Choosing Your Fountain Pen Ink Color Online

(J. Herbin Fountain Pen Ink Vert Pre)

As you’re shopping online for a new bottle of fountain pen ink, likely the ink color samples you see on your computer, tablet or smartphone have a big influence on what you decide to purchase. Can you trust what you see on your computer monitor? Do you ever wonder how the ink samples are made?

When we first started producing samples of fountain pen ink colors for our online store, we used a special color calibrated computer monitor and made careful adjustments with graphics software to make sure the color sample looked as close to real life as possible from our viewpoint. The flaw in this method is that most shoppers do not use color calibrated computer monitors. As a result, the ink color samples look different to each shopper because each shopper uses a different monitor or smartphone to view the samples. Since then, we have intentionally purchased computer monitors that are a variety of different brands so that we can compare and see what our shoppers might be seeing. Even so, it is not possible with current technology to make sure that each one of you sees a completely accurate sample of each ink color when you are shopping online.

Other retailers have made ink samples that don’t even display real ink swatches or handwriting at all. Graphics software is used to pick the color and then a computer font that looks like handwriting is used to create a “handwritten” color sample. This also has disadvantages. When you look at the color variations in the ink samples below, can you see how it would be difficult to decide what part of the sample it would be best to pick the color from? A computer generated color sample does not give you any idea of the shading or opacity of the ink. Plus, it still does not change the fact that each of you are using different computers and smartphones that each display colors slightly differently.

If you are a regular shopper at Writer’s Bloc, you may have noticed that many of our ink color samples look like this:

(Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts bottled fountain pen ink sample)

We decided to come up with a standardized way of creating our online fountain pen ink samples so that you might be able to discern some of the ink’s characteristics before you decide to buy. Each sample is handwritten with the actual ink, in the same calligraphy style, using a Brause dipping pen with a Steno nib. The “swish” above the handwriting is made with an inked cotton swab and goes from left to right so that the heaviest ink application is on the left and the lightest on the right. The paper used is always bright white 90g Clairefontaine French-ruled paper. (Note: the ink photos on our website that include the ink bottle or cartridges in the photo are meant to give you a general idea of the ink color and are NOT meant to be the primary color sample for the ink.)

What are some of the advantages of this method? Clairefontaine is known as one of the best papers in the world for writing, and it performs exceptionally well with fountain pens.  This paper is very good at eliminating or reducing writing problems that are common on low-grade paper such as ink feathering and ink bleeding through the paper. By the way, if ink happens to bleed or feather while we are making our samples, we do not retouch the samples or re-write them to try and get rid of the feathering – we just use them the way they are to help you discern the character of the ink. The Clairefontaine paper is a bright white color so it does not detract from the color of the fountain pen ink.

Why use French-ruled paper and not blank paper? The lines on the French-ruled paper help you to see how opaque or how transparent the ink is. Can you see the lines on the paper through the ink sample? For example, Noodler’s Eel Polar Black ink is very opaque:

And J. Herbin’s Vert Pre ink is more transparent:

The Brause Steno nib allows you to see what your writing might look like using a fountain pen with a fine to medium size nib. The Steno nib is a flex nib, so the line width in the samples varies. The cotton swab generated “swish” above the writing helps you to see what kind of shading the ink might have. Noodler’s Ink Habannero has some nice shading to it:

To prepare the color samples for our online store, the ink samples written on Clairefontaine paper are simply scanned, cropped and re-sized. That’s it. They are not retouched or enhanced by graphics software in any other way.

Even though we have a standardized system for creating our ink color samples, each of you will see the color a little bit differently depending on your own personal monitor or screen. Each of you will be writing on different kinds and colors of paper, using different nib sizes and you all have different handwriting. This too can affect the way an ink looks as you write with it. Our wish is to give you the most realistic online ink samples possible to help you choose your fountain pen ink!

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Fountain Pen Basics: What essentials do I need with my first fountain pen?

If you’re thinking of buying your first fountain pen, you may be surprised to discover just how many choices of styles, brands and inks there are for this traditional writing instrument! It may seem overwhelming to figure out what you need as you sift through the huge variety of fountain pens and accessories available to the modern writer. What basic essentials must you have to begin writing with your first fountain pen?

(LAMY Safari fountain pen in charcoal with a black nib)

(1) A fountain pen. It is not necessary to buy an expensive pen with a real 14K gold nib to begin your new writing experience. Something as simple and cheap as a disposable pen can be sufficient to help you get the feel for what writing with a fountain pen is like. The refillable Platinum Preppy fountain pen is a very popular choice under $5.00. There are many other pen choices in the $50.00 or less category that can even last a lifetime. Generally, most (but not all) pens in this price range have steel nibs and cartridge/converter filling systems. Just like regular pens, fountain pens come in a variety of nib sizes, often ranging from extra-fine to broad. If you’ve never used a fountain pen you’ll probably find that either a fine or a medium nib is the easiest to begin writing with. Here is a short list of some suggested beginner fountain pens:

