To the average person, a dip pen is no different from a fountain pen. However, calligraphy lovers know otherwise. Although the two pens look similar, they both have different features and uses.
Both types of pens are important and used widely by an audience that prefers their unique features. For instance, a calligrapher might prefer to use a dip pen, while a regular writer may think a fountain pen is better.
This article will explore the differences between a dip pen vs fountain pen and instances when you’re allowed to use both types of writing tools.
What Are Dip Pens?
A dip pen (also called dip nib, pen nib, or nib pen) is a writing tool with two parts — a nib and a handle. The nib is the metal point that does the writing while the handle holds the nib.
Dip pens have been used from the dawn of enlightened history. People wanted an updated pen from the quill — something that was easier and faster to write with, and the dip pen was created in the 19th century.
The first set of dip nib pens was made with bronze and copper. Today, the metal nib is made with steel. As the name implies, to use this pen, you have to dip the nib inside an inkwell. Some people have also evolved to filling calligraphy nibs with a syringe or eyedropper.
The nib has a slit that runs vertically down the middle and leads the ink from a vent hole to whatever writing surface you’re using. On the other hand, the handle can be made of any material — metal, plastic, glass, even bone.
How Does a Dip Pen Work?
Dip pens (and fountain pens) work by a combined action of gravity and capillarity. When the nib is dipped in an inkpot, capillary action works against gravity and sucks up the ink.
A small amount of ink remains on the underside of the nib, and its surface tension keeps the ink there. Gravity directs the ink downwards towards the nib tip to flow back out on paper.
Dip pens are widely used for both drawing and writing. It is super flexible, making it the first choice for calligraphy and regular art lovers. However, because it doesn’t have its own ink reservoir, most people find it mildly annoying to dip the pen repeatedly in the ink before use.
Despite its limitations, the dip pen is still a favorite to many people. There’s no competition from other pens when it comes to calligraphy.
What Are Fountain Pens?
After the invention of the dip pen, humans evolved, and science progressed. People began to understand the importance of air pressure in ink writing tools and looked for a way to create more sustainable pens.
The fountain pen was created to take pressure off the hands of writers and save writing time that would have otherwise been spent on repetitive dipping. It is widely preferred among writers, teachers, and students.
Unlike dip pens, a fountain pen has four key parts that come together to give a better writing experience. These parts include:
- The nib — a pointed metal end that spreads the ink on paper.
- The reservoir — the concealed ink tube inside the pen’s handle.
- The feed — a plastic tube that joins the nib to the reservoir.
- The collector — a set of grooves visible just beneath the nib that collects ink flowing out of the reservoir and controls the quantity.
To prevent the reservoir from drying out, fountain pens also have a cap. Some also have clips.
Dip Pen vs Fountain Pen: Differences
Here are the most notable differences between a fountain pen and a dip pen.
The first point where you can tell a fountain pen apart from a dip pen is by looking at the pen body. Although the concept is similar, they couldn’t be more different. For one, dip pens don’t have any concealed reservoir or cap, while a fountain pen does.
Fountain pen nibs are wide and made with heavy, durable metal — usually stainless steel, bronze, gold, and iridium. As a result, the nib of a fountain pen can last as long as 100 years.
However, these nibs are inflexible, unyielding, and can be difficult to control. This is why modern calligraphy is almost impossible to create with a fountain pen.
On the other hand, the nib of a dip pen is not as wide and is made from weaker materials. This makes it very flexible and easy to control. A dip nib works like a brush to give your calligraphy an extra flourish. However, they only last a few days, depending on their use.
Fountain pens use bottled inks and cartridges. People who do more economical writing prefer to use a bottle of ink, while more professional writers prefer to use cartridges. The cartridges are easy to remove and put inside the pen. Once you’re finished, you can easily replace it.
If you prefer to have a wide range of colors, use bottle ink. Some bottle fountain pen inks are also waterproof.
On the other hand, dip pens do not have ink cartridges or use the same types of inks as fountain pens. They use pigmented, waterproof inks like drawing ink, bottle ink, and Indian ink. If you try using these same inks for your fountain pen, it could get messy.
A dip pen provides better flexibility and gives better down and upstroke results. Thus, it is the preferred option for calligraphy writers.
Fountain pens have a smoother gradient writing, and while it won’t give you a calligraphy effect, it provides a great writing contrast. It is better for regular, everyday writing. Some more expensive brands of fountain pains also provide a little bit of stroke variation.
Both dip pens and fountain pens have their strengths and limitations. It all depends on what you want to use both pens for.
Despite how similar both pens look, you cannot use them interchangeably. Dip pens are better suited for calligraphy writing but will fail woefully at regular writing. On the other hand, a fountain pen will flourish at regular writing. While you can still use a fountain pen for calligraphy, it might not be the best fit.
When choosing between a dip pen vs fountain pen, you should consider all of these differences.
Browse through our collection of articles for more tips and recommendations on fountain pens.