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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?