by Eruanne Calie
I’ve considered myself as an ink person, that I’m into fountain pens because of inks.
I draw and paint for a hobby and dabble into a bit of calligraphy and hand-lettering when time allows. My default medium was watercolors until I found fountain pens (or should I say, they found me?) and oooh-la-la inks.
Setting up a watercolor palette, bringing brushes, and washer pots can be quite a production number. With fountain pens, one has only to bring a couple filled with water-soluble inks and a reliable water brush. Its on-the-go convenience will get the likes of us (read: intrinsically lazy) definitely hooked. From a couple of fountain pens and a few bottles of inks, one would be surprised at how ‘a little happy selection’ quickly becomes ‘the arsenal.’
After a full year of using fountain pens and inks as an alternative medium, it is my privilege to share with you twelve of my favorite inks. Most of these are water-soluble, albeit not mixable. I mix them on paper, sometimes, but I’ve always been drawn to the elegance of monochromatic pieces.
Everything Calligraphy gave me a sample each for these twelve inks. This doesn’t affect my opinion about them as I already have a bottle (or two, heehee) prior.
For our shared enjoyment.
One under the radar, this is probably one of the least popular Noodler’s inks out there that I find most appealing.
It neither shades—despite its name—nor sheens and the drying time will drive you nuts but if you’re looking for a workplace ink that isn’t as mainstream as black or blue-black, this is an ink that deserves a place in your shelf.
If you still remember your Crayolas, the shade is a mix of Brick Red and Mahogany with Brick Red being dominant. On Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolors palette, Noodler’s Nightshade is akin to Indian Red.
Perhaps I’m being biased, but if a choice isn’t personal, then it becomes less interesting. I’m a fan of deep reds and Noodler’s Nightshade is on top of my list, closely followed by the phenomenal Diamine Oxblood in the deep red family.
There are no alternatives for this ink, though Franklin-Christoph Black Cherry comes reaaaallly close but still not quite the same. I hope you try it. Meanwhile, here’s John Keats.
Diamine Lapis Blue
This ink derives its name and borrows its color from Lapis Lazuli, an intense blue rock that reminds me of Yul Brynner’s Ramses in Cecil DeMille’s Ten Commandments. I read somewhere that King Tut (well, okay, I read it on Wikipedia, harhar!) used Lapis Lazuli in his death mask, which makes this kind of blue fit for royalty.
The more fascinating back story about this ink is that it was created in collaboration with Diamine Philippines’ Mr. Peter Bangayan (hi, Mr. Peter!) and is exclusively available in our country.
In my book, Diamine Lapis Blue represents a true primary blue, as in Cayola Blue or Winsor Blue with a welcome bonus: RED SHEEEEEEN! What’s good about this ink’s sheening property is that the red sheen doesn’t alter its colour as it can only be seen in some angles where Diamine Lapis Blue pooled upon writing or drawing.
To be honest, as with my a few of my other favorite inks, Diamine Lapis Blue has a dedicated pen for it, an instance where the beauty of the ink prompted a pen purchase. I like it so much I wish it were available for everyone to enjoy. If you’re in the Philippines, you’re very lucky. If you have yet to try it, please do because some of our friends from abroad could only dream of getting hold of a sample or two.
I’m running out of adjectives and descriptive phrases so for now I leave you with a necklace for Khaleesi. I hope you enjoy.
Robert Oster Caffe Crema
This ink paired with Pelikan M200 Cafe Creme—my taking-matchy-matchy-to-a-different-level-combo—
compels me to go to the nearest coffee shop and enjoy some me time with a cup of White Mocha Americano.
It’s one of the best browns I’ve tried and I’m certain to get another bottle when I finish up mine. As with coffee, one “sip” of Robert Oster Caffe Crema will never be enough.
Organics Studio Walden Pond Blue
Ever found rainbow reflections on bubbles when the light of the Sun hits them magical? Yes?
Organics Studio captured that very same magic in Walden Pond Blue. This ink sheens on anything except skin. I’ll let the photos tell you all about it.
Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses
Be intrigued. Be very intrigued. The name itself is poetic and I think this ink is phenomenal.
Despite the controversies surrounding Nathan Tardif’s inconsistency in producing this ink—I think it has the most inconsistent shade among batches—and its black component’s tendency to stain clear demonstrators, it’s still a unique, exciting, and reliable ink that deserves all the fame it gets: workplace-friendly, water-resistant, and washes well. That is if you get the bottle with the shade similar to mine.
Sailor Jentle Rikyu-cha
An homage to Tea Master Rikiu, this ink, like tea leaves, shades from Oxide of Chromium to Raw Umber. Tea steeping—earthy and woody with a distinct tang. Only it is not meant for drinking.
This is my favorite ink for 2017. With Sailor repackaging the Jentle line into small bottles (with the same SRP, sob), I’m not saying you get a sample or a bottle. Hoard when you can! I’m grabbing you by the collar!
This ink is best enjoyed with Kakuzo Okakura’s The Book of Tea from Penguin Classics, coincidentally my best read for the year.
Cheers to a happy new year!
