What are 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.

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. 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.

Wet Ink:

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. If you’re using a flex pen or have a pen that seems to have a hard time writing, you can try filling it up with a wetter ink to help with the flow issues.

Dry Ink:

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 a dry ink. Left-handed writers may naturally gravitate towards a drier writing ink, as they will be less likely to smudge it when pushing the pen across the page.


Here is a brief overview of our favorite wet and dry ink brands, and a few suggestions you can try to get the full wet or 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:


Colorverse Morning Star

A splatter of Colorverse Morning Star fountain pen ink. Ink is a greenish turquoise with a reddish sheen.

Perfectly wet with the right kind of shade, Colorverse Morning Star is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a great new juicy ink to try. It’s a beautiful teal-green ink with a “surprise sheen”.


Noodler’s Cactus Fruit Eel

Inky drawing of cactus and flowers with fuchsia Noodler's Cactus Fruit Eel fountain pen ink

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 fuchsia pink color is out of this world and the flow is unmatched. Find it in a 3oz. bottle or 2ml sample.


Monteverde California Teal

Fountain pen with ink splatter and name of Monteverde California Teal fountain pen ink

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. The sheen and the shading make it stand out. Available in 90ml bottles, 30ml bottles, 2ml samples, and a 12 pack of cartridges.


Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-Budo

Fountain pen with splatters and writing of Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-Budo fuchsia fountain pen ink

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

Fountain pen with ink splatter and writing sample of orange Diamine Autumn Oak fountain pen ink

Diamine Autumn Oak is definitely a 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 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 responds 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:


Platinum Classic Inks

Platinum Classic iron gall fountain pen inks

The intriguing Platinum Classic inks are iron gall inks. They’re water-resistant and dry to a much darker color than what originally goes down on the page. Shop both bottles and samples of these stunning inks.


Herbin Vert Empire

Herbin Vert Empire green fountain pen ink

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 flipping the notebook page before the ink is dry. Many lefties with a love of colorful inks enjoy using this shade. Herbin Vert Empire ink is available in a 30ml bottle or 2ml sample.


Robert Oster Black Violet

Robert Oster Black Violet fountain pen ink

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.


LAMY blue

LAMY blue fountain pen ink swab

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.


Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black

Pelikan Brilliant Black fountain pen ink swab

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. This low maintenance ink plays nicely with a wide variety of pens. Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black 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:

Diamine Apple Glory
De Atramentis Gold
Rohrer and Klingner Alt-Goldgrün
Noodler’s Air-Corp Blue-Black
Noodler’s Southwest Sunset

Pelikan Violet 4001
Lamy black
Monteverde Scotch Brown
Pelikan Royal Blue 4001
Lamy blue-black

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