fountain pen with gold lettering

Most people use ballpoint pens and dispose of them whenever the ink runs out. Fountain pens almost seem like a relic of the past, but true writing enthusiasts know the joy of writing with a well-balanced weight and a nib that glides easily over the paper. The best fountain pen inks make that journey a graceful and satisfying one.

As calligraphy enthusiasts, even though our main tool is the Chinese brush, we've also dabbled in fountain pen arts.  Using the structure and form carefully practiced with calligraphy, we find writing with fountain pens another refreshing way to spread calligraphy in the western world. 

Fountain pen inks are generally water based but comprise any of numerous varieties of additives that provide them with their colour, flow, and other traits.  Dyes for colour, commonly derived from analine salts, however in a few different brands derived from vegetable dye formulas. Fountain pen inks are in particular varied, with dozens to select from.

Caring For Your Fountain Pen

Sometimes, while you are trying to write with your fountain pen and you find that your pen does not write or it writes with an unsteady flow of ink. This can be caused by various factors such as ink has dried up in your pen or the nib might be broken.

To take care of your fountain pen and to prevent clogging of your pen, you should follow the below care instructions.

  • It is highly recommended to clean your pen in between each refill.
  • Change the cartridge of your pen
  • Always carry your pen with the nib pointing upward
  • Wash the nib of your pen once in a while with warm water to remove any ink that might have dried on the nib.
  • Be careful not to knock your pen against a hard surface. To avoid damaging your pen, ensure that you replace the cap immediately after use. It not only covers the nib of your pen but also that the ink does not dry out at the nib of your pen.

Learn how to fill your fountain pen here.

Noodler's Ink Fountain Pen Bottled Ink- "The Battle Tested Choice"

noodlersink bottle
  • Durable and Waterproof
  • Anti-forgery, Anti-feathering
  • Fade resistant
  • Might stain your clothes if you are not careful
  • On wide nibs may experience nib creep

Price $$​

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Made in the US, Noodler's ink's claim to fame is that it's "bulletproof", shorthand for waterproof, fade and forgery resistant, permanent fountain ink.  It is meant to be extremely durable, resistant to industrial solvents, bleaching agents, and other tools forgers use.   The manufacturer's website also highlights that this ink has been tested under severe heat, moist conditions, even Hurricane Katrina.

Even though it is waterproof it does come off of the hands  when you wash with soap and warm water. Do be careful nib creep, which is when the ink seeps out through the slit on the nib.  However, this seems to appear on certain Noodler's inks and wide nibs.

If not used regularly the ink could result in hard starts, where the flow doesn't begin immediately or begins in an uncontrolled fashion.

Noodler's Ink comes in a wide variety of colors at an affordable price.

sailor ink bottled
  • Carbon pigmented ink, very water resistant
  • Smooth flowing
  • May bleed slightly on cheaper paper
  • Permanent ink difficult to wash off

Price $$​$

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Extremely water resistant, pigment based ink, Sailor ink dries quickly and offers great smooth writing without smearing.  It also resists fading and is a very black ink with a slight silver sheen once dry on high quality paper.  Performance is strong on different types of paper.  

Users who prefer pigmented inks find that this ink seems smoother and dries faster.  Since the ink is made with tiny carbon particles, turn the bottle upside down a few times to mix the particles back in to retain waterproof capabilities.  The ink is quite waterproof and permanent, behaving well in different pens.   The ink has a distinct smell to it.

Parker Quink Ink - Affordable Option

parker ink bottle
  • Quick drying
  • Also has refillable cartridge versions
  • Smooth writing
  • Works well on paper of all types of quality
  • Not waterproof
  • Not a true black color

Price $

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An Amazon #1 best seller in bottled ink, this affordable brand is extremely quick drying.  This type of ink is unique because it dries by absorption using isopropyl alcohol instead of traditional water evaporation.  It was originally created to minimize the need for blotting, and did well because it didn't clog, resisted mold, and didn't leave deposits or fade, according to wikipedia.

This brand comes in a pack of 6 refill cartridges of black pen ink as well, suitable for those who travel and want something convenient. However, the cartridges are only meant for Parker’s pens. If you are having a different brand of fountain pen, best to stick with the bottle ink or other brands. The ink is not really black in colour as reported by some users; it has more of a greenish grey tint to it.

 

Who Is It For: Those who already owned or thinking of owning Parker’s pens.

Pilot Iroshizuku Bottled Fountain Pen Ink - "The Vibrant Color Choice"

pilot iroshizuku bottled fountain pen ink
  • Highly saturated intense and vibrant colors
  • Beautiful flow
  • Quick drying
  • Not waterproof
  • Pricier

Price $$$

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Pilot inks stand out for their gorgeous, vibrant colors, and for those looking to venture outside of typical blacks and blues,  these inks are highly recommended.  The ink doesn't bleed and writes without fading.  Traditional colors like charcoal black and deep blue are available.  

Even though they are pricier than most bottles of ink, they can well worth it for the colors and the beautiful bottle.   Iroshizuku incidentally combines Japanese words for "coloring" and "droplet", with each ink name inspired by Japanese natural landscapes and plants.

 

J Herbin Bottled Ink - "Ink for the Lefty"

j herbin black bottled ink
  • Flows well
  • Smooth, pure, dark black ink
  • Dries quickly, good for leftys
  • Not very water proof
  • Bottle is a bit short and square for refills

Price $$​$

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High quality ink that dries quickly without smudging, leaving minimal bleed through or feathering.  The ink is not as viscous as noodlers, but more so than Parker and Mont Blanc.  It is also a very dark true black, without an odor.  Smooth and bold black ink that works well with different pens like Pilot.

Due to the fast drying nature, left handed calligraphers enjoy using this ink.

Pelikan 4001 Bottled Ink - "The Value Choice"

pelikan bottled ink
  • Versatile for a number of pens
  • No nib creep
  • Easy for new beginner
  • Water-soluble

Price $$

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Pelikan ink was formulated over 125 years ago and is favored for how quickly it dries, the ease of use and the fact it doesn’t bleed as much as the other brands of pen ink.

Ink is water soluble, so once the ink has dried, it may still smear if it gets wet.  Perhaps not the best choice for use on official documents such as bank cheques. Flow is smooth and the ink seems to be versatile and safe with a wide variety of pens.  Even Pelikan itself proclaims that the ink is protective of both the fountain pen and nib.  Very flexible as it can be used in fountain, calligraphy and dip pens.

Conclusion

Writing with fountain pens is a pleasure that has not been forgotten.  For a smooth flowing, enjoyable experience, try to use high quality fountain pen inks.

What are your favorite inks?