Dip Nib And Fountain Pen Sketching – Comparing Steel Nibs And My Lamy Pen

If you have followed my work for a while you might know I love to draw line work with dip nibs. The subtle changes in the line weight give drawings a wonderful dynamic expression that simply can’t be achieved with monoline pens, and whenever possible I use dip nibs for my drawings. But they aren’t very handy for sketching in the field, so I got a Lamy Safari fountain pen a while ago. I have tested it for a few months now, here are my thoughts about both:

Drawing With Dip Nibs

There are many different kinds of pointed nibs available, and I like to switch between a few of my favorites. These include:

  • Leonardt 6H drawing nib: gives a very fine, delicate line. A thin pointy nib that’s a bit scratchy.
  • Brause Cito fein: a nice medium nib without a lot of flexibility. Great for writing and quick drawings.
  • Leonardt 300: A very smooth nib, another great choice for writing and making quick drawings.
  • Nikko Saji-Pen: A wonderfully smooth and slightly flexible nib that’s great for drawing

All of these are pointed nibs that don’t have a lot of flexibility, and while I’m trained in pointed pen and copperplate calligraphy (some of you might remember my old blog where I taught lettering techniques), I rarely use the very flexible nibs that can achieve the dramatic contrasts usually used for these scripts. I still have two boxes full of them, so maybe one day they’ll make a return! These days I actually like to add writing that’s more close to my own handwriting and less stylized. But I do love the subtle changes in line weight that I get when using dip nibs for writing (and drawing).

Drawing With The Lamy Safari – Why Use A Fountain Pen For Sketching?

Lamy fountain pens and me go back a long way. My first pen for learning to write in school was a Lamy, and for years I used to have one of their Safari models to write everything I needed. I used to write in black, and when my pen started to leak and I had black fingers literally all the time, I abandoned writing with fountain pens altogether.

Oh wait – at some point I got as a gift the old Montblanc fountain pen that had belonged to my grandfather. I really enjoyed writing with it (and still do, right now I’m doing my daily journaling with it), but I always tried to keep it in good shape and out of danger, so taking it with me on sketching sessions outside was out of the question.

The great thing about the Lamy models is that they’re fairly inexpensive. I had read a lot about using permanent ink in fountain pens and wanted to try it, since I like the idea of having permanent lines you can work over with watercolor, and the Lamy was often recommended for this. I currently use my fountain pen with Rohrer & Klingner Sketch Ink, an ink that has been formulated to be used in fountain pens while still being waterproof. I use the „Thea“ ink, a beautiful middle grey with a blueish cast. There are other permanent inks that can be used in fountain pens, but I haven’t tried any of them. The R&K Sketch Ink seemed like a good first candidate because it’s not as expensive (ca. 8 Euro for a jar with 50ml).

My Lamy Safari came with a very thin nib (EF) that I quickly replaced (with an F), because I didn’t like the scratchy quality of the very fine nib – this depends on the ink of course, the R&K sketch ink feels quite dry. While I like having a thin line I don’t care for too much scratching – somehow it doesn’t bother me as much when using dip pens, but even with these I tend to use the less scratchy models. So I got a F nib for my Lamy and tested both nibs next to each other. The line weight for me isn’t so dramatically different, but I very much like the improved smoothness when gliding over the page. I should note I mainly noticed the scratching when writing quickly and not so much when sketching, but since I do a fair amount of writing in my nature journal, this was an important factor to me. Both for sketching and for writing the pen gives a wonderful expressive line, and I’m really glad I got it.

What Do I Like Better For Sketching – Dip Nibs Or Fountain Pens?

I wouldn’t say I prefer one over the other, it’s simply a case of different usage. I still like the flexibility of the dip nibs, and the fact that I can use them with any kind of acrylic ink that I have standing around. Acrylic inks and fountain pens don’t mix well, since the ink can dry inside and destroy the fountain pen. So for drawing at my desk and sketches with different ink colors, dip nibs are a great solution.

My Lamy fountain pen is definitely my new go-to tool for sketching in the field, and actually I use it quite frequently at home, too. At this point I’m trying to stick to the one ink I know that works well with the pen, instead of getting different fountain pens and inks. I have already adapted my field kit and kicked out a few of the monoline pens that I had in there. Technical pens have their use, but I’m happy I was able to replace them with my fountain pen for sketching, it seems much more fitting to my personal aesthetic and my style.

I will keep you updated when I try out new things with my fountain pen or get another kind of ink. Do you use fountain pens, either for drawing or for writing? What is your experience with them? Let me know below!

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Pat Barry

Thank you for this post Julia, I’m using a Lamy fountain pen for sketching, but needed an ink that was waterproof and suitable for a fountain pen. I will try out your recommendation


You’re welcome Pat! I hope you can get this ink where you live. As I mentioned, the De Atramentis ink is also used by a lot of fountain pen sketchers!


I’ve recently purchased a second Lamy Safari and R&K sketchInk. My first Lamy has a fine nib which I like. If you press and go slow you can get a thicker darker line with the Thea, which I like. My second Lamy has a medium nib but I haven’t tested it yet. I also have a preppy pen with carbon black waterproof ink cartridge. It’s easy to use, very inexpensive for a starter.


That effect you describe (changing line thickness) is what I love about fountain pens!

Geneen Granger

I have 2 Lamys I bought a few years for sketching (as recommended by Liz Steele), using the refillable cartridges with De Atramentis permanent document ink. This ink is amazing and comes in many delicious colors. Only trouble is you must keep your pens clean and not let the ink dry out as it is permanent! Just remember to soak pens frequently. Goulet Pens has good prices and the best “how to” videos on fountain pens.

Anna Mac

The two tree sketches are charming.

Linda B

My 3 Lamy safari pens are loaded with gray or black permanent ink. No issues. I have all the various nibs that fit but prefer to draw with the EF & F and write with the larger nibs.


Hi Julia,

Thank you for sharing this information. I have been debating some things about these pens and maybe you can help. My Lamy seems to always dry up — maybe I am not using it often enough? Or it needs to be cleaned? And for your dip pens, what type of paper do you like to use? I love the dip pen the best, but also tend to use rougher paper for watercolor that does not seem to work as well.


I’m really glad I saw this post. I love to sketch but have really only sketched with pencils. I have a couple of fountain pens (a Noodler’s Ahab with a flexible nib that I’ve never used, because I got it for lettering and mostly just use dip pens for that.) The nibs I have for the dip pens are flexible too, so I guess I will need to get some of the nibs you mentioned or a Lamy! Your sketches are lovely.


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