources and Second Opinions: 

Guide to Fountain Pen Nibs- Choosing a Fountain Pen Nib
Nibs 1: The Basics
The Pen Habit
Gourmet Pens
FPN: First Stop
FPN: Of Nibs and Tines