A dip pen is a pen that must be dipped in a separate ink supply, in contrast to a fountain pen, ballpoint pen, or other pen that has an internal ink supply. Dip pens are also known as nib pens, because when a dip pen is dipped into an ink supply, a small amount of ink is typically stored in the pen's metal nib, or tip. Often, the nib of a dip pen can be removed from the pen's body and switched with a different nib that is better for whatever task the pen is being used for. Nibs range from wide and flat, for calligraphy purposes, to small and very pointy, for precise writing or artistic work.
A variety of different materials can be used to make dip pens. The nib of the pen is usually made of metal, as it needs to be both durable and flexible. The body or handle of the pen can be made from just about anything. Common materials include plastic, bone, and wood. Some dip pens are made entirely of glass; though they are usable, they tend to serve more ornamental purposes than anything.
Despite the fact that it is somewhat inconvenient to use, the dip pen still sees wide use in some fields, though it is seldom used for standard writing. Dip pens tend to be very inexpensive as they are usually made from inexpensive materials. Their nibs can be switched out, making them very useful to artists. Dip pens can handle a variety of different kinds of ink, such as India ink, that tend to clog and damage fountain pens. Artists use a variety of different kinds of ink, so they find it very beneficial to have a pen that can handle them.
Before the invention of the dip pen, the quill was used as the main writing implement. Quill pens were made from the feathers of large birds. Quill pens operate on essentially the same concept as dip pens; they need to be frequently dipped into a separate ink supply. Dip pens improved on the concept of quill pens as they are more durable and longer-lasting than their feathered counterparts.
Some artists, illustrators, and calligraphers still regularly use dip pens because of their flexibility and low price. They are very commonly used by comic artists and inkers because of their ability to produce a wide variety of line thicknesses. They also favor the dip pen because the low price and ability to switch nibs allows for frequent changes in the color of ink.