Top 10 Under-Appreciated Ink Brands

I have been doing a little bit of ink-ventory-ing and it got me thinking about all the inks in my collection and how many great inks just don’t get talked about much these days. They are the classics, the old favorites and the more budget-priced inks. So I’ve decided to run down the most under-appreciated inks, IMHO. What are your favorite under-appreciated inks?

10. Diamine

Diamine is a tried-and-true brand with a huge range of colors and multiple lines: the standard line, the 150th anniversary collection and the new Inkvent collections. The prices for each of the collections are so reasonable that I think the inks are often overlooked — and sometimes overwhelming. Diamine has often worked with fans like FPN and Reddit to create custom limited edition inks too. The most recent Celadon Cat was a Reddit fans collab.

The standard line of inks are available in 30ml (about $8 each) and epic 80ml bottles (about $17 each). The 150th anniversary line come in 40ml pie-wedge shaped bottles and sells for about $18 per bottle. Many colors can even be purchased in standard international cartridges (18 cartridges for approx.$9) .

If you’re just looking into Diamine inks and haven’t fallen down the rabbit hole of the Inkvent inks yet, one of the most popular colors is Red Dragon, a deep red with a bit of gold sheen. Ancient Copper is also a popular choice.

9. Pen BBS

Pen BBS is a Chinese online fountain pen community much like FPN in the West. They started creating their own inks and pens pre-2016 (thats the earliest date I have on a bottle of ink) and has continued to produce new colors ever since then. Originally, Pen BBS inks came in massive 60ml faceted bottles with engraved logo caps. As new series have been released the bottles have changed size and shape but the quality and wide range of color options have continued. When the shimmer inks trend first took off, Pen BBS lead the way with the finest shimmer particles and remains one of my favorite options for shimmer inks. June Pearl No. 226 is a delightful pale purple with silver shimmer. If you can find a bottle, I highly recommend it.

Lily of the Valley No. 507 is a great option as well, its a watery green with just a hint of blue. Its another one to keep a look out for. Vanness is clearing out the Pen BBS inks so what’s left is marked down considerably. Get a bottle while you can!

8. Pelikan Edelstein

Pelikan 4001 is a classic ink but when Pelikan introduced the jewel-inspired Edelstein line, they really helped to launch a new era of fountain pen ink fans. As a result of being one of the earliest to create new inks in a wider range of colors, Pelikan Edelstein is often overlooked until they announce their “ink of the year”. The 2023 color is Rose Quartz. Each bottle is 50ml for about $28 per bottle. It’s not the most affordable ink in this list but its a good ink in a beautiful, desk-worthy bottle.

One of my favorite Edelstein colors is Jade, a bluish green. It’s a very pretty, unusual shade. But if you are purchasing your first Edelstein ink, Smoky Quartz is also a great option.

7. Callifolio

Callifolio is an ink made by a French art supplies company.  Each of their ink colors come in a 40ml pie-shaped bottle (just like the Diamine 150th Annivesary inks for about $13 per bottle) or a 50ml refill pouch for about $10.25USD. The palette of colors (or should  say “colouers”) is truly sophisticated and refined.  Inti and Heure Doree (Golden Hour) were early alternatives to the coveted but hard to get KWZ Honey for a short time but now I think that the Callifolio options are a better option for those golden-y yellows without the controversial fragrance of the KWZ inks. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the way KWZ Honey smells but I think I might be in the minority.

If you’re looking for a gateway color from Callifolio, I recommend Gris de Payne (Payne’s Grey), a smoky steely blue-grey color. The previously mentioned Inti and Heure Doree are also solid first-time Callifolio options.

6. Papier Plume

Papier Plume is a small New Orleans pen shop that makes their own inks. They have made many standard colors as well as New Orleans-themed colors and many, many special editions. Their standard 30ml bottles sell for $8 to $10 per bottle.

Get in touch with your inner Nawlins with one of the New Orleans collection colors like one of my favorites, Sazerac, a deep orange that makes me thirsty just looking at the swatch.

