My Ink 100: Part 1 – Admitting I Have a Problem

For some absurd reason I got it in my head that I’d like to pare down my ink collection to 100 bottles or fewer. This random number, 100, seems like more ink that I could ever use in my lifetime or need, right?

Thinking about the ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet) color spectrum — that’s seven colors and if I add brown, black and grey to this, then that’s 10 color groups. If I select 10 bottles in each group (and really, who needs 10 blacks and 10 greys?!!?) then surely 100 bottles  is enough to have a wide variety of shades and hues while, theoretically, making my collection a bit more manageable.

I thought, at first, that that wouldn’t be too difficult as I’ve already done a bit of culling over the last few months.

No. I have some serious work to do. Step One, for me in this process, was to get a sense of just how many bottles of ink I currently own.

I have an entire Ikea Alex filled with bottles of ink. Many of these inks I don’t use or even remember that I have. Some are inks I reach for over and over (I’m looking at you, Birthday Cake!).

To start, I just counted how many bottles are in each drawer and made a list of the totals per drawer. I didn’t count all the mini bottles from the Diamine Inkvent calendars (those don’t count, right?). I also didn’t count the little refill/sample sized bottles from Ferris Wheel Press because they are basically samples and that’s a whole separate category of inks I’m not even ready to talk about yet.

I also have a shelf of Colorverse inks still in their boxes (22 boxes x 2 bottles per box… oof, that’s another 44 bottles!). And several Colorverse sets (I think there’s three sets). Then there’s the random bottles of ink tucked here and there. I’m actually starting to feel shamed by the enormity of this task.

So, the sloppy total is over 350 bottles (oops, I found a bottle on my desk and another in the “to be reviewwed pile”, etc). To get down to 100, I will have to cull out 250 bottles! Maybe this task it too ambitious?

My next step is to choose an approach for the process. I considered collecting all the reds together, regardless of brand and then orange, and so on. However, my drawers are organized by brand rather than color so I might start by pulling all the swatches so I can arrange the swatches by color and start making my selections that way.

Getting this far, just counting all the #$%^! bottles of ink, took me a whole afternoon. This project is going to be a lot more time consuming than I initially thought.

If you were going to cull your ink collection, what criteria would you use? Stay tuned for Phase Two!


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14 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Are you going to keep all the Colorverse inks? It might be too soon to answer. I kind of expect you will, fellow space geek talking.

  2. Good luck! I think the only criteria are how much you will really use a color and how much you like the ink.
    I do think the average person needs more black/gray/brown/blue and less to zero yellow.

  3. I can’t help you, I’m trying to use up my 300+ sample vials before I think about my bottles. I have fewer bottles than you, though. Only about 150, not counting 16 ounce Noodler’s bottles.
    My solution is to use up my ink by writing with it, but even 2,500 words a day prognosticates years to use all of my samples.
    I don’t think I can live long enough to use all of my bottled ink so I’m not ciphering out the Days To Use All in that category, and that’s fine. Besides, I need another bottle of Birmingham’s Tesla Coil, more Waterman’s Inspired Blue and Noodler’s Turquoise of the Mesas to make Peacock Blue, another Rose Cyclamen by J. Herbin, and….
    Maybe it’s not a problem. I’m going to try not to leave an ink untried before I dot my last sentence!

  4. I think I would choose which inks to keep, rather than which ones to cull. I’d start by picking the inks I love and couldn’t imagine parting with. Kind of Marie Kondo style – which of these sparks the most joy? Then I’d probably try to round out the collection by adding in my favorites from any color families that aren’t already well represented.

  5. Wow, what a challenge. I’m in a similar situation, though I have a mere 200+/- I, fortunately, have coloring cards organized by brand, and the Little Dipper cards arranged, loosely, by color groups.

    My cataloguing rule is: when a bottle of ink comes into my house, it immediately gets swabbed in my Ink Log. Nothing else happens until it’s put in a pen. Then there’s lots to do. I make a Col-o-ring card and a Little Dipper card and along with swabs, the cards are labeled with the just-filled pen. But swabs only give me an idea of the ink color. They tell me practically nothing about what it looks like in writing. Sigh. So I also have an Ink Journal (not to be confused with the previously mentioned Ink Log). Every time an ink goes into a pen for the first time, I use the pen to write a paragraph in my Ink Journal, just to see what it looks like. No organizing there – it’s just a fun notebook to flip through to see what the inks all look like from a nib.

