Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Fountain Pen Inks

I've loved fountain pens since I was a child. I've bought a number of inks over the years, though these days I am mostly using waterproof inks for drawing and sketching. Fountain pen ink that is pigmented and waterproof is relatively new and has changed the way I work with pens and sketching. Black is not longer the only option.

I thought I'd catalogue some of the inks I've tried here, and add more as I try more samples.

De Atramentis Document Range

Document Brown Ink from De Atramentis - image from the website here.
I've written a lot about these lovely German inks over the years, and created many mixing charts. Use the search button to find them, or click on the links below. I use the black for my regular pen (a Lamy Joy with an EF nib) in my diary. I also put it in a Pilot Custom Heritage 92 piston filled pen for sketching. I fill another Custom 92 with my mixed grey and use the Brown in a TWISBI diamond 580, also for sketching. This gives me a nice range of lovely colours to sketch with, all completely waterproof and lightfast. I have more pens I use with these inks in my studio, including one filled with my Burnt Sienna custom mix. I love being able to mix any colour I want with these inks!

De Atramentis Document Inks - White, Burnt Sienna (custom mix of the Yellow and Brown), Brown, Black.
June 2018 update - Urban Grey has just been added to the range - available from in Australia, it is a warm grey waterproof ink :-)

De Atramentis Urban Grey Document Ink -
added 2018

De Atramentis Document Inks - Yellow, Red, Magenta (also called Fuchsia),
Violet and Green
De Atramentis Document Inks - Grey (custom mix of the Blue and Brown), Fog Grey, Dark Blue, Blue, Turquoise (also called Cyan)

See here for mixing 
See here for three-colour mixes
See here for mixing greys

See here for mixing with black

De Atramentis standard inks

These inks are dye-based, rather than pigmented, so not waterproof or lightfast. I tried some to test, exploring the interesting effects you can get with ink and water or adding watercolour but the colours were too unpredictable. Best used for writing! I use these in my writing pens for notes in my journal or letter writing.

De Atramentis Standard Inks = Ocher Yellow, Copper Brown, Dark Blue, Dark Green, Auburn, Fog Grey.

Super 5 Ink

Super5 inks -  Darmstadt, Franfurt, Atlantic, Dublin, Delhi, Australia

These muted inks come in 6 different colours and are completely waterproof. I've written about them here. It is not a range I have explored much, though I have heard good reports of them.

Super5 ink, Atlantic.

Pilot Iroshizuku Ink

The name is made up of 'iro' (colouring) and 'shizuku' (droplet), and 'each ink name derives from the expressions of beautiful Japanese natural landscape and plants'. (From the website here

This is a relatively new range of dye-based inks. Lovely for writing but not for adding watercolour, though I rather like the softening effect on the first one. 

They come in gorgeous glass bottles. I'll explore these further for writing...

Pilot Iroshizuku Inks - Fuyo-Syogun (Old Man Winter), Kiri-Same (Autumn Showers), Tsukushi (Horsetail), Yama-Guri (Wild Chestnut) and Take-Sumi (Bamboo Charcoal) (sorry - label above spelt incorrectly).
The colours available in Iroshizuku Inks

Sailor pigmented Nano inks

I am sad to say it but these were a disappointment as I'd originally bought them for sketching so wanted waterproof inks. The Blue Black is almost waterproof but the black is not, though it was supposed to be. They are also available in cartridges. Fast drying.

Still - there are times that it is nice to draw with a semi-waterproof ink and get softened lines.

Sailor Nano inks - black and blue-black.

Parker's Quink

An old friend. Introduced in 1931 - who hasn't had a bottle of this at some stage? I actually only use this to play with, making use of the dye properties and the separation that occurs when wet. Dye-based inks are made up of many colours and the blues and reds create interesting effects. Colours available include blue, blue black, black, red and green.

Quink bottle. From the website here.
Parker's Quink, Black.


