As a follow up to one of our recent Q&Art videos on choosing the right ink, let’s discuss the important implement that channels the ink from our hands to the page; the fountain pen.

Fountain pens are interesting to work with for many reasons. The feel of a fountain pen in your hand can add something extra to your experience with making art. The fact that they are not your typical disposable pen plus the history behind them gives them a bit more weight, in your hand and in your mind. They are also eco-friendly and if you fill them with waterproof ink, they are great in combination with a set of watercolors, to carry with your sketchbook.

Many people in the Sketchbook Skool Kommunity eventually like to try fountain pens- but what kind of fountain pen to choose? And what kind of ink? While the possibilities are literally endless, here are a few suggestions for pens to start with as well as inks with which to fill them.

Fountain Pens

Pens can vary in price but it’s good to have somewhere to start. Brands aren’t everything but certain companies and names in the pen world come with a tradition of quality and excellence that will turn your first experiences with a fountain pen into a habit that you will return to again and again. These are a few of our Fakulty’s favorite fountain pens:

  • Pelikan 200
  • Lamy Safari
  • Lamy Joy
  • Varsity Pen
  • Hero

Care and Maintenance Good quality fountain pens are sometimes expensive to buy but if kept properly, can last you a lifetime (or two). Here are a few tips on how to care for your fountain pen so that your pen will accompany you on a lifetime of sketchcrawls and daily drawings.

  • Make sure to flush them out regularly.
  • Remember, use cool water, not warm, for there is wax inside the barrel or tip. Warm water will destroy the wax.
  • Disassemble your pen about once a month, and put all the parts in a plastic tub of cold water and let it soak overnight. You will be amazed at what comes out. Repeat until the water is clear after soaking.

Ink Modern self lubricating ink does not ruin your fountain pen, but is permanent so you can add watercolor washes. Inks can vary in color, opacity, thickness, and viscosity when applied to different kinds of paper. Some favorite permanent, waterproof inks among both Fakulty and students include:

  • Platinum Carbon Ink- It's this rich, luscious, black ink. It's waterproof, so you can put watercolors over it as well as washes (you can order it online, on jet
  • The DeAtraments document
  • Noodlers Bulletproof Black, Polar Black, Lexington Grey - These are waterproof, but take a long time to dry before you can add watercolors.
  • Noodler's Black - not waterproof but dries faster

Experimenting with inks? Here’s a tip: Don’t put India Ink in your fountain pen - you’ll ruin the pen. Stick with brush, bamboo, and dip pens for this popular staple.

Some extra drawing tips for once you’re cleaned out, full of ink, and ready to roll:

  • You can make a light pencil sketch but you don’t need to follow those lines too closely. The pencil simply helps plan the image.
  • If you want to erase your pencil lines: use a kneaded eraser. These are easier on the inks than plastic erasers are.
  • Drawing directly with ink (no pencil), will give you more speed. It is permanent on the paper and you just have to work with those lines without hesitation. This also teaches you to be flexible and appreciate little mistakes and surprises.
  • There's a huge gradient of tins and shades you can achieve with simple black and white thanks to hatching, cross-hatching, and stippling.
  • Line has a lot to do with direction and attitude, and developing it is something that's a process and it's good to study.

We blog about a variety of materials. Sometimes a fountain pen hits the spot for people and sometimes a Bic pen works wonders. Find materials that are affordable for you and work with your preferences and don’t worry, these will change over time! As you get more comfortable you will experiment with different materials as you’re never tied to a single medium. And keep in mind that it’s not about having the newest and shiniest of pens in your bag, but pens that work for you.

We must remember that everything depends on how we use a material, not on the material itself… New materials are not necessarily superior. Each material is only what we make it.

—Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
German Architect and Educator

What’s your favorite go-to fountain pen or utensil?

Filed under categories: Tips