With a range of different formulas of fountain pen ink available it can be daunting to find the right ink for your particular needs. This guide will break down the differences to help you choose what ink is best for you.
Dye based ink is the most common fountain pen ink you will find. Brands like Pilot, Faber-Castell, Diamine and so many more create their fountain pen inks using this method. Dye based inks can be found in a huge array of different colours and give you the broadest choice.
These inks are made with water soluble dyes which make them very easy to clean from your pen when you are ready to switch to a new ink. These inks are safe to use in any fountain pen, including vintage pens that use rubber components and are generally hassle free. If you left a fountain pen with ink inside unused for an extended period of time and found it dried out, water would generally be enough to clean this type of ink from your pen.
The downside to dye based inks is that they don't offer any waterproof properties and the colour may fade over time.
Pigment Inks are made of large, insoluble particles that become embedded in the surface of the paper and are waterproof and fade resistant once dry. Pigment Inks, due to its archival properties, is ideal for signing important documents and for writing you want to last for many years. It is also useful for art applications such as watercolour as it won't wash away when water is applied.
When using pigment inks it is important to clean your pen regularly. It is also recommended not to leave your fountain pen unused for a long time as the ink may dry out and be difficult to clean out of the pen.
Platinum's Carbon Inkis a great example of a pigment ink and has become a favourite amongst watercolour enthusiasts.
Noodler's Bulletproof refers to any Noodler’s Ink that resists all the known tools of the forger such as UV light, UV light wands, bleaches, alcohols, solvents, petrochemicals, oven cleaners, carpet cleaners and carpet stain lifters. They are also waterproof once dry.
These Bulletproof Inks are made with cellulose reactive dyes that make them permanent but still gentle on pens. Noodler's Bulletproof Inks are also known as “eternal”. This means they are fade resistant and archival.
Other permanent fountain pen inks are made with either pigments or iron gall and you need to be careful not to let these dry out in your pen. Noodler's Bulletproof are not as likely to give you this issue.
Iron Gall Inks were commonly used from the Middle Ages right up to the early 20th century. These waterproof inks darken as they dry which gives a nice shading effect. They will also darken over time, unlike standard dye based inks which tend to fade over the years.
The downside of these old iron-gall inks was that they were also incredibly corrosive, damaging the pens they were used with. Modern iron gall inks such as those made by KWZ Inks are much gentler and safe to use in fountain pens. The pen filled with Iron Gall ink does need some special care, similar to when any permanent ink is used. It is recommended not to leave it unused for a long time as the ink may dry out and be difficult to clean out of the pen. However, if Iron Gall inks are used on a daily basis, there are no special requirements.
Iron Gall ink is available in a variety of colours, however, the colours come from dyes that aren’t waterproof. The dyes can be washed away, but the iron gall component is permanently bonded with the paper, so the text is still easy to read even after soaking, although the ink will turn dark gray or black as only the oxidized iron particles are left behind on the page.