Fountain pens and calligraphy pens are both elegant writing tools, but they both have many differences including their inks. If you don’t use the right kind of ink, you run the risk of damaging your pens.
In this article, we compare fountain pen vs calligraphy pen inks to find out their similarities, differences, and use.
Fountain Pen Inks
Fountain pen ink is a fluid that’s made up of colored dye dissolved to make one consistent solution. Since inks in fountain pens are stored in a reservoir, the dye in fountain pen inks is completely reduced to the molecular level to prevent it from clogging up the tip.
If you try to use this ink with a calligraphy pen, it would make quite a mess on the writing piece of paper. This is because the ink is too light and thin and would immediately fall off the dip nib as soon as it touches the page.
Fountain pens have an ink reservoir that needs to be replenished once it runs out. With fountain pens, there are two options of inks to choose from — cartridge or bottle inks. Some fountain pens use only one of the two options, which makes the process of choosing easier.
Cartridges are quite easy to use. All you have to do is pop one into your pen, write until it runs out, and replace it. Most people who choose cartridges over bottle inks do so for convenience.
Many fountain pens use a standard design for their cartridges called the standard international style. Fountain pens with this standard cartridge design give you a wider range of color selection than other cartridge-filled pens.
The biggest con of cartridge inks is that, when compared to bottled ink, they have a fewer selection of colors. Even standard international cartridges have only a tenth of the color choices compared to bottled inks.
Cartridges also run out quickly because they don’t contain as much ink as bottled inks. Although they’re cheaper, in the long run, they’re not economical and would cost you a lot of money, especially if you write a lot.
Bottled inks are ideal for users who want more choices of colors to explore. They also have specialized options like fraud-resistant and waterproof inks, which is something you’d be hardpressed to find with cartridges.
One bottled ink may cost more than an entire pack of ink cartridges, but in the long run, will save you a lot of money because they last longer.
The downside of refilling your fountain pen with a bottle of ink is that the process is a little more complicated. They’re also stressful to transport if you have to take your pens on a trip.
Cartridge Inks Vs Bottled Inks
Advantages – Cartridges
- Low initial cost
- Easy to remove and reinstall
- No extra parts needed
Disadvantages – Cartridges
- More expensive in the long run
- Limited color choices
- No waterproof option
Advantages – Bottled Ink
- Wide variety of colors
- Waterproof and fraud-proof options
- Lower long-term costs
Disadvantages – Bottled Ink
- Higher entry cost
- May need extra parts like a separate converter
- More complicated refill process
- Inconvenient for travel
Calligraphy Pen Inks
Most calligraphy pens have a metal nib and a nib holder that is dipped in an inkwell or ink bottle to write. These dip pens don’t have any internal reservoir for ink.
Unlike most fountain pen inks, calligraphy inks are usually pigmented. This means they’re made with finely ground solid, paint-like matter mixed with fluids. Also, unlike dissolved dyes, these pigments do not fully dissolve and have particles that will settle over time.
Before use, the containers have to be shaken to mix the contents up again. Some calligraphy inks (e.g. India ink) have thickening agents like Arabic gum or undissolved particles that may clog up a fountain pen over time.
Fountain Pen Vs Calligraphy Pen Ink
Both types of writing inks have their strong suits and preferred use.
Fountain pen inks are water-soluble dyes that completely dissolve to be lightly viscose while calligraphy inks are pigments diluted to have high viscosity. The pigments never fully dissolve in the mixture, leaving behind particles that may clog up a calligraphy nib if not washed regularly.
High ink viscosity is required in calligraphy dip pens to keep the ink on the surface of the nib. Otherwise, it would all run off on the page. Some calligraphy inks also have thickening agents to promote viscosity.
Because writing with calligraphy pens is all about control and flexibility, the ink does not hinder you. Viscosity also gives you better control over the flow of ink, especially when you’re experimenting with line variations.
Fountain pen inks have a wider variety of colors than calligraphy inks, especially bottled inks. Options also include shimmer and scented inks to add texture and dimension to your writing project.
While using calligraphy ink for a fountain pen may lead to clogging up, a fountain pen ink for a calligraphy pen will cause the flow of ink to create a mess.
How To Store Your Writing Ink Bottles
A writing ink will last as long as the ink remains so long as you keep it out of direct sunlight and store it properly. Here are some tips to help you store your writing ink supplies well:
Store in Airtight Containers
Use airtight containers, preferably ones with screw top lids. Screw-top lids are better than lids that have to be pried off because they’re easier to open and make less mess.
Use Glass Bottles for Storage
Plastic is porous but glass isn’t, so bottles made with glass are better for ink storage than plastic.
When ink is stored in plastic bottles, the water inside begins to slowly evaporate and dry out, leaving behind only the dyes and pigments. In some cases, dried-out ink bottles can be reused by diluting them with some water, though you may end up clogging your pen feed.
Keep Out of UV Light
Direct sunlight is a very good source of UV rays — apart from changing the color of your ink, it also heats it. Over time, exposure to UV Light ruins the quality of your ink and changes its color.
Store your ink away from direct sunlight and other artificial lights that may contain UV rays. The original cardboard boxes are a good place to keep the inks. Alternatively, you can dedicate a special drawer for your ink bottles.
Use Your Ink Hygienically
The most common cause of ink spoilage is contamination. The most common culprits of ink contamination are slime and mold. Once you notice a bad smell or slimy appearance in your ink, discard it.
One way these contaminants get into the ink bottle is by putting your dirty pen (with an accumulation of bacteria) directly in the bottle. To avoid this, disinfect your pen before refilling.
Consider flushing out your ink feed by pulling and pushing in some tap water or distilled water. You can use a bulb syringe or converter for this. After flushing, you can now dip the pen inside the well.
All of these storage tips also apply to ink cartridges as well, and because most of them come in plastic bottles, the risk of evaporation is very high. You can prevent this by storing them in airtight Ziploc bags.
How to Hygienically Refill Your Fountain Pen Inks
To get the most out of your ink bottles and extend their shelf life, it is important to refill your pens hygienically. Here are the steps you can take to minimize the risk of contamination when refilling your pens.
- Be sure to disinfect your needle before using it
- Draw about 1 ml of ink into the syringe
- Once done, close the ink bottle as fast as you can
- Inject the ink directly into the converter
- Prime your fountain pen nib
- Clean the used syringe and store it well for the next use
How to Remove and Store Ink Cartridges
To remove and change cartridge inks, you need your fountain pen, paper towel, and running water.
- First, completely disassemble the pen’s body to expose the cartridge inside
- Carefully take out the ink cartridge with the pen nib facing upward
- If you want to reuse the cartridge, you can keep it by sealing the open end with some tape or pouring out the remaining ink into an ink bottle
- Clean out the fountain pen by thoroughly flushing it with cool, running water
- Once done, cover the metal nib with a paper towel (not cloth or tissue, so it doesn’t leave any lint behind)
- Shake the pen to remove any excess liquid
- Flush the pen again until the running water is clear, shake again, and leave the pen out to dry
- Once dry, you can replace the ink cartridge and re-assemble the pen
Exploring the very broad world of artistic writing using fountain pens and calligraphy pens can be a great adventure. To avoid costly mistakes, you should know how to tell the differences between a fountain pen vs calligraphy pen.
What works for a fountain pen may not always work for a calligraphy pen — case in point, the kinds of inks used and their storage methods. When you find ink that works best for the kind of pen you’ve chosen, it automatically transforms what could have been a herculean task into an indulgent fantasy.
Explore our collection of articles for more tips on fountain pens.