fountain pens and gel pens - detectable difference?

Greetings to all pen obsessors,

In looking over my own written work, it occured to me, that I can't really tell from the writing on the page between things I wrote with a medium black gel pen, and things I wrote with black ink in my medium nib fountain pen. (I can tell the difference between those and ball points of course.)

For those who have more experience with the two, I'm curious, can you tell the difference in your own writing? Could you look at someone elses writing and say with confidence 'this was written with a fountain pen'? Does it make a difference if it was written with a flexible nib or a stiff one?

Just curious. We talk about the difference in the writing experience, but I wondered about the difference in output.


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I can almost always tell if something was written in FP, unless it's written with an extrafine point. I read someplace (don't remember where) that because of the control you need to have on the FP and because one does not have to press down as one writes, one's writing is going to be better with FP. I can tell you that in my personal observation, for myself and all others I know who use FPs, these statements are true.

"It's better to be a pirate than to join the Navy." -- Steve Jobs

Flexible nibs will show

The wonder of a flexible nib is that it flexes depending on the amount of pressure applied to the nib, creating broader lines where there was more pressure. What some people call "flexible" today is nothing at all compared to flexible vintage nibs, and I think many companies simply lie when they refer to the flexibility of their nibs.

In fact, it's the evenness of width and color that tips me off to which of my writing was done with a G-2 and which was done with a fountain pen. I use blue, so maybe I get more variation in color density than you get with your black ink.

Do you procrastinate?

measure of flexibility?

While I was researching different nib widths, I came across Richard Bender's graph showing nib widths. ( This helped me a lot in trying to quantify what nib width I was looking for. Is there any such standard of flexibility/firmness out there?

I suspect that the Tasche pen I use is a firm nib, and perhaps that too contributes to the similarity of my writing whether I'm using an fp or gp.


You want flexible ? Try a copperplate nib !

Like this

Is there such a thing as a copperplate nib for a fountain pen ?
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

I guess I was thinking

of some kind of measurable flex standard. eg at X lbs pressure, Y degree flex = firm; Y + N = medium flexible; Y + (N+N)= extra flexible

That would take care of the manufacturer's lying about how flexible their nibs are. But I don't know that any such standard exists.

This is all new to me, so it's just a great big experiment.


Ah a great question!
In the world of fine fountain pen, the variation in the line of the script fade and darkens in ink density. This is known as feathering. The inconstancy is more noticeble in the broader nibs. But even the fine nibs is different from the gel pens.

Duc Ly


Feathering is the effect on cheap paper where you have tendrils of ink bleeding out of your lines making your writing look fuzzy and spindly. It's a very undesirable trait and limits the selection of papers that work will with an FP.

The variation in ink density is a desirable effect for most FP users and in any case is most certainly not in any way related to feathering.


Obviously if someone's writing with a stub/italic or a flexible fountain pen nib, it's a dead giveaway. Also if the person uses a distinctive color of ink that I happen to recognize as a certain fountain pen ink.

Sometimes fountain pen ink looks a bit different...will bleed more, or you'll see some spots where the ink's a bit lighter because they were applying less pressure, etc.

Often, though, I can't tell the difference between one liquid ink source and another.

(Was embarrassed once at church because my mom told me a certain member used a fountain pen. I asked him about it the next time I saw him and he gave me a quizzical look and said he didn't. After I questioned my mom later, it turned out she didn't actually see him with a fountain pen in hand--just judged on something he'd written [must've been a rollerball])

I have a difference

From personal experience, I can write with a fountain pen and not leave an impression of your writing on the next page. It took a bit of practice.
If I write that lightly with a gel, I get nothing.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)