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.

Pelikan M205 Duo Highlighter Fountain Pen - Yellow
Pelikan M205 Duo Highlighter Fountain Pen – Yellow

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. Update: Pelikan’s M205 Duo highlighter fountain pen is now also available in shiny green with green ink!

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:

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Introducing the Pelikan M205 Duo Highlighter Fountain Pen

Recently, Pelikan released the M205 Duo Highlighter, a fountain pen specifically made for use as a highlighter pen. What can you expect from this welcome addition to the Pelikan pen family?

The M205 Duo Highlighter has the usual desirable qualities common to Pelikan fountain pens. It has a reliably good piston filling system and a high quality, smooth-writing stainless steel nib. The transparent yellow resin body is nicely accented with chrome trim and the distinguished Pelikan pocket clip. When you reach for this pen, the bright yellow color won’t let you forget its primary purpose – to be used as a highlighter! The pen weighs 0.5 oz (12g) empty, and is 5” long when capped, 5 7/8” when posted and 4 3/4” without the cap.

The nib is a BB size, or in other words broad-broad or extra broad. This is a rounded nib with an iridium tip. The line it produces is meant to be used for underlining, marking, editing and proofing your documents. As illustrated on the special box it comes in, if you want to highlight an entire word you’ll need to scribble back and forth over the word a few times. It does not produce a line a few millimeters in width like a calligraphy pen or a felt chisel-tip highlighter. In addition to using this pen as a highlighter, the BB nib makes this pen suitable for everyday writing in the ink color of your choice.

Pelikan includes a 30ml bottle of bright fluorescent yellow M205 Duo Highlighter Ink along with the purchase of your pen. The ink can also be purchased separately when you need a refill. Interestingly, the ink box states "Attention! The highlighter ink is only suited for the M205 Duo fountain pen. Do not use with other writing utensils!" From my own past experience I’ve seen yellow ink stain plastics – perhaps this is the reason for the warning and the reason that the pen itself is bright yellow. Does anyone know for sure? If so, please tell us!

The packaging of the M205 is quite fun. The outside of the white box is accented with grey print that appears as though it has already been highlighted with the pen. The box opens to reveal fluorescent yellow panels printed with care instructions in 10 different languages. Some of the text on the box states that the M205 Duo “combines two functions that, together, form one entity. It is a highlighter and a fountain pen, it marks and paraphrases. A well-functioning and perfectly balanced team whose members complement one another while also being able to stand alone.”

Here is an M205 Duo writing sample using Noodler’s Sunrise highlighting ink:

Here is a sample of the M205 highlighting ink on Clairefontaine French rule paper using both a cotton swab and a Brause Steno nib:

Have you had the chance to use the Pelikan M205 Duo Highlighter yet? If so, what do you think? Have you ever used fountain pens as highlighters?

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Reflecting on 2010 and Looking Forward to 2011


It’s amazing to think that another year has already gone by! The bad economy dominated the headlines in 2010, affecting both businesses and customers everywhere. We are hoping 2011 will bring improvements for everyone. We’re very grateful, as always, to have such a great group of loyal customers who love pens and paper as much as we do! Thank you everyone for reading and commenting on our blog!

It was a busy year here at Writer’s Bloc. Here are just a few of the highlights…

In 2010 the USA saw the release of the Dialog 3, LAMY’s first fully retractable fountain pen. There seems to be increased interest in fountain pens with italic nibs with Pelikan releasing the Souveran M800 Italic and Aurora adding more italic nibs to their fountain pen offerings. Fans of the color blue were happy to welcome the addition of the gorgeous new Pelikan Blue o’ Blue fountain pen. Some Pilot Prera fountain pens showed up on our doorstep from Japan.

In the world of ink, Pelikan released the Edelstein ink series in beautiful one-of-a-kind bottles with colors named after a variety of precious gemstones. In honor of the 340th anniversary of the J. Herbin ink brand, J. Herbin 1670 anniversary ink was created and will only be produced for a limited time. Noodler’s new offerings included #41 Brown, Polar Green and the Warden’s Ink series. Not new to the ink world, but new to our website are Omas fountain pen inks and J. Herbin calligraphy ink.

New to our selection of highlighters is the ultimate refillable highlighter that can last a lifetime – the Pelikan M205 Duo Highlighter Fountain Pen. We expanded our selection of refillable felt-tip highlighters with the addition of Tombow Coat Highlighter chargers and Staedtler Textsurfer Classic Highlighters and refill stations. Also new to our shop are smooth writing gel highlighters from both Staedtler and Y&C Hi-Glider.

Last year was the first time we were able to place a special order with Exaclair to receive Clairefontaine and Rhodia products from France that are not usually available to customers in the USA. Some of these special order items included the Rhodia Bloc No. 120 with rainbow graph paper, Clairefontaine leather pencil cases, Carrie Chau notebooks and sketchbooks, A4 size Clairefontaine loose sheets in French rule, French rule pastels, lined, multicolor graph and white graph formats. If Exaclair continues to accept retailer requests we will continue to place special orders throughout 2011. If we get enough requests from our customers for specific items we might even add them to our store! Send us your email requests when the 2011 French Clairefontaine online catalog comes out.

