It is surprisingly difficult to find waterproof calligraphy ink. When Ziller inks came to my attention in 2015, I had come to the conclusion that no ink can truly be unaffected by water. It felt fabulous to be proven wrong! If you like to incorporate watercolor into your calligraphy and/or illustration work — or you want to make durable envelope calligraphy, I suspect you’ll love this ink as much as I do.
About Ziller Waterproof Calligraphy Ink
Ziller inks are unique in that they rely on an acrylic co-polymer formula to protect against moisture damage. Indeed, this is the only ink that I’ve found that can handle a good amount of watercolor paint over it! The tiny pigment granules in the ink ensure a good flow, and the ink welcomes dilution if it starts to get too thick.
As far as the Ziller company itself, Ziller is a small, family-owned business. Every time I correspond with the company, it’s Sebastien Saint-Ouen, the owners’ son-in-law, who writes me back. For years, Ziller was called “Ziller of Kansas City” and based out of Kansas City, but a warmer climate enticed the owners to move the company to Orlando in 2012. The “of Kansas City” was dropped from the brand name in 2017.
Pros of Ziller Waterproof Calligraphy Ink
1. Waterproof Properties
For me, there is one huge pro to using Ziller ink: it stands up to any watercolor shenanigans your heart desires! I especially love it for creating illustrations that incorporate calligraphy, like watercolor maps. Ziller inks are also excellent if you want to create waterproof calligraphy on envelopes.
2. Viscosity + Variety
In addition to its waterproof nature, Ziller has a nice, smooth viscosity. It’s also a little bit thicker than most inks, which means that it’s less likely to bleed or feather. While I only stock one color of Ziller ink in the TPK Supplies Shop (the only color I ever use: Soot Black), Ziller does come in several different colors, which you can mix together to make your own colors.
Cons of Ziller Waterproof Calligraphy Ink
1. Jar Design
While I do think that the pros of using Ziller inks outweigh the cons, it’s nice to know some of the drawbacks. First, I don’t love the jar that Ziller inks come in. Within the past year or two, the company switched to using a square jar with a plastic lid. The plastic lid has a tendency to crack or come loose in shipping every once in a while, resulting in ink spills. I usually have problems with 5 out of every 100 bottles that I sell.
The flat square design of the bottle is fine as long as you have at least half a jar’s worth of ink, but as the ink level goes down, it becomes more difficult to dip your pen in the bottle. I’ve started transferring my Ziller ink into a cylindrical jar like the one that Ziller inks used to come in.
2. Ink Composition
This ink’s composition means that it’s thicker than most, which can be a pro. But there are two drawbacks to its viscosity. First, the ink is thick to begin with, so when water starts to evaporate out of the ink, it becomes pretty thick pretty fast! If that happens, you’ll need to dilute it with water.
Second, sometimes people tell me that they can’t get the Ziller ink completely off of their nib because it’s pretty thick. I don’t mind a grungy-looking nib, so I just wipe the ink off my nib with regular water and a cloth. If you want your nib to be squeaky clean for longer, though, you can try wiping it off with Ziller’s pen cleaner.
Ziller Ink Colors
Ziller waterproof calligraphy ink comes in several colors, but I have to admit that I only use the Soot Black. Enchanted with the idea of totally waterproof white ink, I did try their North Wind White. However, it wasn’t incredibly vivid and opaque compared to my go-to (Bleed Proof White, which isn’t waterproof).
I have had other Ziller colors in the past (Buffalo Brown, Cardinal Red), and I agree with the Ziller website that they have a gouache-like sheen. The ink dries matte and slightly chalky. If you’re looking for waterproof colored inks, it’s certainly worth it to try out a few of the different Ziller colors! In the US, you can find them at Paper & Ink Arts. Internationally, Calligraphy Supplies Australia has a great Ziller collection, and so does Scribblers (UK). For other countries, see Where to Buy Calligraphy Supplies.
If you have any questions about this ink, I’m glad to answer to the best of my ability! I hope that this post helps you to get a better idea of what to add (or not add) to your calligraphy collection. Thanks very much for reading, and enjoy the rest of your day!