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We often get the question, “What is the best black ink you have to offer?” It's natural that our customers will want the best quality that their money can buy. When it comes to writing instruments, refills, and inks - you can trust our 15+ years of expertise.
First, let's define “best.” No black inks are identical no matter how alike they may seem. There are so many factors to consider, such as its undertone, water resistance, shimmer, and sheen. All of this can be intimidating to first time ink buyers. Even seasoned pen enthusiasts might get a little lost in the selection. Don't worry - we've got you covered! In this blog, we’ll cover all the basics of bottled fountain pen ink, and we’ll share 7 of our all-time favorite black inks.
Before we get started, I'll be clear - all of our assessments and images are based on our own findings. All ink properties may vary according to the type of paper, type of pen, lighting, type of ink used, and other variables. To complete the ink swatched, we used Rhodia Staplebound Dot Grid Paper and a Lamy Safari Fountain Pen in various nib sizes. Assessments of ink can also be very subjective, so while we have tried to be as objective as possible to create a helpful guide, there is really no substitute to trying out the ink on your own.
In case you're new to the world of fountain pen inks, here's a few key vocabulary words to consider when discussing ink colors.
Undertone: The undertone of black fountain ink may be hard to pick up on, depending on the paper used during your writing. Undertone begins to appear after your ink has dried completely. You may start to notice a slight purple or maybe even a green tone in your writing, though it will be more subtle with black ink.
Water Resistance: Imagine you just finished the first draft of a brilliant, handwritten script. This award-winning story will definitely get published. In your late-night grogginess, your elbow accidentally knocks into a glass of water, spilling all over your freshly-written pages. With most dye-based fountain pen inks, water will lift the color off the page and cause the lines to smudge and feather on the paper. Water resistant ink, while might not completely prevent bleeding, will ensure that you don’t lose the words you’ve put to page. Levels of water resistance exist on a spectrum and vary based on type of ink, the type of paper, and amount of water exposure. Generally, black inks are known to be more water resistant, with some types characterized as indelible and fraud-resistant.
Shimmer: The easiest way to make a plain black ink stand out is to add some shine. A shimmer ink consists of fun and festive reflective particles ingrained into its formula. These sparkles reflect light and glisten in different hues, depending on the color of the glitter in the ink. Before you fill a fountain pen with shimmer ink, make sure to shake the bottle to properly distribute the shimmer particles throughout the liquid suspension.
Sheen: Sheen comes in many different tones. It adds a subtle but fascinating look to an otherwise simple black ink. The highly-saturated ink reflects light in colored tones to catch your eye. Sheen is most noticeable after your writing is dry and is especially visible in areas with more volume of ink.
So, now that we understand the basic terminology, let's dive into the darkness of our 7 favorite black fountain pen inks.
The name Iroshizuku is a combination of the Japanese words Iro (Coloring), expressing high standards and variation of colors, and Shizuku (Droplet). Each ink name derives from the expressions of beautiful Japanese natural landscapes and plants, all of which contribute to the depth of each individual hue.
The glass 50ml bottle is designed with a divot to make sure you have full access to every drop of ink.
Take-sumi ("Bamboo Charcoal") is a black ink with teal undertones and a subtle violet sheen. It is ideal for writing over long periods of time due to its easy-flowing, lubricated viscosity. This Japanese ink exhibits medium water resistance and a 40+ second dry time on Rhodia paper.
For reference, Robert Oster Graphite is most similar to the Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi, although Graphite tends to have more of a green undertone while Take-Sumi is more of a charcoal black.
Since 1864, the Diamine Ink Co has upheld its reputation for producing the finest quality fountain pen inks, calligraphy inks, drawing inks, and writing inks. Like Robert Oster, Pennonia, Van Dieman's, and Colorverse, the Diamine brand produces ink only, no pens.
We carry Diamine Onyx Black in both 80 ml and 30 ml bottles. The 80 ml is contained in a faceted glass bottle while the 30 ml is in a rectangular plastic bottle.
This ink has a slight, dusky purple undertone with a heavy, raven black sheen.
It has medium shading and a 45+ second dry time. Diamine Onyx Black is not water-resistant.
In comparison, Graf Von Faber Castell Carbon Black is most similar to Diamine Onyx Black. Though, Onyx Black has more of a purple undertone than the Carbon Black, the heavy black sheen makes the two inks all the more similar.
