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A Flex Pen For Drawing, And An Ink To Go With?

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Hi all,

I'm still very new to fountain pens and am looking to possibly add something specific to my collection. I have a couple Jinhaos, a couple TWSBI Ecos, an Al-Star, etc., and I love them dearly. However, I'm looking to upgrade a little bit (possibly a lot bit!) in terms of a flex pen for drawing and illustration.

I am an illustrator both by passion and by trade, and I do a little of everything: graphic design, comics and graphic novels, pen-and-ink illustrations, watercolor painting, and colored pencil pieces. My first and main love, though, is pen and ink. I have used techpens (essentially very nice fine point markers), dip pens with India ink, and even Sharpie markers. I just love the stark, striking look of black ink on plain paper.

Currently my combination of choice is a Nikko G-pen nib in a regular Speedball nib holder (or my Tachikawa nib holder when I can find it!), with a bottle of Dr PH Martin's Black Star India Ink. (Just to give an idea of my baseline.) Very flexible nib, and a very dark, very striking black India ink.

So anyway, once I got more than 5 minutes into the fountain pen hobby, I realized "oh wow there are flex- and soft-nib pens! And there are people who draw with flex pens! I WANT TO DO THAT." My main complaint with bottled india ink is just that I have to re-dip every few seconds, and it always feels like it's taking for-freakin-ever due to that. I love that with my fountain pens I can replace the ink at will, and can keep using one pen for a long time, but I don't have to dip them.

My question (yes, we're finally getting to the question) is: What are some good combinations of bulletproof or semi-bulletproof inks, and flex-nib pens? (And yes, I know not to put india ink in a fountain pen.)

I am looking for essentially 2 sets: one to start with to experiment with and see if it even works for me, that should be under $50; and then possibly a much nicer pen and ink combination (upwards of $200 if necessary) that would last a lifetime, if the first combo works for me.

My criteria for the ideal pen/ink combos:

- Ink should be black, and bulletproof/waterproof, to some extent, at least much more bulletproof than the average non-bulletproof, very-water-soluble fountain pen ink.

- Pen should be at least somewhat comfortable and have a piston or piston-converter system. (I just hate squeeze cons)

- Affordable, at least the first one. (looking to hopefully spend less than $50 on that initial "experiment" but am willing to consider a lot more for the following one)

Size, ink capacity, style, etc., are all pretty open - I'm not going to be picky about the initial experiment because it's not the end goal, just a test run, essentially.

I have a specific question too: Is is unwise to use pigment ink (ie Platinum's Carbon Black) in flex pens? What about if I clean it diligently every week? (Again: I know not to use india ink in a fountain pen. I'm talking about superfine pigment ink designed for fountain pens.) Even more specifically, I am currently looking at testing out this whole fountain-pen-and-ink-for-art thing with a Noodler's Ahab flex pen and trying it with Platinum's Carbon Black. Is that a terrible combination? Basically, is that pen any more or less likely to have trouble with Carbon Black than any other? Even for under $50, I don't want to ruin a pen needlessly.

Thanks in advance for any advice anyone has.


Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. (Winston Churchill)

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  • SoulSamurai


  • celf03


  • sidthecat


  • Maurizio


Hmm, you could try the Desiderata pens - they are eyedropper-filled pens that take Zebra G nibs, but have a fountain pen-like feed, so you can draw or write continuously without re-dipping. Here's one review I found that talks about it from a cartoonist's perspective.


They exceed your budget a little, however the most affordable lines usually run in the $80~100 range.


Another downside to them is that you cannot use other types of dip nibs - only G nibs will fit. No crowquills nor Brause EF66 nor Blue Pumpkins allowed, alas.


Noodler's Black works well with them, and so does Platinum Carbon Black. Both those fountain pen inks are waterproof.

Edited by KLscribbler
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FPR has affordable pens with steel flex nibs; these traditionally take a lot of pressure to flex, but they now have an option to modify their flex nibs for easier flex. This is probably the easiest way to start with flexible nibbed fountain pens. The FPR Himalaya (#5 nib I think) and Triveni (#6 nib) are nice pens available in ebonites and colourful acrylics for less than $40 (maybe around 5 with the improved flex mod) I believe.


