Two things one always hears being asked: where is a good pen store, and what is a good pen ink. Got a personal view about your favorite ink? Yeah right. There are a good many very strongly held views on the various brands of ink. Readh any discussion page and the commends are plentiful.E-mail your views and I will include the comments on the page.

This page contains:

A Few Words about Inks

Ink flowing from your pen. Well it is the drip. The controlled drip. Gravity takes place, the capillary action of water controls it all. Thanks to the invention of the fountain pen, slots allowing ink to flow out of a storeage contained, and slots allowing air to flow back, the pen works. Waterman is credited with inventing the the fountain pen. As the nib touches the paper, the flow starts. Not enough air coming up into the pen... no ink flows out. Too much, ink flushes to the page.

Fountain Pens Use Water-Based Inks Fountain pen ink is water-based with dyes and other chemicals required for proper function. Do not use non-water-based permanent drawing ink in a fountain pen. Stay away from all Indian or drafting inks.

Its All Chemicals Despite passion towards the ink we use, it is only a mixture of chemicals. The chemicals mix create the appropriate surface tension -- viscosity. Antibacterial additions are included so the ink does not muck up in inside of your pen!

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Waterman pen factory in Nantes, France. At Waterman, a basic ink is used for the base and then dyes are added to create specific colours. All Waterman inks are made in their factory in France. Waterman decides on the "blend" of chemicals so that the ink has an appropriate amount of surface tension, flow and drying time assessed as best for their pens. Each manufacturer has their formula. So they say. But some companies use common inks. They just change the bottle.

Mixing Your Own Colours This is a big-time activity. Check our the ink section of Pentrace, a very good source of information on inks, and you will find the formulas for the perfect colour.

A word of caution. Mixing of inks sometime causes problems with a reaction between the various dyes etc. For an example, see the notes under Private Reserve ink. That company warns about the mixing of certain colours. Good for them for posting the notice. When mixing ink, wash the pen, including the converter, with a very mild ammonia and water solution.

I have found I can never get two bottles to be the same so I have moved away from the practice. I do, sometimes, add a few drops of a darker colour if I find the dye lot too weak.

Fresh Ink Can you use old ink? Most will agree you can, provided the ink has not been subject to sunlight, and has been properly capped. Give the bottle a shake and try it. If in any doubt, always have a cheaper pen available for your more daring moments. I use inks that are many years old with no problem.

Inky Fingers? Ink on your fingers? My worst fear. It seems that everyone in my office is just waiting for the big ink disaster to occur. Here is my secret. Just place some automatic dishwasher soap on a cloth and rub it over the ink stain. It will be gone with a little rubbing. As I proudly say... try that with ball point ink!

Let pen soak in room-temperature water with a little non-sudsy ammonia.

Cleaning Pens If you have problems with your pen, and the ink is just not coming out the way you think it should, give the pen a good cleaning. The best way is to use room temperature water. To help clean out any ink deposits you can place some very very diluted non-sudsy regular household ammonia in the water. Allow to soak and this will dissolve most fountain pen inks. Now we are talking about just a little. A cap in a cup or so of water.

Avoid hot water as this could damage certain parts of the pen. If you are not regularly using a pen, then clean the ink out with plain water. Otherwise, after a dozen or so fills, take the time to give it a flush with water.

Be careful with rubber-based pens. Leave out the ammonia and try straight water.

I found that leaving the nib section in a cup of water and coming back in 4 or so hours does the trick just about every time.

Acid & Alkaline Levels What about the acidity of ink? This seems to be a point of ongoing talk on various discussion sites. Is it really important? On one hand I am told it is not that much of an issue. The compatibility of inks and dyes used in the particular inks is more of an issue.

In 1996 Gregory Clark had an article published in Pen World giving the pH levels of a wide variety of inks. A low pH reading indicates the relative level of acid to a high pH reading that indicates the level of alkaline. Some brands/colours are listed with two different readings. That is because Gregory included both the pH levels found through his testing and those reported by the pen manufactures. Confused? Well as a reference point, water has a pH of 7.

