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How to Find Your Next Favorite Fountain Pen Ink

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One of the great things about fountain pens is the freedom that they give you to choose your ink. You are no longer limited to shades of blue, black, or red. However, the expansive possibilities may seem overwhelming if you are a new pen collector. You may know what you want your ink to look like on paper, but color is not the only variable to consider in this purchase. Here are some questions to consider before purchasing ink for your fountain pen.

Bottled or Cartridge?

The first question to consider is whether you are looking for a bottle of ink or a cartridge. If your pen is designed for cartridges alone, that may answer the question right there. However, many pens may be used with either system and leave the question up to you. Both methods for delivering ink have advantages and drawbacks. It often comes down to personal preference.

Fountain pen ink cartridges are easy to install and change out when empty. They are also relatively inexpensive for those just starting an ink collection. However, using cartridges does limit your color choices and may actually cost you more in the long run. While you will often pay less for this pre-packaged ink than you will for a whole bottle of ink, you don’t get as much ink for your money.

It is important to note that some companies have proprietary ink cartridges that only work in their pens. Other companies make cartridges in standard international sizes, usually a short and a long. When in doubt, buy the short, as it will still work in a long pen.

If you are looking for a wide range of colors, you will probably want to opt for bottled ink for your fountain pen. Buying ink this way opens up about ten times the color possibilities and several options for waterproof ink. It is more complicated to fill a fountain pen with ink from a bottle, and you may need a converter for your pen, but you will pay less for the ink that you use and get to enjoy the full spectrum of ink colors.

Dye or Pigment Ink?

Most fountain pen inks are dye-based. These inks are very user-friendly and are a good choice for beginners. They are water-based and consist of small color particles suspended in solution. These small particles can become lodged in the nib of your pen, but they can usually be easily rinsed away because they are water-soluble. This property can make dye inks preferable for those that may not be as diligent with cleaning their pen. Dye inks are unlikely to damage your pen permanently if they dry on the nib. If, however, you are looking for waterproof ink, you will have to look to a totally different category.

Pigment-based inks provide more permanent color. These inks consist of large insoluble pigment particles deposited on the paper’s surface when you write. These particles bind to the paper and are not easily washed away when dry. This property is great if you are signing legal documents or are prone to spilling your drink on your desk. However, it can spell trouble if you forget to clean off your pen when you are finished writing. Pigment inks do not clean off easily with water once they have dried, making them high maintenance.

What color ink do you want?

Inks come in every color of the rainbow and everything in between. The precise shade of ink you choose may make the difference between loving to write with your pen and being lukewarm about it. Chances are the perfect color is worth a compromise in another area. So, explore your options and find something that you really like.

 

When you are looking at colors, keep in mind that color saturation can play a role in how the ink behaves when you write. Deeper, richer colors tend to take longer to dry and are more prone to smearing. Because they contain more colorant particles, these inks are considered “drier” and can build up on the nib. While this ink can usually be washed off easily, it does create an extra step for you to remember.

What kind of paper will you be using?

 

If you plan to buy high-quality, fountain pen-friendly notebooks and paper, almost any ink will work. However, if most of your writing will be on other documents from various sources, you will need an ink that is compatible with all types of paper. Low-quality paper, such as printer paper, has a tendency to absorb the ink from a fountain pen. If you are using a “wet” ink that flows quickly from the nib, your writing may feather or bleed. “Dry” inks are a better choice for this type of use. Waterman offers a wide variety of colors that perform well with almost any pen and paper combination.

If you are still unsure about what will work best for you, start exploring colors and ink types produced by the same manufacturer as your fountain pen. If you stick to the same brand for both pen and ink, you will likely get a good result. When you start branching out to other inks, look for reviews from others that own your same pen. Find out if the ink worked well for them. You could also visit a local fountain pen store and ask what they recommend. With the plethora of choices out there, you will likely find more than a few that make using your pen a joy.

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3 comments


  • Short but comprehensive article. Thank you!

    Ricardo Moraes Pinto on

  • I compromise and refill.my cartridges with bottled ink. This way I get the best of both worlds. I will admit it can hey a bit mess at times.

    Ed on

  • I often use my fountain pen to take notes during lectures, what inks do you recommend to keep from drying out?

    Richard Johnson on

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