Although their both different than their ballpoint pen cousins–are fountain pens and calligraphy pens the same?
- No, fountain pens and calligraphy pens are different writing instruments with similar appearances.
- Calligraphy pens usually have flatter and broader nibs (the end of the pen that touches the paper to write)
- Calligraphy pens are designed to have varying degrees of thickness depending on which direction of the pen stroke
- Fountain pens are made for general and daily use, while calligraphy pens are for a specific type of decorative handwriting (calligraphy)
Sure, they can both create beautiful stuff on paper, but you’ll need to know the differences between these two writing instruments to use the one that is right for you!
Let’s explore the similarities and differences between these two popular writing implements so that you can make an informed decision when selecting either one as your preferred tool for creating written text (and art).
|Fountain Pen||Calligraphy Pen|
|Varying thickness||Not usually (though certain nibs offer this style)||Yes|
|Cost||More expensive ($20-50 for beginner fountain pens, up to several hundred dollars for customs!)||Cheaper, $10-30 on average|
|Nibs||A few different writing styles, but generally referred to in terms of nib size (bold, medium, fine, extra fine)||Generally just referred to in terms of nib diameter (in mm, i.e. 2.0mm or 3.5mm)|
|Use||General writing, everyday use, various artistic||Decorative handwriting in a specific style (calligraphy)|
|Ink||water-based, huge variety of colors and sheen, shimmer||water + oil based, thicker (for better control while writing)|
What Is Fountain Pen?
Fountain pens are high-end writing instruments that use water-based ink to write on paper.
They are refillable writing instruments that use an ink reservoir that has a cap on it to prevent drying out the ink. The ink is stored in the body (reservoir) of the pen, which is connected to and flows down to the nib. A feed holds the ink as the nib is pressed onto paper to create written text.
Fountain pens mainly come in two types, either an ink cartridge- or an ink-filling system. The cartridge fountain pen has a replaceable ink cartridge that you replace with a new one (or refill using a cartridge converter, which turns the pen into a piston system). The cartridge is sealed inside the pen when not in use, so it can’t dry out.
The other type of fountain pen is the ink-filler system (piston or vacuum). In this system, the pen has a small ink reservoir built inside the pen, and you can refill the reservoir by unscrewing the pen’s end and dipping the pen nib into a bottle of ink (and usually turning the piston to suck up the ink).
- Come in a TON of different levels of fanciness (different materials, designs, etc)
- WIll cost $15-50 on the lower end, and over $150-250 on the higher end (and even reaching into the thousands)
- Are built for a lifetime of use and refilling
- Have a smooth, uniform stroke
It’s worth noting that you can also purchase different fountain pen nibs that mimic a calligraphy style (italic nibs come to mind).
What Is A Calligraphy Pen?
Calligraphy pens are also high-end writing instruments that use water-based ink (but their inks often have a bit of oil added for thickness).
They are usually NOT refillable like calligraphy pens, though they DO have an ink reservoir inside them that is sealed when the pen is not in use (unless we’re talking about dip pens).
Once the ink inside the reservoir runs out, you need to replace the entire pen. They also come in all different shapes and sizes (much like fountain pens, but even more drastic when it comes to the writing they produce).
- Dip pens (you dip the pen in the ink, then write)
- Brush pens (what I have, you can see the sample below)
Calligraphy pens are designed for use with special calligraphy paper that is thicker than standard printer paper. This type of paper prevents the ink from bleeding through to the other side.
Calligraphy pens come in different sizes depending on the thickness of the line you want to create. The most common sizes are 1.1 mm, 1.5 mm, and 2.0 mm (and up to 3.5mm calligraphy markers, etc).
The 1.1 mm size is the thinnest line and is good for detailed work (and will feel most similar to a fountain pen.
The larger thicknesses are more decorative and more akin to markers, or even painting.
Are Fountain Pens And Calligraphy Pens The Same?
Though they are similar in many ways, fountain pens and calligraphy pens are not the same. They are both premium writing tools for both normal handwriting and art, but calligraphy pens are built differently (shape of the nib) and are mostly used for a specific decorative handwriting style (calligraphy).
Even then, there are a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and styles with BOTH fountain and calligraphy pens, leading to a lot of overlap with how they’re used by the pen community!
You can purchase flexible and italic fountain pen nibs that look similar to a standard calligraphy pen.
You can also choose a thicker calligraphy “brush” or “marker” that will look drastically DIFFERENT than fountain pen ink.
Differences Between Fountain Pens And Calligraphy Pens
First, we wrote another post here with even more comparisons: Fountain Pen vs Calligraphy Pen
The ink flow is directed by the metal tip there at end of the pen’s nib. Fountain pen nibs and calligraphy pen nibs are not the same things. Replaceable nibs on calligraphy pens are less costly than fountain pen nibs (a replacement nib for my TWSBI fountain pen is over $35 by itself)!
Fountain pen nibs are made of stronger metals like steel, gold, or rhodium and are intended to endure longer than calligraphy brush points. They are more expensive than calligraphy writing point nibs due to their greater quality.
Fountain pen nibs exist in a variety of sizes and forms, but they are typically thin and pointed in order to allow ink to flow easily to the tip. You must keep the same angle when writing with such a fountain pen. Fountain pen nibs may turn in any direction.
Calligraphy nibs are often wider and more angled in order to produce that “varying thickness” effect. The sharp, square tip of the calligraphy nib lets you draw thin or thick strokes depending on which way you point it. Calligraphy nibs are much more versatile than fountain pen nibs, allowing for more artistic strokes.
(You can turn the nib sideways and ONLY have a thin stroke, for example).
Fountain pen inks are water-based and can be used on almost any type of paper (though the thicker the better of course! 80gsm to 120gsm is preferable).
The ink is stored in a small reservoir inside the pen. Ink reservoirs can be refillable or non-refillable (single-use cartridges, cartridge converters, piston systems, and vacuum systems).
Calligraphy inks are also water-based, but they are not as versatile as fountain pen inks. Calligraphy inks are designed for use with special calligraphy paper that is thicker than standard printer paper (especially the thicker and more “wet” brush pens). This type of paper prevents the ink from bleeding through to the other side.
Thanks to the internet, it’s relatively easy to find a wide variety of colored inks for both types of pens!
How you hold them
While you can hold a calligraphy pen in much the same way (especially calligraphy markers or brushes), calligraphy dip pens are held at less of an angle, and often straight up and down.
Many calligraphy artists will also position their paper in a completely different way (rather than a traditional 45-degree rotation for handwriting).
Fountain pens can be used on any type of paper, but the ink may bleed through to the other side if you are using thinner papers such as standard printer paper (anything less than 80gsm really). To prevent this, you can use a blotter sheet or thicker paper.
Calligraphy pens are designed for use with special calligraphy paper that is thicker than standard printer paper. This type of paper prevents the ink from bleeding through to the other side. Calligraphy paper is available in different sizes and weights. The most common sizes are A4 and A5. The most common weight is 80gsm-120gsm.
Fountain pens are more expensive than calligraphy pens because they are made of more durable materials and have a longer lifespan (and frankly, are usually just fancier).
Calligraphy pens (especially the cheaper brushes) are less expensive than fountain pens, and the market is much smaller for “high-end fancy premium custom” calligraphy pens.
The Bottom Line
Fountain pens and calligraphy pens are two different types of writing instruments (nib style, ink, and their general use). They are, however, similar in some ways. When choosing between a fountain pen and a calligraphy pen, you should consider what you will be using the pen for!