5. De Atramentis

DeAtramentis offers over 475 (actually 492 inks according to Vanness Pen Shop) different ink colors including the most insane array of scented inks. If you’ve ever participated in one of the Vanness open house events during the Arkansas Pen Show, you might have been forced to endure one of our “guess the ink stink” games and been forced to sniff Leather, Motorbike, Cannabis, or help us all, Horse. No joke.

They have lovely floral scents as well. And document inks, artists inks, shimmer inks, . But the array of colors is why I stick with DeAtramentis (40ml bottles for about $14) after all these years. My favorite ink from my earliest days of fountain pens in Pigeon Blue but the Deepwater Obsession Black Edition series is a great collection of dark colors. I especially like Black-Red.

4. Kaweco

While the Kaweco ink line is a little smaller than most with just 10 colors, it’s a classic assortment. Previously, the inks came in the 30ml bottles shown above but now the inks ship is square shaped jam jars. These 50ml bottles sell for $11 per bottle.

The Summer Purple, Smokey Grey and Paradise Blue are my favorite shades in the line so if you’re trying to decide where to start with Kaweco inks, I recommend one of these three.

3. Lamy

Lamy’s stock ink line (AKA T52, approx. $12.50 per bottle) comes in the most unique 50ml bottle. The exterior of the bottle includes a channel with an absorbent tape to wipe off your nibs after filling your pen. While there are not a ton of colors in the line, if you need a staple ink, having one of the colors available from Lamy is a great addition to your collection.

Lamy has their posher T53 “Crystal Ink” line but these come in smaller 30ml bottles for approx. $16 each. The colors are more sophisticated but the bottles don’t have the tissue tape.

Both the Crystal Inks and the standard line offered the Vibrant Pink color which is one of my favorites. It’s not super vibrant but provides a stunning pink color. The Vibrant Pink was a limited edition color for 2018 and can still be found if you look around for it. The Vibrant Pink contains some gold flecks which gives off a fabulous gold sheen. Rhodonite from the Crystal Ink line is the same color if you can’t find it in the T52 bottle.

2. Waterman

Waterman inks are the inks I most recommend to people looking for inks that are “safe for vintage pens”. But Waterman inks aren’t just for vintage pens. The line of 10 classic colors have some hidden features at a price that won’t shock your wallet. Several of the 10 colors have some sheening properties including Serenity Blue Audacious Red and Tender Purple. Each 50ml bottle costs about $12. If you’re looking to have a couple tried-and-true inks that can be used in any pen, you can’t go wrong with Waterman.

…and finally…  1. Monteverde

Monteverde is by far one of my favorite inks. It’s well-behaved and some of my favorite ink colors are from Monteverde. Its not an ink that people talk about in rhapsodic tones but I do. It’s inexpensive, there are some amazing colors. The box sets of 10 colors in 30ml bottles ($100 pr set)  are great gateways for new ink collectors too.

Monteverde inks are available in 30ml (MSRP $10)  and 90ml bottles (MSRP$20) so ints relatively inexpensive to purchase a small bottle and, if you really love an ink, 90ml for $20 (or less) is a deal. A couple years ago, Monteverde had a brief issue with a couple colors of ink having mold or scumming issue but those have been resolved. Unfortunately, it has given a lot of folks pause before purchasing. I spoke with a representative from the company earlier this year and he assured me the problems have been resolved and any bottles with issues were replaced with no questions — even when people insisted they had issues with bottles that were not actually from the affected batches. That said, there’s no reason to hesitate in purchasing ink from Monteverde.

Monteverde inks are also available in standard international packs of 12 for approx. $6 each, not all colors are available in cartridges but this gives some great color options for on-the-go needs.

If you’ve not tried a Monteverde ink before, I recommend either California Teal, a great green-teal with sheen or, my favorite ink, Birthday Cake.

California Teal was a favorite sheening ink a couple years back but as more ink makers have created sheening inks, people have forgotten about California Teal. I still think its one of the best sheeners. Its a deep green that has a hint of blue and a red sheen. It looks good, even in fine nibbed pens.

