Top 10 Wet and Dry Inks

 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.


WET INKS:

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:

Diamine Apple Glory

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.

De Atramentis Gold

Sample of De Atramentis Gold fountain pen ink

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.

Rohrer and Klingner Alt-Goldgrün

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.

Noodler’s Air-Corp Blue-Black

Noodler’s Air-Corp Blue-Black is a fascinating color, somewhere between blue, black, and green. It flows wet and juicy. Try it in a 2ml ink sample for $1.25 or a 3oz. bottle for $12.50.

Noodler’s Apache Sunset

Noodler's Apache Sunset Ink Splatter

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.

DRY INKS:

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:

Pelikan Violet 4001

Pelikan Violet 4001 Fountain Pen Ink

This ink is bright and lively, while still maintaining a minimal flow that makes it a dry writer. Available in a 2oz. bottle for $13.80 or a 2ml ink sample for $1.25.

Lamy Black

Lamy Black Fountain Pen Ink

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.

Monteverde Brown

image of Monteverde Brown fountain pen ink bottle and swab

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.

Pelikan Royal Blue 4001

Pelikan Royal Blue 4001 Fountain Pen Ink

Another bright and fun option in the dry inks, Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue adds a pop of color to the dry inks category. Try it in a 2oz bottle for $13.80 or a 2ml ink sample for $1.25.

Lamy Blue-Black 

Lamy Blue/Black Fountain Pen Ink

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!


Write on,
The Goulet Pen Company Team

2017-10-11T04:18:45+00:00 September 21st, 2016|Shopping Guides, Top 10 Lists|35 Comments
  • Zoe

    I love a nice juicy flow of ink, but I also want it to dry by the time I turn the page. No surprise then that so far most of my inks are Diamine with a couple Noodler’s and a Waterman. Great post! I might try a drier ink, just to see what it’s like, maybe the Pelikan Violet Usually when I’m looking for an ink I’m considering the color, does it dry in a reasonable amount of time, and is clean up/staining reasonable. I have to agree with Madigan, that De Atramentis gold does look nice, I think I’ll throw a sample into the cart next time.

  • Walt Everly

    Dry! Dry, dry, dry, dry dry! I don’t use fountain pens for anything resembling artistic expression. I use mine for taking notes – lots and lots of notes. I can’t afford premium paper for all the notes I take, so I’m stuck using less than optimum paper. Using extra fine nibs and dry ink allows me to use a lot of inexpensive paper that is unsuitable for a wetter pen and ink combination.

    Thank you so much for this post; you’ll be getting an order from me soon.

  • Giovanni’s Roomba

    I usually prefer a fairly dry ink, and with the exception of one stub, all my favourite pens have an F or EF nib in them: I want to be able to write very tiny if I need to, and I like to feel in control of the line. But even with a fine nib, my Monteverde Intima writes big and soupy when loaded up with Monteverde Blue-Black. I really like it, mind you: it’s nice to have a different line every now and then, it’s sort of fun to have the ink just barreling out, and I love the pen itself, so I will forgive its wilfulness.

  • Thudthwacker

    I lean towards wetter inks; dry inks make me unhappy. And this post makes it even more likely that I’m going to have a bottle of Alt-Goldgrun in my next order.

    • Kricket Ashley Krick

      I lean towards wetter inks too. Alt-Goldgrun was one of the first bottles I ever purchased when I was getting into the hobby. I will never not have a bottle on my desk. It’s one of my all time favorites! Highly HIGHLY recommend!

  • Cass

    Wet inks all the way! They make my XF and XXF nibs feel so oily and smooth, it’s such a pleasurable experience to write with them.

    I’ve tried quite a few J. Herbin inks and really wanted to like them because of the colors, but every single one was too dry. Another I really wanted to love was Scabiosa, but it also was much too dry. It’s a shame, I love the permanence and shading that comes with Scabiosa.

  • Shawna Yuan

    Diamine Apply Glory? 😛 Until I start using better paper for school, I should really stick to dry inks.