Some pens that take #6 nibs can apparantly be used with some types of disposable dip nibs; I've heard of using Manga G nibs in Noodlers Ahabs and Jinhao x750s. Not sure if you need to reshape the nib a bit to get it to fit. I recommend the ebonite Konrad over the Ahab though, if you go for a Noodler's pen: Ahabs are made from a "vegetal resin" that, while environmentally friendly, seems to be terrible at stopping pens from drying out (also it has a strong smell, though that fades over time). Plus the Konrad is a piston filler. Make sure you get the ebonite or acrylic version (around $40), as the cheaper version of the Konrad uses the same resin as the Ahab.


Desiderata has some nice pens that take dip nibs but I believe they start around $70 or 80.

Edited by SoulSamurai
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I found the best drawing pen in a Wahl-Eversharp Doric with a busted Adjustable nib. Its vintage and scarce, but worth lurking on eBay for however long it takes.

The nib without its slider is relatively inexpensive, and because its a fountain-pen nib its sturdier than a dip nib. Its also paintbrush-flexible, and a joy to use.

A lot of vintage pens have flexible nibs, and are also very suitable for drawing - Ive also put old gold dip nibs into fountain pens and theyre wonderfully flexible, but the Wahl nib is unique in that a flawed one is more useful (and cheaper) than an intact one.


All that said, if you want to use India ink or any type of permanent stuff Id stick with the dip pens. The 19th-Century gold nibs can be wonderfully flexible, and they dont corrode.

Edited by sidthecat
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I've also long thought about Platinum carbon black and the matching desk pen for this purpose, before I got into fountain pens for writing, and fretted about the damage it might possibly cause. I never actually got around to trying it. However...


My main complaint with bottled india ink is just that I have to re-dip every few seconds, and it always feels like it's taking for-freakin-ever due to that. I love that with my fountain pens I can replace the ink at will, and can keep using one pen for a long time, but I don't have to dip them.


(And yes, I know not to put india ink in a fountain pen.)


This is exactly why I leapt at the Noodler's safety pen, when it turned up in the UK. Emptied some PH Martin's bombay black in it and had fun with the original creaper-style nib, then stuck in a flexy Leonardt #700 dip nib and things went even better. Although the problem was that the curve of the nib didn't fit the feed well, which eventually resulted in a lot of skipping and hard starts.

I could have tried heat-setting the feed, but it's something I've not done before and I was a little intimidated by it. Instead it prompted me to order a Zebra G nib, which seems like it might better fit the feed, and... that's where things still lie. I got distracted by felt-tipped fude pens for a while.


Actually, I haven't even used the pen in weeks. It still has some (slightly diluted) india ink in it. I just tried it there now, expecting a crusty black horror, but everything's still wet and flowing well. Still, a cleanout probably wouldn't hurt...


I'm not a professional artist or illustrator, just an interested amateur; although I've tried my hand at a few different methods of pen & ink drawing and inking, for what it's worth. I also don't know if the Noodler's safety pen is still available (though other vintage models turn up in the usual places) but I'd put my humble recommendation towards it.


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I dont use permant carbon inks in my fountain pens becasue I dont want to have to remember to flush and maintain them.

Steve Light, who uses fps for his illustrations does. You might google him.

For me thenmost important thing is for anpens flow to keep up with my rapid hand. I have a stable of pens that do that and are reliable (dont skip dont dry out) .

Desiderata might be the pen for your purpose- follow them and somethimes there are sales on some models.

Good luck!

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if you want it to draw, desiderata with a G nib.


Alternatively, find a flexible waterman #2 nib and put it in a noodlers safety pen.

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)

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I do not believe there is any decently functional flex pen at around $50.00. Maybe someone will weigh in here and demonstrate I am wrong but I will be surprised. I believe you will be disappointed with an Ahab. I love Noodlers and buy lots of his ink (kudos to you Mr. Tardiff for being a creative, innovative American entrepreneur), but Noodlers pens are designed to be tinkered with before you can coax any acceptable performance from them. If you like to tinker you may be able to get an Ahab to work for you. If so, there are several posts on FPN which descibe what and how to.