Readings were reported for pH levels of :

What does all that really mean? Clark came to the conclusion that all the modern inks were safe to use in pens. Pens with piston or vacuum fillers would be subject to staining of some inks. Pens with sacs or converters would not have that issue. Neutral inks were considered to be those in the ph 6 to 8 range.

Feel free to try different inks with different pens. Some different brands of ink are made by the same company. For example, Cross inks are made by Pelikan.

Ink Manufacturer and Pens Should you only use the same manufacture's ink in your pen? No. Not really. Manufacturers include promotional information about how their particular brand and how it is developed to work work with their pens. Many different brands are actually made in a ink factory. Think your Cross ink a bit like Pelikan ink?

Try a few brands and see what works best for you. Generally, you will be hooked on a particular ink and will attest with strong conviction. Each ink writes better or worse. That's the fun of using a fountain pen.

You will find the "mysterious relationship" of inks and pens -- they all seem to write best with different brands of ink!

Of course you need more than one pen! Three aspects come to play in your writing experience. Your experience with a particular pen depends on three aspects:

Thick or Thin Ink? Ranked inks from Thick to Thin in the following order:

THICKER INK TO THINNER INK:
Panache
Parker Penman (now discontinued)
Rotring
Omas
Aurora
Parker Quink
Dupont
Waterman
Pelikan
Visconti
Pilot/Namiki
Yard-o-Led
Montblanc
Lamy
Sheaffer
Herbin
Colour differs depending on the ink, nib and paper.

Why are Colours are Different? Enjoy using different inks you'll soon notice that no two inks are the same. The colour/tone of the ink depends not only on the ink itself, but also the width of the nib, the ink flow characteristics and the paper used.

Abraxas

Orion Blue

I have heard very positive comments on this ink. Abraxas Orion Blau No. 53. is listed as an "artist line writing ink". It is made in Switzerland.

Greg Clark, who publishes the Ink Sampler Book notes that Flak Art Supply in Brisbane, CA (415-468-7530) carries them under the "Artist Line" label.

Aurora

Blue, Black

Aurora Fountain Pen InkInk in two basic colours: blue and black. Inks are rich in tone. The bottle will fit into a briefcase the long narrow shapes causes some problems when filling pens. The label on the bottle is the same for both colours. Look carefully to ensure you are buying the correct colour.

Bexley Turquoise, Harmony Green, Lapis Blue, Midnight Black, Mocha, Mountain, Violet, Ocean Blue, Crimson

Bexley InkBexley inks, available in a variety of colours, is made by the manufacturer of Private Reserve. Bexley should include the same warning as Private Reserve not to mix certain colours. The bottle has a wide opening with shallow depth. Filling large nibs pens will be a challenge when the level of ink is low. As with most saturated colours, if you change your ink colours regularly, you may spend more time rinsing the pen out with water than enjoying the ink!

Caran d'Ache Blue
Black

 

Cross

Blue, Black

Cross fountain pen inkCross inks are made by Pelikan. Comments on colours between these two brands are interchangeable.

Diamine

Magenta, Light Green, Washable Blue, Steel Blue, Brillian Red, Pink, Dark Brown, Jet Black, Lemon, Acqua Brown, Turquoise, Amber, Orange, Raw Sienna, Cerise, Blue Black

This ink is now more readily available in the US. It is made in the United Kingdom. There are drawing and calligraphy lines. Use the writing ink for fountain pens. Available in 17 colours.

I ordered by first three bottles from the folks at Pendemoniumand they did a great job in packaging up the bottles so they all arrived intact my mail. The ink comes in a very large 80 ml bottle, twice what you get in a normal bottle of ink so it will take a while to go through this batch.

Dupont

Blue, Black, Night Blue, Turquoise, Sienna

Dupont fountain pen inkI received a bottle of Dupont Blue as gift. I was really impressed with the bottle until I went to use the ink. Bottle too shallow for large nibs.

