I'm a little under the weather this week, so I decided it would be a good idea to choose a fun blog topic that doesn't require a lot of research. I found my inspiration in the #17InkQuestions meme started by Lisa at her blog OliveOctopus.ink, which I discovered thanks to a recent "Link Love" post on one of my favorite blogs, The Well-Appointed Desk. I always get excited by ink, and I found Lisa's questions interesting and thought-provoking. I'd love to hear readers' answers to any of the questions, too!
First Memorable Ink
1. What was your first (memorable) ink?
My very first inks (other than the cartridge that came with my first fountain pen, a Pilot Metropolitan) were a Pilot Iroshizuku mini ink bottle set with Yama-budo, Asa-gao, and Shin-kai. They were a birthday gift from my parents. The sets with these 15 ml bottles were an older edition of Pilot Iroshizuku's ink sets, but they now have four beautiful new sets with 30 ml bottles. Having an ink set was such a wonderful way to get my feet wet in the world of fountain pens, and I started swatching and getting creative right away. One of my first ink experiments was to invent my own mauve-y purple color by mixing Yama-Budo and Shin-Kai.
Yama-budo blew my mind, and I used it with great pleasure in my new Pilot E95s. I love the rich fuchsia color that pops off the page, yet isn't too garish to use regularly. This ink is so well behaved, with a smooth, wet flow, and shows gorgeous greenish gold metallic sheen on some paper. It's the #1 most popular ink in the Fountain Pen Companion database, and there's a reason for that! Yama-budo was the second bottle of ink I ever emptied (after Kon-peki, another Pilot Iroshizuku ink), and of course I bought another one. I always make sure I have enough Yama-budo on hand in my ink supplies.
The first full-sized bottle I bought myself was Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku, and getting that bottle was extremely exciting and memorable, but, although I loved the beautiful peacock color and used it often in my Pilot Falcon, I never became obsessed with it the way I did Yama-budo!
Favorite Ink Bottles
2. What is your favorite ink bottle design, and which bottle (or cartridge) is your favorite to use?
I love the Pilot Iroshizuku bottles because they're so beautiful, including the packaging details of the elegant silver outer box and little silver cord around the bottle's neck, which I always think of as its necktie. I don't keep my boxes or my bottles' neckties, but many people do, and they definitely make the experience of starting a new bottle feel very special. The bottle's heavy glass and elegantly curved shape looks especially beautiful when light shines through it, although of course I keep my ink bottles protected from sunlight when they're in storage. I also like that the bottles are clearly labelled with the ink color and color name, unlike some other brand's bottles. The Iroshizuku bottle also has a small divot at the bottom that both helps you fill your pen when the ink level is low and adds to the bottle's beauty.
I also love the Waterman bottles, because I think the shape is cool and very functional. I appreciate that the modern Waterman bottle is still very similar to its vintage design, and that the bottle has a faceted shape that allows you to tilt it to facilitate filling your pen as the ink level gets low.
Ink I Love but Don't Write With
3. What's an ink you love or find useful, but would not use for everyday writing?
The first thing that comes to mind are some of the rose gold and mauve Robert Oster shimmer inks. They are swoon-inducing colors for me, but I wouldn't use them for writing. I prefer good contrast between my ink and the page, and they are just too light for me. I love to use them with a watercolor paintbrush for art, though. My favorites are Rose Gold Antiqua, Rose Gilt Tynte, Barossa Gilt, and Violet Clouds.
Robert Oster Dusky Pink, Australian Opal Pink, and Sailor Yozakura also fall into this category, although those aren't shimmer inks. They are incredibly beautiful, complex, fascinating mauve-influenced pink colors, and really appeal to my senses, but I only use them for art, not writing.
Another category of inks of this nature are the ones that I dilute and use for lighter flesh tones when I'm painting. I actually collect very soft peach colors like this, and I'm always on the lookout for new ones, but I'd never use them for writing. I probably have ten or more ink samples in this type of shade. My two favorites are Sailor Ink Studio 173 and Colorverse Brunch Date. They have an unparalleled luminosity and complexity that I feel most resembles real skin.
