Using Fountain Pens and Calligraphy Pens as Highlighters
The ultimate in environmentally friendly highlighting tools are fountain pens or calligraphy pens that can be used for years and years without ever wearing out. The felt tips on regular highlighters wear out quickly compared to a steel or gold fountain pen nib that can last a lifetime. I decided to give a few pens and inks a try to see what the experience was like and found that all of them were quite different.
First of all, I tried out the Pilot Parallel Pen with the 3.8mm nib and Noodler's regular yellow ink. This nib was the widest nib that I tried and could produce a line that entirely covered words from top to bottom. The corners of the nib have defined 90 degree angles so my highlights had nice crisp edges. However, this feature plus the width of the nib slowed down my writing since the pen needs to be held properly in order to function well. The nib had a nice wet flow and words could be seen clearly through the Noodler's yellow ink. This pen worked well as a highlighter, but I prefer a highlighter with a narrower tip.
Next I tried a couple of Pelikan Script calligraphy pens with 2.0mm nibs, Noodler's Sunrise ink and Edelstein Mandarin ink. The nib on the Script pen had noticeably more flex to it than the other nibs I tried and I liked this feature, but one of the nibs also seemed to be a bit fussy because of the flex. The other nib was like butter. The corners of the nib are slightly less defined than the Pilot Parallel pen and produce a line with crisp edges. I really like the width of the 2.0mm nib for highlighting. The Sunrise ink worked well as highlighting ink, but depending on the paper the Mandarin ink was a bit dark for my taste.
Finally, I put a 1.9mm nib on my LAMY Safari and filled it with J. Herbin Bouton D'or. The corners of this nib are slightly more rounded than the corners of all the calligraphy nibs I used in this experiment, it was the most forgiving as to writing position and I could write the fastest with this nib. It also produced the narrowest line of all the nibs in this experiment. I felt that this line width could be used either for underlining or for highlighting if you don’t mind a thinner line. The Bouton D’or was probably my favorite of the inks discussed in this blog post.
The new Pelikan M205 Duo highlighter fountain pen takes another approach to highlighting and it is the topic of last week's blog post. It has a BB nib, different than the other pens discussed here with calligraphy nibs. Pelikan has come out with a yellow highlighter ink to complement this pen.
I found that the biggest drawback to using fountain pens as highlighters is that most of the time I am not highlighting on premium quality paper such as Clairefontaine DCP or Trophee paper. As a result, the ink used to highlight can sometimes bleed through the paper or feather. There are times when this isn’t much of an issue, but in other instances it was rather messy looking and annoying. At least the ink dried quickly on the cheap copier paper and other paper that I used.
Overall, I enjoyed using fountain pens and calligraphy pens as highlighters and will continue to do so. As far as what pen would be the very best for highlighting, I would say since everyone’s needs and preferences are so different to just experiment until you find something you like. Do you have any experience using fountain pens as highlighters? What works best for you?
The following test was done on cheap photocopier paper and the font size is an 11 point Calibri: