So you feel like you’re growing beyond “newbie” status in the fountain pen hobby and wanted to get pens that will get you up to that "next level". But they’re getting a little pricier and it’s tough to know what’s actually worth the money. Keep reading to see 10 of the best next level pens you should consider to step up your fountain pen game.
What is a 'Next Level' Pen?
There's no real formal definition here -- this is totally a subjective term we made up. Next Level fountain pens describe pens that aren't typically bought by a new first-time fountain pen user. They're often a little more expensive than a starter-level fountain pen, but they'll have some more unique features that can be appreciated as you get deeper into the fountain pen hobby.
So if you've already gotten your introductory starter (newbie) fountain pen and want something new that's a bit of a step up, read on!
The Top 10 List
In no particular order....
BENU has a pretty solid line of pens all around that all fall Into this “next level” group. What makes them stand out is their designs and materials. When you see a BENU, it’s like no other pen you’ve ever seen! Most are pretty flashy, very colorful, and hard not to notice.
The Euphoria is our pick here. The hexagonal facets look really nice. The pen posts well, if you like to write posted, but you also don’t have to. They're good writers, with steel #6 size nibs in fine, medium, and broad. They take a standard international cartridge/converter.
The Kaweco Supra is very solid fountain pen – you almost can’t hurt this thing in solid brass or stainless steel! Brass and stainless steel materials are also anti-microbial, which may be important to you. There's also a very cool flame-torched Fireblue version.
One cool thing about the Supra is its flexibility to become pocket size or full size. It has an "extender" piece to make the barrel full-sized, or remove it to keep it pocket-sized. The cap screws securely onto the barrel to make it more of a regular-sized fountain pen. It's a fantastic “fidget” pen with its various parts and configurations. It comes with a good #6 size steel nib that you don’t see on many other Kaweco fountain pens. It will accept a full-length converter, as well as both long and short standard international cartridges.
TWSBI Vac700R & Vac Mini
TWSBI has a pretty extensive lineup now. The vac-fillers are in their upper range but still pretty affordable! The Vac700R is the full-size version, while the Vac Mini has the same features but is a bit shorter. Both have a unique vacuum filling mechanism, with a larger ink chamber than other pens their size. Vac fillers are ideal for transport, as the ink chamber seals off when completely closed, preventing ink leaks.
They're both available in a good nib selection: extra-fine, fine, medium, broad, and 1.1mm stub. TWSBI pens are easy to service and maintain yourself, and just fun to use.
While this pen wasn't featured in either of my Next Level fountain pen videos, it definitely deserves a spot on this list. The Diplomat Aero is such a cool fountain pen. It's more expensive than the other pens on this list, but it's just so well made. The snap cap has to be one of the most satisfying cap closures I've experienced. A great example of high-quality German engineering.
It's made of anodized aluminum and has grooves on the cap and barrel, with a smooth grip section. It comes in a bunch of colors, fills with a standard international cartridge/converter, and has a really smooth-writing JoWo #6 steel nib. And it's one of Rachel's favorite fountain pens, so you know it's a solid pick!
If grooves aren't your thing, there's another version called the Diplomat Elox which features a smooth barrel and cap, with cool double anodization colors and patterns going on.
Many new fountain pen users are familar with the popular safari or AL-star. If you are looking for the next level within the LAMY lineup, take a look at the studio. This fountain pen comes with the same interchangeable steel nib that's available on nearly all LAMY fountain pen models, and some colors come with a 14k gold nib. Most have a metal grip section, with the exception of the stainless steel which features a rubber grip.
The barrel and cap come together seamlessly in a streamlined design with a satisfying 'click', and the clip features a unique propeller shape. It's really an elegantly designed fountain pen. The studio is available in several regular edition colors, as well as a special edition or two each year.
The Sailor Compass 1911 is currently Sailor’s only steel nib fountain pen available in the US market. Fortunately, there's a whole rainbow of translucent resin colors to choose from. Each pen comes with a color-matched Sailor proprietary ink converter, and it also accepts Sailor ink cartridges.
It only comes in a Medium Fine nib size, but it's a good all-around nib size. It’s not quite the same experience as Sailor’s gold nib pens like the 1911S and 1911L, but at sub-$50 it’s a solid performer.
Conklin All American
The All American is large, but still lightweight. Conklin fountain pens now come with German-made JoWo nibs, including a soft "Omniflex" option. The All American features a timeless cigar shape, with an easy-to-use spring clip with pressure bar.
It comes in regular edition colors as well as many special and limited editions with unique materials, including wood, abalone shell, and PVD-plated versions.
An honorable mention shoutout to the Conklin Duragraph, which shares many of the same features but features a flat-top design and is a bit more affordable.
Traveler’s Company Brass Pen
This fountain pen is made of solid brass, which will patina over time. The Traveler's Company Brass Pen comes with a steel nib in fine only, but it writes so nicely though and is perfect for pretty much whatever random paper you encounter. It has an effortless cap, a total joy to slide on and off.
Overall it's a fantastic pocket pen, you don’t notice it’s there but you have it when you need it. It's so small that it only takes a standard international short cartridge, no converter will fit it. I personally refill my ink cartridges with an ink syringe if I want to use an ink that’s not available in this size cartridge, so keep that in mind if you think that’ll be an inconvenience for you. It's very tiny when closed, but when you post the cap onto the back of the barrel, it feels more like a full-sized pen.
The model that started it all for TWSBI. Well, at least the most current version of the one that started it all (which was originally the 530). The TWSBI Diamond 580 fountain pen exemplifies what TWSBI is known for – the crystal clear barrels, internal piston mechanism, modern packaging and design, and reliable steel nibs. They're easy to use, easy to maintain, and come in a variety of color options.
There are actually three variations of this fountain pen model: the 580, the 580AL, and the 580ALR. If you'd like to learn more about the similarities and differences, check out the details in this blog post.
Like many TWSBI fountain pens, special editions with different color accents are available from time to time.
Previously, the Platinum Cool was pretty much the pen between the Preppy and #3776 Century, and that’s been discontinued since our original video. Now, Platinum has a lot more models in this middle price range. There's the Prefounte, the Procyon, and the Curidas. Our pick here is the Procyon.
The Platinum Procyon has the fantastic Slip 'n Seal cap design from the #3776, and puts it on a steel nib pen. This cap will keep your nib wet and ready to go for a long time, months if not years. Platinum has a solid reputation in the fountain pen world. This pen is a good daily writer, it’s lightweight for comfortable writing all day, but feels very solid and has a really tight fit and finish. It uses Platinum’s proprietary ink cartridges and converter (sold separately) and comes in steel nibs in fine and medium.
If you're not quite ready to make the step up to a next level pen, you may be looking for some fountain pen training exercises to help you traverse that introductory learning curve. Don't you worry, because we've got a sweet '80s-style training montage that will supercharge your writing abilities. Here's our original 'Next Level Pens' video from 2015:
And the sequel from 2021:
A Final Note:
The above isn't a totally exhaustive list of all of our "Next Level" fountain pen picks. Fortunately, we've put together a full shopping guide with these and many other fountain pens you might want to check out.