The world of fountain pens is vast and full of tons of boutique makers who make some truly excellent pens.
But navigating which brands will give you a great writing experience and the aesthetic you want can be a little tricky. This especially true when entry level pen price points start around $20.
Today, I'll familiarize you with the fountain pen brands you need to know. Additionally, I'll give you the best cheap and luxury options.
Let's start with what to look for when buying a fountain pen.
What to Look for When Buying Fountain Pens
- Is quick to write a smooth line
- Has no scratching or skipping
- Feels comfortable to hold and use
- Has an enjoyable look
Leaking ink, a scratchy nib that skips, and a pen that is difficult to maintain can kill any joy at using a fountain pen.
It is always good to ask yourself these questions when you are shopping for a fountain pen.
- What kind of writing am I looking to do? Am I doing daily notetaking and letter writing? Am I drawing?
- What level of work am I interested in? Do I want something quick and easy, low maintenance? Do I want something hands-on and customizable?
- What kind of nib do I need? Am I writing for aesthetics or practicality?
- Does how it looks match my tastes?
With those questions in mind, I am going to start by listing somebrands that are a must know.
Firstly, I will break down the brands.
Then, I will talk about the best , beginner fountain pens all in the $30 or under category. These can easily be found online or through a local stationary shop.
Lastly, I will talk about a good place to start for a luxury brand.
Pen Brands You Need to Know
Easily the most historic brand on the list, Waterman is responsible for (sort of) inventing the fountain pen.
And unlike other historic brands, the Waterman name still holds true to creating a great fountain pen. They also excel at luxury. Each Waterman pen will come with fine finishes and precious metals.
Known for their demonstrator pens (meaning the barrel is clear so you can see the ink inside the pen), TWSBI is the new kid on the block, but do not let that fool you.
After working in the manufacturing process for 50 years, TaShin Precision decided to make its own brand of fountain pens. Interestingly, the brand they created has quickly become one of the most impressive writing brands on the market.
With entry level pens like the ECO, TWSBI pens offer a hands on fountain pen experience. This you can't find without going to a real boutique brand or attending a Pen Show.
A powerhouse on my Best Ballpoint Pens Brands list, what Pilot makes, Pilot dominates.
A staple of Japanese pen making, Pilot originally began as a fountain pen company under the name Namiki Manufacturing Company. Despite expanding to include ballpoint pens and rollerballs (all hail the G-2), they have never ceased to produce remarkable fountain pens in every tier. They have beginner pens like the Metropolitan as well as luxury pens like the Custom (a favorite of Neil Gaiman).
You'll be hard pressed to find a list of top fountain pens (or top pens in general) without finding at least one LAMY fountain pen on there.
A German brand, LAMY pens are known for their resin based, lightweight bodies and their special tripod grip. The LAMY Safari is constantly tussling with the likes of the Pilot Metropolitan and the Preppy Platinum for best beginner pen on the market.
Another German brand, Kaweco fountain pens thrive on melding nostalgic designs with modern technology.
Kaweco fountain pens have lightweight, collapsible bodies that require you to post the cap to get a full sized writing pen. So if you are looking for a fountain pen to stick in your pocket or travel with, start here.
Italian luxury at its finest, Visconti fountain pens are the best of Italian craftsmanship.
With no entry level pens in sight, Visconti are made for someone who is looking for an excellent fountain pen and knows how to use them. Visconti pens are works of art and worth every penny.
One of the historic Japanese pen brands, Sailor Pens' big claim to fame is their use of solid gold nibs (caveat: not all their pens automatically come with gold nibs nowadays).
Sailor nibs are so popular that other brands will order Sailor nibs for their premium pens.
A household name in Japan, Sailor has made quite a name for itself in the US and the Pro Gear regularly pops up as a must try high end fountain pen.
With the brand introductions out of the way, let's talk about what writing instruments are best.
Cheap Best Fountain Pens
There are a lot of great affordable fountain pens for beginners out there. Notably, some of these pens are good enough that you can use them your whole fountain pen life and be an incredibly happy writer.
What brand of pen is the best?
The best brand of fountain pen is Pilot.
Pilot takes the cake for quite a few reasons but in particular for their ability to create an excellent fountain pen at every price point from disposable and entry level to high end luxury.
Whether manufacturing in bulk or handcrafting individual pens, Pilot delivers an exquisite nib that feels adaptive and responsive when writing.
The ink flowed consistently with no trailing or skipping and the refillable pens were easy to refill.
Speaking specifically to the cheaper Pilot Pens, the Pilot Metropolitan is remarkable at its under $20 price range. Beginners and fountain pen enthusiasts have long heralded as a favorite pen.
The fountain pen best for daily use
When it comes to pens for daily fountain pen users, the TWSBI Eco offers a high quality writing experience in a solid barrel that holds quite a bit of ink.
The Eco is a demonstrator pen which means it does not take cartridges. Instead, the entire barrel of the pen acts as a converter in this piston filling fountain pen.
