What kind of ink should I use with my pen?

This is a great and common question. Choosing between all the different options can be quite intimidating, especially when some come with the warning that they could cause a blockage in your pen.

Fear not!

I will attempt to break down a few inks; their pros, cons and their most suitable pen pal. First things first, at its most basic level ink can be divided into two categories. Dye based and Pigment based.  As their names suggest, they're made differently and have various pros and cons:

Dye Based Ink (fountain pen-friendly ink)

Pros
  • These smooth flowing inks are perfect for fountain pens as they don't contain pigments or binders that can clog up the fountain pen's feed.
  • They often have a more translucent quality, meaning you can build up layers to create a deeper colour and effects.
  • They'll play nicely with fountain and calligraphy pens and even make a great substitute for watercolour paint.
Cons
  • They are not lightfast - the little blighter that is UV rays will eventually change and lighten dye based inks if exposed to the sun.
  • They're not waterproof, this means that you can't paint or write over them without smudging.
We sell Diamine fountain pen inks, which are the bees knees when it comes to quality. You can find them here. You'll also notice that we have shimmer inks. These are dye-based inks that contain minuscule metallic particles that work brilliantly with fountain pens as long as you clean your fountain pen once in a while. (video to follow).
For inspiration on some the incredible effects you can achieve using fountain pen ink, Nick Stewart has some great tutorials and examples.

Pigment Based Ink

Pros
  • They're often lightfast. So because they contain colour particles the sun can shine all it likes and it will have a much harder time effecting the colour.
  • They're waterproof. Some pigment based inks are permanent like our Indian Ink, which contains a modern type of shellac so it won't bleed if you want to layer other inks on top.
  • Rich and deep colours. Those clever particles lend these inks deep and vibrant colours.
  • Metallics! Our range of Finetec pallettes are second to none when it comes to sparkle.
Cons
  • They're best suited to calligraphy pens which are much easier to clean (so no clog).  However, you then have to dip your pen every time you run out of ink.  The solution? Using my one-dip-wonder to make your dip last ten times longer.
  • Settling. In a bottle of ink with pretty big particles (normally metallics) settling can occur as gravity works its magic. The solution (without using plenty of elbow grease and shaking often) is to use a Finetec palette or a magnetic ink stirrer (Google it, it will change your life!)
I have my own glorious range of the finest calligraphy inks that are absolutely superb for all things calligraphy.
You can also find Finetec metallic palettes here too.
Please let me know if I've missed anything or if you have any questions :)

1 comment

  • Jayne Grindley

    Hi Tom
    Great article, I’m after some advice regarding the diamine inks, I purchased 4 from you a few weeks ago and wanted to know what paper you would recommend using with the inks, even though they are beautiful inks I was quite disappointed that they just feathered on all the papers I tried even my rhodia pad. I have pre ordered my spark with calligraphy nib and want to be able to be ready to use it when it arrives x


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