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Fountain Pen Basics: What kind of bottled fountain pen ink should I buy?

(J. Herbin fountain pen ink - Bleu Nuit)

You have a fountain pen (or pens) and you are ready to move beyond ink cartridges into the world of bottled fountain pen ink. Buying bottled ink is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than using cartridges, offers a plethora of color options and special ink qualities, and in my opinion is a whole lot more fun. Some fountain pen ink bottles are practical and utilitarian, while others resemble fancy perfume bottles straight off the shelf from Nordstrom.

When purchasing your very first bottle of fountain pen ink which one should you buy? Every writer that uses a fountain pen will have their own favorites and preferences when it comes to ink. The purpose of this post is to give you some general guidelines and suggestions based on my own personal experience with using fountain pens.

Some suggestions for your first bottle of fountain pen ink:

1) Make sure the ink is for fountain pens. Do not use any other kind of ink because it can clog or ruin your pen.

2) It is not necessary to buy ink that is the same brand as your fountain pen.

3) Choose a bottle design that does not easily tip over.

4) Bottles with a wide mouth are easier to use for filling your pen.

(Pelikan 4001 fountain pen ink – Brilliant Red)

5)  Buy ink that is washable. It’s easier to remove from your hands, clothes or carpets if you have an accident.

6) It is not necessarily better to buy a "gourmet" ink. The higher price of some inks can just mean they have fancier bottles or are imported from a far away place.

7) Avoid inks with special or unique qualities at first, and wait to try those inks until you are a more experienced fountain pen user.

8) It may be best to steer clear of blue-black ink to begin with. Some inks of this color can react badly when mixed with other ink.

If you are experienced with using fountain pens, what would you recommend to other writers making their first purchase of bottled ink?

(LAMY T52 fountain pen ink – Black)



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Comments

A couple of pieces of advice for neophytes would be the following:

--Stick to safe inks over fancy ones. Pelikan 4001 and Waterman are the most obvious examples, but they are not the only ones.

--Buy a small bottle. 30 ml is enough for a lot of writing. You can always buy more or, if you did not like that ink, shift into another.

--Remember. The whole writing experience is based on three elements--pen, paper and ink. No ink works well in every pen, nor any pens works well with every ink.

And a comment on the post. The only problem with blue-black inks comes when they are iron-gall inks. Those are permanent and acidic--two potential problems. Rohrer and Klinger Scabiosa is also iron-gall, although not a blue black ink.

Regards,

BT (estilofilos.blogspot.com)

Thanks for this--very helpful. In your experience, have you found that the Mont Blanc bottled ink tends to clog easily? I used it to stay true to the Mont Blanc fountain pen I own, but have had continued trouble with the pen in doing so. Perhaps, changing to J. Herbin, which I love as cartridges is the way to go. . .
Thanks again!

Hi Bruno,

Thanks so much for your comments - excellent advice!!

Marion,

I personally have not had any issues with Mont Blanc ink. I agree with what Bruno says in the comment before yours, "No ink works well in every pen". It's definitely worth giving J. Herbin ink a try in your pen. I hope you like the results!

I used Higgins Black Magic before, that's some time after I just came America and don't know English very well. The ink color is little bit light for me. It's waterproof for sure. I learned that when the ink dried in my pen, it does not dissolve by water so I have to use some solvent to clean the pen. The bottom line is, I don't recommend water proof ink to those who are forgetful as me.

Hello Yan,

Thanks for your suggestion regarding waterproof ink. I probably would had the same experience if I had used waterproof ink as my first bottle.

I'd recommend Diamine inks. I've used a few in different colours and I am very happy with them. They give nice shading, rich colours and are washable as well.

For waterprove, all purpose inks Noodler's Black is hard to beat.

@Marion I always thought that Black Magic is a special india ink and more suited to dip pens.

I've tried Pelikan fount india which is their version of a waterprove ink, and yes it works, but is more gray than black.

The Pelikan 4001 and especially the blue one, is one of the inks that are very "thin", e.g. it does not work well in dry fountain pens like the Safari, thus I would not recommend it.

Cheers,
Jim

Forgot to mention another famous ink. I am surprised nobody mentioned it so far:

Parker Qunik is highly recommended as well. It is semi-waterprove.

Jim

I agree with Jim. Whenever someone I know buys their first fountain pen I let them use my Quink. Sure, it's a funny name and doesn't have a broad range of colors...but ink that dries quickly can really help someone out who is new to inks, especially someone left handed. If you like black ink, Quink is black...not bluish, not purplish, not greenish, just deep, dark black. I haven't encountered a pen that doesn't like Quink.

Once you have your basics accomplished, there's a lot of colors in other brands to check out. De Atramentis, J Herbin, Diamine, and Noodler's have enough colors to choose from for just about anyone.

Jan

Be very careful when using solvent to clean dried ink out from the inside of your pen.

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