Ink for your Pens
Choosing your ink is an important part of the writing experience. The ink you use makes a statement.
Basically you do not have to buy the same brand of ink as the brand of your pen. Some pen manufactures say their ink is made to specifications the best utilize the characteristic of their ink feed mechanisms. But generally, you can use any brand of ink in your pen. What you will find are exceptions, not all inks are the same in terms of flow characteristics, and you will some inks just don't work as well in certtain pens.
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".
J Herbin - Rouge 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
About Fountain Pen Ink
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. Most fountain pen inks are dye-based and that make sense. Pen operate on the principle of capillary action. Pigment based inks have tiny solid particiles in the liguid. There is the problem that the particles will clog the narrow ink channels. Would some then use pigment-based inks? Yep. Not only are there pigment based inks but over the past year or show, shimmering inks are popular. Make sure you shake the bottle well. The most important aspect is to no leave the ink to dry in the pen.
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.
What is Wet and Dry Ink?
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.
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.
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.
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.