While the US is practically on fire this week and I was ready to write a long piece about being an ally for people of color and standing with #blacklivesmatter, I realized that most people are already stressed out and don’t want a lecture from me, and let’s face it, you’ve already gotten the memo about checking your white privilege and standing by those who need our help right now, or if you haven’t, you’re never going to get it. So. I’m not going to go there even though I’m sorely tempted.
Instead, I’m going to go to my happy place, which is fountain pens, and this week, I’m going to touch on inks with a caveat. The caveat is this: I’m boring when it comes to fountain pen ink.
Yes, that’s right, I only use blue in it’s various forms.
There will be a TON of fountain pen enthusiasts out there who are all about inks, but I’m pretty conservative when it comes to what I’ll put in my pens. Most of that is because the majority of my collection is vintage pens which can’t take modern inks (feel free to fight me) and part of it is because I have to have an ink that works well on handmade Italian paper from Manufactus because I draft and plot my books in their journals.
Having said that, there is an amazing array of blues out there for those who might be a bit more like me, and here are my favorites in no particular order:
1) Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue
This is the first blue ink that I got after moving away from cartridges. I primarily got it because I had a Pelikan Souveran M600 with a M nib that I detested because it’s so wet for my tiny handwriting. Pelikan inks are notorious “dry” because their nibs are so juicy. The ink made no difference for the nib, BUT I really like the shade of this royal blue and it’s consistent in most of my pens. Also, it’s one I trust in my vintage pens. Amazon carries it here and it’s great value for money.
2) Parker Sapphire Blue
Sadly, this unicorn of the ink world is no longer made and buying a bottle on Ebay can easily cost you $100, but let me tell you, I would happily pay that for this ink. This is my favorite ink hands down and it kills me that it is no longer available. I’m lucky enough to have 2 bottles and I always scout around to see if I can get a spare at a good price. Listing it here seems like a cheat, but it you ever find one for $50 or less, snatch it up.
3) Waterman Mysterious Blue
The only ink used by Richard Binder, this ink is a staple for anyone with vintage pens who want to ensure that they don’t ruin them. This water-based blue black ink from Waterman is about as safe as you can get. It may seem a bit boring to some, but I actually think it’s a decent color for a blue black and honestly, I trust Richard’s opinion on this one. I do use other inks (sorry, Richard) but any pen that I worry about, I use Mysterious Blue. It’s around $11 from Amazon at the time of this blog post.
4) Lamy Turquoise
By and large, I’m not a huge fan of turquoise simply because getting the hue right for me (I’m seriously fussy) can be problematic. I’ve bought too many bottles of turquoise ink that have ended up more green than blue than I care to admit to. Having said that, I think Lamy’s turquoise is pretty sound and isn’t overly fancy. It’s a good starting point for going down into the turquoise rabbit hole and it’s slightly more than the Waterman or Pelikan inks listed above at around the $16 mark on Amazon.
5) Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-peki
This ink is absolutely in my Top 5 inks without any doubt and I’m not the only one. There is something about Kon-peki that is magical and Pilot’s whole line of Iroshizuku inks can’t be beat for quality and price. I might be biased here, but overall, the Japanese make top quality ink and Kon-peki is royalty among them. The color variation on this ink is incredible without being gimmicky. It doesn’t need glitter or high sheen or a metallic finish to be eye catching. It’s subtlety when you lay down a line is what makes it magical. I literally squealed in delight the first time it dried on a birthday card.
I will put in one disclaimer here – you’re not going to get the best results with a needlepoint or extra fine nib because you won’t get enough line variation to see the color change. a more bolder stroke is required. Still, GET THIS INK, you won’t be disappointed. $20 bucks well spent.
6) Sailor Jentle Yama-dori
Oh, Yama-dori, how you complete me! It’s too bad that Sailor decided to get greedy and do away with their large bottles of Jentle Ink and instead are now price gauging us with their tiny 20 ml bottle for close to $14 bucks. Don’t get me wrong. Yama-dori is an incredible ink and like, kon-peki, is just so fabulous, but I take issue with Sailor changing their bottle size to eek out more profits even if Sailor and Pilot make the best inks on the market.
7) Robert Oster Carolina Blue for Carolina Pen Company
This was an impulse purchase at the DC Pen Show last year directly from Jonathon Brooks at the Carolina Pen Company and I have to say that I fell in love just a little. Up to that point, I’d stayed mostly with the large ink manufacturers out of caution, but I’m glad I broke with ink tradition and got this ink. Since then I have picked up more from Robert Oster (the company is in Australia), even breaking away from blue to get some purples for my dip pens, but this color is great and reminiscent of kon-peki to me but with much bolder color variation. It’s a great tealy blue. The bad news is that I don’t know how you can get it unless you pick it up at a pen show. It appears to be sold out online at the Carolina Pen Company and with Covid-19, pen shows have been cancelled for the forseeable future.
You could try to contact Jonathon directly here.
8) Sailor Jentle Sky High
Sailor’s line of Jentle inks has been replaced by the Shikiori line, which is to say, same inks, smaller bottles, higher prices. Same gripe that I have with Sailor for what they did to everyone’s beloved yama-dori is the same story for sky high except worse because they discontinued sky high. So why have I given you another ink to obsess over that you can’t get? Because you can still buy a limited supply on Amazon and Ebay. In fact, there are currently 3 bottles sitting on Amazon here. If you aren’t able to grab one in time, then pick up Souten in the shikiori line from Sailor. It is almost identical.
9) Pilot Namiki Blue
This is a classic, standby ink and one that every fountain pen owner should have in their collection. You just can’t go wrong with Namiki blue. It’s a nice, dry ink that is highly reliable and gets the job done. It’s up there with Waterman’s Mysterious Blue and Pelikan’s 4001 and it’s cheap as chips. $12 on Amazon – you just can’t beat it. When you have a testy or fussy fountain pen, this is the ink to use. It’s not the most exciting shade of blue, this is true, but for those times when you want reliability and no drama, then this Pilot ink is a good choice.
10) Jacques Herbin Emeraude de Chivor
There should be at least one “wow factor” ink in any list and this is it with J. Herbin’s Emerald of Chivor. I will start off by saying that I would NEVER put this ink in a vintage pen. Just nope. Having said that, this ink is NUTS. Listed as a gold sheening ink, it’s not just emerald and gold, it’s like every color in the rainbow – red, gold, green, turquoise, pink . . . it’s incredible. It will blow your socks off.
But that wow factor comes with a price – around the $30 mark to be exact. If you find it for less than that, you’re a lucky bugger. I think Amazon’s price is fair and given the ease of purchasing, I bought mine from Amazon here for less than $26 bucks. As an ink to try your hand at calligraphy, this is a shimmering delicious choice.
That’s it for now, my fellow fountain pen nerds. Have a great weekend and stay safe out there.
xo – Shawnee