I also love using yellow inks when I'm painting, but they are often hard to see when you write with them. My absolute favorite pure beautiful yellow is J. Herbin Bouton d'Or, which barely shows up at all in writing. J. Herbin Ambre de Birmanie is a gorgeous and complex light amber, and I've used that often in my paintings, too, as well as Robert Oster Yellow Sunset, my favorite warm golden yellow. I'm sure many people enjoy writing with both of these inks, but I don't!
I have some favorite multichromatic inks, too, and love using their multi-colored magic when I paint, but I wouldn't write with them. I just like a darker line when I'm writing, and less extreme shading. I've collected a lot of inks in this category, but my favorites are Sailor Yurameku Kitsune Biyori, Byakuya, and Seki, Sailor Ink Studio 252, and 273, and Vinta Aegean Armada.
I also like to paint with bright red links, but hate writing with them. They are just too harsh for me in writing, and I often have trouble with them clogging my pens, as well. My absolute favorite luxurious bright red (with a hint of orange) is Monteverde Ruby.
This painting of Don Giovanni was part of a series of sixteen playing card -style portraits I did of my favorite opera characters in 2020. I love how the Monteverde Ruby in Giovanni's breeches refused to be confined by the playing card borders. Very apt! You can see how I used skin tone inks here, as well.
Finding New Inks
4. How do you discover new inks?
These days, I mostly discover inks at Pen Boutique, either by looking through our swatch book, swatching newly released inks myself, or talking with customers and colleagues. I also always read the Mountain of Ink blog. It's such an incredible resource. I don't know what I would have done without it. I like the Fountain Pen Pharmacist blog as well, and I try to keep up with what's being talked about in the Fountain Pens Reddit discussion group, although I don't have as much time to do that as I used to. Pen shows are another great place to discover new inks, and they usually have ink testing available! I fell in love with a couple of cool inks at the DC Pen Supershow last year.
Uses Other Than Writing
5. Do you use inks for anything other than writing?
Yes, see question #3! I love to use inks to draw and paint with. Sometimes I just sketch with a fountain pen, and other times I combine using a pen and paintbrushes. I often water down my ink when I paint with it, but I use it straight, as well. I also mix colors together to get the shades I want. Other than that, I guess the only thing I use my inks for is making swatches. I find the process of swatching fun and relaxing, and I really enjoy looking at the colors later, thinking about them, organizing them, and getting inspired by them. Even if I don't use a color, I may get pleasure out of just looking at it.
6. What's an ink that's worth hoarding (whether you actually do or not)?
For me, I'd say Sailor Sei-boku (a waterproof nano-pigmented blue ink with beautiful shading and sheen), and Waterman Tender Purple, Harmonious Green, and Inspired Blue. I'm not a hoarder, and I don't think any of those inks are going away anytime soon, but, if I heard that they were being discontinued, I'd definitely freak out a little bit and stock up on a few extra bottles. (Samples of these inks are all pictured in this article.) I use them regularly, and, for me, they are irreplaceable because they are so well-behaved and have unique properties that are important to me.
In terms of discontinued inks that people famously hoard, I'd say Lamy Dark Lilac and Lamy Petrol are pretty special, but I only have small samples of them myself.
I do have a discontinued ink that I wish I'd bought more of: Pen BBS #507, Lily of the Valley. I only got a sample vial, and there are merely a few milliliters left at this point, so I'm afraid to use it, but I wish I'd discovered more quickly how much I like it, and bought a full bottle or two. It's just such an unusual and special shade of bluish-green, and I haven't been able to find an exact match anywhere. I loved how it wrote in my Sea Glass Estie. I guess the lesson is, if you really love a unique ink that's part of a limited series, make sure you buy enough while you still can. How much is enough? That's hard to say.
Matching Inks to Pens
7. How do you choose which ink goes into a pen? Do they have to match? Do you always use the same ink in a particular pen?