Herbin

Herbin fountain pen ink

Blue Myosotis, Black, Grey, Rose, Vert Reseda, Poussiere de Lune, Cafe de Iles, Bert Pre, Blue Nuit, Orange Indien. Violette Pensee, Bleu Azur, Rouge Caroubier, Blue Pervenche, Olive Green, Buttercup Yellow

Herbin, a company in Paris that dates back to 1670. Ink production commenced 1700. The first Herbin ink, called La Perle des Encres (the jewel of inks), was soon followed by L’Encre Des Vaisseaux (the ink of ships) -- the traditional French violet has been used by student in France. Fountain pen users would buy what is known as the "D" bottles. A classic bottle that has been around for a long time. The "D" stands for a French unit of measure, “la Demi Courtine”. Now 40 ml bottles. There is quite the collection of colours, and these are not all of them! Herbin ink is available through a variety of locations in North America.

Herbin has more than fountain pen ink. Some specialty inks are for dip pens. Do not use in a fountain pen.

The fountain pen ink is available in 17 beautiful colors. There are even more colours in cartridge (universal style). Some of the colours I have found to be too delicate -- I tend to lean towards bold vibrant colour of ink, as with a broad or stub nib strong colours look best. .

Reviews from others are that it is a very good brand of ink that flows reliably with a great colour selection. About those colours:

Thanks Don Weinberg for many of the comments on Herbin ink.

Lamy Blue, Black, Blue-Black, Turquoise

The bottle may be more exciting than the ink. Some of the bottles have a small roll of blotter that rolls off the bottom.

Levenger

Amethyst, Cardinal Red, Cobalt Blue, Cocoa, Gemstone Green, Raven Black

Levenger Fountain Pen InkLevenger ink is not readily available in Canada and I was fortunate enough that a reader of this site sent me a few bottles of the Cobalt Blue.

My first response to the ink was favorable. I really liked the deep rich colour. But in using the ink I experienced the issue of smudging that I have seen references about on other pen discussion boards. Its not a case of smudging while it is wet, for some reason if there is any moisture on your fingers, and you pass them across the ink - days later - the ink smudges.

Cartridges are available in the six classic colours: Cobalt Blue, Gemstone Green, Cardinal Red, Amethyst, Cocoa Brown, Raven Black.

Montegrappa

Black, Blue, Turquoise, Green

Despite positive comments on Montegrappa black, when I recently bought a Montegrappa Extra, in the Parchment colour (white and semi-transulent), the store steered me away from the ink and suggested I use Waterman Blue because of possible ink staining of the semi-transulent body. That concerned me. So, I have not tried any of their inks.

Mont Blanc

Royal Blue, Blue-black, Black, Emerald Green, Ruby Red, Turquoise, Bordeaux

MontBlanc Fountain Pen Ink I find that Mont Blanc inks have a lower level of colour density than some other brands. For example, Turquoise and green appear as either light tones or washed-out. Omas Burgundy has richer tones than Mont Blanc Bordeaux although the Bordeaux will provide good shading... one the characteristics of writing with a fountain pen. Royal Blue has medium intensity of colour.

Stylophiles, an Internet site that should never be missed, includes a regular section on ink. Mike Stevens (Nov/Dec 1998) provided his comments on Mont Blanc ink. Mike pulled no punches when he says "The bad news, the ink is, at best mediocre. It gives you nothing that you can't get better, and cheaper, from other inks, and that's in the best case scenario!" But to balance his view he goes on to say that "In fact, the bottles are so good, after testing the inks, I dumped the remainder down the drain, and refilled the bottles with some of my favorite 'real' inks!"

On colour comparison, Mike Stevens' views are as follows:

Namiki

Blue, Black

Omas

Royal Blue. Blue-black. Gray, Green, Violet, Amerigo Vespucci Red, Permanent Black, Saffron Yellow, Sepia, Roma 2000 Blue (1999/2000)*, Hong Kong Red (1997)*, Triratna Saffron (1998)*, Green Italia 90 *

* Limited Time Span Production

Omas fountain pen inkThe large octagon-shaped bottle, they have used it since it was first introduced in the 1930s, looks great on a desk is a pain to get into a briefcase!