    I prefer shading over sheen, and so far have no shimmering bottles.

    As for colors: teals get a little confusing – I want to give them their own special group as teals are my favorites, regardless of whether they lean more blue or green. Also – do pinks count as reds? And what about the orangy-pink corals?

    Then, there are the color groups in which I struggle to find shades I like. (Or would that be hues?) So, when you take out the teals, there may not be more than 10 greens. I struggle with reds, too. Give me a moody, shady dark red and I love it. Give me a true red-red and I’m considering it for the sell/giveaway pile. So I may not be able to do the 10 bottles per color group. Also, I only have one bottle of black ink, so… it’s a stand-alone unless I group it with the greys. Not that I have a lot of those unless you really stretch what constitutes a grey.

    Yeah, this is going to be a challenge.

  6. It’s funny you should post this now. I too have been thinking about reducing my ink bottle collection (so I can buy more? Let’s not go there). I’m starting with black. My idea is to test each black ink on the paper brands I use most often, testing for dry time and smudge resistance, since those two characteristics seem to be the most problematic for me when using black ink. Then I’ll eliminate the worst performing inks, keeping one or two bottles (hmmm…two?). I’ll probably come up with other more subjective comparison tests for other colors. Like blue. I like blue. Blue is cool! I have lots of blue ink. Do you need any blue ink? (LOL).

    I have a question for you. What do you do with the ink bottles you cull out of your collection? I’m looking for ideas (other than the Good Will box).

    And finally, missed you at the Atlanta Pen Show this month! I remember a few years back when I met you at the Vanness booth and you were so helpful with some questions I had. Anyway, I made it back this year, the first time since the pandemic. Had a great time. This hobby has such nice folks involved in it.

    Good luck with your project, keep us posted, and thanks for the always interesting and helpful blog.

    1. So sorry I missed you in Atlanta but I’m glad to hear you had a good time. As for black inks, I think I have two I’m planning to keep— platinum carbon black and the kyo-no-oto black. But your plan sounds great.

  7. Yes well this happens if you do not restrict yourself in some physical way, like ‘all my inks must fit in this space’ or ‘every time I buy 1 ml of ink 1 ml of ink has to go’ (meaning if you buy 30 ml then that many ml has to be sold or given away in as many bottles or samples it needs to get to that amount.) Even then you will probably still have more ink than you can use in a lifetime.

    Did you ever do a karma table? Or encounter one at a pen show? Just put the items you want to give away on a table and add a sign that people can take what they want and may add back what they want to give away although that is not a requirement – no questions asked.

  8. Do you ever go back? For example, the conversation returns to some pre-existing ink. Then you look and realize that you have the ink.

    I would start with the never going to use pile. If they’ve never been used, then they didn’t make it on the blog??

    I’m not suggesting full reviews for each ink, but writing sample/swatch, something to give a sense of what the ink is like. I suppose you could even link to other ink reviews. Then sell it.

    I would sample discontinued inks because who knows.

    1. I am pretty sure most inks have been swatched but I don’t think I’ve reviewed even half of them. So maybe some reviews might be a good idea.

  9. This sounds like such an interesting (and awful) challenge. I understand the idea of paring down to what’s manageable. I can already think of a couple inks in my own collection that I don’t reach for often, if ever.

    I like your idea of collecting all the swatches and then looking at them by colour group to decide which are your favourite reds, your favourite oranges, etc….. And then to maybe really cement it, use them in pens to see. Or if you’re not sure if you like one, use it in a pen haha Maybe not even a full fill. Just a quarter to get a feel for it. (Of course, this will extend the timeline for paring down bottles….. But it’s enjoyable, no?)
    I know if I were to pare down my collection, it would lean heavily into the blues, purples, and greens range. I think I only have one red, no oranges, and no yellows, haha So I’d probably get nit-picky and say greens, blues, purples, blurples, teals, mints?

    Anyway, best of luck on this endeavour!

    1. I think we lean the same way color wise. I suspect I’ll have one or two reds, one orange and maybe a couple golden browns.

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