Cartridge Vs Converter: Choosing Your Fountain Pen Filling System

Cartridge Vs Converter: Choosing Your Fountain Pen Filling System

When you are buying a fountain pen, any seller would commonly offer you a pen with either a cartridge or converter filling system. This means that the fountain pen can either accept disposable ink cartridges or use the refillable, screw-type converter that can draw ink from a bottle.

And for beginners, it might be hard to decide which is better, so we listed some important points to differentiate the two and listed down their pros and cons too.

The Filling Systems of Fountain Pens

There are several ways to get ink into a fountain pen and we’ll cover the most popular methods and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Fountain Pen Ink Cartridges

Fountain pen ink cartridge

fountain pen ink cartridge is, by far, the easiest between the two types of filling system. A cartridge is a small disposable capsule filled with fountain pen ink. The above Dryden Designs ink cartridges attach to the back of the fountain pen feed and supply the pen with ink. When the ink cartridge runs out of ink you simply remove the empty cartridge, throw it away and insert a fresh one.


  • Convenience - Ink cartridges are convenient. They are easy to carry and easy to use.
  • Mess-Free - Refilling a fountain pen with ink can be messy but when you use cartridges, you will avoid spilling. Filling the pen with a cartridge does not require dipping the pen in an ink bottle, hence making it mess-free.


  • Incompatibility - Fountain pens will only accept certain types of ink cartridges and so you are limited to specific brands that will fit your pen. They're often incompatible between different brands of pens.
  • Ink Quantity – Fountain pen ink cartridges are typically smaller and hold less ink than a converter or piston style fountain pen.

Fountain Pen Ink Converters

Fountain Pen converter

Converters are the modern compromise between the traditional bottle-filling systems of old with the industrialized notion of interchangeable parts. Without going into a whole historical tangent, the converter's purpose is to allow the user to fill their fountain pen in an old-fashioned way without having to worry about delicate pen repair down the road.

Converters like the Dryden Designs ink piston converters are detachable actuators that are used to hold the fountain pen ink. The converter attaches similar to the ink cartridge but has a small plunger or piston that runs inside and draws the ink into the fountain pen. To fill a cartridge fountain pen, you dip the nib into a bottle of fountain pen ink and draw the ink through the nib and feed.


  • Selection - Unlike ink cartridges, converters allow you to use an almost endless supply of ink colors, types and brands. And because you are able to fill the fountain pen with ink from a bottle, you are free to choose your favorite inks.
  • Cost-effective – It is more economical and sometimes, a lot easier to fill from an ink bottle than it is to continually buy cartridges. By the time you are buying package after package of disposable ink cartridges that last a few months, you could have had a whole collection of modestly priced ink bottles to last you a few years.


  • Less Travel-Friendly - Converters won’t allow you to take replacement ink with you on the go but will require you to bring a whole bottle. When riding a plane, the bottle tends to spill, making a mess out of your things
  • Messy - Using bottled inks requires dipping the nib of the pen in the ink and ink can get all over if you are not careful.


Dryden Designs Fountain Pen

Assembling ink into a fountain pen can be intimidating, but once you understand the basics of fountain pen filling systems, falling in love with this timeless stationery icon is inevitable.

Most pen manufacturers offer both the converter and one ink cartridge with the purchase of a new fountain pen. There are people who prefer to be more hands-on, while there are others who want to keep things simple. It really depends on the effort of the individual.

People who like filling their fountain pen with a converter want to invest themselves into their writing instrument and are willing to take the risk of getting ink on their hands because it is part of the charm, the very reason why they selected a fountain pen to write with, in the first place.