The Difference Between Ballpoint Pens and Rollerball Pens

Essential Ink Tips to better Understand your Fountain Pen

Lamy Ink Bottles, J. Herbin Cartridges, Lamy Converters Fountain Pens have 2 main ways of using ink: Cartridges, and Ink-filling systems with built-in converters. In this guide, I will dive into tips and general knowledge that you should know about fountain pen inks and cartridges. After reading, you will be equipped with the knowledge to properly understand your fountain pen, and what type of system you should use.

Fountain Pen Cartridges

Herbin Fountain Pen with Cartridges Cartridge style fountain pens are the most common. The ink cartridge for fountain pens is a small disposable capsule that once out of ink can be disposed of. The main advantages of cartridges are their convenience (easy to use and carry), and their cleanliness (they make less of a mess than regular ink). There are, however, downsides to cartridges. They come in a smaller variety of colors and ink choices; furthermore, ink cartridges are quite small and will hold less ink than the standard bottle. Another downside about ink cartridges is that manufacturers use different style cartridges for different style pens, making it harder for consumers to find cartridges outside of those from the pen manufacturer. While the lack of variability may deter people from buying cartridge-style fountain pens, cartridge-style fountain pens are perfect for beginners who don't want to fuss around with more complex pen-refilling techniques. Also, many companies, such as Lamy (Safari, AL-STAR, LX), sell add-on converters that can replace a cartridge, allowing you to use any ink of your choice. See our video if you would like to know how to change the cartridges. In this video we explain how to change the cartridge for a fountain pen.

Add-On Converters

LAMY AL-Star Fountain Pen with Lamy Ink and Converter Why are add-on converters popular? Simply put, cartridges are too constrained with their colors and styles. Most of the time, you'll have to choose cartridges from the same company as the pen. With ink bottles, you can choose from a wide variety of different colors, scents, and different concentrations. Converters allow you to choose a perfect ink without worrying if it will work with your fountain pen. Traveling around the world and see a beautiful ink bottle that you want to add to your collection? Converters will work with any ink without you worrying about spending money on a product that may not be suitable for your pen.

Ink-Filling Systems with Built-in Converters

TWSBI Fountain Pen with Ink Many pen companies, such as TWSBI have built-in converters in their fountain pens. As a result, you'll be able to choose any ink of your choice, and use the piston-filling system to pump the ink to the nib. Having reviewed the TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen, I was impressed with the whole filling mechanism, especially for its price. Brands like TWSBI are continuously finding ways to allow us to bypass cartridges and pump the ink straight in with cost-effective products. Subsequentially, with fountain pens like TWSBI, you'll be able to choose the perfect ink for you. Lamy also offers a built-in converter in their Lamy 2000 Fountain Pen. While a more expensive option, the piston-filling system is one of the best on the market. The style of built-in converters vary; however, filling up the pen is usually done by dipping the nib into the ink, and using a piston mechanism to draw the ink from the bottle. While the variability of the ink is an advantage, converters do hold disadvantages as well. If you aren't careful, you can easily make a mess, waste ink, and get it all over you.

The Prominence of Fountain Pen Inks

Lamy Ink Bottle with Converter The complexities of using converters can turn away fountain pen novices; however, the constrained variety of cartridges should encourage everybody to at-least try using converters. The world of ink is endless, regions all over the world have different pigments, scents, and types. You can buy a pen in Japan, and find a beautiful ink bottle to pair with it in Argentina. I've had many customers come in with pens they bought in different countries, asking if we had any cartridges that worked with their pen. Owning a converter is a must-have for any pen enthusiast. You simply won't be able to fully discover the world of fountain pens with cartridges. This should not discourage you from staying away from cartridges, as their simplicity is a large advantage; however, I would recommend purchasing fountain pens where you can buy an add-on converter. This would allow you to substitute between converters and cartridges when a certain situation may prohibit you from one option.


In this guide, I explained the difference between fountain pen inks and cartridges; furthermore, I detailed the advantages and disadvantages of using certain ink-styles. While cartridges are perfect for beginners, converters are the pathway to a much more comprehensive world of fountain pens and inks. Shop a wide variety of fountain pens and inks online or in-store at Buchan's Kerrisdale Stationery in Vancouver, Canada.