Sustainable Ink: Fountain Pens for Artists

I draw a lot in ink. And when I say a lot, I mean that during my peak drawing period I was going through about five Faber-Castell pens per week. At nearly $5 per pen that was really hurting my wallet and I realized I was very unhappy with generating so much plastic waste every week as well. When I write or draw with pencil I always use mechanical pencils that are refillable, but did something comparable to that exist for pens?

I started my search by looking up refillable pens on Amazon and quickly realized that fountain pens still existed. My image of fountain pens had been that they only really had one nib type and they always wrote in a calligraphy style: something I couldn’t use to draw with. But I started reading blogs about drawing with fountain pens and quickly realized that this wasn’t true and fountain pens were the ecologically friendly alternative that I had been looking for.

There are a wide variety of fountain pens both modern and vintage and an even wider array of inks available. The two most recommended starter fountain pens were the Lamy Safari and the Pilot Metropolitan. Both have extremely fine nib options (which I needed for drawing) that are not flex nibs (which are necessary for calligraphy) and you can either use a syringe to refill their initial ink cartridges or you can just buy the cheaply available converters which you can fill with whatever ink you want.

I definitely wanted to refill my own ink from a bottle instead of always needing to buy new cartridges (and having to throw away old ones) so I bought a Pilot Metro and it’s corresponding CON-50 refillable converter. I also researched which kind of black ink that would best suit my needs and decided on Sailor Kiwa-Guro Pigmented Black Ink. In total my first fountain pen set purchase cost me a little less than $40! It has been 10 months since that purchase and I still have about 10ml of ink left (out of originally 50ml). Considering how long it’s been since I’ve needed to buy a new pen/new ink, I saved money after about the 2nd week, not to mention haven’t had to throw any more pens away! Assuming going through even just two pens per week that would have been 80 pens and around $400 in this timeframe. That’s a savings of $360 and 79 pens, and I haven’t even gone through all of my ink yet!

For the average person who rarely uses pens a fountain pen probably would not save them any money or cut down on their ecological footprint. However for artists like me who draw primarily in pen, needs good quality ink, and use a lot of ink in a short amount of time, I think switching to refillable fountain pens not only saves money but is also the more eco friendly route.