How to Use a Glass Dip Pen: The Ultimate Guide
how to use a glass dip pen

Glass dip pens have been around for a few hundred years and were quite popular before fountain pens were invented. They are known for their beautiful yet unique designs and are part of any pen enthusiast’s collection.

Recently they have been gaining popularity again in Japan and have sparked some noise in the art industry. Glass dip pens can be used for multiple art forms and are widely manufactured across the world.

So, in this article, we’re going to dive into what a glass dip pen is, how to use a glass dip pen, how to clean a glass dip pen, and so much more.

What is a Glass Dip Pen?

The glass dip pen is a beautiful calligraphy pen that is (usually) hand-made by experienced glassblowers. You won’t be able to find two genuine glass dip pens that are exactly the same since each one is crafted only once.

There are, of course, companies that manufacture glass pens with machinery, but for pen enthusiasts, these are usually not seen as genuine glass dip pens.

It’s more than a mere stunning writing instrument, as many pen enthusiasts collect glass dip pens. These pens are known for their ease of use and a wide variety of elegant designs.

Glass dip pens are designed with a twisted nib that can hold enough ink to write several sentences in its grooves. The nib has capillary channels to feed ink to the tip of the nib.

Dip pens (glass or metal) do however require periodic dipping, as there is no ink reservoir in the pen. These pens are used for a variety of activities, including sketching, writing, calligraphy, and so many more.

Advantages of Using a Glass Dip Pen

Vintage glass dip pen

A glass dip pen is ideal for testing new ink as it is very easy to clean. You simply need to swish the pen in water and wipe it dry on a cotton cloth. In contrast, a fountain pen is not as easy to clean, and constantly testing inks might actually damage the pen.

Water-based inks tend to corrode metal dip pens over time, however, this is not the case with glass dip pens. Glass is much more corrosion resistant and will thus last you a long time if you take care of the pen.

The elegant appearance of a glass dip pen is a huge advantage to some pen enthusiasts. Simply displaying the pen on your desk can make your whole desk look sleek. Each pen is hand-made and entirely unique.

Glass pens can range from $5 on Amazon to a couple of hundred bucks for a hand-made unique pen. Usually, a more complex design would be more expensive, and a less complex design would be cheaper

Disadvantages of Using a Glass Dip Pen

You need to re-dip your pen in the ink quite frequently. Even though glass dip pens are known to hold quite a lot of ink after each dip, some writers still do not prefer them. This is a personal choice and taste though.

A glass dip pen usually has quite a thick tip (about 0.7mm), which can make your writing look a little more blotchy or uneven. There are thinner tip pens available though, you can also request a thinner tip from a glassblower.

The ink color of a glass dip pen tends to fade as you write. You’ll start with a vibrant color but after a few words, the color will start to fade until there is no ink left. Some people love this feature, others dislike the inconsistent ink color.

The faded ink appearance can be countered by dipping your pen more often, although this ties in with the first disadvantage that you need to re-dip your pen quite often.

The glass tip tends to stain after multiple uses – this does not affect the color of the ink when you’re writing but it does not look as pristine when it is displayed on your desk. We would recommend using a lower-quality glass dip pen to test any new inks.

How to Use a Glass Dip Pen

Although glass dip pens seem extremely fancy and complicated, they are actually very easy to use. Don’t let this dip pen intimidate you or make you doubt your skills, simply use it as an extension of your imagination.

Step 1

Choose an appropriate ink for your pen. Although glass pens will work with virtually any ink, some perform better than others. The viscosity of the ink determines how long you can write with a single dip. So a water-based fountain pen ink is typically considered best.

Water-based inks are also easier to clean off a glass dip pen, while metallic ink is usually quite messy and a struggle to clean. If you use metallic ink, you may also notice more ink on your hands and fingers after using the pen.

Here is a list of ink types to try on your glass dip pen

  1. Fountain pen ink – low viscosity
  2. Diluted Watercolor — low viscosity
  3. Iron gall ink – low viscosity
  4. Dip pen ink – medium viscosity
  5. India ink – high viscosity
  6. Metallic ink – high viscosity

Step 2

Glass dip pens are wet writers, meaning they need a paper that is less absorbent and doesn’t feather. So you would need to pick a suitable paper type.

Dip pens also tend to scratch or tear the surface of low-quality papers. They literally tear the fibers of the paper and completely destroy it. So, quality cartridge papers like Daler Rowney or Bristol paper would be a good option for writing, drawing, or illustrating with a glass dip pen.

Watercolor papers that weigh between 300 to 425 GSM are probably the most popular paper for drawings or illustrations with a dip pen. Any paper above 150GSM would be suitable for a glass dip pen.

In comparison, the normal print paper that you buy at a convenience store is usually between 90 and 100GSM.

Step 3

Dip the nib of the pen in your chosen ink. There are small deep grooves in the tip that hold the ink while you write. Use gravity and allow excess ink to drip back into the bowl, otherwise, it will leave blops while you write and no one wants that.

After you dip the pen in the ink, rub it gently along the rim of your ink pot to remove any excess ink. Don’t be disheartened, this takes a few tries to perfect the right amount of ink.

The first few times you use a glass dip pen you should keep a piece of scrap paper nearby. Each time you dip the pen you can draw a line or two on the scratch paper just to settle the ink.

Step 4

Party Message Handwritten with Calligraphy Pen

Start writing! Start with a light amount of pressure, and increase pressure as you need it. Get a piece of scrap paper to practice at first and when you feel comfortable enough, move on to your illustration/drawing/calligraphy.

Don’t stress too much about it though, this could lead to a broken pen or an extremely frustrated artist. Practice different angles and pressure points to perfect the look and style you are after.

