Can you use any brand of ink in your pen. Pretty much so. Although pen companies sometimes claim their brand of ink is formulated to work best in their feed systems it is the exception where there will be a performance issue. I have found, and no doubt you will also find instances where a particular brand of ink does not work as well in a particular brand of pen.
But not to worry, as today we have many brands of ink to choose from. Over the past few years, the range of brands and colours. It is no longer a choice of writing with black or blue. Endless colours and shades of colours to choose from.
What is the best ink? Impossible to answer. It really is a matter of your personal preference. For every writer who prefers a dark deep colour, there is another who prefers a lighter tone of ink and one that will show shade variations.
Some brands rank high in terms of being a dependable ink. While I can not answer the "what is best" question, I am pleased to share my views of the inks I have used.
Like so many who use fountain pens, ink becomes something thing that "almost" losing control. There are so many options, and we just have to explore those options.
I hope you find the reviews helpful, but in the end, your experience with a particular ink will depend on four factors:
- The pen, each pen will have different ink flow characteristics depending on the ink feed in the fountain pen. The more expensive pens have ebonite feeds, others use feeds made of plastic.
- The nib, the width of the nib influences the amount of ink that flows to the paper which in turn impacts the colour.
- The paper and how it absorbs ink - does the ink soak in, does the ink sit on the surface. It is good quality paper or lesser quality where the ink bleeds into the paper.
- The ink itself as the various brands and colours within the brand have their own chemistry and that includes viscosity or tension.
So what is fountain pen ink? Basically ink is balanced combination of water (the fluid), dyes (the colour), additives (stopping things that could grow in the ink), and chemicals to control viscosity and flow of the ink.
Fountain pen ink is water based. This is the only ink to use in a fountain pen. There are other inks that are suitable for dip pens. Avoid art or Indian inks as they will cause problems with the ink feed system of a fountain pen.
Particular inks are known as "wet" or "dry" based on the viscosity of the ink. Dry inks have more surface tension and therefore the ink has a slower flow.
A recent Pen World article on inks noted wet inks to include such as: Private Reserve American Blue or Lake Placid, Sheaffer Blue, OMAS Blue, Waterman Blue, Noodler's Window Maker, Parker Quink blue, Diamine Sepia, Aurora Black or Blue, Caran d'Ache inks and Iroshizuku inks.
On the other hand, noted dry inks included Pelikan 4001, Waterman Blue/Black, most of the Diamine inks, Noodler's Black, Montblanc Black, Cross, Rotring and Lamy Blue or Black.
The simple answer is no. Some inks have highly saturated colours and depending on the material of your pen, the ink may stain the pen. Reds and purples are particularly known for staining.
An all black pen nib section will have less issues, but some of the resin or celluloid pens, especially those with translucent or pale colours, may stain.
The staining can just happen. When the pen is resting, ink can be released from the nib into the cap of the pen, or around the base of the nib section. I have a few pens that have ink stains. It is not just a matter of wiping the pen after a fill. The ink compes out of the nib when the pen is sitting.
Keep the ink in your pen fresh. If you are not going to use a pen for a period of time, flush the ink out. The best way to flush your pen is to expel the ink, and the draw up and expel some water and then expel. Then draw the nib across a piece of paper towel and you will see ink and water continue to be drawn from the pen feed.
Can you keep ink? Yes, but keep the ink bottle out of direct light. Light will break down the composition of ink. Some brands even sell their ink in black glass bottles. Keeping your ink in a closed cupboard is a good option. Some ink, such as Montblanc have a "Best Before" label attached to the bottle or box.
While the composition of ink important, the design and shape of the ink bottle is also a consideration. This is an issue especially important for those using pens with large nibs. For a good fill, the nib needs to be fully submerged in the ink. This prevents air from being drawn up into the pen. Shallow wide bottles are more difficult. Taller-narrower bottles much better.
Bottles than can be secure when at an angle, such as the classic Waterman and OMAS bottles are excellent options.
The classic Montblanc bottle is an example of a bottle with an indented filling section.