When I first get a new pen, I usually experiment a bit and see what inks I like with it. If it's a pen brand that's new to me, I might not know what ink brands will work best with it. In that case, I often research a little, or ask other fountain pen users if they have experienced especially compatible inks for that brand. Sometimes I match ink brands to pen brands (Pilot Iroshizuku inks in Pilot pens, Sailor inks in Sailor pens), but I'm not strict about it.
I do sometimes fill my pens with matching ink colors, but, more often than not, I don't. My pens that I like to fill with matching inks include:
- Grape TWSBI Diamond Mini AL, in broad - Colorverse Hayabusa Glistening. I may eventually try some other shimmering purples in this pen, but I haven't yet! Hayabusa Glistening is so perfect, it's hard not to keep refilling it with the same thing.
- Soft Blue Pilot Prera, in fine - Waterman Inspired Blue. I tried many different aqua blue inks in this pen before finding the absolute perfect one. I will never use any other ink in this pen now!
- Lilac Esterbrook Estie, in extra fine - Lamy Crystal Azurite. This combo is exquisite! I see no reason to ever change it.
- Sea Glass Esterbrook Estie, in fine - a matching green ink. Since I can't get Pen BBS Lily of the Valley anymore, I experimented with a number of different green inks, then tried my old favorite Waterman Harmonious Green, and I'm very happy with the combination. It doesn't match quite as well, but I love how it writes, and the shading makes me very happy.
- Petrified Forest Esterbrook Estie, in fude (a custom grind made for me by nibmeister Kirk Speer of Pen Realm) - a matching grapefruity orange ink. Right now I'm using Sailor Kin-Mokusei, and it's so spectacular, I'll probably make it official, although I may temporarily switch to some non-matching inks if I want to experiment more with using the fude nib for art projects.
- Pelikan M205 Petrol Marbled, in fine - I am currently using Lamy Petrol, and it's wonderful in this pen, but a little dark. I also have used Montblanc Petrol and Montblanc Emerald, and really liked those, too. I didn't use petrol-colored ink in this pen when I first got it, but now that I've paired it with inks in this color range, I am really enjoying the combination and I think I will stick with it. I am excited about trying other petrol inks before deciding on an official favorite, though.
- Pelikan Souveran M400 Tortoiseshell-White, in broad stub. Because this pen has a translucent tortoiseshell barrel, I feel like it would look weird filled with a colorful ink, and I stick with brownish, gold, or honey-colored shades. I recently filled it with Anderillium Cuttlefish Brown, a beautiful and unusual sepia-colored ink. The ink pictured with the pen below isn't Cuttlefish, but illustrates why I like to use a matching ink with it. (After I finished this sketch, I noticed that I'd given Latrobe a left hand on his right arm. Oops. How creepy!)
- Kaweco Sport in Iridescent Pearl, double broad - I always pair it with an ink that I think compliments the colors of the pen, but it's not always the same ink. Right now I'm using it with Colorverse Supernova, one of my favorite inks. I also love it with Diamine Enchanted Ocean. I don't think the ink needs to be bluish to suit this pen, but they mostly have been so far.
- My most recent perfect match discovery is my fine Caran d'Ache 849 in fluorescent orange and pink (my colleague Leila and I traded caps so we have "friendship pens" with two-tone colors) paired with Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Red, a bright ink that straddles the line between pink and orange, and looks amazing in this pen. It also has brilliant gold sheen!
I have some other pens that I always pair with the same ink, but it's not for matching reasons. I always fill my double broad Pilot Custom 74 (a black pen) with Colorverse Shiny Black, but I do it because the glistening ink looks so amazing with this pen's double broad nib, not because the pen is black. I have kept this pen filled with this ink for over three years, and writes perfectly every time I pick it up. Likeways, I always keep my orange fine medium Pilot Custom Heritage 91 filled with J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen because the combination is so compatible and brings me so much joy. The bright orange pen and bright fuchsia ink don't strictly match, but they are a perfect pairing. I also always fill my medium Rose Faber-Castell Hexo with Sailor Pigmented Seiboku Blue ink, not because of the color combination but because the pen and ink work so well together, and because I love this ink so much, I always want it in my Hexo. Now that I've found the ideal pairing, I will never switch.
