Can Fountain Pens Write Upside Down?

The answer to this fountain pen question depends on what is meant by “upside down.” Most fountain pens will write even if you flip the nib over so the engraved side faces the paper. The lines will be much thinner, but the ink will still flow. However, it can’t write if the entire pen is held upside down.

A fountain pen can write if the nib is reversed, so the back of it is facing the paper. However, if the paper is held above the pen so that the nib is pointing against the direction of gravity towards the ceiling, a fountain pen cannot write in this position. The ink can only flow down, not upwards.

Using a fountain pen with the nib reversed is not the best way to use it because you could damage the nib by putting too much pressure on it. It also does not make for the pleasurable writing experience most people are seeking from a fountain pen. Using it with the nib reversed can feel scratchy and tight on the ink.

How The Ink Flows in a Fountain Pen


Fountain pens use the power of gravity and capillary action in the nib to draw ink down from the reservoir or cartridge and onto the paper. Ideally, you should hold the pen with the nib above the ink feed at about 45 degrees to the paper. The tines of the nib should both rest evenly on the writing surface for the best results.

Many fountain pens need a lot less pressure to put ink to paper than gel or ballpoint pens. With some of them, you only need to touch the pen to the paper lightly. If you push down too hard, you will score the paper’s surface, and the ink may not come out at all. Some people have described the ink flow in a fountain pen as a controlled leak.

The feed of a fountain pen connects the nib to the ink reservoir. It usually consists of a plastic tube with three thin channels running down the inside. It allows the ink to flow smoothly through the nib. It also regulates the air that flows back up to the reservoir to replace the ink that has left it. The feed is designed to allow ink to flow when the nib is pressed to paper but not when the pen is not in use.

Feeds are essential to prevent the ink from leaking or dripping out in an uncontrolled manner. But for the feed, the ink would emerge jerkily like the glugging from a water bottle.  They often have little fin-like structures to buffer the ink, catching and temporarily holding the overflow when the pen is not in use.  These grooved structures are visible underneath the nib and are sometimes called the collector.

The Best Way To Hold A Fountain Pen

The best way to hold a fountain pen is facing downwards, with the bottom of the nib against the paper. Fountain pens have a sweet spot that is located by finding the best angle to hold the pen when you write. At the perfect angle, only slight pressure on the nib will cause the ink to flow. Using the pen at the correct angle lifts the nib slightly and eliminates the vacuum between the reservoir and the feed.

Often, when children are first taught to write using a pencil, it is positioned between the first joint, where the index finger meets the hand, and the thumb, completely enclosing it. The tip of the index finger is placed on top of the pencil, with the other fingers supporting it. This is called a standard tripod grip.

While it helps to steady small and inexperienced hands engaged in the difficult art of learning to write, it is not a suitable grip for a fountain pen. Unfortunately, many people go throughout their lives holding pens and pencils in this way even though they learned to write a long time ago.

When using a fountain pen, you should hold it between your index finger’s top pad and the thumb’s top pad in a pincer-type grip. The remaining fingers behind the index finger help to support the barrel. When you place your hand on the paper or a writing surface, the pen will form a 45-degree angle to it.

When gripping a fountain pen, your fingers should not be too close to the nib.  Many people write with ballpoints and pencils with their fingers only a few millimeters from the tip. With a fountain pen, It is better to position them closer to the center of the pen near where you unscrew the barrel.

The idea is not to control the pen but to guide it along the writing surface. Your grip should be more relaxed than with a pencil or ballpoint if you want to develop your penmanship to an art. If you haven’t used a fountain pen previously, it will take a little practice before you become accustomed to holding it correctly, but it is well worth it when you see how beautifully a fountain pen can write.

The nib should be pulled along the paper, not pushed. Pushing the nib along the writing surface will inhibit the ink flow, and it won’t write smoothly and freely. If you use the nib upside down, the ink will not flow too well, and the pen will feel scratchy.

The Design of Fountain Pens and Nibs

Fountain pen nibs are designed to flex when pressure is applied to the tines. When you use them upside down, they bend in the opposite direction to what the designer intended, if they flex at all. This can damage the pen.

Many of the fancier pens use nibs made of eighteen-carat gold because it is said that it flexes better than other metals. However, the nib’s dimensions and the thickness of the metal used to make all play a role in how well it works. If steel is thin enough, it can also demonstrate the necessary flexibility required in a nib and will work just as well as gold.

If a steel nib and a gold nib have identical dimensions, the gold nib will be twice as flexible as the steel one. Therefore, to create a steel nib that is as flexible as a gold one, the steel should be twenty percent thinner. Of course, for the fountain pen fanatic, a gold nib has far more aesthetic appeal than a steel one.

A good fountain pen is precision-engineered to give you the best possible writing experience and is an item of beauty in its own right. It is designed to balance well in your hand, and the nib is meant to glide smoothly across the paper. It can become a cherished family heirloom if properly used and cared for. This is another reason to use it the way it was intended.

There is a wide variety of nib shapes and sizes to choose from to suit your particular handwriting style. This means that you can customize your fountain pen to suit your hand. You don’t have this option with ballpoint and roller balls. The nib’s tip is shaped to create different kinds of lines, such as those used in italics or calligraphy. You won’t get the intended effects from these nibs if you use them upside down.

Broad nibs have a thicker ink flow than narrow ones and can make your writing look bolder. Thin nibs are more suitable for people with a small compact writing style and can be used on a broader range of paper types without blotting. If you want to make a bold statement, like signing your carefully crafted signature with a flourish, nothing beats a broad-nibbed fountain pen.


A fountain pen can write with the nib reversed, but this is not recommended. If you try to write with a fountain pen on a piece of paper positioned above it rather than underneath it, it won’t work. Holding it in this position reverses the flow of ink away from the nib. For example, if you are lying in bed and holding the paper above your face, a fountain pen can’t write on it.

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