If you are looking for the ultimate guide to pen nibs, whether you're looking for yourself or for education purposes we have you covered! Fountain pen nibs come in a variety of shapes and sizes which can seem daunting for someone new to the pen world. In any case, it is vital that you choose the correct one for you and your needs.
For smaller handwriting, a finer tip will achieve a more refined and neat effect, whereas a broad tip would make your small handwriting look clumpy and may not give the correct support for your style. For bolder handwriting, a broad tip may work better as it will suit your writing style and compliment it well.
What is a Nib?
Pen nibs are one of the most important parts of a pen, the part that distributes the ink onto the page or whatever you are writing on. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from extra fine to extra broad, and some are even cut at an angle to achieve a particular effect on one's writing.
The lines created from a pen nib rely heavily on the pressure the writer uses, and the type of ink used as the textures and qualities of each ink differ.
While most pens use ink that dries relatively quickly, fountain pens that use the nibs we are discussing today use an ink that is more fluid/liquid/FLUIDIC, which takes longer to dry. They use this type of ink to allow the writing to flow across the page with ease, especially as a lot of people who use fountain pens are writing in a joined, calligraphic style.
Pen nibs draw ink away from the body of the pen where the ink cartridge is and gradually deposits it onto the page/writing surface as you move the pen to write. With the correct amount of pressure, you will be left with a smooth writing process that looks great!
Nibs come in different shapes, these different shapes create different types of lines. Most fountain pens available today are made with a round tip, this creates steady lines regardless of the direction or orientation when writing on paper.
Although round tips are popular with most fountain pens today, Italic, or sometimes known as ‘stub’ or ‘calligraphy’ shaped nibs are also available. Italic nibs are wide and flat, creating wide vertical strokes and narrow horizontal strokes when used on paper. Italic nibs can be used to add an extra touch to any writing, they are perfect for calligraphy. Although requiring a bit more practice to perfect, there is no doubt that the stunning results produced by italic nibs are definitely worth the additional effort.
The size of the fountain pen’s nib has a great impact on how the pen will write. The larger the nib the wider the line produced, making them suitable for bold writing. Smaller nibs are suited for everyday writing, producing lines closer in width to ballpoint or gel pens.
Below are the different types of nibs available for fountain pens.
Extra fine nibs are used for fine line writing with a light touch. Extra fine nibs are great for precise figure work due to their extremely fine point. Extra fine nibs can produce a scratchy feel when writing, this is due to their small and delicate tip. Ink flow can be limited and so extra fine tips are not so ideal for shading, however, less ink produced on paper means it dries quicker and minimises the chances of smearing.
Best suited for: Technical and precise writers.
Not suited for: Writers with large and fast handwriting and those who admire certain qualities of some inks, like the sheen, shading, and shimmer.
Writing Speed: 2/5
Dry Time: 5/5
Best suited for: General writing, best for those with small and neat handwriting.
Not suited for: Those who want to show off the colour of their inks and add a calligraphic flair to their letters.
Writing Speed: 3/5
Dry Time: 4/5
Medium nibs are great for general all-around use. They produce average line widths and are great for average writing pressure. Most standard fountain pens are usually fine or medium tipped. Medium nibs are less prone to the scratchy feeling when writing on paper and smearing and bleedthrough are also minimised.
Best suited for: General writing and signatures.
Not suited for: Use on cheaper quality paper and those with smaller handwriting.
Writing Speed: 3/5
Dry Time: 3/5
Broad nibs have a larger rounded nib that is great for wide lines. They produce more ink on paper and are great for quick gestural handwriting. Broad nibs are great for shading and the sheen and shimmer of the ink is more evident on paper.
Best suited for: Journaling, quick and bold signatures, and letter writing. Also for those who enjoy the fine qualities of their ink on paper.
Not suited for: Low-quality paper, small note-takers, and those with a preference for quicker drying times.
Writing Speed: 4/5
Dry Time: 2/5
Oblique fountain pen nibs are cut at an angle. They are great for those who tend to slant their pen when writing, they give you the same great precision and smoothness as someone holding the pen straight.
Oblique nibs are generally used by those who write with their right hand.
Reverse oblique pens are generally used by those who write with their left hand.
Italic and Calligraphy Nibs
Italic nibs a great for line variation when handwriting, they provide a smoother writing experience and give handwriting that extra flair.
Crisper lines are achieved from Calligraphy nibs, this is due to their sharper corners and this gives you more variation in line width.
Below is a table of the line width that each calligraphy nib size is capable of producing on paper.
The flexibility of a fountain pen’s nib is determined by the spread of the tines when pressure is applied to the nib, this creates different line width variations. Nibs with high flexibility were commonly used for formal cursive scripts, however, you will find that now most fountain pen nibs use firm nibs that have little flexibility.
Although firm nibs are the most common in fountain pens today, flexible nibs, 'flex nibs’, have been rising in popularity again in recent years. Flex nibs are great for calligraphy and stylised writing and drawing.
Best suited for: Calligraphy and embellished signatures.
Not suited for: Beginner fountain pen users and low-quality paper.
Writing Speed: 2/5
Dry Time: 2/5
Fountain pen nibs come in different materials, however, it is not as important as nib sizes as it has a smaller impact on the overall writing quality of the pen. Although fountain pens can come in different materials, most of these pens will have either a gold or a steel nib.
The colour, however, does not always indicate whether the fountain pen is made from gold, steel or titanium. Most nibs are usually plated with silvery metal like rhodium and real gold nibs will feature an imprint specifying their authenticity, usually 14k or 18k.
The material of the nib itself is not an indicator of the smoothness of the pen, the smoothness is usually determined by the tip. Materials like gold and steel are usually tipped with harder metals like iridium, osmium, and tungsten and so the material of the nib does not affect the pen's smoothness.
Best Nib Size for Beginners
Writing with a fountain pen is very different from writing with a ballpoint pen, gel pen, or marker. Fountain pens take some practice but the results produced make it worth it. For those new to writing with fountain pens, it is best to aim for a nib size that will feel comfortable and accommodate your handwriting style.
To find the best nib size for you, refer to the nib size charts located above and if possible, measure the line width of the pens you currently use, to find the best size match. Many ballpoint and gel pens, however, often have the tip size printed on the packaging.
For a new fountain pen user, we would recommend finding a nib size that produces a similar line width to the pens you already write with. Choosing a similar width means you won’t have to change your writing style, whether that’s writing larger or smaller than what you are used to.
Paper quality makes a huge difference when writing with a fountain pen. As you’re just getting started with fountain pens, you most likely won’t have suitable paper to handle the ink flow. It is important to select a nib size similar in line width to your current ballpoint or gel pen as this should work well with the paper you currently write on, however, due to the saturated ink, there may still be some bleed-through or feather on some papers.
Choosing the right nib size for you doesn’t have to be difficult, it really is as simple as just choosing a nib that writes with the same width as your current ballpoint or gel pen. Some fountain pens offer you the chance to interchange the nibs so you are not stuck with your first choice of nib, pens like the Lamy safari and Kaweco Perkeo make it easy to test out different nib sizes to find one that is perfect for you.
We’re at the end now! We’ve covered the most important things you need to know about fountain pens, whether you’re a beginner or already a fountain pen expert, we hope this guide has given you a little more insight into the world of fountain pens.
Do you have a favourite fountain pen nib? Or maybe you have some nib-related questions for us, let us know! Comment down below. Don’t forget to view our full fountain pens collection here.