QUICK INK PICKS
I’m still in the process of writing a thorough piece on this, but in the interest of getting your foot in the door I’ve got a handful of different black inks that’re good for drawing! I’ve got them divided into two categories - dye-based and pigmented. The vast majority of fountain pen inks have liquid coloring agents, or dyes, which are low-maintenance and have no clogging issues. The downside to this is that they tend to be a bit less saturated and are quite a bit less waterproof, so depending on the brand and how much ink is on the paper you could see some blending, bleeding or smudging.
Course, there are a couple of fountain pen inks out there that ARE pigment-based, with particles small enough to pass through the feed without clogging. They’re rare, and universally pricier than most normal inks, but boy are they worth it - incredibly dark, water-resistant, quick-drying AND multimedia-friendly. Really the only downside to them other than price is more diligent upkeep on your pen; while the particles won’t ever damage your feed, buildup overtime could potentially lead to inkflow issues down the road if you don’t clean your pen out once a month or so. Hell, even if that does happen, a good flush with the proper cleaning solution or a quick scrub with a toothbrush will shake loose that buildup and you’ll be good to go again.
One last thing before we begin: if you’re just getting started with fountain pens and bottled ink, some of the prices here might seem a bit shocking. It’s a higher overhead when beginning, but one bottle of ink can easily last you 8-12 months, if not longer. Think about how fast a $9.00 3-pack of rollerball pens winds up in the garbage, or even a fistful of Sakura Microns. Most fountain pens worth their salt will be doing heavy lifting for north of a decade, so in the long run they’re pretty damn economical!
Noodler’s ($13): Your mileage may vary on some of these. Noodler’s is like the Willy Wonka of ink manufacturers - they’ve got an enormous spread of color choices, plenty of imaginative limited-edition stuff, and their formulas can have some pretty wild properties from freeze resistance to anti-feathering. Bulletproof Black is their most popular black, famous for its unique permanent properties - it binds to cellulose in paper. While this makes it water-resistant and tamper-proof, I’ve also found it to behave strangely on certain papers like moleskine pages. X-Feather’s another good choice, especially for those using less-than-ideal paper; on top of being a spectacular black, it resists bleeding/feathering. X-Feather takes forever to dry, so you’ll need to be careful while sketching, but if you’re a printer paper junkie with a hard-on for crispy lines, this might be your ticket. Sometimes they even bundle free pens with their inks, so keep an eye out!
Diamine Onyx Black ($7.50 - $15.00): Gotta hand it to Diamine, they can make a hell of a nice ink on the cheap. Onyx Black is quite saturated for the price, with some minor purple shading that tends to show up in a lot of even the pricier inks. You can get 30ml of this stuff for just a bit over seven bucks, which is absolutely perfect if you’re looking to score a good ink and pen at once on a tight budget.
Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi ($20-28): This one’s on the steep side, but it also happens to be the darkest and most well-behaved dye-based ink I’ve yet used. Very saturated, you’ll only see this stuff shade if you’re laying it down wide and fast.
Platinum Carbon Black ($20): Now we’re talking. PCB’s been my go-to for years now - it’s abyssal, water-resistant, plays extremely well with other media, and is just really fucking black. Jumping to this from the dye-based inks of yore was like night and day, and I haven’t turned back. On the rare occasion it does wind up shading it’s an extremely dark gray, and it dries quickly with a very minor reflective finish. I’ve yet to find a paper or liquid medium that causes it to smear or otherwise misbehave, and I’m not quite sure I ever will. It’s a quantum leap in quality, and considering it’s only about 5 bucks more per bottle than many dye-based inks of the same volume I’ll take that hike any day.
Graaf von Faber-Castell Carbon Black ($30): Holy shit, I only recently procured a sample of this stuff and it’s even more intense than Platinum’s offering. It’s darker and more matte somehow! Maybe one day when I’m swilling the blood of the proletariat and licking coelacanth caviar off toast points I’ll be able to afford this stuff on the reg, otherwise it’ll remain an extremely indulgent acme of ink. If you’re feeling the itch, I don’t think you can do any better than this stuff!