I am not a flex pen expert by any means and do not own any vintage pen but I think sidthecat may be right that, ultimately, a vintage pen may be the way to go.


In the interim I think your best option would be a Pilot Falcon nib or a Pilot FA nib. These are different with the FA having side cut outs on the nib which alllow for more flex. I do not own one yet but plan to get soon. From reading various comments here about the FA, many like the nib but some also feel it is too scratchy for any normal writing. That may be so, but if your intent is to have a sketch pen, any scratchiness for writing may not matter to you.


Come on FA nib owners, weigh in here.


I am a fledgling pen and ink sketcher and I do own a Pilot Falcon (not FA) nib in fine. This is a nice nib and does flex a little but not a lot. Not flexed it writes a line around .5 - .6 mm depending on ink and paper. Flexing, it can go up to perhaps 1.1 or 1.2 without railroading. I like it but do not expect flex like a disposable dip nib like a Nikko.


Your best option, if you are lucky enough to have access to a brick and mortar shop, is to go in and try both the FA and the Falcon nib and see which one - if any - suits you best.


Re inks: there are many choices and you are aware of some. Platinum Carbon Black and Sailor Kiwa-Guru are both nano-particle inks and permanent and safe to use in fountain pens, though I believe it is prudent to flush your pen if you are planning to let it idle for more than a day.

Noodlers of course makes several excellent permanent black inks which cost less than the Japanese nano inks. I use and enjoy Noodlers Black and Noodlers Old Manhattan Black but there are many other Noodlers blacks to try as well as many Noodlers colors which are also permanent.

Edited by Maurizio

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All dip pens require frequent dipping. One can however take some pure beeswax and put it underneath the nib, then cut combs/rills in it.


Higgans and Wayne & Newton are dip pen inks...........I'm sure they have a black and are not so dangerous as India Ink.....none are to be used in a fountain pen.

Noodlers has quite a few black hole black inks. (I'm not into black ink, nor anti-counterfeit inks. We use bank wire in the EU, not checks)


I have nothing against the Ahab............once one has the 'Ahab Mod' done to it.

Unmodified, it is a semi-flex pressure superflex, and in superflex that is very hard. (Superflex being more than 3 X tine spread, and with ease.)

Between semi-flex and superflex lies maxi-semi-flex....which is of no importance to you. Just to show that the mod, will jump that nib two stages to Easy Full Flex, the first stage of superflex in fountain pens. (The nib goes from a pain to use to fun.....)

That is under a wet noodle........................there are so, so many different dip pen nibs....that even the middle of the flex range is much more flexible than a superflex wet noodle fountain pen.


The Zebra G....is not from what I've read all that flexible as a dip pen nib. Is more than most fountain pens though.



But do think about the beeswax feed.


I believe from my reading, that a Pilot FA nib, is only a good semi-flex nib....which is a long way from a superflex. That is semi-flex....but many see only the flex in the word....semi=almost, and in this case almost is quite far away from superflex.

The a Pilot FA nib, may be the only semi-flex nib now made.........but I have a whole slew of stubbed German Vintage semi-flex, so have no need for it.

Edited by Bo Bo Olson

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany & https://www.peter-bo...cts/nib-systems,


The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.



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I have a handful of pens that fit your description. They took years of chasing to find, pursued through many many disappointments, and not one was in your price range. They are all vintage pens and I would not put permanent ink in any of them. I don't even put high-saturation-dye inks in them. In fact I just bought my first modern pen, specifically to put permanent ink into. It is not a flex nib.


That there is your problem: true flex hit its heyday in maybe the 1920's, as the technology of fountain pens and the common craft of beautiful writing with a flexible nib only intersected for a few short decades. After that, true flex (as opposed to all the weasel words of "soft", "semi-flex", "flexy" etc.) became more and more difficult to find as there was a steadily diminishing demand for it. That demand is now vanishingly small. I have never heard of any modern pen having a usable, true full flex nib.


I find the semi-flex or soft nibs to be much more pleasant writers than the typical "nail" of modern nibs, and have a couple of those, but they are not what you are asking about; you cannot do much besides slightly vary the width of the line.