The Edelstein Ink Collection represents Pelikan's premium ink collection. Each color contains a special formula that ensures extra smooth writing and care for the fountain pen. The German word Edelstein translates to “gemstone.” Naturally, each color is inspired and named after a precious gemstone.
The 50 ml glass bottle has a heavy, solid base. Although the bottle shape is not the most ideal for filling pens, the presentation is worthy of display on your desk.
This ink has a slight greyish-green undertone with a slight black sheen.
Pelikan Edelstein Onyx exhibits medium water resistance and about 20 second dry time, depending on the volume of ink used in your writing.
For reference, Diamine Jet Black is the most similar in sheen and color.
The Colorverse Ink Project line features 8 gorgeous colors with sheen, shading, and shimmer properties. These are some of the most gorgeous inks Colorverse has made to date and they certainly do not disappoint.
Colorverse Shiny Black (glistening) ink comes in a 65 ml droplet-shaped glass bottle.
This ink is a rich black with a navy undertone and heavy silver shimmer.
There is no water resistance, and it has a 20 second dry time.
As an alternative, Diamine Night Sky is the most similar ink compared to Colorverse Shiny Black due to its beautiful silver shimmer.
Founded in Germany in 1996, Lamy is known for their uniquely practical fountain pen ink bottles.
The 50ml glass ink bottles feature an ink residue collecting basin and a roll of blotting paper attached to the bottle to wipe your pen nib after filling.
Lamy Black is a pitch black ink with a slight brown sheen and no shimmer. For anyone who’s looking for a plain black ink with a little bit of spice, Lamy is the way to go.
It has a dry time of 25 seconds and medium water resistance.
In comparison, Aurora’s Bottled Ink in Black has a unique golden sheen compared to Lamy’s deeper brown sheen, but the color and saturation seem to be the most alike.
Flowers have always been a popular subject in Japanese art and culture, and Sailor's Manyo bottled ink series highlights this theme.
Each Manyo ink arrives in a 50 ml cubical glass bottle.
The ink is a dye based, lead black ink with a medium brown sheen and no shimmer.
Chigaya has a 15 second dry time and medium water resistance.
Inspired by the colors of nature, Graf von Faber-Castell inks are perfect for your dearest fountain pens. They are carefully formulated with the highest-quality ingredients for smooth ink flow.
Graf von Faber-Castell ink is packaged in a luxurious 75 ml glass bottle.
As for the color, Carbon Black has a heavy black sheen and no shimmer.
It has a dry time of 25 seconds, is water resistant and is also archival (meaning that it is long-lasting and will not fade over time).
In comparison, Pelikan Edelstein Onyx does have a green undertone, unlike Carbon Black, but they both have a heavy black sheen and about a 20 second dry time.
When selecting a black fountain pen ink, ask yourself the following questions:
Black inks are particularly useful for illustrations, as they provide a rich, flowing line for various applications (brush, pen nib, stamping). Using a waterproof ink like GvFC Carbon Black, Platinum Carbon Black, or Noodler's Bulletproof Black is necessary to create line art that can be layered with washes of watercolor or other colors of pen ink.
Water resistance is also an important characteristic needed for official signatures and writing checks.
If you write with lightweight, recycled paper, you may experience issues with the ink feathering or bleeding through the page. If you can't upgrade the paper quality where you will be using your fountain pen, we suggest using Noodler's X-Feather black, which is specially formulated to write on absorbent papers.
Sometimes, you may run into a situation where blue ink is preferred over black. This includes an office policy or for filling out important paperwork. Water-resistant, Medium- to dark-toned blues are generally preferable to use in a conservative office setting. Blue-black may also be permissible.
As you see in the swatch examples above, there are subtle variations with each of the black inks we shared on this list. With hundreds of colors at our store, the same could be said of many other color families. However, black tends to be more one-dimensional than all the other ink colors. It's a lot easier to identify two different blue inks than it would be to discern the differences of two black ones. If you're adventurous, you may want to expand your horizons to find a blue, purple, greek, or pink ink, etc. Just make sure to use the ink in the proper context. A teacher might use red ink to grade test papers. A financial planner may want to avoid red ink at all costs.
Besides serving a functional purpose, fountain pen inks are fun modes of personal expression. When writing in your journal or taking notes that only you would read, feel free to experiment and find a color that truly speaks to your soul. We hope that you found this list of our favorite black fountain pen inks enjoyable and enlightening. If you have any inky questions, please feel free to reach out through our contact form or leave a comment below.