If you’re looking to add elegance to your correspondence, check out our best fountain pen buying guide. We run down all the essentials. Handwritten messages have fallen out of style with the popularity of email, texts, and social media platforms, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t have its place. A good pen is both a status symbol and a great way to provide personalized messages to your colleagues and loved ones, and there are no more iconic pens than fountain pens.
But these fancy pens can be surprisingly complex, and there’s a big difference between a low quality, cheap fountain pen and the best fountain pen. We’re ready to help you sort though the options and find fountain pens that deliver high-quality results at low value. We’ve even included a helpful guide that can turn you into a modern fountain pen pro in no time at all.
- The Best Fountain Pens
- 1. Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen
- 2. Montblanc Meisterstuck 112676 Black Fountain Pen
- 3. JinHao 250 Stainless Steel Fountain Pen
- 4. Lamy Safari Fountain Pen
- 5. Parker Sonnet Black Lacquer Fountain Pen
- 6. Scribe Sword Fountain Pen
- 7. Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens
- 8. Cross Classic Century Classic Black Fountain Pen
- 9. Waterman Graduate Chrome Fountain Pen
- 10. Sailor Fude De Mannen Fountain Pen
- 11. Parker IM Gold Trim Fountain Pen
- 12. Dryden Luxury Fountain Pen
- Fountain Pens Buyer’s Guide
The Best Fountain Pens
1. Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen
Pilot is perhaps the most well known pen manufacturers in the world, and their Metropolitan is quite possible the best beginner fountain pen you'll find. It's an incredibly well balanced option that's affordable and reliable while also offering a smooth lines without bleeding.
And while it works perfectly well with fountain pen cartridges, it also comes with a converter that can be filled with ink for when you get more confident with fountain pen handwriting. It's a simple but reliable design that belongs in everyone's desk, and with a price tag of less than $20, there's no reason to not give it a spin, even if it's as a backup for your more luxury fountain pens.
2. Montblanc Meisterstuck 112676 Black Fountain Pen
The Montblanc Meistertstruck is practically fountain pen royalty, and while the 112676 model may come in at nearly half the price as the renowned 149 model, it's still intimidatingly expensive with its tag price of over $400. But while it may be one of the most expensive fountain pens around, it's also one of the most beautiful and reliable. It may look like any old fountain pen at a casual glance, the detail put in here is breathtaking.
The nib itself is intricately etched with heraldry and designed to look like the peak of Montblanc, and the materials are of high quality, certain to last longer than most options around. It's probably best suited to collectors, but there aren't many competitors around for the absolute best fountain pens.
3. JinHao 250 Stainless Steel Fountain Pen
Fountain pens aren't a privilege reserved for the wealthy, and the JinHao 250 is living proof. It can be picked up for $3, but that cheap price tag doesn't mean it's low quality. It's a good looking pen that will pass scrutiny by all but the most serious connoisseurs.
The gold trim and stainless steel design are rather impressively ostentatious, and it writes and sketches surprisingly well given the price tag. It's not a pen that's going to be able to reliably compete even with entry level models like the Pilot Metropolitan, but it should easily meet the needs of curious novices.
4. Lamy Safari Fountain Pen
The Lamy Safari is comparably priced to the Pilot Metropolitan, but it bears a starkly modern design that sets it apart from most of the fountain pens you'll find. This is a fountain pen that puts utility above style. It's contoured rather than perfectly round so that you can grip it more easily, and despite its relatively basic plastic frame and its functional steel nib, it works consistently well.
The fact that it takes ink without the need for cartridges means you can get as creative as you want with it, and that makes it a great choice if you're looking for a fountain pen for sketching. But it also comes with a cartridge converter if that's more your speed.
5. Parker Sonnet Black Lacquer Fountain Pen
The Parker Sonnet ably and confidently occupies the mid-range category for fountain pens. It may cost the price of the Pilot Metropolitan a few times over, but it's also a model you can feel proud displaying on a fountain pen display stand in your office. The nib itself is gold plated and finely etched, though it doesn't have the sort of delicacy you'd find in a Montblanc pen.
And unlike many cheaper pens, the cap fits snugly on the back of the pen even while writing. In terms of weight, it falls right into the Goldilocks zone. It doesn't have the flimsy feel of plastic alternatives nor the sometimes imposing heft of higher class models.
