What Is Fountain Pen Ink Made Of: Different Types and Uses
what is fountain pen ink made of, spilled ink

What is fountain pen ink made of, and is it the same as the ink used in ballpoint pens or rollerball pens? These are pretty common questions amongst fountain pen lovers. 

In this guide, we will share what fountain pen ink is made of, how it differs from other ink types, and some tips on choosing the best ink type for these luxurious pens. 

What Is Fountain Pen Ink Made Of?

Fountain pen ink is a bottled liquid created by combining a blend of dye, water, and additives like surfactants, pH modifiers, and biocides. These different ingredients all affect the ink in distinct ways.

Dye Colors

Colorful dyes colors

With some inks, pigments are used instead of dye, but pigment fountain inks are rare. Different dye colors can also be used to create ink in a wide range of colors, including some bolder colors and more muted colors. 


These additives are included in the formula to establish a specific surface tension in the ink. This allows the ink to easily flow out of the pen nib but keeps it from becoming so runny that it messes up your paper. Surfactants also prevent the ink from clotting and clogging up the pen nib.

pH Modifiers and Biocides

Specific quantities of these additives are used to prevent mold growth in inks. Biocides keep the ink fresh and in great condition no matter how long it might be stored in the ink bottle.

Can You Use Any Ink in a Fountain Pen?

It isn’t the best idea to use other ink types like rollerball ink for your fountain pen. Other inks may contain pigments or solids that can solidify and clog up your fountain pen. Some inks also have a higher pH level which can degrade delicate paper that is sometimes used for fountain pens. 

Ink that isn’t specifically designed for fountain pens might not offer a smooth writing experience and may result in blotches, smears, or streaking on specialized paper. Works created with these inks usually don’t last as long since the pH is likely to deteriorate the paper. 

Different Types of Fountain Pen Inks

There are numerous types of fountain pen inks available on the market. Here is a quick look at the most important categories.

General Writing Ink

Most fountain pen inks are specially developed for writing. These writing ink brands usually distribute their inks in a range of colors like black, blue, green, red, gray, and others ideal for creating creative word art projects or writing beautiful letters.

Archival Ink

Some fountain pen inks are specifically developed for creating archives. These inks are referred to as archival ink, and they can have different qualities or strengths depending on the brand. 

While most ink types will fade over time, these inks will stay bright for longer, even if exposed to direct sunlight. Some archival inks are even waterproof or water-resistant to prevent smudging even if the work gets wet. 

Highlighter Inks

These inks are not developed for everyday writing and can be a rare find. The inks function much the same way as your normal highlight pen would. It is specially developed with a thinner consistency, so it won’t cover up or hide previously written text.

UV Inks

UV-reactive inks are invisible inks that usually only become visible under UV light or backlight. The ink is fun to work with and can be handy for creating secret messages.

Types of Pen Ink Qualities

Fountain Pen Ink and Paper

There are not just different types of fountain pen inks. Inks are diluted, enhanced, or developed to give different qualities so you can create all sorts of interesting calligraphy works. Some ink qualities might work well with most steel nibs, while others might not flow well in these pens. 

Here is a quick look at the most common fountain pen ink qualities you might find useful in calligraphy.

Shading Inks

Shading inks are designed to change in intensity as you write. The type of nibs and paper you use can affect the intensity or notability of the shading effect since shading will be more visible on some papers and with some nib sizes. 

Sheen Inks

Sheen inks are modern formulations of ink. This type of ink usually has a metallic appearance in areas where the ink flow is thick and heavy. 

The sheen of these inks can be different from the actual ink color. A good example is a purple ink that might have a golden shine. 

Shimmer Ink

Shimmer ink usually has metallic particles in the composition that create a glittering effect when you turn the paper or look at the text differently. These inks are easy to use, but they tend to clog pen nibs.

Ink Wetness Quality

This is an important quality to keep in mind when using different nibs. The thinner an ink is, the easier it will flow out of a nib. 

Wetter inks are perfect for broad tip nibs but can be a nuisance with thin tip nibs since the ink might flow too fast. A wetter ink might also be better for absorbent paper but can result in smudges on too thin and smoothly textured paper.

Ink Dry Time

Some inks dry faster than others. If you are an impatient individual or prefer to work fast, it might be wise to find a quick-drying ink, or you may constantly struggle with smudging. 

Fast-drying inks also tend to be better for left-handed individuals, and these inks result in the same quality look as slow drying inks. 

Final Thoughts

Finding out what fountain pen ink is made of can be very interesting and a good guide for choosing the right type of ink. Many people find it fun to explore all the different types of vintage and new inks available today because these different ink types can take your calligraphy skills to the next level. 

If you want to know more about different ink types or fountain pen nibs, you should look at some of our other guides. On Fountain Pen Guide, you can learn all there is to know about these wonderful pens and all of the accessories that go with them. 


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