In Part I of the Black Calligraphy Inks Comparison series, you were introduced to Ziller, Sumi, and Higgins inks. Today, we’re going to examine three more inks to conclude the comparison: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink, Speedball India Ink, and Winsor & Newton Black Calligraphy Ink. All of these inks are excellent choices if you wish to create black calligraphy; however, it’s a good idea to get to know them a little bit better before you make a buying decision.
Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay Black India Ink
It’s hard not to like India Inks in general; they are smooth, waterproof, archival, and wonderful for illustration and calligraphy purposes. While I don’t think there is anything shout-it-to-the-rooftops special about Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink, it’s a fantastic ink that you won’t regret having in your artillery. I mean, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do: it writes well and proves impervious to water.
A couple of months ago, I used Bombay ink to create a line drawing of poppies, which I then painted over with watercolors. First of all, I was very pleased at how nicely the ink worked with a crow quill pen. Crow quill pens have an itty-bitty nib, and if you pair those tiny nibs with thick inks, you can run into issues. There was no problem with the Bombay ink; its somewhat thin viscosity cooperates with different sizes of nibs to draw very fine lines!
Like most black India inks, Bombay inks scan very well! I used Bombay ink to create all the hand-drawn/written components of the tulip-themed fabric invitation below (the invitation will be showcased in an upcoming blog post), and I was happy with how well it cooperated with the scanner. Some inks, especially those that boast tiny hairline strokes, don’t play nice with the scanner (ahem, walnut ink, iron gall ink, and Higgins ink). However, this India ink enables you to make strokes that are thin without compromising your ability to scan them into your computer.
As far as cons go, Bombay ink hasn’t given me any grief as of yet. I have read, however, that on low-quality papers, the ink can bleed. If you experience this problem, you should be able to remedy it by adding a bit of liquid or powdered gum arabic to thicken the ink up a bit! I have noticed that the ink can be a little bit runny — though not to the same degree as, say, Higgins Eternal — so it may not be the best ink to get if you are brand-new to calligraphy.
If you are interested in purchasing Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink, you can find it at:
Australia – Jackson’s Art Supplies (as part of a relatively expensive set, unfortunately)
Canada – Colours
Netherlands – Art World Gallery
Philippines – Craft Carrot
United Kingdom – Scribblers (and several other retailers)
United States – Paper & Ink Arts (and several other retailers)
Speedball India Ink
Speedball India Ink is probably what is available to you in your neighborhood arts and crafts shop. And you know what? The great news is it’s a nice, reliable ink. When I very first set my sights on learning calligraphy, in fact, Speedball was the ink that I started out with. From 2012 to 2014, I used it to create almost every client commission I received, like the Kaitlin Style watercolor save the date map pictured below.
Speedball India ink is relatively beginner-friendly; however, there are a couple of quirks it has that are important to note. First of all, it has a tendency to morph into Jell-O. Here’s what I mean by that: over time (we’re talking a year or so), this blob of goo with a texture like a gelatin-based dessert forms in the ink. I think it’s the vegetable gum binder in the ink coming together and thickening. You can dilute the ink, but it is difficult to fully get rid of the blob. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a good photo of the blob; it doesn’t photograph well because it’s just as black as the rest of the ink. You will, however, notice it when you dip your pen into your ink; the ink becomes noticeably sludgy!
One other thing to note is this: I actually haven’t found Speedball India ink to be infallibly waterproof. For example, take a look at the watercolor wedding map above. Do you see where it says “St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church”? Okay, take a look at the “aac” in “Isaac”. You’ll notice there’s a bit of white-ish tone there. That was me doing damage control after my watercolor paint made the ink run! After letting the Speedball India ink dry for 24 hours, I was painting over the map when suddenly the ink used to calligraph “Isaac” started to run. After allowing myself a moment of panic, I let the bleeding ink dry, then I frantically applied opaque white calligraphy ink and more watercolor paint to cover up the bleed. Now it’s tough to notice the mistake, but still: it was a mishap that could have been avoided by using Ziller ink (or perhaps Bombay ink).
