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How I Choose Inks for My Pens

Posted in Fountain Pens

Last updated on March 24, 2022

Alright, another post you asked for. My method of choosing inks for my pens is part data-driven, part personal preference. Ultimately, the actual “choice” of ink is only mildly influenced by the data-driven aspect. So, if you want to skip the data-driven bit, you won’t be missing out on too much.


Like with my pens, I try to ensure I use all of my inks. To do so, I have an Airtable view set up for ink usage. Every time I ink a pen (not counting my “always inked” pens), I check off the ink I used. I only let myself use an ink once per notebook.

On top of that, when I start a new notebook, I do my best to start with the inks that didn’t get used in the previous notebook. Inks that I avoid for 2 or more notebooks are likely to get sold or given away.

That said, if I wasn’t focused on using all my inks evenly, it wouldn’t affect how I actually chose my inks. It only affects the size of the “pool” of inks I can choose from.

Personal Preference

This comes into play when choosing the ink color family to choose from. As you’ll read in a bit, I need to know what color family in order to finally pick my ink. I go for one of three things when choosing a color family for the ink:

  1. “Goes well” with my pen: this is my most frequent way of choosing inks. More on this method in just a moment.
  2. Opposite color to the pen: I look for an ink opposite the color wheel to the pen. For example, a green ink for a red pen, orange ink for a blue pen, etc.
  3. Matches the pen: this one is pretty self-explanatory.

I used to always try to put opposite inks in my pens, but that became difficult when I got some black pens.

Making the Choice

Once I know what color family I’m going with, I hold the pen up to my ink swab notebook. I look for an ink that “feels good” with the pen.

As you can see above, the shading and warmth of an ink can make a huge difference in whether it “goes” with a pen. When I just want an ink that “goes well,” I often run a pen down the different swab pages until a combination calls to me.

Same Ink Pens

Rarely do I find “the ink” for a pen. I have two “sets” right now:

  1. Visconti Il Magnifico Lapislazzuli and DeAtramentis Madame de Pompadour
  2. Sheaffer Triumph Valiant Marine Green and Pilot Iroshizuku Kiri-Same

I also really like orange inks in my Kurikara-ken and may end up pairing it with J. Herbin Orange Indien.

Satisfying Writing Experience

Ultimately, the whole point of my ink choosing method is to create a more satisfying writing experience. Having a well-matched ink in my pen makes it better, and having a poorly-matched in can make it distressing. I’ve been known to clean out a pen and re-ink it if I don’t like the pen-ink combo. It matters that much to me.

How much does getting the right pen-ink combo matter to you? Do you have a specific method for choosing your inks? Let me know in the comments; I love to hear from you!

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