In 2014, I wrote the original version of this post. In it, I made recommendations about which calligraphy inks to use and why! Fast forward five years, and I’ve had several chances to discover new inks. In this updated blog post, I’d like to discuss a few inks with you and why I think they’re so great! Keep in mind: there are so many inks out there, and I’ve only tried a smattering of them. If something isn’t on this list, it probably just means I’ve never used it. I highly recommend trying out any ink you come across and keeping your own list of favorites!
Best Calligraphy Ink for Beginners: Sumi Ink
I use sumi ink for all of my beginner workshops! I love it for learners because it’s smooth, velvety, and dilutes well. When it dries, it has a matte sheen to it, which means it scans beautifully. That’s why I use sumi to make the letters for all of my calligraphy worksheets!
Like a lot of inks, sumi will need some dilution over time, as some water will evaporate out. If it’s tough for you to find sumi ink, India ink is a great substitute!
Best Ink for Watercolor Lovers: Ziller Soot Black
Calligraphy, illustration, and watercolor make for an incredible combination! Anytime I know I want to incorporate watercolor into a project, I use Ziller Soot Black ink because it’s completely waterproof when dry. Before I found Ziller, I had never encountered an ink that couldn’t be encouraged to smudge — at least a little bit — when it encountered water! I use this ink for all of my dip pen + watercolor projects. It’s especially amazing for watercolor maps!
The disadvantage of using Ziller ink? It’s a bit paint-like, so it can be quite thick. Working with it might require some patience! But it’s well worth it for the waterproof qualities of the ink.
Best Ink for Colorful Personalities: Bombay India Ink
If you’re looking to create vibrant and colorful calligraphy, Bombay inks are amazing. They’re highly pigmented, lightfast, and a wonderful viscosity! They are a bit thinner than sumi ink, so I wouldn’t recommend starting out learning with them — but these inks are great if you’ve got some practice under your belt.
The thing I love about Bombay Inks? They’ve got some gradation to them! There are some strokes you’ll make that are super dark, and others will end up being very light. Not everyone loves this look, but I think it’s so cool!
Best Earthy Ink: Walnut
Walnut ink is made from the husks of walnuts, and it’s been used for centuries. It is archival, meaning that it lasts for many, many years! When it dries, it has a beautiful, vintage look.
Walnut ink, wonderful as it may be, can intimidate beginners because it has a very watery consistency. If you’re just starting out, I’d practice for a few weeks with sumi or India ink before giving walnut ink a go. (I want to note that iron gall ink is similar to walnut ink in terms of viscosity, and I love iron gall, too! My favorite is Walker’s Copperplate, which you can only get from Scribbler’s in the UK.)
Best White Ink: Bleed Proof White
I’ve conducted several white ink tests, and ultimately, I’ve decided that Bleed Proof White is my favorite. I love how it dries a brilliant, true white, even if it’s not the most waterproof ink out there! It also comes in a dip pen-friendly container, which is a huge plus.
The only thing to remember with Bleed Proof White is that it needs to be diluted. When it arrives, you’ll notice that it’s basically a solid mass of white! To learn how to dilute it — and other tricks for writing with white inks — check out Seven Tips for Writing White Calligraphy.
Best Glamorous “Ink”: The Finetec Palette
I put “ink” in quotes for this because Finetec metallics are actually watercolors! To use the watercolors as ink, you’ll need to brush them on the back of your nib as detailed in the Creating Gold Calligraphy: How to Use the Finetec Palette tutorial.
Shiny, right? Also, they’re opaque on dark papers, which is pretty awesome.
Best “Ink” for Travelers: Watercolors
I considered making this heading “Best ‘Ink’ for People Who Can’t Make a Decision”! Watercolors are great to have around because you have practically any color you could possibly want at your fingertips. You can also blend watercolors within your nib for an ombré effect!
My favorite watercolors are from Greenleaf & Blueberry, but there are plenty of others out there! Jess of G&B actually wrote a great blog post that explains how watercolors are made; in it, she provides recommendations for specific brands.
As for the inks I haven’t tried, as I mentioned, there are many! That’s where you come in … if you have an ink you are totally loving right now, please comment; not only so I can rush out and buy it, but so others can try it as well. The same for if you tried an ink you really didn’t like! I learn just as much from you as you learn from me, and I find the coolest things through reader comments.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your week!
If you liked this article, you’ll also enjoy:
- My Five Favorite Calligraphy Inks
- White Calligraphy Ink Showdown: Sumi, Ziller, & Pen White
- White Calligraphy Ink Showdown Part II: Bleed Proof White + Winsor & Newton
- Black Calligraphy Inks Comparison Part I: Ziller, Sumi, and Higgins
- Black Calligraphy Inks Comparison Part II: Bombay, Speedball, and Winsor & Newton
- Calligraphy Ink Recommendations: Earthy Hues
- How to Waterproof Paper