Write in luxury with one of these stylish, user-friendly fountain pens
In an age of swiping and tapping on our screens, it might surprise you to learn that demand for the humble fountain pen is on the rise. But if you take a longer look it’s not hard to see the appeal. Not only can writing with a fountain pen reduce hand fatigue – they require less pressure – but they offer a smoother writing experience that’s still unmatched by modern ballpoints or rollerballs.
Fountain pens are also much better from an ecological point of view, lasting you a lifetime if properly taken care of. This means less waste goes into landfill. Finally, they’re great for those of us with messy handwriting, instantly improving the look of cursive by necessitating a lighter touch and unhurried, flowing hand movements.
A joy to write with and a chance to leave your unique mark – buy the right fountain pen for you and writing notes and letters will no longer prove a chore. Check out our reviews below – as well as our handy buying guide – to find out more.
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Best fountain pens: At a glance
- Best fountain pen under £30: Dryden Designs Fountain Pen Medium Nib | Buy Now
- Best budget Parker Pen: Parker Jotter Fountain Pen | Buy now
- Best compact fountain pen: Kaweco Sport Classic Chess Fountain Pen | Buy now
- Best fountain pen for lefties: Lamy Safari Fountain Pen | Buy now
- The ultimate classic fountain pen: Montblanc Le Grand | Buy now
- The best pro-style fountain pen: Waterman Expert Fountain Pen | Buy now
How to choose the best fountain pen for you
What features should I look for?
While it may sound obvious, the best fountain pen is the one that feels right for you. Start by looking at the style and shape – there’s no point in having a pen you don’t enjoy using. Next, try it out to get a sense of its weight and size (most online sellers will list a pen’s weight and dimensions). A light pen doesn’t always equal cheap; it can mean it’s easier to use. You’ll find plenty of expensive pens that are made with lighter materials to reduce hand fatigue over long periods.
Next, look at the nib – this is the metal tip of the fountain pen that touches the paper. Nibs come in different grades, ranging from extra fine (XF) to double broad (BB or 2B); this corresponds to how wide your lines can be. Extra fine is good for those with small handwriting, while broader nibs suit those with large handwriting or dramatic signatures.
The material the nib is made from will also affect how it performs (although different materials don’t necessarily mean one pen is inferior to another). The most common are steel and gold alloy (14k, for example). While steel nibs are hard and durable, soft gold nibs are often tipped with another material that’s harder, such as iridium, to make them more durable. Gold nibs also offer greater flexibility and adapt to your handwriting style over time. Both nib materials are resistant to corrosion and wear, as long as you’re buying a good-quality pen.
Finally, find out how much your pen will cost to refill. Each pen will have a reservoir – a cavity inside for the ink. Most have a cartridge reservoir so you can simply swap out the empty plastic tube for a new one. While this is convenient and mess-free, you’ll be tied to buying compatible cartridges for the lifetime of the pen, limiting your choice of ink. Factor in waste from the empty cartridges and the pen will cost more in the long run.
Alternatively, you can fill your pen with ink yourself. For this, you’ll need a converter. A converter is a refillable reservoir for your pen that looks like a cartridge, allowing you to top it up as much as you like. On the plus side, you’ll save money and will be able to use any ink you like – but it’s less convenient than a disposable cartridge system. You can also find piston-fill pens and piston converters. These use a screw mechanism that sucks in ink through the nib into the reservoir. Piston pens don’t use cartridges so you’ll always have to fill them manually.
How much should I spend?
While there are cheap and cheerful fountain pens costing less than £15, for longevity it’s best to look for a pricier, good-quality pen. A model costing less than £50 will not only be better built but can be repaired if damaged. A well-made pen should last for decades, although this relies on regular cleaning: rinse or flush it through with water to wash away dry ink in the feed.
Pay more and you can expect premium materials (resin over plastic, for instance), better balance and feel, and thoughtful design details such as secure screw-on caps and seals.
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The best fountain pens to buy
1. Dryden Designs Fountain Pen Medium Nib: Best fountain pen under £30
Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon
Not everyone wants (or can afford) to spend a small fortune on a fountain pen. But if you want a pen that looks like it cost a packet, check out this metallic silver and gold fountain pen by Dryden, which, despite its budget price, has all the hallmarks of sleek luxury.
This elegantly-designed pen comes with 12 black and 12 blue ink cartridges, but also included in the box is a converter that allows you to use bottled ink instead, old school style (and whatever colour you want, of course). Buyers report that it writes beautifully, with one saying: “It is a good weight for me and the nib is perfect, allowing just the right flow of ink for uninterrupted handwriting.” Don’t worry if you (or the person you’re buying it for) is left-handed: this pen is designed to work right- or left-handed.
There’s no gift box, which is a shame given that this pen would make a superb pressie. Also available in black and ‘Luscious Pink’ as well as metallic silver, all currently £25.
