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March 4, 2013 - Posted by Elizabeth to Fountain Pens

How to Write with a Fountain Pen

While ballpoint pens write equally well from most angles and positions, fountain pens require a certain touch. The ink flows more easily if you hit the pen’s “sweet spot”, the pen feels more balanced in your hand with the cap posted, and everything seems to flow better from a lower angle. Once you find that flow, writing should become natural, fluid, and almost effortless.

In this article, we’ll show you the optimal way to hold and write with a fountain pen, but ultimately it comes down to what works for you. If you’re comfortable holding the pen in a grip that’s slightly different from what’s recommended, and the pen is still writing smoothly, don’t worry about it too much. However, if you’re having difficulty writing smoothly or comfortably, try making some of the adjustments suggested below.


HOLDING THE PEN


Before beginning to write, you should figure out whether you prefer to have the cap posted (attached to the back of the pen) or not. Typically, fountain pens feel more balanced when the cap is posted, but people with smaller hands may prefer to leave the cap off.

How to hold a fountain pen
Using a Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen and a Kokuyo Campus MIO Notebook to illustrate the proper way to hold a fountain pen.

To optimize your control over the pen, hold the pen between your thumb and index finger, resting the barrel over or just forward of the bottom knuckle on your middle finger. Your ring finger, pinky finger, and palm should rest gently against the writing surface, providing stability. The pen should make a 40 to 55 degree angle with your writing surface, since that is the "sweet spot" of most fountain pen nibs. This may be lower than what you’re used to, but it’ll help the ink flow out more easily.


THE SWEET SPOT


Hitting the sweet spot
Hitting the sweet spot and dispensing ink smoothly.

The sweet spot is the area of the nib's tip that will glide across the paper, leaving a trail of ink behind it. When you push down on the sweet spot, the tines and feed separate slightly, letting the ink flow out more easily. To write continuously and comfortably, you always want to be hitting the sweet spot. When you're not using the sweet spot, the nib feels scratchy, skippy, and altogether unpleasant to write with.

Missing the sweet spot and scratching the paper
Missing the sweet spot and scratching the paper.

People that learned to write with pencils often rotate their writing instrument without thinking, trying to find a sharp edge. This habit doesn’t translate well to fountain pens. If you rotate your fountain pen too much, the sweet spot is lifted off the paper and the nib will skip and scratch.


WRITING MOVEMENT


There are two types of writers in this world: finger writers and arm writers.

Finger writers keep their hands relatively motionless, and control the pen by flexing and bending their fingers. This tends to be exhausting. It also means that the pen’s elevation and rotation are constantly changing, which makes it impossible for you to stay in the pen’s sweet spot.

Write with your hand and arm, not your fingers Move your hand and arm, not your fingers.

Arm writers control the fountain pen from the lower arm. With this technique, you keep the hand and wrist rigid, moving the lower arm to move the nib. This way, you’re using the large muscles in your arm instead of the small muscles in your fingers. You’re also keeping the elevation and rotation of the pen constant, so that you can stay on the pen’s sweet spot and produce fluid, consistent handwriting.

If you’re accustomed to writing with ballpoint pens, you might be pushing down too hard on your fountain pen nib. With ballpoint pens, you constantly have to push down to write. Fountain pens don’t require any pressure -- simply guide the pen across the writing surface, and ink will come out. Pushing too hard can actually ruin the alignment of the nib, or wear it down over time.


Observe the movement in this video to tie it all together.


WRAPPING UP


Generally, writing with a fountain pen should feel comfortable and easy once you’ve gotten into the habit of finding the sweet spot, writing with your hand, and guiding (rather than pressing down on) the nib. Check out all of our fountain pens to find the size and shape that suits you best, or go to our Beginner’s Fountain Pens for the most economical and accessible options.




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