6. Scribe Sword Fountain Pen
The Scribe Sword promises a high luxury look for an incredibly enticing price. The brushed stainless steel body is seamless in its design, and the nib sketches smooth across a variety of surfaces. The performance is pretty standard for a pen in the $20 price range, but it absolutely blows the competition out of the water as a style symbol.
It also relies completely on cartridges, so you don't have to worry about learning the intricacies of using a traditional ink well to make the most out of it. That price point - along with the case it comes with and its high level of accessibility - makes it a great choice for a gift.
7. Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens
Fountain pens may have a reputation for being luxury items built to expand the reputation of executives, but they're fundamentally useful tools for anyone. If you're an artist, writer, or student who regularly finds yourself losing pens or doesn't want to deal with the upkeep of a traditional fountain pen, the Pilot Varsity may be more your speed. This fountain pen kit provides a pack of 7 cheap models for just over $10, and there are a variety of different colors to draw from.
Best of all, there's no learning curve whatsoever. Just pop off the cap and use them like you would a normal pen. A visible ink supply lets you know when your pens are running low and in need of replacement. There isn't a cheaper fountain pen - or at least not one worth your time - anywhere.
8. Cross Classic Century Classic Black Fountain Pen
The Classic Century is Cross' top selling fountain pen, and that alone makes it worthy of a look. Add in a range of styles and a partnership deal with Ferrari, and you're left with a fairly affordable fountain pen that has obvious appeal to a certain breed of mid-level executive. But this is a pen with performance that can match its swagger.
The Ferrari partnership may be more well-suited than it looks on the surface. The ultra thin lines it draws along with the inordinately thin and sleek design evoke the feel and flow of a race car. This is also an engraved fountain pen with engravings that run all up the surface, and that results in a model that will smartly hide any smudges from your fingertips.
9. Waterman Graduate Chrome Fountain Pen
The Waterman Graduate offers precise and fine tipped results that resemble the Cross Country Classic in their elegance, and while it can't quite keep pace with that classic, it's an exceedingly more affordable choice if you're looking for that style of pen without having to throw down a hundred for the privilege.
The design may be simple, but there's an understated elegance to it. There's not much embellishment on the surface of this fountain pen, but it comes in a smooth and seamless chrome design that looks good even beyond a simple glance. It's an altogether slim and light fountain pen that rewards gentle strokes and can serve well as a learning tool for aspiring artists and more casual users.
10. Sailor Fude De Mannen Fountain Pen
The Sailor Fude De Mannen is a little more specialized than other top fountain pens on our list. While a fountain pen is a practically necessity if you're looking to get into the art of calligraphy, this model specializes solely in that. It may be a bit more awkward than other options for more all-around needs, but it positively excels in this unique category.
That's mostly due to the unique angle of the nib. The high-angled Wakatake nib comes in at 55 degrees, and that means that even if you have no experience working with calligraphy, you can get a handle on the basics pretty easily. Fortunately, it's available for less than $10, so you can experiment with a new hobby without having to spend very much.
11. Parker IM Gold Trim Fountain Pen
Fountain pen connoisseurs recognize that the weight and balance of a pen can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your writing or drawing, and the IM is a little unusual in this regard. Its weight balances a little towards the nib. It's a choice that some people will love and some people will hate, but it's nice to have that balance in a market where balance has largely become standardized.
Parker is a legacy brand, but they've done an exceptional job splitting the difference between enthusiasts and newcomers. That's a trend that continues with the IM. It splits the difference between small and large in terms of size, offering a decent bit of heft without being unwieldy, and it sports an elegant and iconic design despite bearing a plastic frame.
12. Dryden Luxury Fountain Pen
The biggest selling point of the Dryden Luxury is the quality of its ink flow, and that's a pretty big deal for fountain pens. Whether you're looking for a fountain pen for drawing or writing, you'll probably be surprised at how well this $30 pen can perform. There's a delightful lack of resistance to the surface of the nib, but that doesn't mean it's going to just be spilling fountain pen ink on the page. In other words, it's a forgiving model that will suit inexperienced fountain pen users well.