Noddler's Inks

I bought a few of these inks - I loved the colours. However I started to have problems with my Lamy pens and was told the ink reacts with the plastic of the feed, so now they sit in a drawer. (Apparently this problem has been fixed so newer Lamy pens won't react.) These are large generous bottles (3oz) and great colours. Not waterproof, though there are a few in the range that are supposed to be.
Thanks to the comments below, here is the link to the PDF listing the properties of the inks.

Noodler's Inks - Apache Sunset, Kiowa Pecan, Red Rattler (lubrication ink), Blue, Turquoies (lubricating ink) and forest Green.

Platiunum Carbon Ink

Platinum Carbon Ink - black

This also comes in Blue in a waterproof ink. It is lovely and rich. Totally waterproof. It also comes in cartridges, and is great in the Platinum Carbon Pen. I also use it in my Platinum brush pen. The bottles are simple and hold a generous 60ml of ink.
This ink may be too thick for some pens - the feed of the carbon pen has been enlarged to allow the ink to flow. I haven't use it in other pens apart from the carbon pen, though others have.

Platinum Sepia Brun Pigment Ink.

Sepia (Brun) Pigment Ink from Platinum as also waterproof and is a lovely brown. I've just bought this for the first time so haven't really explored it yet...

Sailor Storia Inks

Made in Japan, this range is fast-drying, pigmented and waterproof. This one is - and is a lovely raw sienna colour.
Sailor Storia Ink - Lion (Light Brown)

I love Sailor pens, which can have perhaps the finest nibs available, and am interested in the inks they produce.

This lovely image from Pen Chalet shows the cheerful bottles of Storia Ink.

There are 8 colours, all bright and named after a circus theme. Spotlight (yellow), Fire (red), Balloon (green), Lion (Light Brown), Clown (yellow green), Magic (purple) Dancer (pink), Night (blue).

I'd love to see these in some neutrals too. I still continue my search for a lovely waterproof grey...I may try mixing the Fire and Night to see what sort of neutral they might create...

Lamy Ink

Lamy make inks in bottles in a limited range of colours - blue wahsable, black, red, turquoise, green and blue-black. the blotting paper is very useful when filling pens!
Their cartridges come in more colours. Non waterproof.

Lamy ink - black.

 Higgins Ink

Higgins make loads of different inks but this is the only one called a fountain pen ink. I haven't tried it in a fountain pen though...non waterproof.


  1. Those Pilot inks look so lovely, soft and muted. Too bad they are not waterproof.

    I just filled my LAMY al-star with Noodler's Lexington Grey.

    I did read on a fountain pen forum that a few people had problems with their LAMY Safari pens with Noodler's Bay State Blue. While most Noodler's are Ph neutral Bay State blue is not; it is alkaline and has a ph of 8-9. That may be the problem with the plastic feeds. Several of the posts I read referring to this were dated 2010 and reported that Lamy has since changed their feeds and the problem is no longer being reported.

    This from the Goulet Pens website:

    "The Noodler's Baystate inks are slightly different formulas than conventional fountain pen inks. They are designed to be more vibrant than other inks and have a slightly basic pH-level, and as a result they are prone to staining and should not be mixed with other non-Baystate inks. If staining should occur, a solution of 10% household bleach and 90% distilled water should help. If you have any particularly rare or valuable pens, you may want to avoid using Baystate inks in them."

    I read be careful with cheap Asian pens as their plastic feeds are susceptible to the Baystate Blue problem. In the world of fountain pens, $40 or less for a fountain pen is pretty cheap. If it ate the feed of a Bossert and Ebhard pen, then I would be pretty upset. But I wouldn't take a B&E pen out urban sketching either.

    I've also read that Noodler's Bulletproof inks are bulletproof on cellulose paper because of a reaction with the cellulose. I'm not sure how that translates to watercolor rag paper.

    Not all Noodler's inks are bulletproof. I found a chart somewhere that has qualities like Bulletproof, semi-Bulletproof, and how lightfast they are. Three pages of it. I used it to choose the few colors I have. If you can't find it online I can take a photo and e-mail it to you.

    I do like the De Atramentis inks, especially the Brown and Grey.