The 2011 Exaclair catalog for the USA includes new items such as these that will be available this spring: Rhodia notepads with a “soft touch” coated cover, Rhodia pad holders in four new formats, Webnotebooks with dot grid paper, Rhodia pencil cases and pencil cup, Clairefontaine Life Unplugged Reporter style notebook, Clairefontaine notebooks with new designer covers, Habana Journals with 85g ivory paper, Quo Vadis journals with cover art by Keith Haring, Matisse, and Picasso, J. Herbin Luminescent Ink for calligraphy pens, best selling J. Herbin fountain pen ink in 100ml bottles, a new style and a new color of glass pens, and Clairefontaine Crok’ Book sketchbooks with flexible covers.

J. Herbin and Pelikan both discontinued their rollerball pens that can be refilled with fountain pen ink. We are searching for new rollerball pens to take their place and hope to have some available to you sometime in 2011. We are still waiting to hear what the new 2011 limited edition color of the LAMY Safari will be. New lines of journals and notebooks will be coming to Writer’s Bloc in 2011.

We’re also planning on improving the way our fountain pen ink is organized and displayed so that we can pass along the most accurate color samples possible (on a computer monitor anyway).

Here are some of our favorite lists and blog posts reflecting back on 2010:

Office Supply Geek
The most popular office supply reviews of 2010 as well as the most frequently visited reviews during 2010. In addition, Brian gives us his 2010 Editor’s Choice Awards for the Best Office Supplies of the year.

The Pen Addict
Sticking to his annual tradition, The Pen Addict lists the most popular pen reviews of 2010.

Inkophile tells us about her favorite pens, ink and paper for 2010.

Seize The Dave
Check out the top ten reviews and some beautiful calligraphy at Seize The Dave.

Inkyjournal shares his discoveries from 2010. Wishing him good health in 2011!

Lady Dandelion
Lady Dandelion lists her top 10 most visited posts from 2010 as well as giving us her favorite pen and paper related posts and some beautiful photos!

Gold Spot Pens
Top trends in pen and paper design for 2010.

A Penchant for Paper
A Penchant for Paper tells us about her 10 favorites of 2010.

Stephanie gives us a comprehensive list of her favorite pens, paper, inks and art supplies for 2010.

Does This Pen Write?
Snarky’s Machine loves budget office supplies and lists favorite product reviews from 2010.

Did we miss any of your favorite 2010 top ten lists that we should know about? Any special Clairefontaine or Rhodia products you would like us to import from France? What products are you most excited about in the Exaclair 2011 catalog? Do you have any suggestions for improvements or new products at Writer’s Bloc? What are your plans for 2011? Please share!

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Refillable Felt-Tip Highlighters

Refillable felt-tip highlighters are designed to help reduce the amount of plastic waste in our environment. Just think – if everyone were able to refill their felt-tip highlighters five times, this would eliminate the need to throw away four out of five plastic highlighters as they become dried-up. Obviously this isn’t going to solve all of our problems, but it’s nice to see the selection of refillable felt-tip highlighters is increasing. We’ll talk about three of them in this blog post.

The Platinum Preppy Highlighter Pen can easily be refilled by inserting a new ink cartridge or by using a converter and bottled fountain pen ink. Noodler’s bottled ink comes in regular highlighter and long-lasting highlighter colors such as Year of the Golden Pig and Dragon Catfish pink, green and orange.   When the felt tip on this highlighter starts to break down you can even replace it with a brand new felt tip! The body and cap of this pen are made from recycled polycarbonate. Preppy Highlighters are available in the colors green, orange, pink, yellow and blue.

Tombow Twin highlighters can easily be refilled using the Tombow Coat Highlighter Charger. All you need to do is set the open recharger on a level surface, gently put the pen’s felt tip into the ink, and 10 minutes later your highlighter is fully recharged! If you can’t wait 10 minutes you can use it sooner – after one minute the highlighter is 20% recharged, in five minutes 70% recharged. There is enough ink in the recharger for 10 refills and each highlighter pen can be refilled about 5 times. At first, the Tombow Coat recharger bottle design seems rather curious since the ink full level is near the bottom of the bottle. However, if you happen to accidentally knock the bottle over while a pen is recharging you’ll discover that the ink won’t spill out. I’m thinking someone has done this before… Tombow Coat Highlighter Chargers are available in ten different colors: yellow, red, brown, orange, golden yellow, yellow green, sky blue, blue, purple and pink. I have not tested to see whether or not this ink is compatible with other highlighters (yet).

The STAEDTLER Textsurfer Classic Ink-Jet Safe Highlighter is another good example of a refillable highlighter. It’s clean and easy to recharge by firmly inserting the felt tip into the top of the open refill station. After three or four hours it is completely refilled, but it can be used after spending just a few minutes in the refill station. It’s impossible to overfill the highlighter since it draws out only as much ink as needed to fill it to capacity. The refill station is specially designed not to spill ink if it is tipped over. Be sure to match the Textsurfer Classic Ink-Jet Safe Highlighter to the STAEDTLER refill station with ink-jet safe ink or you’ll lose the ink-jet safe property. STAEDTLER Textsurfer Classic Refill Stations come in yellow, blue, green and pink.

Do you have a favorite refillable felt-tip highlighter? Please tell us about it!

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