While I personally think that the violet, gray and green are too light in colour when compared to some other brands, I am always reminded that there are a range of tastes! Others have written to note the colours provide good shading... especially the gray.

In November 1999, one participant to the alt.collecting.pens-pencils news/discussion group reported the suspicion that Omas Blue-Black ink caused the corrosion of a nib in a matter of days. The discussion that followed was interesting, with opinions at all spectrums. A regular contributor to the group, Frank Dubiel, noted: "I'm the one who spent 20 years running an ink and dye lab and I never saw any ink in all that time that could eat a hold in a nib in a few days. Sure Omas ink is terrible, there is no doubt in that. No doubt the pH is lower than it should be. My point is Omas varies all over the place in its contents, and perhaps its pH as well. But even a pH of 1.7 will not eat a hole in a modern nib in months, probably not for years." ... "Folks talking about pH really don't seem to understand that even a rather low pH is not acid enough to damage any material used in any normal pen made in our lifetime. Again its a problem far more in theory than if fact. I'd have no problem using inks with a pH of 1.7 in any pen I've ever owned. But I'd have a BIG problem with ink that contains gunk, or one with dyes so strong they may stain. Neither of which has the slightest thing to do with pH"

Frank is pretty knowledgeable about pens and as a book "Fountain Pens, the Complete Guide to Repair and Restoration available. You can contact Frank by e-mail.

Omas pens are made with natural resins do be careful about what inks you do use in those beautiful pens. Luckily, Omas ink comes in a wide range of colours.

PanacheExceptionally Blue, Exceptionally Red

Panache ink, made by Hunt, have rich colour tone. I have found that the inks don't do well with broad nib pens. They tend to dry quickly. Some comments received that this line of inks, despite being labeled as fountain pen ink, is not recommended for fountain pens.

On this brand, based on my experience with the ink, I go along with some of the comments received ... this is not an ink recommend for fountain pens. Check out the Herbin colours as you can get the same red there in a good flowing ink.

 

Parker

Quink
Blue, Blue-black, Green*, Red*, Peacock Blue*,


Brown*

Penman
Sapphire Blue*, Emerald Green*, Mocha Brown*, Black*, Ruby *

*These inks discontinued for year 2000.

Parker fountain pen inkQuink
Parker has been making inks for some 60+ years. The Quink brand is made in England. With the Penman line discontinued this is the sole ink Parker markets. Available in blue, blue-black and black.

Penman
Visit a pen discussion site and you will read strong feelings on this ink. Comments range from staining, clogging to just perfect! The ink is now discontinued (Dec 99). The ink was actually made by a company in Germany and not at Parker's plan in New Haven, England.

Pelikan

Brilliant Black, Blue, Blue-black, Violet, Brilliant Brown

Peilikan fountain pen inkPelikan make a great ink and worth a try in your sampling of inks. I find that the bottles nicely fit in a briefcase so I have no problem porting them around. The ink work fine in all my pens. The only comment, and one from the company's own literature, that causes me concern is: "Royal Blue can be eradicated and washed out." So what does that mean to the other colours?. In addition the regular ink bottle, the company has an 1897 Line which is a squarish bottle with a pen holder surface.

In July 2002 I had a number of reports of a batch of Pelikan ink with mould or sludge in the bottles.

 

PlatignumBlue, Calligraphers Black, Brown, Red, Green

Difficult to find this ink. The black is one of the darkest and best flowing ink I have used and works great in just about any pen. I regularly get requests as to where you can buy Platignum inks. I am told that Platignum inks in a wide variety of colours are available from Wallacks on Bank Street in Ottawa, Ontario. (Thanks to Alan Bennett for helping with that) and also Robert Antovel of Art & Frame of Sarasota sells the ink in blue and black, bottles and cartridges.

