How to Find the Right Nib for your Handwriting Style (2023)

For beginner and intermediate fountain pen users, finding the right nib size can be a daunting (and expensive) journey. Lacking the ability to test an array of nibs before buying a fountain pen, we have to rely on reviews and feedback from people who may not have the same handwriting style.

Getting a nib size that isn't suitable for your handwriting can lead to a disappointing experience, shipping the pen back and/or spending money to get the nib modified by a nib specialist. The following primer is meant to increase the potential satisfaction for someone who is looking for their ideal nib size.

How to Find the Right Nib for your Handwriting Style (1)

The "right" nib size is a decision of both form and function. As an artist may select an array of brushes that suit a certain painting style, the writer has the same ability in the choice of their pen nib.

Finding the perfect nib doesn't rely solely on empirical measurement but still can be gauged by a set of criteria based on your handwriting preferences.

When looking at the nib size options below, first ask yourself the following questions:

  • How large is my handwriting? Is it big and bold or small and neat?
  • How quickly do I write? More methodical and deliberate or loose and fast?
  • Do I prefer butter smooth or writing with feedback?
  • Is dry time a concern?
  • Do I savor seeing the ink shading/sheen/shimmer on the page?

Extra Fine

The size zero of fountain pen nibs, Extra-Fine tends to be a size that is best suited for those who write small and neatly. The tipping (usually an iridium ball) is so small and delicate that it may cause some writers to experience a scratchy feel. Ink flow tends to be on the stingier side, so don't expect to see beautiful pools of shading and sheen in the ink that is laid on the page. On the other hand, less ink on the page makes is quicker to dry and less prone to smearing.

Best suited for: Technical, precise and deliberate writers. Those who are switching over from using 0.3mm tip gel pens or needlepoint tip pens.

Not suited for: Writers with large and quick handwriting. People who love seeing the sheen, shading, and shimmering qualities of some inks.

Neatness: 5/5 (Neatest)
Writing Speed: 2/5 (Slow)
Smoothness: 2/5 (Toothy)
Dry Time: 5/5 (Quickest)


Generally, most fountain pens are usually available in fine or medium point. These points are common in most brands of pens. However, not all fine points (or other nibs) are made equal. There isn't any standard to say that they must produce at least a 0.7mm line (for example). As a rule of thumb, most are usually between a 0.30mm and a 0.45mm line, with the Eastern (Japanese) nibs being on the finer end and the Western (Italian, & German) nibs being on the thicker end. Going with a fine point is still better suited for smaller, more deliberate handwriting styles.

Best suited for: General purpose writing, favoring those who have small, neat handwriting.

Not suited for: People who want to show off the color of their inks. Those looking for a calligraphic flair to their letters.

Neatness: 4/5 (Neat)
Writing Speed: 3/5 (Moderate)
Smoothness: 3/5 (Smooth)
Dry Time: 4/5 (Quick)


The default nib for most fountain pen models, the "medium" point size might be the only option in certain pen designs. It's the "middle of the road" - not too thick where smearing and bleedthrough might be a concern. It is also not prone to more feedback (A.K.A. scratchiness) like the finer sizes would be. Paper quality should be more of a concern with this size and larger, as the higher flow of ink on the page may cause feathering, bleedthrough, and show through on cheaper papers. Similarly to the fine point, some translation is needed between Eastern and Western sizing. (Generally, a Western medium nib is more like an Eastern broad nib. An Eastern medium behaves like a Western fine nib.)

Best suited for: General purpose writing, signatures.

Not suited for: Writing on cheaper quality paper, smaller handwriting.

Neatness: 3/5 (Average)
Writing Speed: 3/5 (Moderate)
Smoothness: 4/5 (Smoother)
Dry Time: 3/5 (Average)


Now, we're dipping our toe into the deep end of the wet and wild. Most broad nibs lay down more ink and will keep up with quick, gestural handwriting. An ink's shading, sheen, and shimmer (if applicable) are more evident when using a broad (or larger) nib size. The tradeoff is that you need to use fountain pen friendly paper to handle the volume of ink. Even with higher quality paper, increased dry time will be a concern, especially for left-handed writers.

Best suited for: Quick signatures, letter writing, journaling. Writers who enjoy the fine qualities of their ink on paper.

Not suited for: Small note-takers, cheap (or recycled) paper, those who like quicker dry times.

Neatness: 2/5 (Gestural)
Writing Speed: 4/5 (Quick)
Smoothness: 5/5 (Smoothest)
Dry Time: 2/5 (Slow)

Stub / Calligraphy Nib

The defining characteristic of a stub nib is its shape. Instead of having a round ball of tipping material to create a monoline, the rectangular shape of the stub nib provides a broader vertical downstroke and a thin horizontal one. The purpose is to add a calligraphic flair to your handwriting. The degree of line variation will depend on how well the edges of the stub are polished. A highly rounded stub may not provide much line variation but will be smoother than a sharper stub nib that produces more dramatic line variation. These can be adjusted and fine-tuned by an experienced nib tinkerer. Much like a broad nib, you can expect to see more depth of ink on the page with higher dry times.

