If you can write with a dip pen — and if you can’t right now, trust me, you can learn! — then white calligraphy ink is one of the coolest supplies you can own. All of a sudden, this new world will open up for you: you will be able to write on virtually any color of paper that catches your fancy!
That said, if you’ve never used white calligraphy ink before, there’s a big selection out there. It can be difficult to decide which ink to purchase. With that in mind, I’m hoping that this blog post will lend some clarity to your search! In it, we’ll discuss three excellent white calligraphy ink options: Moon Palace Sumi, Ziller North Wind White, and Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen White. Then, in next week’s TPK blog post, we’ll finish up the white ink showdown with an examination of Winsor & Newton White and Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleedproof White!
Moon Palace White Sumi Ink
You are probably familiar with using black sumi ink, which is one of the staples of the Ultimate Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit. Like black sumi ink, Moon Palace’s white sumi ink has a velvety smooth viscosity and flows well off the nib. It’s important to note, however, that the ink may require stirring every once in a while to maintain its viscosity. It can be diluted with water if necessary.
White sumi ink dries opaque, but it’s not a super bright white ink. It’s got a more subtle look to it — almost like white chalk. It’s an excellent choice if you want to work with a slightly subdued white that still shows up well on dark papers. Happily, once white sumi ink is dry, you can erase any pencil guidelines you drew and the ink will not smudge. This is not the case for some other white inks (Winsor and Newton, I’m looking at you)!
In the US, you can find Moon Palace white sumi ink at Paper & Ink Arts (John Neal Booksellers also carries it, but it’s a bit more expensive there). I searched for vendors in other countries with little success; though I did come across a vendor who sells Kuretake white sumi ink in the UK, which I think would make an excellent substitute! As always with these types of blog posts, if you know of a vendor in your country who carries this ink, please share in the comments; it’s always appreciated. 🙂
Ziller North Wind White Calligraphy Ink
Like white sumi ink, Ziller’s North Wind White ink has a fantastic flow. I was pleased to discover that it arrives ready to use — after just a bit of stirring — straight out of the bottle! Speaking of the bottle, the design of Ziller’s simple glass bottles is awesome for dip pen calligraphy. There’s no need to transfer the ink to a different container, which is so convenient!
While Ziller isn’t as chalky as Moon Palace white sumi ink, it’s also not stunningly bright white. I have noticed, too, that its opaqueness tends to vary as you’re writing. Some strokes will be opaque, while others are a little bit transparent. This is a very nit-picky observation, however. You can see in the Kaitlin Style henna greeting tag pictured below that North Wind White offers a reliable means to write on dark paper.
Ultimately, Ziller is a great choice as far as white calligraphy inks go because of its convenience, viscosity, and opacity. You can find it at Paper & Ink Arts in the US or Blots in the UK; I searched in other countries but was unable to locate it (apologies!).
Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen White Calligraphy Ink
Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen White ink is the whitest ink I have ever come across! When you write with it, you will be rewarded with dazzling, opaque results. The Pen White ink I ordered was ready to use straight out of the bottle, but I have read that it can arrive too thick/viscous. If that’s the case, you can dilute with a bit of water! Remember, too, that you’ll need to transfer the ink to a container that is compatible with your dip pen. I am using a screw-top 1 oz. container below.
While I did notice that Pen White ink faltered a tiny bit in opacity on the downstrokes of larger letters (see the top of the “h” in “Lisbeth” in the Janet Style envelope below), the ink generally boasts great coverage and a nice viscosity. It is also capable of über-thin upstrokes, which can be tough to achieve with other, thicker white inks.
You can find Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen White Ink at stores in the United States, the Netherlands, France, Germany, the Philippines, and Australia. You can see if Pen White is available in your country by perusing Dr. Ph. Martin’s “Where to Buy” map!
The Waterproof Test
I thought it would be helpful to test out the waterproof properties of these inks to aid in your decision about which white calligraphy ink is right for you. This can be helpful knowledge to have on hand if, for example, you live in a climate with a lot of rain and you want to ensure that the ink you use to write an address on an envelope doesn’t bleed. I haven’t tested out the Winsor & Newton White or the Bleedproof White yet (stay tuned for Tuesday’s blog post!), but here’s what I found with this batch of inks:
- Sumi ink does an admirable job trying to resist the water, but ultimately bleeds a little bit.
- Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen White ink bleeds … a lot.
- Ziller ink is not phased one little bit by moisture. Like, not at all. I am actually very impressed!
To be fair, I personally don’t worry a whole lot about calligraphy ink being waterproof, but I do think it’s good knowledge to have on hand! After testing out these three inks, I can honestly say that it’s difficult to pick out a favorite: I like them all, and I think they all have their advantages and disadvantages. If you’re looking for a subtle, chalky ink, sumi white is where it’s at. For waterproof ink, your best bet is Ziller’s. For a stunning white, you’ll go far with Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen White!
I hope that today’s post enlightened you a bit on which white ink you are going to try next! If you haven’t yet attempted using white calligraphy ink, I encourage you to give it a go. I remember actually feeling giddy the first time I was able to write opaque white calligraphy on a piece of dark paper! Remember, if your ink ever feels too thick, just mix in some water. It should start behaving shortly thereafter.
If you have any questions, of course feel free to ask! Otherwise, have a fantastic weekend!