Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen Review

(This is a guest post by Nick Folz. You can find more of Nick and his work on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.)

The Inkiest Pen

The Pilot Parallel is one of those pens that will turn heads. It doesn't look like any pen I have ever used and it doesn't write like anything else either. It is mainly a calligraphy pen, and I must admit my ignorance and tell you that I am not really a calligraphy person, but more of an illustrator who's a fan of handwriting.

The concept is simple, the flat blade (I am using the 6mm model) drops a super thick line when pulling it perpendicular to the blade line, and a super thin line when pulling it parallel. The result is a line that can vary wildly and makes the special lines required if you are doing calligraphy. It comes with a pocket guide for some starter calligraphy, but the most fun I had with the pen is when I was pushing it in a wildly sloppy manner and getting unreproducible results.


This pen is not for looks: plastic body, plastic cap. The cap has a bit of a fin to it, screws on tight to the tapered, brush-shaped body. The nib screws into the body and takes ink cartridges. The pen can go through a cartridge in a few sittings, to be expected when you are laying down such a thick line. The nib is flat, built out of what looks like a folded over piece of aluminum, but is actually two parallel pieces of metal that have tiny, interlocking teeth at the tip. The pack it comes in has one black cart, one red cart, one converter (for cleaning) and a cleaning sheet.

The Ink Problem

Look, no one likes buying tons of cartridges, especially if their favorite ink isn't sold that way. Even if you do like the convenience of the cartridges, you are going to be burning through them. The solution is pretty easy, just body fill the damn thing. What you'll want to do if you are body filling the pen is grab some plumbing tape and wrap the threads of the nib section (not more than twice) to make sure you get a good seal on it. It will act as a gasket and, boom, tons of ink, no leaking.

I've seen it as a detail note on several ink reviews, "I'm testing this ink with a Pilot Parallel." There is good reason, if an ink has facets revealed through different volumes drying at different times (I'm looking at you Emerald of Chivor) and you don't have any fancy dip nibs, this pen should be your go-to. The ink supply is slightly inconsistent, leading to the variation of how much ink is dropped even on one stroke. Sometimes the top of a line will be super saturated and dryer at the end, sometimes the opposite. I actually like this about it and don't consider it a drawback. It lends itself to a more interesting set of lines in the end.

Pilot makes of big deal of being able to blend inks by touching the tips of two Parallel Pens together to make gradients. That would probably be cool, but I just have the one pen and probably wouldn't do it that often even if given the chance.

Where It Fits

Look, I'm a Pilot fanboy. The pen that got me into pens in the first place was the Precise V5, which will always have a place in my heart and messenger bag. I have long been a fan of their products and have yet to find a sub par item they make. The Parallel is no exception, it works wonderfully and besides some minor issues (leaky body when body filling which, admittedly, it is not made for, and some sub-par aesthetics) I would easily recommend this product. The problem is, for what? Outside of the calligraphy enthusiast, the ink tester, and the font fanatic, this pen would be hard pressed to find an audience among the office supply crowd.

When I got this pen it was the one I was most excited about, but found myself pulling it out, doodling for a few minutes and then switching to something else fairly quickly. So I tossed it into my bag and would often grab something else when I sat down to draw. The problem seems obvious: I'm an illustrator, not a calligrapher. But here is when I started clicking with this pen. I often add some lettering to an illustration near the end. Sometimes it's as simple as a thought bubble with a "!" in it. Sometimes it is someones name or a label. I would dig this out of my bag and it can do what no other pen or brush can do. I like the smooth, block style lines it can do but I LOVE the distressed, unruly script you can get out of it. I feel like a hat's off is in order for Pilot mass producing such a niche pen, and in multiple sizes. You can find the Pilot Parallel at JetPens in four sizes from 1.5mm to 6mm.


Nothing else like it, at least that I have seen. Works well right out of the box. Comes with one black and one red cart, as well as a converter and a cleaning sheet. Also has a robust care and calligraphy tip sheet. Can be used many different ways, clean and crisp or loose and rough.


Designed for carts and have to mod for body filling. Plastic body and cap, aesthetics not a strong point. Will use all your ink.

When I think of drawing utensils I also think of what verbs they give me. My pencil's verbs are Start, Sketch, and Erase. My roller ball pen's verbs are Line, Detail, and Finish. My brush's verb is Vary. My Sharpie's verb is Fill. What the Parallel really does that makes it worthwhile for me is it gives me a verb that my other pens could do, but not as well. Letter.

(Disclaimer: This product was provided for me free of cost but I am not otherwise being compensated for this review. The opinions contained are my own.)

Posted on September 2, 2015 and filed under Pilot, Pen Reviews, Calligraphy Pens.