Ink for your Pens

Your have so many choices.

In my life time of using fountain pens the options for ink have change from just a few, do you want blue, black, blue-black or red, to what seems to be endless.

The choice of colour and types of inks is one of the advantages of writing with a fountain pen. A starting point, you do not have to buy the same brand of ink as your pen. That is not to say there could be an advante of linking the two. Some pen manufactures say their ink is made to specifications the best utilize the characteristic of their ink feed mechanisms. I havve found that while any brand is an option, there will be cases where some brands just don't work as well in certain pens. If the ink flows "drier" (has lower viscosity)and the pen feed and nib is also "drier" then that will be a bad combination.

Over the past few years, the range of brands and colours has exploded. What is the best ink? 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, or, to my shock, inks that have a shimmer.

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.

Below or some the inks that are by current "encre du jour".

Ink

Fountain pen ink is a balanced combination of water (the fluid), dyes/pigments (the colour), additives (such as chemicals to stop things growing in the ink), and chemicals to control viscosity or flow of the ink.

Most fountain pen inks are dye-based. A fountain pen operates on the principle of capillary action. Pigment based inks have tiny solid particiles in the ink. There can be a problem if particles clog the narrow ink channels in the feed. Best to wash out pigment-based inks frequently.

Fountain pen ink is water based so only buy pens labeled for fountain pens. There are other inks that are great for dip pens but the ink is never drawn into the pen. Avoid art or Indian inks.

Viscosity is the term for a fluid's resistance to flow. A higher viscosity level for an ink means the ink will flow more slowly and a lower viscosity level means the inks flows more quickly and that couldsthe flow of ink. Don't pick up your bottle of ink to find its viscosity level noted. You find that through using the ink. In addition to the ink, the feed, nib and paper all have a play in the performance of fountain pen ink.

Aspects of Ink

Generally there are a handfull of characteristics of fountain pen ink.

  • The saturation of the colour of in the ink comes from the desnsity of the dye or pigment in the ink. This is one of the personal characteristics that is a big determiner as to what inks you will like or not. Highly saturated inks are darker, more vibrant in colour and make take longer to on the paper.
  • The viscosity, or flow of ink, is described above. While as a first thought you may think that everyone wants the fastest flowing ink as possible, that is not the case. For some writing, the strokes made with the nib may be small and detailed, and a ink that flows a bit slower be better suited to the writing need.
  • The shading of ink is often noted as a plus, or minus. This is the variation in the density of the colour in a single stoke of the nib. Good shading ink is described as ink where there is a range of tones in a single stroke. Your personal preference will come in. I do not like high-shading ink. While shading looks great with one or two words, it is more difficult to read when you look a full page of writing.
  • You will also hear about sheen, and some inks are labeled as "high sheen ink". The sheen occurs as the ink dries. It is usully a different colour, sub-colour of the ink, and is a result of particles of ink/compounds in ink dyes are not absorbed into the paper. I do not like sheen, but I seem to be in a smaller club than those who do.
  • Dry time is often reported in ink reviews. It is the time it takes for the ink to dry on the paper. So not only is the ink a factor, but also is the paper and humidity etc.
  • Waterprofness is how the paper resists water once it has dried. You can buy inks that specifically say "Permanent". As a basic refernce, water-based fountain pen inks are not waterproof.
  • Resistance to light is the degree to which the ink with face over time.

J Herbin - Rouge Grenat

Roouge Grenat

I saw a sample of this ink on Instagram and was drawn to the colour. It turns out the colour of the ink is quite a bit different than the Instagram sample but for me, it is even a better colour. There are a rich brown tone, but this is a red ink. The challenge to this ink is the shape of the ink bottle. I talk more about that in my review of Rouge Grenat.

Leonardo Noce Moscato

Noce Moscato

This ink was loaded into my Momento Zero Grande Mosaico Sand. The ink smoothly flowed across the page, it looked so good with the warm tones of the Sand pen. There are red tones, but this is a brown ink. It is the only colour have have had in my Sand since I acquired it, now two years ago.

»» More on Leonardo Ink

Waterman Serenity Blue

Waterman Serenity Blue

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 single best ink, there are some inks that are very good. Serenity Blue is one of those. 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.

Diamine Salamander

Diamine Salamander

I have always liked having a green ink in my current inks in use. For the past couple of years, Salamander Green is the green you will find loaded in a couple of pens.

I like the olive tone of the green, especially the flat, clean finish of the ink as it dries on the paper. The colour is not harsh. With some of the brillant colour tones of green, an entire page of writing can actrually be hard to take.

When I look back at a travel journal the pages written with this ink as easy on the eye. They have a solid look.

Sheaffer Retro Sunset

Sheaffer Retro Sunset

At one point in 2022 Sheaffer issued a new line of inks, produced in China, with new colours and in a smaller 30 ml bottle. I like the tall vs shallow shape of the bottle, but here is another brand that is moving to smaller bottles. The colour, well it is one of my favorites.

I wonder about the iconic Shaeffer company. Have they lost touch with their consumers? In August 2022, their webside still shows their older line of inks with no reference to the new bottles/colours.

» See my Ink Review

Herbin - Vert-de-Gris

Herbin Vert-de-Gris

In my continued exploration of the Herbin line of inks, I came across Verte de Gris and I just say I enjoy the flat tone of the ink. My only feeling of caution of the variability of colour depending on nib and paper. The ink never looks like the colour sample published by Herbin, or the colour swabs on various on-line sources. But, my attitude is to enjoy what I have.

Ink Review

 

 

Best Inks

Nothing is that simple but generally the brands of ink that are most often written about as being inks with good performance and considered safe for pens include:

  • Waterman - my go to basic ink. If you have a pen and you are questioning its writing performance. Flush out the pen with water and fill it up with Waterman Serenity Blue.
  • Pilot Iroshizuku - a high quality ink made in Japan that is known for its vibrant colours, smooth flow and reasonable drying time.
  • Pelikan Edelstein - the high-end ink made by Pelikan and a good range of colours.
  • Rohrer & Klingner - a German line of inks with solkid performance and a good range of colours.
  • J Herbin - from France, one of the oldest ink companies, a offering a wide range of colours. You will have to get over the shallow shape of the small bottles. The larger the pen nib, the more difficult time you will have using this ink.
  • Diamine - a long established British ink company, wide range of colours and good quality ink.
  • Aurora - Italian made inks with good colour and performance. For many, Aurora Black is a defining ink that that colour.
  • Lamy - solid performance and a range of colours to consider. I like the classic old large bottles that included a strip of blotting paper.
  • SCRIBO - excellent quality inks, in a limited but beautiful range of colours stored in a stunning, well designed, stackable ink bottle.

That is only a short list there are more great inks to use.

Reviews by Manufacturer

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.

 

 

Best Combination: well designed bottle, high quality ink

SCRIBO fountain pen ink comes in a well designed and stunning bottle and the ink is just as high quality as their pens.

The Italian pen company, SCRIBO, makes high quality excellent fountain pens and fountain pen ink. Great combination,. The ink bottles hold 90 ml of ink, hold a beautiful range of ink colours and I have found the ink to have excellent writing characteristics.

» More on SCRIBO Ink

Are all colours safe to use?

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.

 

Ink Protocol

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.

 

Bottle Design is Important

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.

 

A bottle for the desk or travel?

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.

 

Inks are Expensive

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.

 

Mixing Inks

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.