The TWSBI Eco has a double cap (a cap inside the cap) that ensures a tighter seal when the pen is stored, meaning the nib is still wet and ready to write even after days or weeks of not using the pen. (I once spent my entire maternity leave not using my Eco Twist. Uncapped it, and it started writing immediately).
Full disclosure, the TWSBI Eco is my daily writer and is a personal favorite for all the reasons I listed.
This is my most recommended pen.
The most ergonomic fountain pen
The most ergonomic fountain pen is the LAMY Safari.
Light weight and larger barreled, the LAMY Safari was designed to offer the easy, near pressureless writing that comes with a weighted pen without the strain needed to hold a heavier pen.
However, the Safari also offers the well known LAMY triangular or tripod grip that means less strain on your fingers as you hold the pen.
The LAMY 2000 is also a good option for an ergonomic pen at a more luxury price point.
What is the best fountain pen to draw with?
This is a tough category to talk about without veering into calligraphy pens, which are a beautiful breed of their own. (Calligraphy pens are also more often than not dip pens which are not technically fountain pens).
What makes a fountain pen good for drawing or sketching is a flexible nib, large ink supply, and generally a precision nib size (fine or extra fine).
Both the Kakuno and the M200 offer a ready ink supply and the flexible nib that give the writing line some variation depending on the pressure applied while writing.
The Kakuno starts around $10 and is worth getting to try out drawing with a fountain pen.
The Pelikan M200 boasts a gold nib which can offer greater flexibility while maintaining its point, but it starts in the $200 price range.
Which brand of pen lasts the longest?
The fountain pen that lasts the longest will be the pen with a high ink capacity; ie: generally fountain pens that use the eyedropper filling system.
Eyedropper fountain pens use the entire barrel of the fountain pen as the ink reservoir. This means no wasted space in the reservoir.
The larger the barrel of the fountain pen, the larger the ink capacity and the longer it will last. Pens like the Opus 88 Omar are particularly known for holding up to 3.5ml of ink.
Honorable Mention for Cheap Fountain Pens: Platinum Preppy
I did not include Platinum in my list of brands, but the Platinum Preppy is a wonder of a fountain pen at under $10. A touch scratchy, but a great fountain pen to keep on your desk or bag that is ready to write even after prolonged periods unused.
Best Luxury Brand Fountain Pens
Also taking the prize for the best luxury fountain pens is Pilot Pens.
The higher end Pilot fountain pens amplify the smooth lines and steady flow writing experience of the entry level Pilots, while offering premium finishes, precious metals, and innovations to the writing instruments.
The Vanishing Point is known as the world's first capless fountain pen. (That's right. It's a retractable fountain pen.) It's a really cool great pen.
I could not place Pilot as the best of the luxury brand fountain pens without mentioning Namiki Pens.
Owned by Pilot, Namiki Pens are handmade in Japan with maki-e and urushi lacquer finishes that are one of a kind. Each pen is an individual work of art and delivers the same exquisite quality writing as the craftsmanship.
Namiki pens start around $750 and go into the $1000s easily, so they are ultra luxury fountain pens.
Best Affordable Fountain Pens
The best affordable luxury fountain pens are the Conklin All American and the Kaweco AL Sport.
The Conklin All American is a large barrel pen that is surprisingly delightful to use. The steady flow of the pen feels buttery against paper and it handles really well for being such a big pen.
Each pen has vintage inspired resin bodies and is lightweight so there is very little strain on the hand while using.
The Kaweco AL Sport is a pocket pen meaning it collapses into a short pen when the cap is not posted on the end.
Lightweight but exceedingly durable with its aluminum body, the AL Sport fine point nib releases an ample amount of ink, making the pen feel very wet without compromising the thin fine line of the fountain pen nib size.
Capped the pen is a whopping 4.25 inches and feels like a new take on a retro pen. You can find the Kaweco AL Sport in a variety of different finishes and bright colors, and the Kaweco packaging is an experience.
Best Luxury Fountain Pen
The best high end luxury fountain pen brand is the Florence based Visconti Pens.
Using a Visconti pen feels about as great as walking down the streets of Florence on crisp fall day.
From the weight to the quality of the finishes to the spring loaded clip and the magnetic cap, every piece of the pen exudes the robust beauty and technical excellence of the country it was made in.
The Visconti Van Gogh fine point nib is springy and super responsive, leaving a unique variation to the writing line that gives a unique character to every handwriting.
Visconti makes a writing instrument to be proud of and I would be remiss if I did not say that the depth of movement and color they achieve in their resin finishes is a testament to the fountain pen industry.
Honorable Mention for Best Luxury Pen: The Franklin-Christoph Model 20 (Marietta)
A completely new brand to me, I was quite frankly blown away by the Franklin-Christoph Marietta.
The hand ground, italic stub nib is the most remarkable nib I have ever used.
