Fountain pens are not just ordinary writing instruments; they are a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of pen-making.

One of the most crucial components of a fountain pen is the nib, which greatly influences the writing experience.

If you're new to the world of fountain pens or simply curious to learn more, this guide will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of fountain pen nibs, including their anatomy, sizes, tip shapes, materials, flexibility, regional differences, specialty options, caring tips, and how to choose the right nib for your needs.

Key Takeaways

  1. Fountain Pen Nib Anatomy: Understand the key elements of a nib, including tipping material, nib slit, feed, and breather hole.

  2. Nib Sizes: Explore European, American, and Japanese sizing systems to determine line width.

  3. Nib Tip Shapes: Learn about round, italic, stub, and needlepoint tips for different writing styles.

  4. Nib Materials: Compare stainless steel, gold, titanium, and other materials for performance and durability.

  5. Nib Flexibility: Discover extra-flexible, semi-flexible, and firm nibs and their impact on line variation.

  6. Western vs. Japanese Nibs: Differentiate between broader Western nibs and finer Japanese nibs.

  7. Specialty Nibs: Explore options like flex, oblique, music, and architects nibs for specific purposes.

  8. Caring for Your Nib: Follow proper cleaning, avoid abrasive surfaces, store pens correctly, and use gentle pressure.

  9. Choosing the Right Nib: Consider writing style, flexibility, materials, and tip shape for a perfect fit.

Fountain Pen Nib Anatomy

Before delving into the different aspects of fountain pen nibs, it's essential to understand their basic anatomy.

A fountain pen nib consists of several key elements:

Tipping Material

At the very end of the nib, you'll find the tipping material, typically made of an extremely hard metal alloy such as iridium.

This is the part of the nib that comes into direct contact with the paper and determines the pen's writing characteristics.

Nib Slit

Running from the tipping material to the shoulders of the nib, the nib slit is a narrow channel that allows ink to flow from the reservoir to the paper.

The width and depth of the slit influence ink flow and affect how much ink is delivered to the paper.


Beneath the nib, you'll find the feed, which is responsible for supplying ink from the pen's reservoir to the nib.

The feed regulates the flow of ink, preventing flooding or skipping.

Breather Hole

Located near the shoulders of the nib, the breather hole serves as a vent to allow air into the reservoir, enabling smooth ink flow.

Fountain Pen Nib Sizes

Fountain pen nibs come in various sizes, denoted by numbers or letters.

The most common sizing systems are the European, American, and Japanese standards.

The sizes determine the width of the line produced when writing.

European Nib Sizes

In Europe, nib sizes are commonly indicated using numbers ranging from Extra Fine (EF) to Double Broad (BB).

The EF nib produces a fine line, while the BB nib creates a much broader stroke.

American Nib Sizes

The American nib sizing system is similar to the European one, but it uses a letter-based designation.

The sizes range from Extra Fine (XF) to Double Broad (BB).

Japanese Nib Sizes

Japanese nib sizes tend to be finer compared to their European and American counterparts.

They are typically labeled with a number, with a size 2 being the finest and size 20 being the broadest.

Fountain Pen Nib Tip Shapes

Fountain pen nibs come in various tip shapes, each offering a unique writing experience.

The most common tip shapes are as follows:

Round/Standard Tip

The round or standard tip is the most prevalent nib shape.

It produces a consistent line width regardless of the angle of the pen and is suitable for everyday writing.

Italic Tip

An italic nib has a flat tip with sharp edges, resulting in a line that is wider on the downstrokes and thinner on the upstrokes.

Italic nibs are popular for calligraphy and adding flair to handwriting.

Stub Tip

Similar to the italic nib, a stub nib has a flat tip.

However, stub nibs have rounded edges, creating a line that is wider on both downstrokes and cross-strokes.

They provide a unique writing style suitable for decorative handwriting.

Needlepoint/Fine Tip

A needlepoint or fine nib produces a very thin and precise line.

It's excellent for detailed work, but it may require a lighter touch to avoid scratching the paper.

All of our fountain pens feature the german-made Schmidt nibs, available in Extra-Fine, Fine, Medium and Broad sizes. You can find them here.

Fountain Pen Nib Materials

The material from which a fountain pen nib is made significantly influences its performance and durability.

Here are the most common nib materials:

Stainless Steel Nibs

Stainless steel nibs are affordable, durable, and resistant to corrosion.

They are often found in entry-level fountain pens and offer a good writing experience.

Gold Nibs

Gold nibs are highly regarded for their flexibility, responsiveness, and smoothness.

They adapt to the user's writing style over time, resulting in a personalized experience.

Gold nibs are available in various compositions, including 14k and 18k gold.

Titanium Nibs

Titanium nibs are relatively rare but gaining popularity.

They offer a unique combination of flexibility and durability.

Titanium nibs can provide a comfortable writing experience and are less prone to damage than gold nibs.

Other Materials

In addition to stainless steel, gold, and titanium, fountain pen nibs can also be made from materials like palladium, rhodium, or even unconventional substances like ceramic.

These materials offer different characteristics and cater to specific preferences.

