After an epic Part 3: Using a fountain pen, I will change the pace a little and have some fun!
Pen comparisons and recommendations will begin in Part 5, but first I want to share some aspects to think about that will help you choose a pen that will suit YOU.
So here is a list of aspects to consider when choosing a fountain pen:
- Ink Capacity and Refilling
Let’s get going….
You do not need to spend a lot of money and get the ‘best’ pen!
I will be comparing a range of different priced pens from $5 – $140 (USD) and they all work really well! If you are unsure whether you will get really hooked on fountain pens don’t rush out and buy an expensive pen. There are some great options under $30!
Is this pen just for sketching or do you want to write with it as well?
I know that I have a lot of fountain pens but as I said in Part 2, I could live with only two pens. I love having a ‘basic’ pen that is good for everyday writing as well as drawing (my Lamy White Joy) and also a pen with a variable line (Sailor pen with fude nib) which is great for fancy writing (headings!)
The biggest factor in choosing a pen is normally the nib.
The first thing is to decide how much line variation you want and how expressive you want your lines to be (note: these might be different criteria). Whilst line variation is an important factor to consider, there is no need to over worry it, particularly if you are new to fountain pens. Just buy a ‘basic’ pen and get to know it well before exploring the flex and calligraphic nib options.
With a standard nib you will also want to consider which size will best suit your style of drawing – such as do you work fast and loosely or are you more interested in detail? The most popular nib size with sketchers is an Extra Fine (EF) nib so that the lines are not so dominant. However I am preferring a Fine nib these days so that I get a little more line variation. Each brand of pen has a different standard (just like dress sizes!) but I understand that the Japanese nibs (Pilot and Platinum) are finer than those in European-made pens.
Aside: I love seeing how the nib size affects my handwriting – how big or small I make my letters so that it suits the line thickness.
There are other aspects of nibs – smoothness, wetness and feedback – that fountain pen enthusiasts discuss, but as the paper is such a huge factor and the range of paper that sketchers use is so broad, it is too hard to make any generalized statements. Maybe in a future post….
Some nibs are more springy than others – this is not the flex between the tines creating line variation, but whether the nib ‘gives’ a little when you apply pressure. I prefer nibs that give a bit and are not really stiff.
Looking at reviews once you have one or two pens in mind is a good way to narrow the selection down to the one you think will suit you best.
4. Ink Capacity and Refilling
We looked at this in part 3, but I just want to revisit it with a slightly different emphasis. How much of a hassle do you thinking filling up the ink will be?
- If it seems just ‘too hard’ then a Platinum pen which uses the Carbon Black ink cartridges is probably your best option.
- If you draw a lot then a larger capacity option (a piston pen) would be worth investigating… but as I said in Part 3 don’t fill it up and then not use it!
- Having a ink window (like a Lamy pen) or getting a clear/ demonstrator model pen helps you keep track of your ink supply!
This is a big issue for me as I have a sensitive hand so I am always looking for the lightest options available. But you might find a more solid heavier pen feels more comfortable!
Also think of what a few heavy fountain pens will do to the weight of your sketching kit – which you carry with you everywhere – right? The weight can really add up!
Similarly with the thickness of the pen – if you have big hands you might want a pen that is a little thicker.
One of the reasons I like Lamy pens so much is that their signature triangular grip feels really good in my hand – but I am well aware that for some people this grip makes the pen almost unusable.
Think about what suits you, the size of your hands, and once again, your sketching kit as well.
I love the balance of the long-tailed Lamy Joy but sometimes its length makes it hard to fit into various bag pockets.
Some fountain pens have such amazing designs that they are hard to resist!
You are probably not going to choose your first pen solely on the basis of its design, but maybe your second or third! Sorry, I shouldn’t be such a bad influence on people but I can tell you that I did buy my first Kaweco Sport (the orange pen) purely because of its design. And oh! I love the design of that middle pen a lot too (all will be revealed in Part 5!)
Aside: Can you tell that I have been having a lot of fun taking photos of my pens?
Ok.. what have I missed out on? Would love to hear what you think about the most important aspect/s when you choose a pen!
Up next Part 5. Basic fountain pens
Once you have a fountain pen you will have to start drawing with it!
If you would like to learn the fundamentals and start urban sketching please check out my Foundations online course.
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