To determine the best nib for you, it’s best to start by evaluating your handwriting preferences. Asking a few simple questions can help you avoid buyer’s remorse when purchasing your first one. Once you’ve determined how you will be writing with your fountain pen, you can then compare your preferences to the nib type and find one that most aligns.
Questions to ask before buying a nib:
Here’s a list of questions to think through. Deciding what you’ll be using your fountain pen for is the easiest way to narrow down your search for the perfect nib. However, if you are unsure about what you want, don’t hesitate to get a number of different nibs to test out! First, ask yourself:
- How big do you write?
- Are you going to be writing big and bold, or small and neat?
- How fast do you write?
- Do you prefer to write more slowly and methodical or loose and fast?
- How smooth do you want the writing to be?
- Do you prefer a butter smooth nib or one with feedback?
- Is the time it takes for the ink to dry important to you?
Nib characteristics based on size:
Determining the size of the nib that most aligns with your hand-writing preferences is the first step to narrowing down your search. Here’s a list of the different sizes of nibs and what type of hand-writing they will best produce.
Extra Fine Point (Size 0):
This is the best size for writers who prefer to write small and neat. Due to the smaller size, the ink flows at a slower pace and so writing is sometimes stickier and not as smooth. However, the ink will dry much quicker because of the slower release. Smearing the ink will be less likely to happen with this size nib. Extra fine point nibs are best for those who are all about being precise, neat and more methodical in their writing.
Fine Point (Size 0.5-0.7):
This size is also suited for those who write neat and small. You won’t be able to add many calligraphic designs in your writing with this size nib. Further characteristics include those listed above under “Extra Fine Point”.
This size nib produces writing that is not too thick, yet not as thin as fine or extra fine point nibs. The greater flow of ink produces a writing experience that is less scratchy than fine point nibs. Because the ink flows more readily, there may be some bleeding through cheaper paper. It’s best to use medium point nibs on a nicer quality paper. This size nib is great for general purpose writing and signatures. It’s perfect for those who write not too small or too big, but right in the middle!
Broad point nibs lay more ink. With the increase in ink flow, they are best used on fountain pen friendly paper. Expect an increased dry time with broad point nibs. They are commonly used for quick signatures, letter writing, or even daily journaling. You’ll be able to add different designs and techniques to your writing with a broad point pen.
Nib characteristics based on shape:
Choosing the shape of the nib is also a key element when purchasing the best suited for you. Each unique shape will produce varying line thickness and line shape.
These produce rounded lines. There is less line variation when writing with round nibs, meaning they would be harder to use for calligraphy or other hand-lettering techniques.
These are square-shaped nibs, with squared sharp edges. They produce broad vertical lines and thin horizontal lines. If you tend to rotate your pen when writing, these are not very forgiving.
Similar to an italic nib, the stub nib is square-shaped. However, it has rounded edges. These are more forgiving if you tend to rotate your pen when writing.
Sig nibs produce even more line variation than a stub nib, but less than an italic nib. Right in between the stub and italic nibs, the sig produces broad downstrokes and skinny cross strokes.
Stub and Calligraphy Nibs:
These types of nibs have a rectangular shape on the end, instead of the rounded point. This rectangular shape is great for adding calligraphic flair to your handwriting. Expect more depth of ink and higher dry times with calligraphic nibs. These are great for those of you who are aspiring calligraphers or enjoy adding a dimension of flair to your handwriting.
These nibs actually give or “flex” while writing. They are used for varying the line width based on the amount of pressure you apply to the paper. These are used for calligraphy, hand-lettering, and even drawing. Flex nibs are more difficult to write with, but great if you’re looking to step up your fountain pen game!
These nibs produce large broad strokes because of the wide nib point.
Architect nibs produce very skinny vertical strokes with broad cross strokes. They have more of a wedge shape.
These nibs are fine-tipped and often write smoother.
These nibs are shorter on the left than on the right side for right-handers. And vice-versa for left-handers. Obliques are nice for those who tend to turn their nibs when they write.
Nib characteristics based on material:
There are also a variety of materials used in producing nibs. The material doesn’t play too big of a role in your hand-writing preferences, but it’s still good to know about.
This material is by far the most economical and popular. Stainless steel nibs can write just as smooth as gold nibs, so if you’re not looking to invest too much in a nib, these are great for you!
Gold nibs vary depending on the number of carats of gold in the nib. The higher the carat, the softer the nib gold. Gold is softer than steel and bends a little bit as you write, giving the writing experience a more flexible feel. The flexing acts as a shock absorber and it is said that gold nibs glide over the paper more fluidly.
As another alternative to gold, titanium produces a more flexible writing experience.
There are some nibs that are made from rhodium. These nibs are scratch resistant but don’t necessarily produce a unique writing experience.
With these characteristics in mind, you’ll be sure to find the nib best suited for your writing preferences.