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How I Choose Inks for My Pens

Posted in Ink

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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