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. There are many different inks on the market and, as long as they are labeled fountain pen ink, they are safe to use in your 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. The inks referred to as good shading inks are usually wet writing inks that can saturate the page with color. 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 have a hard time writing, 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 everyone 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:
Perfectly wet with the right kind of shade, Caran d’Ache Idyllic Blue is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a great new juicy ink to try. Check out Monday Matchup #126 to see this ink in action! Lydia describes it as the perfect “cautious fun” ink, a gorgeous color without being too loud. Find it in a 50ml bottle or 2ml sample.
Noodler’s Eel series inks are the ultimate wet inks. They are lubricated and will have even your driest pens writing well. Cactus Fruit Eel is, in our experience, the most popular of this line and for good reason. The color is out of this world and the flow is unmatched. Sarah made this ink shine in Monday Matchup #33. Find it in a 3oz. bottle or 2ml sample.
Monteverde California Teal is a favorite for many of the Goulet team members. Like the rest of the Monteverde line, California Teal is a lubricated ink and flows wonderfully. It is a reserved color at first glance but packs a fun surprise under the right conditions. Kelsi mentions in her ink review that “the color is great because it’s not an outrageous color, but the sheen and the shading make it stand out.” Available in 90ml bottles, 2ml samples, and a 12 pack of cartridges.
For an ink with great character, it’s almost hard to believe that Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-Budo is such a smooth-flowing, wet ink. This gorgeous magenta ink is well behaved and appealing in color. Many of the product reviews on the Goulet Pens site praise Yama-Budo for being a pinkish hue that even people who aren’t fond of pink love, not to mention being an ink that will never let you down and keeps on flowing. Find it in a 50ml bottle or 2ml sample.
Diamine Autumn Oak is a definite wet shading ink. In our review of this ink, it is noted that this ink will give you good shading no matter what nib size you are using. Although the dry time tends to be longer, you will never have to worry about Diamine Autumn Oak not flowing from your pen. The color is gorgeous too, the perfect rich autumn orange like the changing leaves. It is available in an 80ml bottle, a 30ml bottle, a 2ml sample or an 18 pack of cartridges!
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 these ink choices put that notion to the test. 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:
Rich in color but light on dry time, Graf von Faber-Castell Garnet Red is the perfect ink for people who want an intriguing ink in a fast-paced world. The rich red color is beautiful and enjoyable to see on paper. This ink is a great choice for lefties as its dry nature will reduce the chance of smearing. You can see it featured in our Birthday Bling: 12 Fountain Pen and Ink Pairings Inspired by Your Birthstone blog! This ink is available in a 75ml bottle, 2ml sample, or a 6 pack of cartridges.
J. Herbin Vert Empire offers a delightful, muted green tone that is easy on the eyes and a drier ink flow that is great on all kinds of paper. The conservative ink flow eliminates any concerns about turning the notebook page before the ink is dry. Our Community Coordinator and resident lefty, Lydia, loves this ink and recommends it for lefties with a love of colorful inks. See more of Sarah’s whimsical bean stalk drawn in this ink in Monday Matchup #43! This ink is available in a 30ml bottle or 2ml sample.
Robert Oster inks offer a great variety of colors, faster dry times than with other brands, and super fun ink names. Black Violet is a reserved choice for any occasion. As the name would suggest, it is a dark hue with a hint of purple, making it office-appropriate with a hint of fun. It is available in a 50ml bottle or 2ml sample.
If you’ve ever bought a LAMY pen, you’ve had the chance to use this reliable blue ink from the included cartridge. A great choice for any occasion, LAMY Blue is a standard blue ink with an impeccable quick drying time. Use it in the office or on the go, whatever the occasion may be, you’ll have a easy time with this ink. You can try it in a 50ml bottle with built-in blotting paper roll or in a 2ml ink sample. It is also available in a 5 pack of cartridges.
What list would be complete without the perfect black? Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black is the perfect dry workhorse ink. It has very little bleedthrough and a speedy dry time that allows for quick note taking. It is a low maintenance ink and plays nicely with a wide variety of pens. It is available in a 2oz bottle, a 2ml sample, and a 6 pack of cartridges.
Some other inks we suggested in a prior edition of this blog include:
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