  • I’m not fond of Noodler’s inks, with the exception of Lex Gray for the color. I love Deatramentis and Daimine in general, and am beginning to do my color searches starting there, though I may try the Rohrer & Klingner – Alt-Goldgrun. What I would like to know is if anyone notices a difference in waterproof inks versus non-waterproof. I believe that waterproof inks clog faster in general… and as an artist I use them more. Goulet, any thoughts? Perhaps this is a Q&A question.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Very interesting question. I’m not entirely sure myself but that would be a great Q&A question. I will share it for next week. 🙂

      • Tom Johnson

        Great Q&A question. Most of my inks are waterproof, Noodler’s and Platinum mostly, but not all of them, I have Diamine, Iroshizuku, and Lamy. The clogging issue for me seems to be how tight the cap on the pen seals. I never let my pens sit uncapped for more than a few seconds at a time. However, if you leave your pen uncapped for a minute or more, I expect the clogging issue is a function of dye saturation, not water resistance. Pigmented inks of course are going to clog if they dry out, however I have had Platinum Carbon Black in a couple of Preppies, Platinum Desk Pen, and a Plaisir for many months (over 6 months), used sporadically, never flushed or cleaned out, they still write immediately with no flow issues at all. Pen and cap design seems to be a lot more important than whether the ink has a waterproof dye in it.

        • Lydia At Goulet Pens

          That is a very great point, Tom! Thanks for sharing that!

        • I also agree about capping and do it religiously, and agree about the pen cap also. The only preppies I’ve ever had dry on me were the newer models, and in each case the caps had a hairline split (I think the newer models are not as good as the old ones as I am not hard on my pens.) And that may explain the difference between the Lamy Al-Stars and the Joy versus the Safaris. I find the Safari’s to be fussy pens, but never had any Al-Star or Joy clog except once when the ink was very low and I had not noticed; I caught it fairly early tho and cleaned it right up. I almost always use waterproof also.

    • Julia Traver

      I love Lexington Gray, too.

    • ec

      Noodler’s are the only inks I’ve ever had a problem with clogging. None of my other inks, used in the same pens as the Noodler’s inks, have ever clogged or had hard starts.
      I find myself buying many more Diamine brand inks, but I like Iroshizuku ink, too.

  • Kricket Ashley Krick

    It varies for me. I’m a teacher, so at work I’m not in charge of the paper quality…which is usually poor. F or EF nibs and dry inks all day. It’s gotten to the point where all my students are noticing that I use fountain pens, and I have about ten or so that have joined the #Gouletmafia! But for my personal expression, it’s all wet inks and bold colors!

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      So awesome that you’ve shared your FP love with your students! What are your go to school ink and your favorite at home ink?

      • Kricket Ashley Krick

        For school I use Rohrer and Klingner Scabiosa for general use. It’s fun, but still sedate enough in a fine or extra fine nib, generally my fine VP. I grade with Noodler’s Fox. It’s nice and bright while being incredibly permanent! It’s pretty wet and tends to bleed, but in an EF preppy, it behaves well enough. Don’t want any devious teenagers washing off my notations! At home, I’m fond of the J. Herbin 1670s and Pilot Iroshizukus!

  • Wrenaissance Art

    Hi!
    Do you have any recommendations for colored ink that won’t clog technical pens (Rapidographs, whether Koh-i-noor or other brand)? Especially the fine points– 3×0 / .25 mm range?
    Thanks.

  • Harry Alleva

    To each their own of course but for me……………………there is no competition between wet and dry inks. It’s wet all the way! Thanks so much for the handy list!

  • Tom Johnson

    I prefer wet inks (and wet pens). I tried to like Scabiosa, love the color, but in a 1.5mm TWSBI Mini (nicely wet with all other inks) it was too dry. Felt like I was writing with a dry nib, lots of friction against the paper surface. Noodler’s Black is quite wet (wet inks often = nib creep) yet it is one of the best of all inks for not feathering or bleeding through cheap paper. When I need faster drying, I use an ink that is still wet but dries (or absorbs into the paper) fast, or a F or EF nib. I love to see the sheen of liquid ink flowing out of my nibs, wet and glossy lines shimmering in the light, like a lovely river seen from above.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Thanks for sharing, Tom! Sounds like you’ve got a great system to making the inks work for every occasion!

  • Uniotter

    Thank you for some really useful information that I don’t hear discussed that often. I generally prefer wet inks, but can see occasions when a dry ink is preferable. I bought some Scabiosa from you guys but still haven’t tried it in one of my pens. Will need to break it out and see the difference!