Diamine was most likely inspired by Macassar Ebony with this brown-black but I’d like to think that it’s Rowland’s Macassar Oil-inspired. Diamine Macassar reminds me of my grandmother’s favourite hair colour.
Well-behaved and non-staining, one can safely eyedropper a favorite drawing pen with Diamine Macassar. Brown is a good outline for drawings, but as this water-soluble ink has a tendency to be muddy, it’s best used as a stand-alone brown-black.
Recommended by Mr. Peter Bangayan as an alternative for Diamine Chocolate Brown, I fell in love with this ink at first drawing. It is said to remain under the radar in the Philippine market as it is always in stock but long-time fountain pen users—hello Eli Weisz of Fountain Pen Network International!—champion this ink. We can’t say that we are thankful that there is no need for us to be hoarding bottles of this ink yet but we want you to try this ink.
Give it a go if you’re on the lookout for any non-black daily writing ink staples. And yes, vintage-inspired doodles and drawings.
Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa (Iron-Gall)
I like this ink not only for its iron-gall properties but also for its colour.
It has a purple shade that dries with dark greyish tones similar to that of scabiosas where it borrowed its name. It makes me want to design floral stationery sets.
Iron-gall inks have a certain water-resistance and are lightfast to some degree. They also become darker as they dry, but buyer beware they can corrode nibs.
Yet still, if one has to satify curiosity with iron-gall inks, get R&K Scabiosa because others may not be as gentle or as pretty.
Diamine Classic Green
I had a green phase in my fountain pen journey where I acquired only green ink in search of my green—the kind that is suitable for both drawing and daily writing. I would have amassed a shameful collection had Mr. Peter Bangayan not suggested I try this ink.
Diamine Classic Green is Oxide of Chromium in a bottle. For drawings, this ink can be a stand-alone green and can still be mixed with brown to achieve a gradient look. Other green inks are either too bright, too dark bordering on green-black that they’re no longer suitable for drawing, or too leafy and light that they can’t be used for writing.
Get a bottle and holler for fountain pen drawing and ink wash tips. Now.
Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Bodeaux
The thing I like most about this ink is its colour—crushed wines, vino. It makes me crave for a glass of wine even in the middle of the day.
There are alternatives for it: J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune (drier version) and Franklin-Christoph Tenebris Purpuratum (dustier version) but at less than P500 for a 50ml bottle, this is the practical choice.
Beware of this wet ink, though. It creeps especially when left sitting in your pen for weeks.
Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-guri
I’m a bit hesitant to try any of the Pilot Iroshizukus because I find them luxurious for consumables but when I found the chance to get a 3-bottle 15ml sampler box at a good deal, it was a no-brainer: I had to have Yama-guri.
I’ve read several reviews about the Iroshizuku browns prior to purchase. Compared to Ina-ho, Yama-guri is darker being a brown-red, but leaning towards brown by a notch or two.
And true enough. It lays a true brown on paper but when washed, it becomes Mahogany or even Burgundy and I find that property appealing. Yama-guri can be a stand alone brown, and since it doesn’t get muddy or murky even when washed or layered—see there, one gets what one pays for—one can create beautiful pieces with this either as a main piece, a highlight or accent, or as a background wash.
I have only a 15ml bottle of Yama-guri as of writing, add to that the sample I got for this project, but I won’t wait till it’s all gone to get a 50ml bottle.
Iroshizukus are pricey but they’re worth it. After all, as written on Everything Calligraphy’s website, it’s the Rolls Royce of fountain pen inks.
Do get some, too.
I’ve searched, and still am looking for, the perfect black ink. It has to be black and not gray even when used in Japanese EFs. It has to be well-behaved: no bleeding, no feathering, water-resistant to some degree, highlighter-safe, eraser-proof, and easy to clean. And lastly, it shouldn’t have to break the bank for me to use it on cheap copy paper and forms that have less than 5 years retention period.
I haven’t found it yet, but if Nathan Tardif could make X-Feather eraser-proof and a teeny tiny bit highlighter-friendly, the search is over.
Even so, I think the only inks that beat X-Feather are Sailor Kiwa-guro and R&K Dokumentus which are a pain to flush out and quite impractical to be used for signing piles of documents. The cheaper option, much cheaper, would be to use tech pens instead. I have Rotring black on Staedtler Mars Matic and it’s perfect for signing and filling out forms but tech pen ink dries out easily killing the pen when left uncapped. I’ve killed two tech pens already and I’m not about to add another to the dead barrel count.
Coming to a conclusion—thanks for reading as far as this paragraph—when one thinks about it in fountain pen terms, X-Feather is the best black among the options we currently have. It’s blacker than Noodler’s Heart of Darkness, dries faster than Noodler’s Black, and less difficult to maintain and way more affordable than Platinum Carbon Black.
We can have all the ink colors we want but we have to accept it: black is indispensable. We have to have it in our pen cases and bring it with us everyday, everywhere and if left with room for only one pen, it’s practical to choose the one inked with black. And of course I’ll choose a reliable workhorse full-tanked with X-Feather.