Those two complaints (Jell-O consistency, iffy waterproofness) I have about the ink, however, are quite small. In general, this ink will prove a valuable supply; I really can’t complain too much about it because it played a vital role in encouraging me to learn and enjoy calligraphy! (Just as a little “throwback”, you can see a photo of the very first wedding map I ever created in the photo above. It was, of course, made using Speedball India ink!)
If you’re interested in purchasing Speedball India ink, here’s where you can find it:
Winsor & Newton Black Calligraphy Ink
Truth be told, I no longer have the original bottle for my Winsor & Newton Black Calligraphy Ink. But — I can tell you that it looks like the Winsor & Newton green ink pictured below … except it’s black. So, if you’re in a store searching for this ink, you can keep this bottle shape/label design in mind!
I like using Winsor & Newton calligraphy inks in general — but only on high-quality papers (for example: a Rhodia pad or 70 lb. drawing paper). Otherwise, you’re going to experience a lot of ink bleed. In general, the inks are quite watery and have a tendency to soak into more fibrous papers with alarming speed, which causes feathering/bleeding. The Winsor & Newton black ink is no exception!
That said, it’s nice to keep some Winsor & Newton Black at hand because its thin viscosity can be a refreshing alternative to India ink. I like to use it to whip up quick elements, like the “giveaway” banner in the photo below. (This Finetec giveaway, by the way, is going on right now on the TPK Facebook and Instagram.)
One thing to note about the Winsor & Newton black ink is it has a certain sheen to it … it almost reminds me of shiny plastic. You can see how it reflects light in the photo below. It also has a tendency to dry with a slightly raised texture, which you can especially see in the “a”. It’s not a big deal at all, but something to keep in mind!
Though the Winsor & Newton Black can be nice to have around, I do think there are better calligraphy inks out there — especially for beginners. It’s probably a bit too thin to comfortably use for someone who is new to calligraphy. I like the ink, yes, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going out of your way to buy it.
And now, a bit ironically given my last sentence, here is a list of places you can purchase this ink:
The Calligraphy Worksheet Test
All three of these calligraphy inks — Bombay, Speedball, and Winsor & Newton — hold up well on regular (20#, which is the standard weight) printer paper. If you have any Learn Calligraphy for a Latté worksheets to fill out, you can keep that in mind!
That said, I noticed a little bit of bleeding from Winsor & Newton. Nothing like the Higgins ink in the last blog post, but still a bit. After testing out all six of the black inks in this two-part series, I’d say that it’s best to fill out the worksheets with sumi ink, India ink (Speedball or Dr. Ph. Martin’s), or Ziller ink. Winsor & Newton will work in a pinch, but I’d steer clear of Higgins.
When you receive any one of these inks in the mail or bring them home from the store, you’ll probably notice that they have arrived in a container that is not exactly conducive to dipping your pen in. For that reason, it’s a good idea to transfer them to a separate container. I use 2.25 oz. jars and little 1 oz. containers to store them. It’s a good idea to somehow denote which ink is which since they all look the same; one of the ways you can do that is by writing the ink’s name on washi tape and sticking it to the jar.
The Waterproof Test
Winsor & Newton calligraphy inks do not claim to be waterproof, so it’s no surprise that they run a bit when brushed over with a stroke of water. Bombay ink holds up to moisture admirably, and Speedball is so-so.
For the most part, Speedball is waterproof, but it has a tendency to bleed here and there. With that in mind, if you think you’d ever like to do a mixed media project that combines ink and watercolor, Ziller or Dr. Ph Martin’s Bombay calligraphy inks are your best bet.
To summarize the information in this post, I’d say the best India ink to purchase would be the Bombay ink, but Speedball is fine if that’s all you have access to. There’s not really any reason to specifically seek out Winsor & Newton black calligraphy ink, but if you buy some, you’ll probably like it just fine. If you are very new to calligraphy, I recommend that you skip the inks outlined in this post for now and try to find some sumi ink.
I’d like to end by saying that I hope this black ink series doesn’t confuse you — at the end of the day, black ink is black ink. I don’t believe that you’ll be hugely disappointed in any black ink you end up buying! It is, however, nice to have some guidance when you’re trying to make a smart decision about what to add to your collection. I hope this two-part post has provided you with the guidance you need!
Thanks so much for reading, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway in Part I of this series!