There are ink bottles that look great on your desk, and those that will or will not fit in a briefcase. I like the multi-sided OMAS ink bottle on my desk. It is big and substantive enough to sit on the desk and not be knocked over too easily. I can slant the bottle on its side for a good fill. But in my leather briefcase the large round size of the bottle is a bit bulky. So I keep other bottles specifically as they fit nicely into the pouch of my briefcase.
Today, buying a bottle of wine or a bottle of ink as a gift is almost the same price point. Yet the bottle of ink is so much smaller! Inks are expensive. Over the past year the price of ink has continued to climb.
There are ink mixing kits that can be purchases, or you can try mixing by experimenting. Mixing inks is done with caution and you may or may not have luck. Mixing inks of different colours and different brands can have unexpected results in how the chemistry interacts.
In 2011 Platinum issued an ink mixing kit. The inks were advertised as being specifically different from other inks in they are made to be mixed. As they said, "Mix free ink does not harden when it is mixed, and the ink does not clog up in a nib." That gives you an idea of what can happen with some inks as a result of mixing inks where there is a chemical imbalance in the final product.
So, do enjoy your inks.
Iroshizuku ink is produced by Pilot in Japan. This is a very popular line of inks, and so it should be. The ink is of excellent quality. A smooth writing experience. There are countless colours to choose from. The bottle, well it is a pleasure to hold in your hand and looks great on the desk. The little indent in the bottom of the bottle allows the nib to just under the bottom and is great to suck up the last bits ink in the bottle. It runs about $30 US a bottle, about $40 CDN.
Edelstein Ink, produced by Pelikan, is another top quality ink. The ink comes in a variety of colours. Pelikan issues an Ink of the Year, and produces that colour for one year. This has created a little tension as some of the special inks are my favourites and I am not sure what it is going to be like when my supply goes! The bottle is beautiful, it has a great cyrstal look and feel. I have never been a fan of the Edelstein font used, but I turn the bottle around when it sits on my desk. The ink can be found on-line at places like Amazon and range from about $27 to $39 CDN a bottle.
Montblanc issues special edition inks, usually linked with its Limited Edition fountain pens as well as a line of regular product ink colours. At one time, Montblanc inks were not the best. They tended to be watery and and relatively weak colours. But that was quite a time ago. They changed manufacturers and ink they issue not is typically good quality. The regular product ink comes in a classic bottle that includes an sector to pool ink and eas the filling of pens. The limited edition inks tend to come in small square or round bottles.
Shikiori Ink is madein Japan by Sailor. This is another example of excellent quality inks from Japan. From talking to other ink folks, the quality of inis from Japan have made a definite mark in the North American martket. But much as I liked writing with this ink, the bottles are only 20 ml in the size, and the ink is priced up there. The inks can be found in Canada for about $20 for the 20 ml bottle, that means it is about $50 CDN for a "standard sized bottle. A bit on the expensive side, but again, it is a very good ink.
It is easy to get hung up acquiring high end or difficult to find inks. But let's never forget the basics.
While there is no best ink, there are some inks that are better at things that others. If I had a pen, and I wanted to use a very safe ink, well I would load in the pen, Waterman Serenity Blue. While the blue writes a little paler than I prefer, especially with a broad nib, the ink has good flow and I would use it with confidence in just about any pen I have. The photo above shows Tender Purple, a nice bright purple ink.
Graf von Faber-Casell issues a fine line of inks. They come in an attractive, art-deco style bottle that is larger than many others, 75 ml. The ink has a high sticker price, but remember, you are really getting about 1 1/2 bottles of ink! Garnet Red is a solid rich red that looks good in a variety of writing purposes.
Caran d'Ache makes a very good line of inks, that come in an interesting bottle. The bottle is the good news as the previous bottle designs were too flat. There was never enough depth to the bottle to nicely get a large fountain pen nib submerged in the ink. Now, the company uses this interesting slanted bottle. It sits on the desk with a slant. The heavy glass botten nice shows. The other aspect of the bottle I particuarly like the very heavy bottle cap. Colours are good. Ink performance is good. The only negative aspect is the price. This is one of the more expensive inks on the market.