I have a few other pens that stick with their favorite inks, but I am not matchy-matchy about the rest of my pens. (I have about 40 pens in my collection right now, so the majority of them aren't matched.) I like to use a lot of different ink colors, and I have far fewer pen colors than I do ink colors, so most of my pens aren't tied to any particular color ink. I just find inks that behave well with them and make me happy, and have fun with them.
8. Do you use ink samples? If so, is your goal find an ink to buy a bottle, or just get a smaller amount of ink to use?
I have over 400 inks, and the majority of them are samples. I love samples because they let me try out a lot of different colors and brands. I know samples aren't a good value compared to bottles, but I just love comparing the nuances between different inks. Even if two inks appear to be a very similar color, there are always things that set each one apart, and I might prefer the flow, sheen, or shading in one over another. One ink may be compatible with a certain pen, and one with another. And, since I paint with my ink, it's great to have lots of different choices. Inks that look similar full-strength may look completely different when diluted, especially if it's an ink that hides many other colors within its primary shade.
If I really like an ink and know I'll use it regularly, I'll buy a full bottle, but I usually start with a sample, and, in most cases, I want the sample to use. I prefer 4 ml samples because they give me enough ink to really do something with it. Sometimes I get a second sample rather than a full size bottle because I know I want to keep a little bit of the ink "in stock" but I'm not going to use it up very quickly.
That said, I think I'm kind of unusual in my preference for having lots of samples. I was talking about samples in the store today with my colleague Leila and some customers, and the consensus among the group was that, when they try a sample, they generally either buy a full size bottle of the ink or give the sample away to friends. I'm the only person I know who collects samples. Everyone else I've talked to seems to prefer real bottles!
Popular vs. Underhyped
9. Is there a popular ink that's just not for you? What underhyped ink would you like to see more people try?
A lot of my colleagues and customers are crazy about Diamine Writer's Blood, but I'm not into it at all. It's actually Leila's favorite ink, but I tried it and it didn't really do anything for me. I also never saw the appeal of Diamine Earl Grey. It's boring to me, but it's the #6 most popular ink in the Fountain Pen Companion database (Writer's Blood is #7) and is often mentioned on lists of favorites. And I never even felt the urge to try J. Herbin Emeraude de Chivor, a perennial favorite that sells out regularly and is #3 on Fountain Pen Companion's list of most-owned inks. I'm not totally sure why I haven't tried it. Maybe I feel like it's too popular! I'd like to see more people try Anderillium inks, especially Colossal Squid Dark, and Waterman inks, a brand that seems kind of boring, but absolutely isn't. Try Tender Purple!
10. What do you do with any unused ink when you clean a pen?
Expel it into the sink, and rinse the pen clean with water, usually. Sometimes I'll expel leftover ink onto paper and experiment with the sheen and/or how it looks when diluted with water. Occasionally I'll leave the dregs of an ink in my pen and mix it with another color, but that's pretty rare for me.
Most Unique Ink
11. What is the most unique ink you've used or seen?
Definitely the Monteverde Color-Changing ink set! I was able to produce some incredible effects when I tried out these fun and fascinating inks.
12. How do you catalog, swatch, track, and store your inks?
I use Fountain Pen Companion, a free website that allows you to track your ink and pen collections and your currently inked pens. I also swatch my inks on Col-o-ring ink test cards from The Well-Appointed Desk. (I am very behind on doing this, though... I have a lot of samples that I haven't swatched yet or entered in my FPC database.)
