• Ziller Waterproof Calligraphy Ink: A Review

    I’ve been using Ziller waterproof calligraphy ink for over a decade now. In that time, I’ve fallen in love with some of its good qualities … and I’ve learned to overlook some of its not-so-good qualities. Today, we’ll examine this versatile ink so you can decide whether it’s right for you.

    Ziller Waterproof Calligraphy Ink

    It is surprisingly difficult to find truly 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.

    Mother’s Day Special: Soot Black + Syringe Bundle

    While I generally like using Ziller ink, one of the cons is that water tends to evaporate out of it fairly quickly. This results in an ink that’s too thick, so you’ll need to add water back into it fairly regularly (and, no, adding water to the ink does not compromise its waterproof properties). That’s the inspiration behind this tidy little “Soot Black + Syringe” bundle.

    This bundle includes a bottle of Ziller Soot Black ink and a complimentary blunt art syringe.
    This bundle is available through Thursday, May 16th.

    When you purchase the bundle, you’ll receive a Ziller Soot Black ink plus a blunt art syringe for the price of just the ink. You’ll be glad you have the syringe! It might seem like an odd tool at first, but you’ll use it ever single creation session to dilute inks, hydrate watercolors, and — for the brave and fiercely creative among us — create ink spatters.


    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.

    Botanical Letter "B"
    Ziller Soot Black ink is a must-have for the Watercolor Botanical Letters 101 eCourse. The ink allows you to make a drawing that won’t feather or smudge when you add watercolor to it.

    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

    The "waterproof test": all of this calligraphy has been exposed to water. See how the Ziller ink fared?
    All of the inks shown here were brushed over with water. You can see that Ziller clearly fared the best.

    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.

    The Watercolor Illustrated Map eCourse is Here!
    I used Ziller Soot Black ink to create the illustrations and calligraphy for this watercolor map. You can see that the watercolor didn’t smudge the ink even a little bit.

    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 (affiliate link), which you can mix together to make your own colors.

    Black Calligraphy Inks Comparison Part I: Ziller, Sumi, and Higgins | The Postman's Knock
    Ziller ink is fairly thick, which means it isn’t likely to bleed (as shown on this Amy Style worksheet page).

    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 important to know some of the drawbacks. First, I don’t love the jar that Ziller inks come in. About five years ago, the company switched to using a square jar with a plastic lid.

    Old Ziller Ink Jar + New Ziller Ink Jar
    Ziller rep Sebastien Saint-Ouen told me that the old cylindrical jars used to leak, which is partially why they switched to the square jars.

    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.

    Intricate Teacup Envelope Art for "No More Boring Envelopes"
    I used an old jar of Ziller Cardinal Red ink to make this teacup envelope art. The ink was initially gunky because it hadn’t been used in a few years, but I was able to revive it by adding 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 (affiliate link).

    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).

    White Calligraphy Ink Showdown: Sumi, Ziller, & Pen White | The Postman's Knock
    This little card was made with Ziller North Wind White. It’s a decent ink, but it lacks the bright white color of Bleed Proof White.

    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 (affiliate link). Internationally, Quills (Canada) has a great Ziller collection, and so does Scribblers (UK). To browse merchants in 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!