How Fountain Pen Highlighter Inks Hold Up During Copying

We got a phone call today asking about how the various fountain pen inks we have hold up after being copied on a copy machine. I’ve been asked once before about copying inks and how to get them to show up, but this time it was someone asking about inks that don’t show up through the copier. I just happened to have my swabs handy, so I went ahead and threw them on the copy machine and saw how they held up! It’s pretty much like I suspected:

  • If you want to have your inks show up on the copier, stick with the non-yellows. The darker the color the better (like blue or green).
  • If you don’t want to have your inks show up, go with yellow highlighter ink (like Noodler’s Firefly, Pelikan m205 Duo, or PR Chartreuse).

Just thought it was something interesting to share! Enjoy.

2017-10-11T14:38:06+00:00 March 17th, 2012|Ink Reviews|15 Comments
  • That was really interesting. Thanks Brian!

  • Very useful! Just shared with my friends who've gone back to school.

  • Alainlavoie16

    Darn good to know this and very usefull too!

  • Really cool test. Too bad the yellow ones are invisible but it was to be expected.

  • Troy Mayfield

    Wow, I would have never thought about this.  Excellent research.  You are scientists at the Goulet Pen Company!

  • You're welcome! I thought so, and I don't remember ever seeing anyone blog about this particular topic before.

  • Great! Glad to help.

  • Well, it's too bad unless you want that feature! They're really the only ones that didn't show up in the copying.

  • Haha, I wouldn't say that! This was really a practical test, just done with the swabs I had with the copier we have in our office. What was interesting though was that I wanted to get the copy adjusted so the inks showed as much as possible, so I cranked UP the contrast…but that made the highlighter inks show up LESS. It's backwards from what I thought would happen….so to get the copy you see in the second image, I actually turned DOWN the contrast all the way. Crazy!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for postings your findings Brian. I was actually the one who called and its cool to see you're sharing the idea! The main thing I use this for is to mark templates that I frequently copy as "original" so they don't accidentally get used.

  • Thanks for sharing your results Brian.  I was actually the one who called and it's cool to see you're sharing this with everyone!  The main thing I have used this for is to mark templates that I copy fairly frequently as "original" so that they don't accidentally get used.  I'm sure there are some other creative uses as well-I just was curious if the Fountain Pen ink would work the same way a basic yellow highlighter works-nice to know it does.

  • I appreciate your asking! It's not something I might have thought to check on my own. You kind of piqued my curiosity at a very convenient time, and I was able to put this blog post together 🙂 

  • Andy Duckworth

    Regarding the contrast issue, highlighter inks are unusual insofar that they fluoresce very efficiently, meaning that they emit light of redder hues after absorbing bluer hues. The practical upshot of this, is that the human eye is capable of distinguishing the hue shift, but the photocopier looks at the total brightness of the page to produce its contrast. So we see that the yellow inks don’t show up because they don’t absorb the light the photocopier can see, they only shift some of the invisible light into the visible range, making them appear about as bright as the paper. The ones which show up, do so because they also absorb the visible light that the photocopier can see, making them appear unnaturally bright with regard to a particular *hue*, but the photocopier can spot the overall loss of light, hence the paradoxical contrast problem. Hope this has been educational!

  • Andy Duckworth

    Regarding the contrast issue, highlighter inks are unusual insofar that they fluoresce very efficiently, meaning that they emit light of redder hues after absorbing bluer hues. The practical upshot of this, is that the human eye is capable of distinguishing the hue shift, but the photocopier looks at the total brightness of the page to produce its contrast. So we see that the yellow inks don't show up because they don't absorb the light the photocopier can see, they only shift some of the invisible light into the visible range, making them appear about as bright as the paper. The ones which show up, do so because they also absorb the visible light that the photocopier can see, making them appear unnaturally bright with regard to a particular *hue*, but the photocopier can spot the overall loss of light, hence the paradoxical contrast problem. Hope this has been educational!

  • Marina G

    I am so glad you did this – I was going to send you a message to ask if you knew how they photocopied! At my job we are only allowed to use yellow highlighters because the ink is invisible when copied and scanned. They dry out so fast, and I’ve been wanting to replace those dumb disposable highlighters with a fountain pen version for myself, but wasn’t sure which ink to use – now I see I have not one but three choices. And a Preppie to try them in. Thanks so much!!