Showdown - Converters vs Cartridges

Difference between Ink Converters and Ink Cartridges – How to Fill Your Fountain Pens

If you are looking for a fountain pen for your writing needs, you should be equipped with basic knowledge about refilling systems - two of the most popular fountain pen refilling mechanisms include ink cartridges and ink converters. Before you make a final purchase decision, you should know the difference between the two so you can make an informed decision that complies with your writing requirements.


Ink Converters

Converters are fundamentally small ink storage tanks equipped with a piston or some other actuating mechanism such as a plunger that allows users to draw ink from a bottle for refilling the pen. In order to refill, you dip the pen nib into an inkbottle or container and use the piston or the alternative mechanism to suck the ink through the nib. The ink goes through the feed of the pen to the converter refilling it in the process.


Ink Cartridges

It is exactly what you think it is - a disposable ink container that you can load in your fountain pen to continue writing. Ink cartridges provide the supply your fountain pen needs through a proprietary system. When your ink runs out, you simply add a new cartridge instead of going through a cumbersome refilling process, which can be quite messy. Cartridges provide you with the convenience and efficiency you need to be productive.

Major Differences between Cartridges & Converters

There is no clear winner here as both cartridges and converters have their own set of advantages and drawbacks. Let us take a look at the most important points that can be helpful in making a buying decision.


Versatility - Converters are more versatile as compared to cartridges as you can refill your pen with any color, brand, or type of ink you want. Since you are manually drawing ink from a bottle, you can pick your favorite inks. On the other hand, with cartridges, you are limited by the number of colors available for that particular type of cartridge.


Affordability - Refilling your pen with ink is far more economical than paying for cartridges. For the cost of six months of supply of cartridges, you can buy years’ worth of ink. Cartridges are also expensive compared to the ink bottles since they come in a pre-packaged container.


Environment-Friendliness - Once a cartridge runs out of ink, you have to throw it out. Over the course of a few years, you would have contributed towards adding dozens of cartridges, which is not exactly good for the environment.


Portability – Since cartridges provide ink supply in compact and prepackaged containers, they are more portable compared to the converters. Taking ink bottles with you during travel is not only inconvenient but can be quite messy if the ink leaks.


Convenience – When it comes to sheer convenience and efficiency, converters do not stand a chance against cartridges. They are much easier to replace and you do not have to worry about creating a mess, which is a possibility with converters.



By Some Folks at EndlessPens

Author: EndlessPensTutorial



One time use plastic is a deal killer for me. Converters also opens up a whole world of inks to try. My only advice is to buy the converter with the pen or ask for a recommendation. There are a couple of different types out there. A proper matching pen converter has never leaked on me.

Eli Marcus

- On the drawback side of cartridges – once you start acquiring a few less common pens, the cartridges are much more difficult to find – Pilot, Sailor, Lamy, Aurora, and Sheaffer are good examples of unique, non-universal cartridges, that are often very hard to find.
- Convenience – I have also found occasional problems with cartridges that detach inside the barrel or leak because they don’t form a proper seal…

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