    1. Found the chart here:

    2. Thank you for the link - I'll add it to the post.
      I guess I should still be careful since my Lamy pens are pretty old. But nice to know the problem has been fixed :-)

  2. Loved this post, Jane, thank you! I will certainly get some DeAtramentis ink, and I’ll take the Noodlers ink out of my Lamy pen and use it with a dip pen or a brush. Good info! Have you ever come across a site called FOUNTAIN PEN INK AND BLEACH? He does some fun experiments with all kinds of ink. I think he exclusively draws in ink.

  3. Thank you for this very informative post, Jane! Just recently, I have been considering some ink drawing and lettering but didn't know where to start with equipment and inks. You have saved me much research time, and I appreciate that. I also love your Ultimate Mixing Palette book which I refer to often when watercolor painting. It speeds up my understanding of paint properties, values, and so on.

  4. I've been intrigued with the Platinum pen-series of fountain, felt-tip and underliner pens, all avail for under $5-ea from Goulet or JetPens. The underliner can be used as a broad-felt tip with different ink. For a small investment, you can afford a fistful of custom-ink fillable pens. Goulet also has $1 samples avail for many of their ink offerings.
    I've been refilling "disposable" Pilot Bravo and Pentel Varsity/Stylo's for years...

    1. I'm looking at a refillable rollerball so I don't have to keep buying micron pens but the extra fine nib on the LAMY al-star I just bought seems to be able to do the job. I prefer a fountain pen to a rollerball or ballpoint or even a felt tip. It's just not very practical for writing checks or anything with a carbon. Of course, check-writing is getting more and more old school so I've put a fountain pen back in my purse. With those touch screens, I don't have to sign my name on paper very often either.

  5. De Atramentis Urban Grey!! A waterproof grey is just what I need for drawing.

    1. I've been searching but Urban Grey doesn't seem to be available in USA. :( Hopefully it will be.

    2. It was created for Larrypost Australia, but I understand it was also being made available elsewhere.

  6. Thanks a lot for this amazing review!
    Have u try Rohrer & Klingner Dokumentus Ink?
    I Bought Brown, and its wonderful color <3

  7. Thank you for this very informative post. I never know such fountain pen inks do exist, these fountain pen inks are really amazing. Try Lapis Bard too, I have used it’s also very unique.

  8. I use a lot of the inks you mention Jane but I am currently using a beautiful Rohrer and Klingner German ink . or should i say schreibtinte . it is extremely vibrant and the colour is Cassia. Great information by you ,thanks.

  9. BTW ,if you go to the Birmingham pen site which is in Pittsburg ,you will find their own brand Birmingham Cathedral Panther Blue a fantastic substitute for Baystate .Blue. I believe they used to be the old chesterfield and Xfountain but their inks are really good and tremendous value.

  10. The Higgins ink IS waterproof, I just purchased a bottle from my local art shop, i asked the owner if he was certain it was waterproof as i was tired of buying inks that claimed to be waterproof which were not, anyhow it is the 'Higgins Calligraphy ink' and it is suitable for fountain pens.

  11. Hi. I've read your posts on color mixing with fountain pen inks. I hope you don't mind me asking this question. I need a water-resistant red ink for correcting students' work. I live in Taiwan, so I don't have access to all the inks people in Europe and North America have. I do, however, have access to Platinum Pigment inks, particularly their Rose Red. Unfortunately, it seems a bit too pinkish for my tastes. Have you ever used it? If so, have you ever mixed in a little of the Brun Sepia to maybe warm it up a bit and get rid of the pink tone? Does that work? Would it become a garnet/maroon if a little more Sepia is mixed in? Thanks. I appreciate any guidance or suggestions you may have.

    1. To make a rose colour more red, you'd normally add yellow. Adding an orange-brown would make it a more burnt scarlet; adding a deep brown will make it more maroon as you mentioned.
      You can see the D.A Magenta mixed with a warm brown here to give you an idea. I don't have the Platinum rose/red to be able to compare but it is worth a go.

    2. Thanks! I saw also where you took the Magenta and added Yellow. I think Platinum has a mixable yellow (although it's not part of their pigmented ink series). I'll have to do more research.