To do my swatches, I use a watercolor paintbrush to brush a swatch across the bottom of the card, trying to get the ink application to start out heavy and fade to light. Then I drop a few splotches of ink onto the card with a blunt syringe, to see how the ink looks in high concentration. When the ink has dried enough, I write the brand and color name on the card, usually using some sort of dip pen. I used to use my feather pen for this, then a Frankenstein pen I made with a flexible vintage nib put into a modern pen. Now that I've discovered the new Hocoro Dip Pen, I use that! I absolutely love that pen, especially with a fude nib.
I store my ink bottles and vials in small drawers in a piece of furniture that was designed to be a kitchen island. The vials are organized by brand and color, and kept in test tube holders. I organize the brands by what part of the world they come from. (Europe, North America, Asia, etc.) Here are some of my vials when I had them out a couple years ago to reorganize them and add small labels on the racks for the countries.
Favorite Color Family
13. What is your favorite ink color/color family?
Definitely purples and mauves. I have over 50 inks in this category and usually end up with way too many pens filled with purple inks at the same time. Right now I have four different pens filled with shades of purple.
14. What ink-related tool or accessory can you not live without?
A blunt syringe. I use it to refill cartridges, clean cartridges and converters, swatch my inks, share ink samples, make custom mixed inks, and do ink splats in the store. I also love my watercolor paint brushes, ink vials, bulb syringe for cleaning, and Hocoro Dip Pen.
15. Have you ever mixed inks or used shimmer additives?
Yes, I've made my own custom mixes and even invented names for some of them and written down the formulas. My favorites are Stella Blue, Marzemino, April Showers, Giuseppe, Carlotta, Ella's Tea Room, and Pale Skin. I've used Stella Blue and Marzemino quite a bit, and had to mix up new bottles of them several times! I've never used shimmer additives.
When you mix inks, it's safest to stay within a brand, and make sure you mix your inks in a separate vial or empty bottle, not right in your active bottle. Some inks can react strangely when mixed, but I've never had this happen to me. It's best to let your mixed ink sit overnight before putting it in your pen, just in case any weird chemical reactions happen. I never do that, but I guess I live life a little dangerously!
Ink Delivery Systems
16. What is your favorite ink delivery system (cartridges, type of filling system for bottled ink, etc.)?
I don't really have a favorite. They are all okay. I don't buy ink in cartridges, but I do refill cartridges from my bottles. I also like converters and piston-fillers. I've never owned a vac filler or eyedropper pen. I'm not crazy about sacs and lever-filling mechanisms like some vintage pens use, but I don't hate them, either.
17. What ink(s) are you excited about right now?
Here's the original list, if you want to answer the questions yourself.
#17InkQuestions from Lisa at OliveOctopus.ink
- What was your first (memorable) ink?
- What is your favorite ink bottle design, and which bottle (or cartridge) is your favorite to use?
- What's an ink you love or find useful, but would not use for everyday writing?
- How do you discover new inks?
- Do you use inks for anything other than writing?
- What's an ink that's worth hoarding (whether you actually do or not)?
- How do you choose which ink goes into a pen? Do they have to match? Do you always use the same ink in a particular pen?
- Do you use ink samples? If so, is your goal find an ink to buy a bottle, or just get a smaller amount of ink to use?
- Is there a popular ink that's just not for you? What underhyped ink would you like to see more people try?
- What do you do with any unused ink when you clean a pen?
- What is the most unique ink you've used or seen?
- How do you catalog, swatch, track, and store your inks?
- What is your favorite ink color/color family?
- What ink-related tool or accessory can you not live without?
- Have you ever mixed inks or used shimmer additives?
- What is your favorite ink delivery system (cartridges, type of filling system for bottled ink, etc.)?
- What ink(s) are you excited about right now?
I'd love to hear your answers (they don't have to be anywhere near as wordy as mine!), and I'm sure Lisa would, too. Leila and I will also tackle these questions together this week on Episode 8 of our YouTube show, For Your Penjoyment! Hopefully I won't contradict myself. And remember, when it comes to inks, as with pens... chacun à son goût! (To each their own taste.)
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