What You Need to Know About Calligraphy Ink

Jul 08

If you’re an experienced fountain pen user, you’ve seen for yourself that the type of ink you use makes a big impact on your final product. It should come as no surprise then, that there are specific qualities in calligraphy inks that make them ideal for creating that whimsical, highly expressive, and florid style that is loved by designers, illustrators, and stationers. If you plan to experiment with (or master the art of) calligraphy, here are some important characteristics of calligraphy ink you should understand.


Pigment-Based Ink

The best type of ink to use for calligraphy work, typically, is pigment-based ink. These types of inks are made with colored pigments and a binding agent like a shellac or acrylic, that typically allows them to be lightfast, waterproof, and long-lasting. Pigment-based inks are also frequently referred to as India ink, drawing ink, or China ink, so plan to watch out of these names while shopping for inks as well.

Read the Labels

Don’t assume that because an ink is pigment-based that it is lightfast and waterproof. Ink manufacturers have created a wide variety of products that meet varying specifications. Be sure to read the labels and test your ink out on practice paper before you add ink to something invaluable, like an invitation, legal document, or certificate.


A well-suited, pigment-based calligraphy ink will be slightly thick, dense, and should dry opaque (unless you’re purposely looking for a transparent effect).

For Line Variations

Calligraphy is a highly-nuanced art form. Some experts will even vary the ink they use depending on the look they are hoping to achieve. For example, if you are looking to create thin, delicate lines, you may want to try a dye-based ink, which generally produces thinner, lighter lines. Be aware, however, that dye-based inks typically will not meet archival requirements, as they are not lightfast or waterproof.

A Warning to Fountain Pen Fans

Unfortunately, most calligraphy inks should not be used inside your fountain pen. Their dense consistency can gunk up the inner workings of your pen or your nib. If you do plan to invest in some calligraphy ink, keep separate ink on hand for your fountain pen. We recommend Noodler’s or J. Herbin brands.

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