PlatinumBlue-Black, Blue

Ink is made in Japan. The company has been in operation for over 80 years. A smooth flowing ink. The company makes what is referred to as regular fountain pen ink and also a black carbon ink. I have have reports that the carbon ink works fine in fountain pens with Fine and Extra-Fine nibs

 

Private Reserve

Velvet Black, Lake Placid Blue, Naples Blue, Sherwood Green, Copper Burst Brown, Candy Apple Red, Tanzanite Purple, Plum, Hot Bubble Bum Pink, Fiesta Red, Orange Crush, Baby Lips Pink, Blue Suede, Avacado, Sonic Red, Sonic Blue, Shell Pink, Purple Haze, American Blue

Private Reserve fountain pen inkThere are positive and negative comments expressed about Private Reserve ink but overall this ink is a winner. I have purchased some of the colours from The Ink Pallette - a good source for all inks. When in Vancouver, BC Canada drop by Vancouver Pen as they now carry the full line of Private Reserve inks. Private Reserve is now making international size cartridges in some of their key colours.

Mixing some Private Reserve ink colours gave unpleasant results. Three colours, now discontinued (july 2002), but bottles may be around in shop stocks, should never be mixed with others: Candy Apple Red, Hot Bubble Gum Pink and Tangerine Dream. Mixing these colours results in a sludge.

Comments on the range of colours are as follows:

Rotring

Royal Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Turquoise, Black, Violet. Pink, red, Brown, Green

I've used the blue as sometimes if you need ink when you are traveling, and you did not bring a printed copy of Glenn's Pens with you, you can usually find an art supply or drafting store that stocks Rotring inks.

Rubinato

Red, Turquoise, Purple, Black, Orange, Pink, Green, Grey, Yellow, Blue, Brown

Rubinato fountain pen inkInk is made in Italy and sold by Rubinato in Treviso. I have never seen the ink in Canada.Other brands of ink are made by Rubinato makes, like some Colorado Pen ink.

 

Scheaffer

Blue, Blue-Black, Peacock Blue, Red, Brown, Green, Black, Burgundy, Gray, Lavender, King's Gold

Sheaffer has been make their own inks for all of this century. A new series of colours were introduced in 1998.

Opinions vary. Some write and say the ink is too thin and the colours have low density. Others find the colours just fine. A number of pen stores that regularly keep Scheaffer in ink wells for dipping. The blue is considered a safe ink for pens. The King's Gold is interesting. The new colors of Burgundy, Lavender and Gray have medium density of colour.

Sheaffer inks are often consider among the "safest" inks for use in pens as it is thought they will not stain the pens. Various sources on pens talk "for" and "against" the idea of staining. Interestingly enough, in Gregory Clark's 1996 article on pH levels of inks, published in Pen World, Sheaffer inks came out at both ends of the spectrum. Sheaffer Black has a pH level of 9 and the Blue, Blue-Black, Peacock Blue were right in the middle. As the article reported, "...ink never touches the body material. The remainder are usually made of cellulose acetate, plastic resin or acrylics, none of which are damaged by moderated acids." The most neutral inks were since to be in the 6 to 8 pH range.

In 2003 they introduced their "new" colours. Dissappointing. Washed out appearance.

Lapus Blue, Black, Turquoise, Bordeaux/Ruby Red

Expensive ink. The bottle has a unique design. Not one a standard stationary or medium pen store. You'll have to search out this ink. The look of the bottle always scares me. I have enough ink nightmares as it is.

The colours are acceptable. A balance between a ink that will move quickly out of most pens yet have a colour that is strong enough. I use broad and stub nibs so unless the colour is rich enough, it just looks pale.

Waterman

Black, Florida Blue, Red, Purple, Green, Blue-Black, South Sea Blue, Brown, Rose

Waterman fountian pen ink

Waterman produces their own inks in their factory in Nantes, France. They use a basic base ink for all colours and then add tints.

From the comments I receive, and those comments that regularly see posted on Internet discussion pages -- this is the ink you love to hate! You have to love the ink for its great flow... but for some the distinct "odeur d'encre" is just too much.

Over the past years, in talking with various pen stores, Waterman Blue comes out as one of the most recommended inks for all pens.

While Herbin inks are known for their scents, Waterman inks are known to have a scent of their own!

Yard-O-Led

Blue, Black

Yard-O-Led fountain pen ink

 

 

 

 

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