Choosing the right ink for your fountain pen can be daunting, especially when there are so many inks on the market. If you’re a lefty or exploring using flex pens for the first time, it can be especially frustrating as these situations require a much more precise ink choice to avoid complications like smearing or hard starting. People will tell you try “wet” or “dry” inks… but what does that mean? Isn’t all ink wet? They are liquid after all! Fret not, we are here to set it all straight for you.
First off, most fountain pen ink is water based (with a few exceptions of iron gall), but, yes, they are all liquids. The majority of the ink on the market, including the wet or dry ones we will mention below, are safe for fountain pens and will work in fountain pens. However, certain fountain pens and ink seem to play together better than others. Finding the perfect pen and ink match is part of the fun.
Secondly, the wetness or dryness of an ink is a matter of personal opinion just as much as it is the perfect symphony of pen, ink, and paper all working together for a beautiful writing experience. An ink that flows graciously and lusciously from a pen nib and results in very smooth, saturated writing would be considered a wet ink. Whereas, an ink that flows rather conservatively and lightly out of a pen and does not leave a great deal of ink on the page when writing is considered dry. If you’re using a flex pen or have a pen that seems to write dry, you
can try filling it up with a wetter ink to help with the flow issues. Left handed writers may naturally gravitate towards a drier writing ink as well, as they will be less likely to smudge it when pushing the pen across the page. But each fountain pen writer has their own features they look for in a good ink. Here is a brief overview of our favorite wet and dry ink brands overall and a few suggestions you can try to get the full wet and dry ink experience.
When thinking about wet inks, Noodler’s is, by-and-large, most people’s first answer. Nathan Tardif creates his stunning inks with a healthy dose of lubrication and pigment, resulting in a wet, juicy flow. Another brand worth mentioning for its wet inks is Diamine. With a rainbow of great ink shades, Diamine has an ink for everyone.
Here are our top 5 Wet Inks:
Bright green and gorgeous, Diamine Apply Glory has a generous flow wet enough for even the most tight nib. It is available in a 30ml bottle for $7.50, an 80ml bottle for $14.95, or a 2ml ink sample for $1.25.
Our Community Coordinator Madigan loves using De Atramentis Gold in her flex pens. She says it behaves nicely and has a great, generous flow. Try it in a 35ml bottle for $12.95 or a 2ml ink sample for $1.30.
The saturation of Alt-Goldgrun can’t be beat. Everyone in our office that uses it finds it very pleasing and smooth and the flow very nice. Pick it up in a 50ml bottle for $11.95 or try a 2ml ink sample for $1.25.
Hands down the king of shading inks, Noodler’s Apache Sunset is a heavily saturated, great flowing wet ink that many fall madly in love with upon first use. It is available in a 3oz. bottle for $12.50 or a 2ml ink sample for $1.25.
When asked about some good dry ink options, our Customer Care team unanimously responded with the Pelikan 4001 inks. This inks are great for anyone looking for a dry ink that won’t spread greatly when writing and will have a conservative ink flow. It is generally thought that dry inks are not as vibrant as their wetter cousins but the 4001 inks put that notion to the test. Susan, one of our Customer Care team members, notes that the Pelikan Violet is especially gorgeous and is a favorite of hers. Royal Blue is another bright and brilliant choice. However, for the more professional, subdued needs, Brilliant Black is the way to go. Another fantastic option for dry writing are the Lamy inks. These fun inks with the built-in blotting paper roll on the bottle are smooth writing while still dry flowing.
Here are our top 5 dry inks:
Lamy Black is a great go-to for work or school appropriate ink. It’s a basic black that won’t saturate the page when you are trying to take notes. Pick it up in a 50ml bottle for $10.50 or a 2ml ink sample for $1.25.
This rich brown is gorgeous but still maintains the conservative flow of a dry ink. It’s a nice departure from a standard blue or black and gives writing an old world feel with a color reminiscent of aged leather. You can find it in a 90ml bottle for $12.50 or a 2ml ink sample for $1.25.
Lamy Blue-Black is a great conservative but still interesting choice for ink. Not the reserved black, but still work appropriate, this blue-grey ink has a limited flow but writes very well. This great ink comes in an 50ml bottle for $10.50 or a 2ml ink sample for $1.25.
There are other factors outside of the ink itself that can affect ink flow. Being mindful of the paper you’re using will help immensely in having a desirable writing experience. Writing on cheap printer or notebook paper can make even the driest inks feather and bleed in the right circumstances. Also, using a flex or stub nib, both of which put down a great deal of ink all at once, requires an ink that can keep up with that ink flow.
What are your preferences: wet or dry? Let us know in the comments below!
The Goulet Pen Company Team