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Let us know how you like it!

  • Julia Traver

    I prefer wetter inks. That was why I was so surprised by Herbin’s Vert Empire. I was very disappointed in this ink because it was so dry.

  • Kevin Love

    My strategy is to get the ink whose colour I want, then match a pen to it. My usual pen is a Sheaffer with a 1.1 mm italic nib. Wet inks work well; I like the Alt Goldgrun.

    But for a brown ink, I like the Graf von Faber Castell Hazelnut. Too dry for my Sheaffer. No problem, I just get a pen that works for it. I use the Noodlers with flex nibs. Nice, and one can adjust for greater ink flow when using a dry ink.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Sounds like a great game plan, Kevin!

  • Kathy

    Wet inks all the way. I rarely use EF or F nibs, sticking with medium or larger. I like the ink to pop on the page, which most dry inks don’t do as well. I usually write on decent or better paper, so I’m not too concerned about bleed through. Plus I like the shading in wetter inks.

  • Kimber

    I’m a lefty, but I generally prefer wet inks because of the shading and depth of color. My solution is judicious use of J. Herbin blotting paper, but as you mentioned in the article, some of it also comes down to the combination of ink and pen. An F nib isn’t going to lay down as much ink and therefore smear quite as much as a 1.1 stub. I’d love to use an EF nib in my bullet journal, but II’ve yet to find the EF nib that writes well for me as a lefty–too much pushing for the ink to flow, I suppose.

    For book signings, I prefer a dry ink so it doesn’t bleed through the paper or make a mess in someone’s newly-purchased book–or on my hand. I’ve found DeAtramentis Jane Austen works well for that, as well as Private Reserve Tanzanite.

    • George Huba

      Try a Pilot Pen with a PO Posting nib. EF curved nib, beloved by many lefties including me. Works well with about any ink, better with wetter.

  • William Robertson

    Thanks for a helpful and interesting essay. Most of my pens have such fine nibs that I am happy with fairly wet ink. I notice you did not mention Iroshizuku, which I consider a nicely-flowing ink–would you put it in the wet column? I also notice that you did not mention Salix and Scabiosa, presumably to avoid a long detour on IG issues, which is understandable, but I consider those two inks to be such a gift when you have to use bad paper. Finally, I join in hearty agreement with the recommendation of Pelikan 4001 as a dry but vibrant and well-behaved ink. I secured a Lamy 2K in XF, and with my fine-line compulsion, was terribly disappointed that I seemed to have, as they say, a firehose in my hands. Changed to Pelikan 4001 Violet, and like magic have a pen I like very much, and a fine-looking ink as a bonus. That is definitely the ink I would recommend for someone who needed a dry ink but did not want IG. I also agree with your suggestion of Lamy, which slows things down a bit, but remains vibrant and goes on the paper very nicely. Maybe your next essay could be on the intersection of ink and paper, or maybe you have already done that and I missed it.

    • What are “IG” issues?

      • William Robertson

        I’ll let Brian or one of the other experts give a longer answer, but Iron Gall inks are based on a different material from most inks, and that material is somewhat potentially corrosive to some metals, and also subject to drying and just general gunking up. Generally, they are not used in fountain pens, but some modern IG inks are considered OK, as long as you keep your pen clean. (I would not use an IG ink in an expensive pen and probably not in a piston filler.) The reason it’s relevant to this discussion is that in my experience, they are the best “dry” inks, and provide excellent performance on bad paper.

  • jen

    I just tried Noodler’s Black in my Pilot Metro Pop (fine point). I been using the ink that came with it and while both inks performed well on regular paper (smooth American copy paper to be exact). My fine point Metro could get a tad scratchy (not often but sometimes) on the other paper I tried which was heavy weight water color paper. When I filled it with Noodler’s black it was smooth as silk despite that being a difficult paper.

    I also have a Metro (Medium) and so far I’m still running the cartridge ink through it and it’s smooth on both types. I think Noodler’s is better for fine points (esp. Japanese fine points which would be extra fine in most other countries). With the Metro (medium – aka ‘fine’ for most countries it doesn’t appear to matter).

    I can’t wait to try out the ‘wetter’ Noodler’s inks and other ‘wet’ inks to see how they perform but I suspect extra-fine nibs (Japanese fine) will benefit most from wet inks.