It’s true–writing is a boring, everyday activity.
So when you learn that some people are upping their writing game with fountain pens, it’s normal to question the hype! But what about it??
Are fountain pens better?
Although this will always be a personal preference, fountain pens offer several benefits to ballpoint and rollerball pens. They’re sturdier and can last a lifetime (since you can refill them). They also offer a smoother writing experience and can be customized with different nib sizes (line widths) and ink choices! However, there are a few downsides compared to “normal” pens, mostly that they cost more in the short term, and require the occasional maintenance and cleaning.
But yes, fountain pens are totally worth trying out yourself!
As somebody who routinely convinces my friends (and spouse) to try fountain pens…
…allow me to dive into some pros and cons that’ll help convince you that fountain pens are better!
Are Fountain Pens Better? Here are My Pros and Cons
Let’s get into the advantages first:
Fountain Pens Will Last a Lot Longer
Cheap pens are cheap for a reason–they’re built with cheap materials that don’t last long and are MEANT to be thrown away.
On the other hand, fountain pens are built to last a lifetime…or at least, as long as the parts are still available.
- They can be refilled with ink
- They’re built better (better materials and craftsmanship)
- They’re modular (meaning if you break one part, you can replace just that part)
But a fountain pen once, take good care of it, and you can pass it down to your grandchildren (seriously).
A More Luxurious Writing Experience
When I bought my friend Raina her first fountain pen, she was SKEPTICAL.
“Why do I need this, though?”
And the first words out of her mouth when she first wrote with it?
“Ohhhh it’s so SMOOTH!”
Fountain pens feel better in your hand, and really do offer a different writing experience compared to ballpoints or rollerballs.
It makes writing fun again!
Reduces Waste & More Friendly to the Environment.
Cheap plastic pens are not only bad for your wallet, but they’re terrible for the environment. They’re MEANT to be thrown away (so you’ll purchase more, of course).
Fountain pens are MEANT to last a lifetime, reducing your overall carbon footprint, waste, etc.
Take good care of your pen, and you’ll never have to buy another one.
PRO TIP: If your pen uses ink cartridges, switch to converters!
Although fountain pens that use ink cartridges (which are little plastic inserts that you’ll also throw away and replace) are still more economical than cheap ballpoint pens–you can switch a converter!
An ink converter will allow that fountain pen to use BOTTLED ink, with zero plastic waste. And it saves more money over the long run.
Wide Variety of Pens to Choose From!
Fountain pens are a fun hobby, and come in all SORTS of shapes and sizes.
You can find fountain pens…
- Made in plastic, aluminum, brass, and even wood
- Simple, classic colors–or fancy and fun designs
- Different nib sizes (that offer different line widths)
And while fountain pens are more costly (at least up front), there’s a wide variety of pens to choose from at ALL different price ranges.
Fountain Pens Are Customizable (Inks and Nibs)
The “nib” is the actual part of your pen that touches the paper and lets the ink flow, and you can purchase nibs in different sizes:
- Extra Fine (EF) – skinny lines
- Fine (F) – normal writing
- Medium (M) – thicker lines
- Broad (B) – even thicker lines
Then there’s fountain pen ink.
The sky is the limit! A simple internet search will yield TONS of colors, shades, and sheens. (I’m currently digging Birmingham’s Sea Holly ink, see my sample below).
You can even collect inks and change your fountain pen’s color anytime.
Fountain Pens Can Become a Fun and Rewarding Hobby
Fountain pens aren’t better just because they write better (although they generally do); fountain pens are fun to collect, customize, and even clean!
I find the process of pen maintenance to be relaxing and rewarding. It’s also fun to try out new pens (we call it “pen day” when new pens or inks arrive).
I also love the community aspect of it–fellow fountain pen enthusiasts are generally lovely and helpful people, always happy to offer suggestions or just chat (you should join the FP community on Reddit).
Here Are Some Disadvantages of Fountain Pens.
Fountain pens are superior to cheap ballpoints, but there are always some tradeoffs!
They Cost More (Upfront)
You can purchase a cheap pack of Bics at Walmart for a few bucks, and it’ll contain 10-20 pens!
The LOWEST I recommend spending on a fountain pen is about $20 (you can find dirt-cheap fountain pens, but they often have issues).
And the really great fountain pens? They can range anywhere from $50-150 (and more, honestly).
So yes, fountain pens are an upfront investment.
But if you maintain the pen, it will last you a lifetime–and save you money in the long run (no more buying pens constantly, and fountain pen bottled ink is surprisingly cost effective in my experience).
Here are some of my favorite budget fountain pens (you don’t HAVE to spend $100):
Fountain Pens Require Maintenance
Yes, you will periodically have to clean your pen, especially if you want to change ink colors.
The good news is that this process is actually really simple (you mostly just need water and a few paper towels–and patience while the pens dry) and doesn’t take more than 5-10 minutes.
One more downside is if you don’t use your fountain pen for a long time (think YEARS), you’re likely going to have to clean it before it works again–and possibly replace the nib (think DECADES).
But honestly–maintenance is easy and only takes a few minutes every few weeks or months.
Fountain Pens Have a Small Learning Curve
Yes, you can absolutely write normally with fountain pens, but it might take some getting used to if you’re coming from a ballpoint or gel pen.
You might have to adjust your grip, the amount of pressure you’re putting (don’t bear down!), etc.
And you’ll need to learn how to clean your specific pen.
So yes, it’s more involved than using disposable ballpoints, but the more you use your fountain pen, the easier it becomes!
Related: How to write fast with a fountain pen.
Conclusion: Are fountain pens really better?
This will come down to personal preference, but yes, fountain pens generally offer a better experience than ballpoints or gel pens. They’re more fun to use, write more smoothly, and can last a lifetime with proper care. And it’s a fun hobby that’ll save you money in the long-term!
So if you haven’t tried using a fountain pen yet, I highly recommend giving it a go!
Fountain Pen F.A.Q.s
What is so special about fountain pens?
There are a few advantages that fountain pens have over other types of pens. First, they offer a smoother writing experience because the ink is delivered more evenly to the paper. Second, they’re generally more comfortable to hold and write with for longer periods of time. And third, they generally last much longer than other types of pens–meaning you won’t have to keep buying new pens all the time! Also, fountain pens are a fun and rewarding hobby with a great community of fellow enthusiasts.
What is the best fountain pen for a beginner?
There are a few good options for beginners, but I usually recommend either the Lamy Safari or TWSBI Eco. These are both budget fountain pens that are fun to use and available in a wide variety of colors, nib sizes, etc.
Which is better, ballpoint or fountain?
This is a tough question to answer, as it really depends on personal preference. Ballpoints tend to be cheaper and easier to find (and don’t require ongoing maintenance/cleaning), but fountain pens offer a smoother writing experience and can last much longer with proper care (and come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and ink choices). Ultimately, it’s up to you! Try out both types of pens and see which you prefer.
How long will a fountain pen last?
With just a few minutes of basic cleaning and maintenance every few weeks or months, a fountain pen can last for years and years–and even decades! Since fountain pens are generally made with better materials, and since you can refill them with ink, they don’t need to be replaced as often as other types of pens.
Is it worth it to buy a fountain pen?
Absolutely! Fountain pens offer a much better writing experience than other types of pens, and they can last a lifetime with proper care. They’re also a fun hobby to get into–even at cheaper price points! You can absolutely purchase a budget fountain pen in the $15-30 price range to try out fountain pens to see if they’re a good fit for you.