While writing, turn the pen around in your hands. In this way, all the ink in your pen’s nib grooves will be used up.

Step 5

Get a cup of water and swish your pen around. This will dissolve any water-based ink that you use. If you used pigmented ink or high viscosity ink, get an old toothbrush to scrub the excess ink off the nib.

You should clean your glass nib after each use. This prevents staining and also can prolong the life of the glass nib. Be sure to dry the pen completely before storing it as water could damage the grooves in the nib.

How to Clean a Glass Dip Pen

Water-soluble ink is the best when writing with a glass dip pen. It’s very easy to clean this ink from the tip of the pen. Simply swish the pen in water, use a cotton cloth to dry your pen and it should be sparkling clean.

If you use a high viscosity ink, like India ink, it could take a bit more effort to clean the nib. You would need a soft toothbrush to scrub and remove the residue from the tip of your pen.

How to Store a Glass Dip Pen

Opened vintage notebook and calligraphy pen

The best option would be to store the glass dip pen in its original packaging, as this is usually quite protective. If that’s not possible, though, you can store it in a pen holder or lay it horizontally on your desk.

Be sure that the tip of your pen does not carry the weight of your pen. For example, don’t store it tip down. Also, be sure it is not in a spot where it could be knocked over as glass pens are quite fragile.

Your pen should not be stored in direct sunlight as the heat from the sun could damage the glass and cause premature breaking.

Some glass dip pens are manufactured with a cap as this is a perfect way to protect your nib from any potential dangers – just don’t drop it!

What Are Glass Dip Pens Used For?

Glass dip pens are quite versatile and can be used in a multitude of ways. They are most commonly used for calligraphy, sketches, and illustrations.

Calligraphy is usually compared with cursive handwriting, although it is not the same. Cursive handwriting has the purpose of writing quickly and accurately, while calligraphy is meant to be art and have a deeper meaning.

Calligraphy is also written in a different manner – not a continuous hand movement like cursive writing, but deliberately focussing on each stroke. Calligraphy is recognized for its varying stroke thickness – this takes time to practice and master.

Glass dip pens are also used for sketching and illustrating. Some of these pens have fine tips, making them extra functional at drawing crisp lines and drawing in shadows.

However, each artist has a different opinion regarding glass dip pens. Some love them, and some don’t. Most refer to glass dip pens as a great beginner’s tool, and nothing more.

You’ll often find glass dip pens as a decorative feature on a desk more than an actual writing tool.

A Brief History

Glass dip pens

Sources across the internet differ on the account of when and where glass dip pens were invented, but it’s safe to say they’ve been around for a couple of hundred years.

They were quite popular until fountain pens were invented. Fountain pens don’t need to be repeatedly dipped in ink, so naturally, it has become more popular due to convenience. Some, however, still prefer the classic feel and style of a true dip pen.

Glass dip pens were an alternative to metallic dip pens as the glass would not corrode when using metallic ink. It was also said to be a more beautiful pen on your desk and was highly sought after before fountain pens.

Many people find it surprisingly easy to write with a glass dip pen and they compare it to a smooth gel pen. Thus, it has become quite popular for illustrating or calligraphy for artists who don’t mind the inconvenience of redipping their pen.


Calligraphy has its roots in many countries across the world, yet it is usually associated with China as that is where it is believed to have originated. However, there are many different calligraphy scripts across the world including Indian, Arabic, Oriental, Western, and more.

Calligraphy has always been set apart from handwriting, even though there might have some similar physical appearances. Handwriting is aimed to be done quickly and accurately and to convey a specific message while calligraphy is seen as a slow and steady art form with a deeper meaning infused.

Today we can categorize calligraphy as either modern or traditional. Modern calligraphy doesn’t follow the structural rules of traditional calligraphy styles such as copperplate, blackletter, italic, and others. Over the years, traditional calligraphy has become an exact form of art.

There are specific angles, heights, measurements, and tools that are required to accomplish proper traditional calligraphy. Thus modern calligraphy evolved and is much more lenient.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are glass dip pens?

Dip pens that are made out of glass. When writing/drawing you need to dip the nib of the pen in ink after every few sentences. The whole pen is made of glass and can be custom-made to any color or design you prefer.

How to clean glass dip pen

Fill a cup with water and swish the tip of the pen around in the water. Wipe the dip pen with a clean and dry cotton cloth. This should clean water-based ink off your pen, however pigmented ink won’t clean off as easily.

You would need a small toothbrush or something to scrub at the ink. This could take some time, and this also stains your glass pen quite quickly.

How do glass dip pens work

Dip pens do not have an ink reservoir, meaning you need to redip your pen in ink to continue writing periodically. Glass dip pens are made entirely of glass and have a glass nib with twisted grooves. The ink settles in these grooves and when you write, it flows onto the page.

The size of the grooves typically impacts how much ink the nib can hold and how long you can write before re-dipping.

Dip pen vs fountain pen

The main difference between a dip pen and a fountain pen is how they work with ink. A fountain pen has an ink reservoir to store in, while a dip pen does not. This makes a fountain pen much more convenient as you don’t have to dip your pen in ink every few minutes.

A dip pen has the advantage of using any ink you prefer, while fountain pens are only usable with water-based inks. This is another personal preference that each artist decides for themselves.

Final Thoughts

Glass dip pens can be found all over the internet for relatively cheap prices. These are good options for beginner artists or calligraphers who need practice. Once you are confident, you could invest in a hand-made glass dip pen.

Using glass dip pens is actually quite easy, the only trick is finding an angle and amount of pressure that works for you. We hope that you have found our guide on how to use a glass dip pen useful. Happy writing!


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