Ink has many different characteristics. There are some that seem to sheen, some with different shades on paper, and some that last for what seems like hundreds of years. Others have a fantastic shimmer that will leave both you and your readers dazzled.
Ink has many uses. Some are great for calligraphy, others are excellent for administrative work that requires a high degree of permanence.
There are many different colors of ink. Are you a purist who wants the all-time classic and versatile black ink? Are you a creative who wants a more adventurous option?
Whatever your taste and intended use, there’s an inkpot out there for you. And if it doesn’t exist yet, you can mix a batch up for yourself.
Saying ink is just ink is like saying that the One Ring is just an accessory for a Hobbit’s finger.
This guide aims to teach you all you need to know about the different fountain pen ink types.
By the end, you'll be more informed when shopping for your next refill.
Here's what you'll learn in this ultimate guide to the different types of fountain pen inks:
The main types of fountain pen inks that are available in the market.
The various factors that you should consider when deciding on the kind of ink to buy.
Where you should purchase converters for your pens.
What Are the Different Types of Fountain Pen Ink?
Dye inks consist of chemical components dissolved in water. Dye-based inks are the most widely available of all the fountain pen inks.
In comparison to other inks, dye-based inks are quite affordable.
It's also easy to take care of your fountain pen when using water-soluble dye-based inks:
One, it's highly unlikely for dye-based pen inks to clog up your fountain pen elements. You see, colorants dissolve in water completely. This means there's no sediment left behind to clog up your ink fountain pen.
Two, in the unlikely case that it does, all you need to do is flush your pen with water and voila! You've solved your clogging problem.
Due to the soluble nature of dye inks, however, they are not waterproof. It's easy for your notes to run or smudge when they come in contact with water.
Here are the pros and cons of dye-based pen inks:
Not waterproof, ergo, easy to smudge on contact with water.
Wide variety of colors.
Colors are more vibrant than those of other inks.
Pigment-based inks consist of fine solid particles of colorants mixed with water. These colorants are not water-soluble, and they remain suspended in the water.
This aspect of pigment-based inks is why they demand regular cleaning of your pen. If left unattended, these solid particles can clog up your fountain pen feed. This obstructs the ink’s flow to your nib.
Because of the physical aspect of pigment inks, they offer more permanence. The solid particles sit on the paper and bond to the fibers over time. There's no fading on exposure to sunlight, as is the case with chemical dye inks.
Here are the pros and cons of using pigment inks with your pen:
The solid particles last longer than chemical dye inks.
High maintenance - you have to clean your fountain pen regularly.
When applied on paper, the ink darkens to a deep purple-black color due to the oxidation of iron. It dries significantly darker in the wetter spots. This quality gives the strokes on the paper an attractive shading effect.
Another revered quality of iron-gall inks is their permanence. When oxidized, iron gall inks become water-insoluble. This insolubility makes them permanent. Permanence is favored for archival projects such as issuing birth certificates. Many a marriage certificate has been signed using iron-gall inks. If you have one lying around, go have a look at it.
Old manuscripts written using iron gall inks have maintained their legibility for centuries. The Book of Magical Charms is one example.
Cool fact #2: The Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest Bible known to man, was written using iron-gall.
A word of caution: Iron-gall inks are acidic. Acid is corrosive.
If you decide to use iron-gall inks in your fountain pen, make sure it's the fountain pen you use regularly. Your daily driver. This is because iron gall inks will corrode your pen’s metallic innards if left too long inside there.
Make sure to clean your pen using clean water regularly.
Here are the pros and cons of using iron gall inks with your fountain pen:
It will corrode your instruments over time.
It creates a stunning shading effect on paper when drying.
It does not lose its dark color pop over time.
Bulletproof ink is a dye-based formulation. It combines the benefits of both pigment-based and dye-based inks.
Bulletproof inks bind with the paper's cellulose fibers to achieve waterproofness. This gives them a high degree of permanence.
Because Bulletproof pen ink is dye-based, it requires low maintenance. You don't have to regularly clean out your pen to wash away the solid particles left inside.
Other permanent inks are either pigment-based or iron-gall based inks. Both of these have their downsides. For example, iron-gall is corrosive. Pigment inks require you to clean your pen regularly to prevent clogging.
Here are the pros and cons of using bulletproof inks in your pen:
It is challenging to get rid of stains.
Colors are sharp.
Most people have shimmer, sheen, and shading mixed up.
Sheen is where ink exhibits two different colors when it dries on the surface of your paper.
For example, a purple ink might have a golden sheen. A red one might have a purple sheen.
Sheening happens when the ink has not fully absorbed into the paper’s cellulose paper fibers. It sits on the surface of the paper and develops a sheen as it dries.
To get the best sheening results, use a wet nib on smooth paper with low absorption.
Shading is when ink seems to fade from one end of each of your strokes to the other. The saturation of ink is higher where your strokes begin and end. It will appear faded in the midsection of your strokes.
Shading gives your writing a good deal of character.
As is the case with sheening, use a low-absorption paper. This will allow your ink to sit on top of the paper's surface for some time. It'll then pool in different sections of your characters’ strokes. This will bring about the desired shading result.
Some people love the shading effect. Others find the abrupt transitions in ink intensity very distracting.
Shimmer inks are fountain pen inks that have been infused with glitter. Your writing glitters on paper when you use shimmering ink.
In formal professional settings, shimmer inks might come off as inappropriate.
Use shimmering inks when writing informal letters or jotting down the day's events in your journal.