Ink is the lifeblood of a pen. When you buy ballpoint and rollerball pens, you choose your ink at the same time. Most are waterproof. Also, some of these pens offer refills, which is a more environmentally-friendly option.

Pen ink

Fountain pen inks are predominantly water-based and dye-based, though document proof options do exist. Most come with the choice of using a cartridge or converter. There are also models which allow for ink to be directly filled into the pen itself.


Cartridges are great for beginners, since they are easy to use and less expensive up front than investing in a bottle of ink. They are also convenient when you travel with a pen and need to refill or change colours on the go.


Bottled ink is more economical in the long run, and since it is usually made of glass, doesn't create plastic waste. Also, the colour options and varieties of ink are much, much greater for bottled inks than they are for cartridges, which typically have only a few options.


The grandfather of fountain pen ink is J. Herbin, founded in 1670. The "Jewels of Inks' ("La Perle des Encres") was created in Paris in 1700. They use natural dyes in their inks and floral waters (hydrosols) from Grasse in Provence for their scented versions. These inks are still made in France today.


Another big name in fountain pen ink is Diamine, which offers over a hundred colour options and is known for its many specialty shimmering and metallic sheen inks. Diamine is based in Liverpool and continues to make its inks in the UK.


A couple of qualities you may like to consider when choosing an ink are saturation and shading.


Saturation refers to the intensity of colour. Highly saturated inks are vibrant and darker than less saturated colours, which are paler and more transparent.


Shading refers to the variation in saturation on the writing surface. Ink may pool in certain parts of the text you are writing or lines you are drawing. This creates darker and lighter areas within a single letter or line. Some inks tend to shade more than others. The pen and paper you use will also have an effect.


Inks with metallic effects are often referred to as inks with sheen. The effect is created when crystals form on the surface of the paper. A couple of examples include Diamine Majestic Blue and J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor.


Another glitzy option is shimmering ink. These are inks which are infused with glitter particles. To showcase the ink to its full effect, broad nibs are recommended.


If you want something special, but a little more subdued, scented inks are fun to try. J. Herbin makes a line of these called "Les Subtiles" (The Subtle) and each colour is matched to a fragrance. These inks evoke a sense of romance and may be a great choice for a handwritten love letter.






Well, we hope you've enjoyed this series on writing instruments and have come away with a greater appreciation for these everyday tools in our lives. As a little bonus, we've decided to add a seventh issue next week to feature some special tips and tricks when using these items.


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July 06, 2021 — Antoinette D'Angelo

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