And while the design isn't going to exactly turn heads, it's still a nice looking pen that just happens to play things safe. The uniform but slightly bulbous design will look fitting on any desk without exactly drawing attention, but it would be a great choice as a gift for that special someone.
Fountain Pens Buyer’s Guide
Fountain pens may be largely perceived as luxury items, but once you start putting aside the aesthetics of what would look good in a fountain pen holder on your desk, they’re fairly simple products. But the devil’s in the details, and a slight shift in the weight of a body or the design of a nib can produce very different results. We’re here to break down the key components of fountain pens as well as lend you some general advice.
The nib is undoubtedly the most important of the fountain pen parts. This is the tip of the pen, and it determines the quality and precision with which you write or draw. Most nibs fall into the category of fine, medium, or broad, although we’ve restrained ourselves to the first two categories for this list.
Fine nibs are the option of choice for artists and the only real choice if you take calligraphy seriously. Most people will probably prefer to opt for a medium nib since it’s a good all-around choice. There’s no unified standard for what defines a “fine” or “medium” nib, so if you’re picky about the particulars, you’ll want to look at what each manufacturer’s definitions are.
The material that’s used to craft a nib is also important. Budget pens are almost always going to use stainless steel. They’re the basic standard for any fountain pen and should produce satisfying results for most writers and artists. Some more expensive models reinforce the quality of their nibs with iridium. The most high-end models use solid gold which actually adjusts to your style and the pressure you exert over time. We’ve noted all the models that use solid gold in their appropriate fountain pen reviews.
The ink reservoir is, naturally, a compartment within the body that holds the ink. A quality reservoir will dispense ink at just the right level, not smudging your page with ink but allowing it to flow onto the page with minimal pressure applied to the nib. There are two primary choices for how you dispense ink.
- An ink cartridge is the easier of the two to use, and it’s the recommended choice for beginners. All you have to do is unscrew the pen, pop the ink cartridge in place, and replace it when it runs out. It’s functionally similar to the tubes used in traditional ballpoint pens.
- Other pens use a special reservoir that pulls the ink into the pen when you dip it into an ink well. It’s a more classical approach for people who like more old school sensibilities, but it can be a bit messier. Many pens come with (or at least offer compatibility with) converters you can use to change a traditional cartridge pen into a reservoir pen.
We’ve noted the color of ink that comes with each model, but you aren’t restricted to that. Any pen can handle any number of colors. In fact, one of the major advantages of using a reservoir system comes from the ability to blend your own unique colors using a variety of different inks. You can even find waterproof fountain pen ink if you’re worried about it smudging when exposed to moisture.
The feel of a fountain pen is one of its most important qualities. These pens are very responsive to the slightest angle and touch, and that means that finding one that suits your writing or drawing style is important. While more expensive pens are generally going to offer a more balanced weight across the body than less expensive options, that’s not universally true.
While we’ve tried to comment on the weight and balance of specific fountain pens throughout our reviews, it’s something that’s not terribly easy to convey without getting your hands on one, so seeking out the perfect pen may require a bit of trial and error. But most people should be able to reasonably adjust their pressure and grip to suit any of the good fountain pens on our list. Generally, the more expensive a pen is, the heavier and thicker it’s going to be.
Paper and Ink
Art is only as good as the canvas and the paint, and that’s true for fountain pens as well as more conventional art forms. While fountain pens will work on low quality paper, the results often come out blurry and smudged. If you aren’t satisfied with the results, the problem very well could be the paper you’re using. We suggest using low quality paper to practice with and then upgrading to a higher quality card stock of paper for fountain pens for serious art or correspondence.
You should be similarly picky when choosing ink for fountain pens. While cartridges are standardized and generally decent across the board, the ink you choose to use can vary fairly significantly. If you’re using a reservoir pen, feel free to experiment until you find the right combination that works for your needs. This is more art than science, and the ideal results for you are bound to be specific and personal.
There are countless fountain pens on the market, and it would be impossible for us to cover them all, but we think the reviews and guide we’ve offered will serve as an ideal primer for our readers. We obviously weren’t able to get into more specialized categories like personalized fountain pens, but all the models on our list should serve you well.If you liked our article on fountain pens, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.