There’s a lot of confusion about dip pen vs fountain pen. You might think they’re the same thing, but they have several differences.
When comparing dip pens with fountain pens these are the key summarized differences:
- Dip pens are also known as quill pens as they were originally made from duck, goose or swan feathers but are now also made from wood or plastics and sometimes more luxurious materials.
- Fountain pens are made from wood, plastics or metal and have a nib with a built in reservoir to hold ink.
- A dip pen tip is dipped into an ink well to write while a fountain pen uses an ink reservoir or a removable ink cartridge.
- Dip pens are moved along the paper to draw the ink down from the nib to the paper while a fountain pen draws ink out of the reservoir as you write or draw with it onto paper.
- Dip pens are more suitable for drawing and art work while a fountain pen is more suited to writing and writing art such as caligraphy.
When I’m practicing my cartooning techniques, I prefer a dip pen. It allows me to change the tips or nibs, and switch inks quickly. If I’m writing with fountain pens, I’m usually composing a letter or addressing envelopes using calligraphy.
As the name implies, you get ink on the tip of a dip pen by dipping it in the ink. A fountain pen has an ink reservoir that feeds ink into the tip.
Read more about the difference between a dip pen and a fountain pen, which is better, and their many uses.
Dip Pen vs Fountain Pen Further Explored
When you look at two examples of writing, one from a dip pen and one from a fountain pen, most likely, you won’t be able to tell the difference.
So, let’s explore dip pen vs fountain pen a little more and see how dip pens and fountain pens differ.
About Dip Pens
If you’ve seen old pictures of the Declaration of Independence, you’re looking at signatures created using a quill pen.
The quill pen has been in existence for centuries. It was the first dip pen created with large bird feathers, such as swan, goose, and turkey.
Today, dip pens have a handle made of wood or plastic instead of a feather, as well as various shapes and sizes of nibs. In order to write, you insert a nib into the top of the pen and dip it into the ink.
Then, carefully move the tip along the paper to draw pen and ink artwork or calligraphy letters. The tips are flexible, which lets you produce thin or wider lines.
The nibs hold a small amount of ink, so you don’t have to spend all your time dipping.
About Fountain Pens
Fountain pens came along during the 19th century. It consists of three elements:
- A nib that moves the ink across the paper.
- The feed supplies the ink to the nib from inside the handle reservoir.
- An ink reservoir holds the ink in the pen handle.
Depending on the fountain pen, the ink can be in a cartridge, or you use a small vacuum filling mechanism to reload the reservoir.
Which Is Better, Dip Pen or Fountain Pen?
Dip pens and fountain pens have their own unique purposes. For this reason, one isn’t better than the other which is why I usually don’t like making these dip pen vs fountain pen comparisons as we are not comparing the same things. It depends on what you want to use them for.
For example, dip pens are better if you want to use various ink colors quickly. Some artists also use dip pens with water-based paint for pen and ink drawings.
I find that the handles of fountain pens are easier to hold than dip pens. Plus, I can write longer without having to dip the pen in ink.
Here are the possible uses for dip pens vs fountain pens:
Better for Dip Pens
Dip pens are better for sketching than fountain pens. The different nib varieties, drawing inks, and wide range of colors make them excellent art tools.
The nibs allow you to create cross-hatching, decisive strokes, light and dark areas, and shading. You can see the art effects created by nib pens in Rembrandt’s, ”Cottage Among Trees.” He used dip pens, along with a brush and brown ink.
The artwork demonstrates the use of dip pens for fine lines, especially on the thatched roof.
So, if you’re considering pen and ink drawing, dip pens are the better choice.
Better for Fountain Pens
Before you select a fountain pen, decide what you want to create with it. Calligraphy is the most common use of fountain pens.
Calligraphy pens are available with different tip sizes and thicknesses, while a fountain pen for normal handwriting only uses one-sized tip.
Fountain pens are better than dip pens for handwriting. When I use a fountain pen for writing, my penmanship improves. I think it’s because of the ergonomic design of the pen. I can write for a longer time because the fountain pen decreases finger and hand cramping.
While you can create art with a calligraphy pen, it is usually used for writing as per the example below.
What Are the Types of Ink for Dip Pens and Fountain Pens?
Dip pens and fountain pens require different types of ink. Fountain pens use thin, water-based ink, while dip pens need thicker ink, so it doesn’t slip off the nib.
Unlike fountain pens, ink manufactured for dip pens is color pigmented, and waterproof. It has a thicker consistency than fountain pen ink. If you only have fountain pen ink, you can thicken it for use with a dip pen by mixing gum arabic into it.
A dip pen also works with acrylic paints, gouache, and watercolors. Dipping the nib in paint is one method, while the other is pen and wash. In this method, you use paint to create a wash of color on your paper, and use the dip pen for detailed drawing over the wash.
Can I Use a Fountain Pen as a Dip Pen?
Since dip pens and fountain pens have different designs, the fountain pen doesn’t give good results when used as a dip pen.
If you dip a fountain pen, most likely you’ll end up with blobs of ink on your paper, and the thicker ink will clog your pen. For this reason, I recommend only using dip pens when you’re dipping in ink.
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Joseph Colella is a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While he holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent style he spent years trying to get into various Art degrees from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), and failed to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. In his spare time, he writes for the this blog, WastedTalentInc, where he shares practical advice on art, making art, and art materials. Joseph’s art has been sold to collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art and copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
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