Key features – Size: 17 x 9.4 x 3.3cm; Weight: 70g; Nib: Medium; Body: Metal
2. Parker Jotter Fountain Pen: Best budget Parker Pen
Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon
Since the company was founded in 1888, Parker has become the household name when it comes to fountain pens. And while there are many ludicrously expensive pens available (this Duofold pen, complete with an 18ct gold nib, will cost you £710), you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a Parker fountain pen.
Much like its famous ballpoint cousin, the Jotter fountain pen has an elegant but simple design. Okay, it’s no Duofold, but for the price, it’s stainless steel build looks and feels nice enough. And, according to several Amazon reviews, it makes for a positive writing experience. So, if you’re after the Parker name at a reasonable price, the Jotter isn’t a bad choice.
Key features – Size: 17.7 x 5.2 x 2.7cm (LWH); Weight: 68g; Nib: Steel; Body: Stainless steel
3. Kaweco Sport Classic Fountain Pen: The best compact fountain pen
Price: £22 | Buy now from Amazon
Sport and fountain pens might not be natural bedfellows, but this pen derives its name from an original 1911 design for those who might need a smaller-than-average pen. While it’s an average 13cm in use with the cap on top, capped it measures a handy 10.5cm. There’s a range of nib options from extra fine to extra broad; the broad German-made nib model provides smooth, sweeping strokes, and is good for beginners and satisfying signatures.
Choose the chess pattern and it will offer a more individual look than a standard black pen. It will need the cap in place to feel balanced as you write, but a big plus is that it’s affordable enough to always have a few to hand. It takes short international standard cartridges and you’ll have to buy a converter separately.
Key features – Size: 10.5 x 1.3cm; Weight: 20g; Nib: Broad steel with 23k gold overlay; Body: plastic
4. Wordsworth & Black Crest Fountain Pen: Best fountain pen with a classic design
Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon
Looking for a great value pen with a classic design? This affordable number from Wordsworth & Black costs just £20 and comes with a stylish maple wood or rosewood finish and gold detailing. The medium-sized nib glides across the page without scratching or dragging and gives a nice flow of ink that doesn’t look too chunky.
It feels well balanced, with or without the lid, and the ink refill system is surprisingly flexible as you can choose to use a standard refill cartridge or ink converter. You’ll also be pleased to hear that the ink converter, as well as a matching case, comes included with the Crest fountain pen.
Key features – Weight: 156g (including pen case); Nib: Medium; Body: Wood with gold detailing
5. Lamy Safari Left-handed Fountain Pen: Best fountain pen for lefties
Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon
Lamy’s fountain pens offer a range of different nib options – The LH nib is very similar to the medium nib, with the main difference being that it is designed specifically with left-handed writers in mind. While many regular nibs might scratch and get caught on the page, the LH nib is slightly oblique for a smoother writing experience.
First unveiled in 1980 – following the Bauhaus principle stating that “form follows function” – the Safari has become a modern classic. It has a sleek and minimalist design, and an ergonomic grip for comfort. You can replace cartridges as they run out, or fill the pen with an ink of your choice using a cartridge converter (Lamy sells its own).
Key features – Size: 16 x 16 x 3cm; Weight: 31.8g; Nib: Steel; Body: Plastic;
6. Montblanc Le Grand: The ultimate classic fountain pen
Price: £605 | Buy now from Selfridges
This fountain pen is for those who really do want a genuine piece of luxury in their hand. Yes, the price of this luxury pen from Montblanc will send many people running for the hills, but the German manufacturer has been going strong since 1924 and has a reputation for expertly made, high-calibre products. With the Le Grand, you really do get what you pay for.
Showing its quality throughout, the body of the pen is made of precious black resin, and the ornately inscribed (and hand-crafted) nib is made from 14k gold, with a rhodium-coated inlay. The cap is embossed with the Montblanc emblem, and decorated with three gold-plated rings, and a small gold-plated chip with an individual serial number.
Key features – Size: 14.6 x 1.4 x 1.4cm; Weight: 26g; Nib: Gold and rhodium; Body: Black resin
7. Waterman Expert Black Fountain Pen GT: The best pro-style fountain pen
Price: From £60 | Buy now from Amazon
For those who like a bit of heft to their pen, turn to the Waterman Expert. It weighs a satisfyingly 30g, although take away the cap and it’s a much lighter 19g – and still perfectly balanced without it. In its gift box, its classic cigar shape wouldn’t look out of place on an executive’s desk, although it can easily be a pen for jotting and notes.
Made in France, its two-tone W-adorned nib is a pleasing point of difference, although its medium version is a bit on the wide side. If you like your writing neat, choose the fine nib. It comes with a single cartridge and can be converted to ink – although you’ll have to buy this separately.
Key features – Size: 14.2 x 1.3cm; Weight: 30g; Nib: Fine or medium 23k gold-plated stainless steel; Body: Lacquered brass with gold-plated trim