Image: Loclen F5 Fountain Pen using a stainless steel Schmidt nib.

Fountain Pen Nib Flexibility

The flexibility of a fountain pen nib refers to its ability to bend and adapt to pressure while writing.

It affects the line variation and the overall feel of writing.

There are three main categories of nib flexibility:

Extra-Flexible Nibs

Extra-flexible nibs can create significant line variation with minimal pressure.

They are highly responsive to the user's hand movements, allowing for expressive and artistic writing.

However, they require a delicate touch and may not be suitable for beginners.

Semi-Flexible Nibs

Semi-flexible nibs offer some line variation, but they require slightly more pressure to achieve it.

They strike a balance between flexibility and control, making them suitable for both everyday writing and calligraphy.

Firm Nibs

Firm nibs provide minimal to no line variation.

They require more pressure to create a line, making them suitable for users who prefer a consistent writing experience without any unexpected line widths.

Western vs. Japanese Fountain Pen Nibs

Fountain pen nibs can vary between Western and Japanese manufacturers in terms of size and performance characteristics.

Understanding these differences can help you choose the right nib for your preferences.

Western Fountain Pen Nibs

Western nibs tend to be broader and offer more line variation compared to Japanese nibs.

They often have a firmer feel and are well-suited for larger handwriting styles and those who prefer a bolder line.

Japanese Fountain Pen Nibs

Japanese nibs are typically finer and produce thinner lines compared to Western nibs of the same size.

They tend to be smoother and offer a more controlled writing experience.

Japanese nibs are favored by those who have smaller handwriting or prefer a finer line width.

Specialty Fountain Pen Nibs

In addition to the standard nib options, there are various specialty nibs available for specific purposes and writing styles.

Here are a few notable examples:

Flex Nibs

Flex nibs are designed to bend significantly under pressure, allowing for beautiful line variation.

They are often used in calligraphy and vintage pen restoration.

Oblique Nibs

Oblique nibs have a unique shape that is slanted or angled.

They are useful for users who hold their pens at a specific angle and want their writing to have a consistent line width.

Music Nibs

Music nibs have three tines and produce multiple parallel lines, similar to a musical score.

They are ideal for calligraphy and creating distinctive writing styles.

Architects Nibs

Architects nibs have a special grind that creates crisp, consistent lines in both horizontal and vertical directions. They are favored by architects and designers for technical drawing and precise writing.

Caring for Your Fountain Pen Nib

Proper care and maintenance are essential for ensuring the longevity and optimal performance of your fountain pen nib.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Regular Cleaning

Regularly flush your fountain pen with water to remove ink residue and prevent clogging.

Use a bulb syringe or a converter to flush the nib and feed thoroughly.

Avoid Abrasive Surfaces

When writing, avoid rough or abrasive surfaces that can scratch or damage the nib.

Stick to smooth, high-quality paper for the best writing experience.

Proper Storage

Store your fountain pen in an upright position to prevent ink from pooling in the nib and feed.

If you won't be using the pen for an extended period, clean it thoroughly and store it in a protective case.

Use Gentle Pressure

When writing with a fountain pen, avoid applying excessive pressure.

Fountain pens are designed to write smoothly with minimal pressure, and pressing too hard can damage the nib.

Choosing the Right Fountain Pen Nib

Selecting the right fountain pen nib depends on your personal preferences, writing style, and intended use.

Here are a few factors to consider:

Writing Style

Consider whether you have large or small handwriting and whether you prefer a fine, medium, or broad line width.

This will help determine the appropriate nib size for your needs.


Decide whether you prefer a nib with flexibility for expressive writing or a firmer nib for consistent line widths.


Choose between stainless steel, gold, titanium, or other nib materials based on factors such as budget, desired writing experience, and durability.

Tip Shape

Consider the tip shape that suits your writing style and preferences. Round tips are versatile, while italic and stub tips provide unique line variations.

Image: Loclen Electa Fountain Pen with medium stainless steel nib.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How often should I clean my fountain pen nib?

It is recommended to clean your fountain pen nib at least once a month, or more frequently if you change ink colors often.

Can I swap nibs between different fountain pens?

In some cases, nibs from the same manufacturer or compatible models can be interchanged. However, it's essential to ensure compatibility and consult the manufacturer's guidelines.

Are gold nibs worth the investment?

Gold nibs offer a luxurious and personalized writing experience. While they can be more expensive than stainless steel nibs, their durability and responsiveness make them a worthwhile investment for many fountain pen enthusiasts.

How do I know which nib size is right for me?

Experimenting with different nib sizes is the best way to determine your preference. Consider starting with a medium nib, which is versatile and suitable for most writing styles.


Understanding fountain pen nibs is essential for selecting the right pen to suit your writing style and preferences.

By familiarizing yourself with nib anatomy, sizes, materials, tip shapes, flexibility, regional differences, specialty options, and care tips, you can make an informed decision when choosing a fountain pen.

Whether you're a seasoned fountain pen enthusiast or a beginner, the right nib can elevate your writing experience and add a touch of elegance to your everyday writing.

Happy pen shopping!

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