Practically speaking, you will have to give up something. You could give up flex, give up price point, give up permanent ink, or give up a fillable pen. If it was me? I would give up the fillable pen part. Then you could have inexpensive flex with permanent ink. If you went with fillable pen, you would have to give up the other three (the price point is so variable with vintage you could luck out and find a 1920's super wet noodle that the seller was unaware of the value of, but don't bet on it).

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Noodler's Boston safety pen is a good advice ,I mod the nib of mine by filing two half-moons to get more flex, and I use the pen with indian ink,or acrylic ink, sumi ink ,as the retracted nib is bathing in the ink contained in the barrel you will not have any clogging.

You could try the Ackerman pump pen which is in your price range and accepts a wide range of dip nibs, works with any ink, but is a bit finnicky and leaks when transported

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others had already inform regarding the nibs but I would add hat FPR ( Fountain Pen Revolution ) had both their flex and ultra flex nib and I've found them affordable and functional. Now regarding inks, the best black ink for this I would say is any of the many Carbon ink , including but not exclusively Pelikan , Platinum, Hero ( 234 ). Then while they are not black , they turn black ... there's the good old Iron Gall Blue Black ink , they flow nicer and wetter than the like of Calligrahy . india / Carbon ink but they might or might not be OK for your need, try before deciding , make some purchase of ink sampler to see if they fit yours.

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I also like to draw with fountain pens and have been searching for the perfect drawing fountain pen. And I think I've found it. I currently use a Pilot Falcon with a soft extra fine nib. I pair that with Noodler's Black. Platinum Carbon is ok, but it dries shiny, which I don't like.


I've tried the Noodler's Ahab and didn't like it. It requires too much pressure to flex and doesn't produce a thin enough line for my style of drawing. Jinhao 750 + G-nib, didn't like it. The ink flow is too finicky and requires too much maintenance.


I'd say Pilot Falcon is your best bet. And I'd suggest the metal body as it can hold the larger converter, which helps when drawing a lot.

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I think I've heard that the Pilot Falcon nib is designed to allow you to use the back of the nib (not the tip, the whole nib) to smear ink over a large area, for artistic use?

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I think I've heard that the Pilot Falcon nib is designed to allow you to use the back of the nib (not the tip, the whole nib) to smear ink over a large area, for artistic use?


I think most nibs will do that (if you're talking about basically painting with the slit on the top of the nib). I haven't found that the Falcon is any better at it because of its shape. I believe it's just shaped like that to have additional flex.

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I think most nibs will do that (if you're talking about basically painting with the slit on the top of the nib). I haven't found that the Falcon is any better at it because of its shape. I believe it's just shaped like that to have additional flex.



I think that the nib on an average fountain is angled in such a way that it's hard to lay the top of the nib against the paper (unless it's like the edge of a sheet or something), while the Falcon nib is raised and angled so that it's possible?

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Yeah, and I love to use that feature to boldly mark important passages. The stroke you get with the upturned Falcon's nib is around 7-10 mm wide.


It is a weird pet peeve of mine to find an ink that is both dark enough to be legible with my soft extra fine nib and light enough to serve as a kind of highlighter ink when I run it over sth. already written.

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I think that the nib on an average fountain is angled in such a way that it's hard to lay the top of the nib against the paper (unless it's like the edge of a sheet or something), while the Falcon nib is raised and angled so that it's possible?


That's true. You're right about the angle difference. I guess I always just used a brush when wanting to fill in large swaths of color. But I can see where that'd be useful as @JulieParadise describes it.

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  • 10 months later...

Im very happy with my Osprey pen. Its affordable and used the Zebra G bib as well. Ive used several brands that use this nib, but all of them seem to have flow issues. The feed is good on this pen and isnt as temperamental with inks like other brands. I highly recommend you check them out. The have an Instagram page (how I first found them). Osprey pens. Its worth it to at least check them out.

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Let me cut to the chase. How many Millimeter wide do you want your pen to flex? How will your lines be at full flex. A lot of modern pens have trouble delivering a wide line through the factory stock Feed, and will leave a decent width line... for a short distance. Vintage flex pens are simply hard to beat (stock), versus new pens (stock). I have seen custom ground modern nibs (non-stock), with upgraded feeds (non-stock), which can go toe to toe with vintage pens, but you have to know what you are selecting and why.

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