LAMY Al-Star
LAMY Safari
LAMY Vista
LAMY Joy Fountain Pen
Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen
Kaweco Classic Sport
Kaweco Ice Sport
Pelikan Pelikano
Pelikan Pelikano Jr.
Platinum Plaisir
Platinum Preppy

(2) Some ink. If you are a beginner, ink cartridges are the easiest way to refill your fountain pen. The most important thing is to make sure the ink cartridges you get are compatible with the fountain pen that you buy. Standard international or universal cartridges fit many types of fountain pens, but not all fountain pens. Some fountain pens require proprietary cartridges, or in other words, ink cartridges that are the same brand as the fountain pen. Here’s the same list of beginner fountain pens with suggested compatible ink refills:

LAMY Al-Star – LAMY T10 fountain pen refills
LAMY Safari – LAMY T10 fountain pen refills
LAMY Vista – LAMY T10 fountain pen refills
LAMY Joy Fountain Pen – LAMY T10 fountain pen refills
Pilot Metropolitan – Pilot Namiki Fountain Pen Ink Cartridges
Kaweco Classic Sport – short standard international cartridges
Kaweco Ice Sport – short standard international cartridges
Pelikan Pelikano – short standard international cartridges and Pelikan 4001 Giant universal cartridges
Pelikan Pelikano Jr. – short standard international cartridges and Pelikan 4001 Giant universal cartridges
Platinum Plaisir – Platinum fountain pen ink refills 10 pack or 2 pack
Platinum Preppy – Platinum fountain pen ink refills 10 pack or 2 pack

Our blog includes articles that are very helpful in explaining ink cartridge use:

Crash Course in Fountain Pen Ink Cartridges
Pelikano Fountain Pen Cartridge Tips

Also worth mentioning – once you start writing with fountain pens you will notice that the kind of paper you write with will matter more than it did before. The type of paper you use will definitely affect your writing experience. To find out why, take a look at this blog article:

What is Fountain Pen Friendly Paper?

If you are left-handed and have noticed that some fountain pens come with left-handed nibs, this article might answer some of your questions:

Do I need a left-handed nib on my fountain pen if I’m a left-handed writer?

So that’s basically it – a pen and some ink are all you really need to try out a fountain pen. If you discover that you like fountain pens and want to expand on the basics, what comes next? This will be the subject of a future blog post.

What was your first fountain pen? Was it love at first write, or did your taste for fountain pens develop slowly? Do you have any suggestions for someone who wants to get their first fountain pen?

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Refill Fountain Pen Ink Cartridges with a Blunt Tip Needle Bottle

If you own a fountain pen that has a cartridge filling system, you can easily refill your empty ink cartridges or ink converter using a blunt tip needle bottle. (Update: a NEW style of blunt tip needle bottle is now available.)

  1. Put some ink into the needle bottle – a small funnel can be used to make this easier.
  2. If you are changing ink colors it would be a good idea to clean your fountain pen and rinse out your empty cartridge with water first. A blunt tip needle bottle filled with clean water is a good way to rinse out ink cartridges. You may want to let the cleaned pen and ink cartridge dry overnight before you refill them.
  3. Insert the blunt tip needle through the small opening on the end of the cartridge down towards the bottom of your empty cartridge. This way as you fill the cartridge the air will naturally come out the top and not form too many ink bubbles.
  4. Gently squeeze the needle bottle and fill the cartridge or converter not quite to the top with ink.
  5. Put the refilled ink cartridge into your fountain pen and you’re finished!

I’ve heard that some people use a dab of glue from a hot glue gun to reseal the cartridges so they can take extra ink cartridges with them. If you decide to give this a try, be aware that it’s not foolproof. You may want to carry the ink cartridges in a plastic zip top bag to prevent any accidents.

There are many advantages to using a blunt tip needle bottle to refill your empty fountain pen ink cartridges:

  • Bottled ink is much cheaper to use than ink that comes in cartridges.
  • Since the empty cartridges can be re-used many times before discarding them, there is less plastic waste going into the environment.
  • Ink cartridges usually can hold more ink than a comparable ink converter.
  • The needle tip bottle can hold lots of ink and it doesn’t need to be cleaned after each use like a syringe does.
  • The blunt tip needle is safer to use for refilling than a sharp tip syringe.
  • The plunger on a syringe can be hard to control leading to small ink explosions, but the bottle yields to very gentle pressure.
  • You can fill the needle bottle with your own custom ink color and use it to create your own custom cartridges.
  • You can fill cartridges with ink that isn’t available in cartridges such as Noodler’s and Pilot Iroshizuku.

The little wire in the cap of the blunt tip needle bottle isn’t completely necessary, but it does serve a couple of useful purposes. Since the wire goes into the needle when the bottle is capped it helps to prevent any clogs and it also helps to prevent leaks if the bottle tips over. If the little wire in the cap comes out, you can gently push it back in.

Do you ever refill empty fountain pen ink cartridges? What method do you use? Do you have any tips that you’d like to pass along?

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