In Praise of Ink Cartridges

We spend a lot of time reviewing and promoting bottled fountain pen ink here on The Well-Appointed Desk. For as much as we love bottled ink, there is a time and a place for cartridges too. If, like me, you like to use fountain pens but work in an office environment (or maybe you are in a school environment or other “not in the comfort of your home office” situation), a fountain pen that readily takes cartridges can be a real blessing.


When I am in a meeting or on-the-go, a cartridge fountain pen can be quickly re-inked without mess, fuss or complication. I just untwist the barrel, pull out the old cartridge and pop in the new one from the barrel or from my pencil case where there are always a few floating around or stored in a container like the J. Herbin tins. This quick change means I don’t miss any part of a discussion while I dig for another pen or try re-inking from a bottle in the middle of a meeting — awkward!

I recommend a fountain pen (or heck even one of the many rollerball or felt tip pens we’ve reviewed here) that takes a standard international cartridge over pens that take proprietary cartridges. This will give you more flexibility: there are far more ink colors available and it’s easier to find cartridges in the wild should you need more.


I recommend keeping at least one fountain pen that takes the classic standard international ink cartridges on-hand and filled with cartridges. I particularly like models that can have one cartridge loaded and a spare in the barrel. Great examples of this are the Caran d’Ache 849 fountain pen and the Kaweco Special FP. There are plenty of others but these two slim pens are my official go-to office pens for ease of use and their ability to carry a spare cartridge in the barrel. Other good options are the Diplomat Esteem or Traveler.

My favorite brands for cartridges are:

  • J. Herbin: the cartridges come in darling metal tins that can be saved and used to carry other cartridges later (pro tip!)
  • Diamine: not only does Diamine offer lots of fan favorite color options like Ancient Copper, Oxblood and Purple Dream, they also sell a couple variety packs so you can purchase mini-collections of ink colors to try like the Elegance, Sovereign, Classic and others.
  • Retro 51: They only offer black and blue cartridges but I learned at a pen show that their black is the blackest black around.
  • Graf von Faber-Castell: Yes, these are pricey but not as pricey as buying a whole bottle of their ink so it you want some of the unique colors available from Faber-Castell, this is a great option.
  • Kaweco: Kaweco offers a good quality and color range, including their highlighter yellow color at a reasonable price. I’m also a big fan of their cartridge holder.
  • Monteverde: There are a great variety of their core colors available in cartridges and those colors have sheen and shading to boot.
  • Visconti: I confess I like the Visconti ink cartridges for the beautiful containers they used to  be packaged in. Sadly, Visconti has switched their packaging to paperboard boxes but you can still find a few sellers online who still have the cartridges in the original matched bakelite-style plastic canisters. It’s worth seeking at least one container of Visconti cartridges for the canister alone. Check ebay.


Do you have a go-to pen you use with cartridges? Have you ever considered keeping a pen “cartridge only” as your work/car/bag pen? Tell me in the comments!

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16 comments / Add your comment below

  1. i keep several cartridge pens inked and always have cartridges on hand… big fan of Herbin and Pelikan carts. My most notable cartridge pen is my Pelikan Ductus which is not only cart only… it’s international long cart only. love that pen, too.

      1. It really is Ana. Currently inked with Edelstein Tanzanite and it’s a handsome pairing. Plus… it
        writes wonderfully.

  2. I have a Lady Scheaffer Skripsert IV which is cartridge only. It is inked up most of the time. When I travel I take a Hemisphere and a handful of cartridges and an el-cheap ballpoint (or 3) that permanently lay in the bottom of the bag.

    1. There were converters for the Skirpsert line but they are difficult to find these days but I love that Skripserts take the same cartridges currently available from Sheaffer!

  3. Yes to the convenience of cartridges when travelling! I’d rather throw a cartridge or two in a bag then a bottle of ink if I’m going away–less space and less worry about leakage.

    Also, getting a pack of cartridges of an ink color you are interested in is a great way to see if you like that color without committing to a full bottle.

  4. Although I like bottled inks, I’m a big fan of cartridges for the reasons you mention. When I fly (which I do so infrequently that it is hardly worth mentioning) I take an uninked fountain pen and some cartridges. It’s easy to ink up the pen when I get to my destination then remove the cartridge and dispose of it prior to the return home. My favourite fountain pens for international cartridges are the Waterman Hemispheres. Or any cartridge/converter Watermans. I love Waterman fountain pens.

  5. My “gateway” fountain pen was a Kaweco AL Sport. I bought a every color of Kaweco ink cartridges – and then I learned about using a syringe to refill them with my choice of bottled ink. With the exception of piston or vacuum fillers or pens that came with their own cartridge converters, nearly all of my fountain pens are fitted with refilled cartridges.

    I too am a sucker for cartridge packaging by Herbin, and am glad I snagged some Visconti cartridges when they was still packaged in those gorgeous little containers. I even bought some Pelikan Edelstein cartridges because of the tin they came in, even though I don’t own a pen that takes those cartridges.

  6. I tried using a cartridge in a pen once, but it Wouldn’t Work. I squeezed it, I did everything but still it refused to work. It scared me away from cartridges!

  7. I tried using cartridges once, but despite squeezing them and everything I could think of, I couldn’t get the thing to work. It scared me away from cartridges!

  8. The Kaweco Sport is essentially cartridge only since the only converters that fit it are cartridge size and not worth it. This post have reminded me of various cartridges I have squirreled away in old Altoids containers.

  9. I like cartridges for travel, especially since I can select a range of colors. And of course my drawing pen uses Platinum Carbon black in cartridges. Very convenient and no issues with plane cabin “accidents “. My favorite is Diamene because it has my favorite colors. I agree though that they’d also be good at work. I hate when a pen runs out in a meeting. Of course with Zoom no one can see me fussing with a pen or my inky fingers!

  10. I love the convenience of cartridges, but I wish there were more waterproof and water-resistant ink options. (I know I can refill cartridges, but there goes the convenience factor.)

  11. Respected Ms Ana, Good morning. The fountain pens are really good, I am collecting ink pens in different models and being a small time pens enthusiastic, very much fascinated about ink pens that are available around the world, I know only a few names in this regard, however my dream is to buy a Montblanc, but it’s not just possible for me. Actually and honestly I go for within budget pens. My just favorite color is blue, turquoise blue, and ink cartridges are Pierre Cardin.
    Thanking you, and I remain
    Yours truly
    Medavaram Jitamitra
    (From India)

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