Best suited for: Aspiring calligraphers, adding a touch of flair to your everyday writing. Those who love seeing the depth of their ink on paper.

Not suited for: Small note-takers, cheap (or recycled) paper, those who like quicker dry times.

Neatness: 2/5 (Gestural)
Writing Speed: 3/5 (Moderate)
Smoothness: 3/5 (Smooth - Varies)
Dry Time: 1/5 (Slowest)

Flex Nib

Back in the days of old, pointed pen calligraphy or Spencerian penmanship would call for a flexible point that yielded generous line variation with gentle finger pressure applied evenly to the tines. In the golden age of what we refer to now as "vintage," flexible fountain pen nibs were much more common and refined to be more responsive and flexible. By older standards, today's modern "flex" nib is comparatively semi-flexible, providing some degree of line variation, but by no means, a "wet noodle" like you would find with certain vintage pens. Writing with a flex nib takes some practice to do correctly and there is a good chance that a newbie will push it too far and break the nib. Think of flex like driving a stickshift car. For those who have the patience to learn and enjoy the fine control, there's nothing quite like it.

Best suited for: Calligraphy, embellished signatures, other general purpose writing (when not using the flex).

Not suited for: People new to using fountain pens, cheap copy papers

Neatness: 2/5 (Gestural)
Writing Speed: 2/5 (Slow)
Smoothness: 2/5 (Some feedback - varies)
Dry Time: 2/5 (Slow when flexing)

To get an idea of the line width each of these nibs sizes is capable of, please refer to this chart below. We obtained these measurements by using a pair of digital calipers to measure the lines produced by a German-made Jowo #6 size stainless steel nib.

Nib Size Width of Downstroke Width of Cross stroke

Extra Fine

0.30 mm

0.30 mm


0.35 mm

0.35 mm


0.50 mm

0.50 mm


0.55 mm

0.55 mm

1.1mm Stub

0.75 mm

0.40 mm

Best nib sizes for beginners

While a flex nib may seem really old-school and fancy, it is not a nib we recommend for beginners. Fountain pen "newbies" should aim for a size that will feel comfortable and accommodate their present handwriting style. Writing with a fountain pen is drastically different than using a ballpoint pen, marker, or gel pen. It's different in a delightful way. Yet, it will take some getting used to, especially if you choose a nib size that is far outside of your usual writing style.

Use the nib size chart above to reference the line weight of each nib size. Always remember that Japanese (particularly Sailor and Platinum) fountain pen nibs tend to run a size thinner than their European counterparts. If possible, measure the line width of the pens you presently use. Many of the ballpoint and gel pens available at office supply stores will often note the tip size on the package. We recommend a new fountain pen user should find a nib that lays down a similar line to how they already write.

We suggest this for a couple of reasons. First, it won't force the writer to write larger/smaller than they're used to. As a drastic example, imagine writing with a Pilot G-Tec C hyper fine point (0.25mm) pen and then switching to a broad point fountain pen capable of laying down a line that is more than twice as thick. Instead of being able to write small and neatly, the letters will look like blobs on the page.

Secondly, paper makes a huge difference in writing with fountain pens. Writers new to the inky fun of fountain pens might not have suitable paper to handle the liquid ink flow. Selecting a nib size that is similar to the line weight to your current ballpoint, rollerball, and gel pens should work well with the paper you are currently using. However, a fountain pen with the same line width might still show through or feather on some papers due to the saturated ink. So, you may result in upgrading your paper to accommodate your fountain pens anyway.

While you consider the ideal nib size on your first fountain pen, just remember: don't overthink it. Use the knowledge in this article and jump right in. Some fountain pens, like the Lamy Safari, have interchangeable nibs. So, you're not married to your first choice of nib size. There are also nib specialists (commonly referred to as "nib meisters") that can perform specialty grinds and adjust nibs to write in the certain way you prefer. Of course, such a service comes at an additional expense. Yet, it will yield a tailor-made writing experience.

Other specialty nibs

Depending on how far down the rabbit hole you are, you may be asking about the other nib types you may have heard of - "King Eagle," "Needlepoint," "cursive italic," "oblique," "zoom," and so forth. As this article is written for the novice or intermediate pen user still navigating their way through the standard set of nib options, we'll table specialty nibs for another time.

If it is available to you in your area, ask around for when the nearest pen show is coming to town. Since there is a lack of pen or stationery shops that will let you try different point sizes, an organized pen show is one of the best ways you can experience all the nib types first hand. Always remember to ask first!

Another great way to experience different pens and nibs is to be part of a local pen club. Ask around on a website forum like Fountain Pen Network or FP Geeks to see if there are interested pen people willing to meet up near you. Everyone brings their pens, geeks out and has a great time. There, you may just find your new favorite pen and nib to write with.

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