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Monday, January 14, 2019

Ink Testing

Ink Swatches to Test
I have sketched with ink for years. About 10 years ago I switched over to fountain pens because of the varied sizes of pens in my hands and the multitude of nibs available. I like the variety of lines that can be created with nibs of different widths and materials. I’ve enjoyed using fine, extra fine, medium, broad, italic, flex, music nib and more. But let’s save this topic for another day. 

When it comes to ink color I like anything but…black. The brands and colors I like come in bottles. I like light grey, brown and sepia tones. I have a few water soluble inks but I mostly use waterproof ink. 

I’ve read discussions on Facebook about different inks and how they react to sunlight, archival quality and whether they’re waterproof, semi waterproof or water soluble. As you know…If you ask a question on a public forum you'll get many opinions but not necessarily the correct answer. I did a little reseach on my own and found it challenging to find the information. I was searching for the lightfast and archival qualities of the inks.  

Lightfast: Not prone to discolor or fade when exposed to light.

Archival: pH neutral and acid free.

Materials Needed
I decided to do my own tests.
To start with, I made swatches of ink on 4"x 2" inch cards of 140lbs cold press (not) watercolor paper. When dry I covered half the swatch with another piece of watercolor paper. I put the swatches in a plastic sleeve and taped against a window for 30 days. These tests were done during the summer, 2018.

I made a short video showing the results of my tests. One of my favorites didn't pass the test...but I was pleasantly surprised by many others. Hope you find this information helpful. To be clear Lightfast: not prone to discolor or fade when exposed to light. Archival: Is pH neutral and acid-free. 

One of my favorite waterproof inks (water resistant) is the De Atramentis, Document ink. They have a wide assortment of colors that can be mixed.The De Atramentis Document Ink can be found at Goulet I like mixing the Brown and Red and then lighten a little with the De Atramentis Document Solution. Perfect sepia color!

To see all the results check out this short video by clicking on the image below or following this link:  Ink Testing Video

Happy Sketching!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing these. I found your blog - I have always been a fan of your work - while searching for a pen!! Thank you for sharing such great I am a newbie at fountain pens, and I found great answers here!!!

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  3. The link went to an interview with Cheap Joe, but I found the right one here:

    1. Beth, Which link are you referring too? They work for me...

  4. Thank you for doing that experiment, and sharing it with us, Brenda.

  5. Brenda, quick question when you have a moment! I know you mentioned ratios to us in your class in Westminster for the brown/red/solution, but I can't remember the ratios?? Also, do you use "dark red" or just "red"? Thank you for this information!!

    1. I don't have an exact formula and I rarely have the same mix of color twice. Play with the ratios and see what you like.

  6. Hi, is there no problem (as clogging) with waterproof inks and e.g. Mont Blanc pens? I do not want to destroy my best friends.

    1. Rolf, I don't blame you. I am very careful with my expensive fountain pens. I always store flat and never leave ink inside for more than a few weeks. Use your own best judgement.