The design of the pen is very vintage and may not make a statement in how it looks compared to the fine finishes of brands like Visconti and Waterman, but the writing of this pen was so exquisite I had to include it.
Best Fountain Pen for Gifts
Waterman and Dayspring Pens rank as the best brands to give as gifts.
As said in the Ballpoint Pen Brands article, Waterman pens are just downright excellent pens. Every element of a Waterman Pen feels intentional and well made.
Craftsmen still make Waterman pens in France and, the personal touch of custom engraving makes them a perfect high end gift.
A new company to manufacturing pens, Dayspring Pens has long been a company that focused on gifting pens and custom engravings.
Designers created the Alexandria fountain pen to be a great gift pen. Affordable, large barreled, and finished with 23k gold, the pen has a classic understated aesthetic that draws the eye to the custom engraving on the cap.
With a responsive, medium point nib and a free line of custom engraving with the pen, the Alexandria is an easy gift to give at around $30.
Are Sailor Pens Worth It?
In researching for this article, I knew that Sailor is considered one of the top fountain pen brands regularly compared to Pilot or Waterman.
Also a Japanese brand Sailor Pens are often cited as better in the community, largely commented on for the quality of their fountain pen nib.
The Sailor gold nib is even sold to other pen companies like AT Cross who include them as a selling point for their top of the line pens like the Peerless.
I ordered a Sailor Pro Gear to try the brand and ultimately I have to agree with some of the critiques I have seen online about Sailor. The pen felt overpriced for the quality of the writing experience.
The gold nib was very stiff with very little flex and in regards to the construction of the pen, the resin barrel felt like a less durable plastic than a sturdy resin.
The Pro Gear was by no means a bad pen, but I was ultimately underwhelmed, especially when tested against the price comparable Visconti or some Pilot pens.
As an aside on the price point: In Japan, Sailor pens have a mid-range price point, but their import status in the West increases it.
I want to now touch on some questions I see a lot in regards to finding a good fountain pen.
Best Fountain Pens for Beginners
I agree with experts who say the perfect first pen is the Pilot Metropolitan or the Platinum Preppy.
Both these pens are under $20s, come with an ink cartridge, and allow you to choose your nib size.
As a rule of thumb:
- Fine or Extra Fine Nib if your writing style is small letters and close together
- Medium Nib for a larger handwriting
- Broad Nib for signing and hand lettering
Make sure to snag some higher quality writing paper like Rhodia while you are at it.
If you start with your first fountain pen and some regular notebook paper or printer paper, you might get a negative writing experience. This is because the low grade paper can rip when the wet nib writes against it. It will also feather quite a bit and can make your letters bleed together, which is a pretty big letdown.
If you are looking to start off with one that is a more of a hands on writing instrument, start out with a TWSBI Eco.
You will need to purchase an ink bottle since it does not take cartridges, but that is part of the fun of a fountain pen.
Some of the brands that make the best ink for fountain pens include:
- Noodlers : all about making good quality affordable ink
- Diamine : Give the Sheening Inks a try for something really fun
- Jacques Herbes : Fancy Ink...some are scented
How do I know which style of fountain pen is best for me?
The best style for you is the one that:
- Feels the most comfortable when you hold it
- Writes easily without undue hand strain
- You enjoy writing with the most.
Nib size will affect your writing pretty drastically so take a look at the descriptor above when choosing your nib.
I always recommend starting with the entry level writing instrument that matches your personal preference stylistically.
Try different ink in the pen and using it for a few days to get a feel for it.
If you like using fountain pens from that experience, try one of the more medium price point pens. However, always consider if you like a heavier or lightweight one or a thicker or thinner barrel.
Do you want a daily writer that is a workhorse or a status symbol to impress in a meeting?
Use this guide to browse around and ultimately go with the pen that you like looking at the most. Aesthetics matter.
How much does a good fountain pen cost?
Ultimately, a good fountain pen will cost anywhere between $30-$60 with an exceptional nod to the $20 Pilot Metropolitan.
This price range will give you:
- a quality instrument with a solid nib that offers an admirable writing performance
- a pen that can either be cartridge filled or converter filled
In conclusion, each brand offers something unique to the world of fountain pens.
Which brands and fountain pens do you like to use the most?
Leave a comment below!
And check out my other articles to learn more about the world of writing instruments.
- How to Store a Fountain Pen Properly
- How do Ballpoint Pens Work
- 20 Best Rollerballs to Give as Gifts
Sam Di Nardo is an author for Dayspring Pens, where she has honed her expertise in ballpoint, rollerball, gel and fountain pens since joining the team in 2018.
From her initial role as an Engraver to becoming the Production Manager, Sam's journey has been marked by her passion for the history, manufacturing, and the unique value of gifted writing instruments.
A graduate of Regent University with a degree in English Literature and a special interest in Old Norse literature, dive deeper into Sam's world and discover why she's your trusted guide in the realm of gift pens.