If you’re a calligraphy or lettering enthusiast, chances are you’re familiar with the Pilot Parallel product line of fountain pens. And if you’ve read some of my blog posts, you know that I never shut up about how much I love them.

The 3.8MM (green) and 6MM (blue) Pilot Parallels are the yin and yang of my tool belt.

Today, I want to show you some advanced usage techniques as well as how to go about Pilot Parallel modification.

I was turned on to these pens years back and despite using them often, it was only recently that I discovered some of the amazing things that they’re capable of. I wish I had learned these techniques much sooner, so my goal now is to share those learnings with you.

Let’s Dive in!

1. Color Blending

Perhaps you’ve noticed the smooth color gradations you that happen when you switch ink cartridges. For example, if you exhaust a black ink cartridge and swap it out for a red one, the next several dozen strokes you make will slowly fade from black to red.

Did you know that you can achieve this effect without swapping cartridges? Well you can, it’s actually a lot less of a pain!

Take two or more Parallel pens that are each filled with a different color. Take the tip of the Parallel that you’re writing with and hold it underneath the tip of another Parallel. Gravity will allow the ink of the secondary parallel to flow into the tip of the Parallel that you’re writing with.

Now try writing with your primary Parallel. You should see streaks of both colors. The color from your secondary Parallel will begin to dissipate after a couple of strokes.

The word Beastmaker written in purple and red blended ink by Jake Rainis

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • The thinner the ink, the more drastic the effect will be. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the effect you’re after.
  • The longer you hold the tips together, the longer the secondary color will stick around for.
  • To achieve a more “streaky” effect, hold the tips perpendicular to each other, so that they form a cross. This will cause the secondary ink to flow into a only portion of the primary Parallel’s ink reservoir.

This technique is incredibly easy to get the hang of and will add a whole new creative element to your work. Take some time to experiment with the above tips and you’ll be a natural in no time.

2. Manually Refilling with Your Favorite Inks

The refill ink cartridges for the Parallel aren’t bad at all. But if you use them very often, buying them over and over again becomes expensive and inconvenient.

Well guess what? You can refill your empty ones with any ink of your choosing!

The cartridge is quite simple. It’s a tube that contains a tiny mixing ball and at the opening of the tube, there is a little black flap that rotates open and closed to regulate the flow of the ink. That’s it!

The word Blackletter written in gold ink by Jake Rainis

Refilling it is easy, but to avoid a mess, here’s what I’d recommend:

  1. Rinse it with water a couple times and shake it out to remove any leftover ink.
  2. Prop the flap open with tweezers or a toothpick.
  3. Using an ink syringe, gently squeeze in the ink of your choosing between the side of the tube and the propped open flap.

As with any fountain pen, different inks will flow differently. I would recommend staying away from any permanent inks or paints that can dry and crust. Those will ruin your pen. Or if they don’t, it will be a pain the ass to clean.

3. Writing on Dark Surfaces with Opaque Ink

Recently, I’ve seen artists writing with bright colors on dark surfaces with their Parallels. I reached out to several of them to inquire how and none of them replied. Thanks, guys!

I set out to do some research of my own and after several days of experimentation, I’ve found that Golden High Flow Acrylics are the best. However, it is incredibly important that you shake the hell out of it before your put it in the cartridge, or else it won’t be totally opaque. I learned this the hard way several times.

I’m satisfied with the Golden High Flow. They’re easy to clean and they works great on just about any surface. However, I’m sure there are other inks that work as good and I’d encourage you to experiment for yourself. If you have any insights, please send me a message — I’d love to hear.

4. Eye-Dropper Conversion

If you’re a hardcore Parallel user and get sick of constantly refilling the small cartridges, you have the option of converting the pen to an eye-dropper.

Eye-dropper style pens don’t have a converter or ink cartridge. Instead, they use the entire body of the pen to hold the ink. And given the size of the Parallel’s body, that’s a lot of ink!

To do this, all you need is small, tight-fitting o-ring and some silicon lubricant. Here are the steps:

  1. Screw off the body of the Parallel.
  2. Ditch that cartridge!
  3. Place the o-ring at the end of the threads that the pen’s body screws on to.
  4. Rub a little silicon lube on those threads.
  5. Fill up the pen body with ink (almost up to the threads).
  6. Carefully reassemble the pen, twisting the body of the pen, over the greased threads and up against the o-ring (but not too tight).

That’s it. The o-ring and lube will seal in the ink!

5. Nib Modification

Out of the box, the Parallel gives you two slabs of metal to achieve those bold thick lines OR those small thin lines.

However, if you’re feeling a little crafty and have a Dremel-like tool handy, you can modify that set of metal nibs to achieve some interesting lines.

For example, you can round off one side of that chisel to create a ruling-style nib. This can be a fun technique to create more wild and free-styled letters. Or, if you want to add some depth to your letter strokes, you can carve little slots into the nib, creating an area where the ink won’t touch the page.

Pilot Parallel nib modification by Jake Rainis

I’d recommend getting a couple of extra pens if you’re looking to try this out. For me, it took a little trial and error, and I’ve found that each pen behaves a little differently. My best advice is to be patient, and as precise as possible. When you’re done, make sure you use some very fine grit sandpaper to smooth out any rough edges.

I created a tutorial video so you can see the process that I went through to modify my pens.

Modifying my Parallel pens has opened up a whole new world in terms of the kinds of letters I can create. I hope it can do the same for you!