Birthday Cake is a deep, muted purple ink is the perfect balance between a unique, unusual color and a good everyday writer, even subdued enough for the office. Birthday Cake has been my go-to ink all year and I may have to invest in one of the 90ml bottles.

There are lots of other ink brands I could have mentioned here. Which under-appreciated inks would you include in a list like this?

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11 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I love my Diamine inks – I have a variety of their standard as well as shimmer inks and they all perform beautifully. I’ve also been so impressed with the quality of Waterman inks – I had a half-used bottle sitting on the shelf for over 2 years and when I went to use it, I had no issues at all!

  2. Tono & Lims, Pennonia, Van Diemans and my personal favorite Birmingham Pen Company (their newer stuff that they make in house — not the older ones made by Diamine ).

  3. Diamine is so easy to take for granted. But lately I’ve been really appreciating it more, especially in contrast to more expensive ink brands.

    For some strange reason, I consistently have ink flow issues with Monteverde California Teal, even though I want to love it. But it’s beyond dry in every pen I own…

    1. I use it in an opus 88 eye dropper filler almost exclusively so maybe that’s why I’ve never had flow issues. If it’s too dry, try a drop of White Lightning from Vanness Pen Shop. Works great with finicky inks.

  4. I was today years old when I learned that some people don’t like the scent of KWZ inks (I love it)!

    Some of my favorites profiled here in this post. Thanks for validating my stick-in-the-mud ways, Ana!

  5. Very timely post. I placed an order last night with Cult Pens. The order includes two bottles of De Atramentis ink, one is a document ink, and one of the 30ml Diamine inks. When I find a pen I want, and Cult Pens has it at a similar or better price, I place the order with them to get Diamine inks for under $3 for a 30ml bottle. I was glad to see you included Waterman. I’ve recently filled several pens with De Atramentis ink. The only one I had an issue with is Maron. It’s supposed to be a chestnut brown, but the last time I used it, it looked gray.

  6. What makes an ink under-appreciated? Diamine is constantly mentioned around the internet for price, colours, inkvent, and being one of the best options for vintage pens. I would’ve thought it’d be at or near the top for most appreciated.

    De Atramentis scents have an allure, but the smell disappears so quickly.

    1. Inks like so many things, go through phases of popularity. Right now, so much attention has been focused on the newer ink makers like Dominant Industry, Tono & Lims, Wearinguel, etc that I felt like some inks were being overlooked in favor of the “hot, new thing”. Are any of these inks actually “under-appreciated”? Probably not but I wanted to give them some well-deserved praise.

  7. Excellent choices (Not sure about Monteverde though.Just not worth the risk imo, especially since there’s apparently still a lot of the contaminated charges around).
    I’d add L’ Artisan Pastellier (essentially the basic Range with the Callifolio inks being their premium line), Rohrer & Klingner, Birmingham Pen Company and Anderillium. Montblancs standard inks and Graf von Faber-Castell are also really underrated premium inks.

  8. Trust me. The BEST fountain pen ink in the world at any price hands-down is Pilot-Namiki Blue. Abeautiful 60 ml unlabeled oval bottle with a plastic filling-basket insert costs $12.00 – $13.00 ea. off the shelf in the U.S. The bottle you buy must be imported from Japan. Only buy Japan-direct or from a reputable importer outside Japan. A good indicator the ink is real is a musty odor from the chemical Phenol (carbolic acid), which is added in small amounts as a preservative (biocide). When I say “Trust Me”, I mean it. I know all about fountain pen inks. I’m well past my collecting phase.

  9. I’ve been trying to appreciate my current ink and not go tearing off after the next shiny/shady/sheeny thing on the market. I don’t have a lot of Diamine, but I do have some old Waterman (back when they had names like South Seas Blue!) I need to re-examine and a lot of Levenger ink, back when that was the “boutique” brand I could get ahold of.

    My fave under appreciated brand is Rohrer and Klinger. It consistently works well for me. Alt-Goldgrun has been in my finicky Leonardo for months and months with no issue!

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