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Dip Pen vs Fountain Pen

dip pen vs fountain pen

Are you having a hard time choosing between a dip pen vs fountain pen? Just looking at how they write, it almost seems like they are identical, which. to a certain point, they are. However, these two writing implements have more differences than similarities, even though they somewhat look and write the same way.

This article will briefly discuss what these two pens can and cannot do. You will also learn about the subtle differences between dip pen ink vs fountain pen ink (yes, you need different inks). By the time you finish reading this, you can make an informed choice on which one to get.

Dip Pen vs Fountain Pen: A Comparison

When trying to learn about dip pens and fountain pens, getting to know more about their individual descriptions can help. The following are just some of the things you should know about the two impressive writing tools.

What are Dip Pens?

Dip pens have been around technically since time immemorial. Essentially, the quill pens commonly used even before medieval times are a form of dip pens. As the name suggests, dip pens are the ones that you must dip into an inkwell in order to write.

Most dip pens consist of a pen handle (which can be of various materials but is usually made of wood), and different-shaped nibs inserted inside the handle. To use a dip pen, dip the nib into the ink bottle and then gently glide the tip over the paper. Dip pen nibs are quite flexible, making them the ideal choice for ink calligraphy.

Although dip pens do not have an internal ink tank or reservoir, most nibs have indentations pressed into them that act like miniature ink reservoirs. This means the nibs can hold just enough ink so you do not have to dip into the ink too often.

  • You can use the same nib for different color inks
  • Very easy to clean, further promoting ease in switching between ink colors on the fly
  • You can switch nibs easily
  • A lot more affordable than most fountain pens
  • Requires too frequent dipping of the nib in the ink
  • Requires the use of paper made specifically for dip pens

What is a Fountain Pen?

dip pen ink vs fountain pen ink

The first use of fountain pens was in the mainstream in the 19th century. The first patent for the design of the first fountain pen is accredited to Petrache Poenaru, a Romanian inventor. His pen has a barrel made of a large swan feather.

The early designs of fountain pens were quite unreliable; either they would not write at all or they would leak. It was not until Lewis Waterman designed the first fountain pen that it writes well and does not leak. Waterman fountain pens are still available today, and they are among the best that money can buy.

Unlike dip pens, fountain pens come with a converter, an ink cartridge, and other internal reservoirs to ensure the constant feeding of the ink to the nib. In addition, because of the ink cartridge, you do not need to dip the nib into an ink bottle.

Just like dip pens, fountain pens come with different nib sizes and types. However, not that many fountain pens allow the user to switch nibs. To use a different size nib, you should get an entirely new pen. This means that you can buy fountain pens that come with calligraphy nibs.

  • More comfortable to hold and easier to write with compared to dip pens
  • You can use them on all kinds of paper
  • Unlike dip pen ink, the inks for fountain pens do not bleed as much
  • The ink cartridges can hold a lot of ink
  • Not that easy to clean
  • Requires intensive care and maintenance

What are the Differences Between Dip Pens and Fountain Pens?

You will also notice the differences between the two using the following factors:

Means of channeling ink

Fountain pen nibs channel ink through a channel that goes from the breather hole to the tip of the nib. Dip pen nibs channel the ink from the surface of the nib to the tip.


Fountain pens have quite a lot of components, and if one of them fails, the pen will not write properly. On the other hand, dip pens are just the nib and the pen body. If the nib gets damaged, you just pull it out and replace it with a new one.


Fountain pen nibs are significantly more durable than dip pens. Most fountain pen nibs are based on stainless steel, which is quite durable and can last for decades even with regular use.

Dip pen nibs often use cheaper, spring steel nibs because they need to be flexible. However, spring steel is not that durable and will usually be unusable after less than a week of regular use.

Writing direction

Fountain pen nibs can write in all directions, thanks to their reinforced tips. Dip pen nibs are typically not tipped, and they usually have fine points. This means they can only write in a limited scope, usually no more than 90-degrees.

Dip pen nibs are more suitable for calligraphy because they are very flexible. You do not need to press on the tip too hard to get it to open up and increase the width of the line. Essentially, dip pen nibs behave similarly to a brush. You can vary the width of a line just by increasing or decreasing the pressure on the tip.

Can You Use Fountain Pen Ink with Dip Pens and Vice-Versa?

The biggest difference between dip pen ink and fountain pen ink is their viscosity. Dip pen inks use thicker inks compared to inks used in fountain pens. It is possible for you to use the inks of fountain pens with dip inks.

However, it is only after adding gum Arabic as a means of slightly thickening it first.

It is not possible to use the ink of a dip pen in fountain pens, though. The reason is that the thicker consistency inks will just jam up the mechanisms of fountain pens.


Comparing a dip pen vs fountain pen, you will find that although they write relatively the same way, they are still very different from each other. Which one is better? It will depend on what you will be using them for.
If you are looking for something that you can use for everyday writing and note-taking tasks, you need a fountain pen. On the other hand, if you are interested in ink calligraphy, go for a dip pen, although some fountain pens can also work.