How to Choose the Right Fountain Pen Ink

By Daniel Whitehouse

Fountain pen ink

How to Choose the Right Fountain Pen Ink

By Daniel Whitehouse


To choose the right fountain pen ink you need to decide whether format, flow, or color composition matters more to you.

First, I will point out the differences between bottled ink and cartridges to help you choose which is best for your needs. 

Next, I will talk about what make fountain pen ink flow and how to determine if you want a fast-flowing or slow-flowing ink.

Last, I will cover the varieties of ink compositions that make up the color of fountain pen ink.

Let's jump right in!


Bottled Inks vs Cartridges: Which One Is Best for My Fountain Pen?

There are a ton of pros and cons to both bottled ink or ink cartridges, and ultimately, there is no wrong answer as long as you have the right converter/cartridge in your pen. 

But! Preference matters quite a lot in deciding when one will make your experience with your fountain pen better. 

And there are so key questions you should ask yourself when deciding:

  1. How hands on do I want my fountain pen experience to be?
  2. Do I mind ink stains on my fingers?
  3. Is convenience and speed of refill important when I'm writing?
  4. How much variety do I want in my ink selection?
  5. What kind of writing am I doing?

So, I am going to break down the strengths and weakness of bottled ink and ink cartridges so you can determine which one will be better for you.

Bottled Inks

Bottled Fountain Pen Ink: Cross Black, Private Reserve Green, Noodler's Black, Diamine Polar Glow

Bottled ink is available in almost any color, sheen, dry-time, scent, name it.

It offers a multitude of waterproof and water-resistant choices. 

Bottled ink can be more cost-effective since you get more ink and therefore a longer writing time with a bottle than individual cartridges. 

Also, bottled ink has less waste since the converter (or even the barrel of the pen) are refilled. There is nothing to dispose of, unlike the cartridge which requires the entire plastic housing to be discarded and replaced when the ink runs out.

The downside is that bottled ink users take more time to refill their pen. The ink replacement process can be messy, especially if you’ve not mastered the refilling technique to the style of ink converter that you have.

If you’re looking to personalize your writing without limiting your choice of colors, bottled ink is an ideal choice.

And why wouldn’t you want to give your writing a heightened sense of purpose and meaning with a personalized pen?

Bottled ink offers a wide variety of colors Refilling your pen with ink bottles is more complicated
Has many waterproof choices The initial cost is higher
Versatility - Bottled ink can be used with most fountain pens Less convenient to travel with an ink bottle
Reduces cost long term

Ink Cartridges

Two fountain pen ink cartridges displayed

Ink cartridges are built for convenience, being safer to carry when traveling. Moreover, they allow for an easy, mess-free installation and replacement process.

Most modern fountain pens are cartridge pens, meaning they take either ink cartridges or ink converters. Each one of these pens usually arrives with 1-2 ink cartridges for you to install and start using your pen right away.

One thing that must be taken into account is the size of your ink cartridge. Pens often have proprietary cartridges so before you install, make sure you have the right cartridge. 

 Bonus: Download our free Ultimate Fountain Pen Refill Guide to have the comprehensive list of fountain pen brands and their correct ink cartridge sizing.


Your color options are limited to the ink cartridge your pen brand offers. These are usually proprietary cartridges, including:

  • Waterman ink refill cartridges
  • Cross ink refill cartridges 
  • Pilot ink refill cartridges
  • Platinum ink refill cartridges

Cartridges hold less bottled ink as they are smaller in size.  And that means they are costly in the long run.

Quicker and easier to replace Limited color options
The initial cost is lower compared to bottled ink Might be more expensive in the long run compared to bottled ink
More convenient to travel with Few waterproof choices
Doesn’t require additional parts


Choosing the Right Fountain Pen Ink: Your Ink Flow Experience

As you may have noticed, bottled ink works well with most pens. The question is, how do you make sure the ink you choose really suits your needs?

Here’s what to consider:

Paper Quality

You probably already know that the paper you use can affect your writing performance. Your ink and style would have no place to shine if there was no paper and finding the best paper for fountain pens is critical. 


High Quality Paper with Fountain Pen writing


If you’re writing on ordinary paper, then consider Waterman brand ink refills. These are dryer, flowing inks that work well with personalized journal sets.

Dry-Time/Ink Flow

Flow, in this case, refers to how well the ink flows through a pen. Whether you decide to choose bottled ink or ink carriage, wetter inks vs. dryer inks will have a major impact on your writing.

Wet inks flow quicker through the pen and often dry faster since they soak into the paper more rapidly.

Dry inks are thicker. This means you have less chances of bleeding/feathering. They will have slower dry-times since they are more viscous and sit on top of the paper more than soak into it.

Feathering around Letters

Calligraphy Tip

If you’re using bottled ink and the consistency seems too thin, don’t stress.

Try adding a small quantity of gum arabic to thicken your bottled ink.


Waterproofness refers to the ability of the ink to be affected or unaffected by water.

Most fountain pen inks are far from permanent, meaning water could be your worst enemy when it comes to writing. The solution is to equip yourself with waterproof and water-resistant inks.

Waterproofness How your writing will be affected by water
Waterproof ink Your writing is virtually unaffected. Allow the paper to dry off and you’re good to go.
Highly water-resistant ink You won’t lose what you wrote, though the ink is more likely to smudge slightly.
Moderately water-resistant ink Part of your writing won’t survive. You might be able to reconstruct the rest from what’s left, though.
Low water-resistant ink You’ll lose a large portion of your writing.
Zero water-resistant ink Nothing will survive. You won’t even trace what you wrote.

Ink Composition

Spilled fountain pen ink with a dip pen

Ink manufacturers use water and colorants to make their products. Consider the unique characteristics of the colorants used when shopping for ink. The options available to you include:

Scented Inks

These include inks with added scents, like rose, jasmine, and chocolate. They give you a more inspiring writing experience.

Dye-based Inks 

These are low-maintenance inks and available in the most vibrant colors. They are by far the most common inks for pens.

Shimmer Inks

They offer beautiful color options and are infused with glitter and sparkle. Shimmer inks are best used with pens with a broad nib.

Pigment-based Inks

They often develop a ‘flat’ or ‘chalky’ finish upon drying. You can expect fewer color options, but improved permanence compared to dye-based inks.

“Bulletproof” Inks

Ink manufacturers add a special formula to dye-based inks to make ‘bulletproof’ inks. They are dye-based inks but with the permanence of pigment-based inks.

Get The Perfect Ink for Your Fountain Pen Today!

With endless ink options to choose from, narrowing it down to the perfect one for your pen can be practically impossible.

However, choosing the right ink for your special writing tool doesn’t have to be a stressful process. It can be fun. Think of it as an opportunity to explore.

Dayspring Pens are here to help you find personalized fountain pens with ink that suits your writing needs.

We offer Cross, Parker, and Waterman brand fountain pen cartridges, bottled ink, and converters along with universal cartridges for easy refilling.

Now you have the right information.

What fountain pen ink will you choose next?


Daniel Whitehouse is the President and CEO of Dayspring Pens. He uses his expertise with premium writing utensils to create exceptional, intentional products and craft easy-to-understand articles that help both new and experienced users learn more about their writing tools. He lives in Virginia where he and his wife are raising their four children.

To learn more about him and his insights about custom engraved gift pens, follow Daniel on LinkedIn.

1 Comment

I love flair fountain pen most

Pawan kumar

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