How to Choose the Right Fountain Pen Ink in 2023

By Daniel Whitehouse

Fountain pen ink

How to Choose the Right Fountain Pen Ink in 2023

By Daniel Whitehouse

If you’ve spent years using fountain pens then you know how fun, easy, and comfortable they are to write with.

Unlike rollerball or ballpoint pens, they are super smooth and won’t skip when writing. It’s hard to imagine life without a good, reliable fountain pen.

Your experience might be different, though. Especially if you’re new to the world of ink fountain pens.

Perhaps you just ordered your first piston fill fountain pen and can’t wait to see what it can do. But there’s a problem: you feel overwhelmed by how many ink options there are to choose from.

It’s obvious that without the right ink, your pen won’t be any use.

The ink you choose has to be compatible with your pen, and, of course, suit your writing needs. That’s what this guide is all about - helping you choose the right ink for your special writing tool.

Let’s get started on the different options you have.

Bottled Inks vs Cartridges: Which One Is Best?

The first question to ask yourself is “should I buy bottled ink or use ink cartridges?”

The right ink depends on your personal preferences. However, some fountain pens can’t use both options, which makes it a lot easier to decide.

Bottled Inks

Bottled Ink for Fountain Pens

Bottled ink is available in almost any color.

Unlike cartridges, it offers a multitude of waterproof and water-resistant choices. 

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.

Don’t be surprised if the ink the bottle creates a mess on your fingers or clothes. You can avoid this however by using a fountain pen converter to draw ink from the bottle.

Finally, you’re likely to pay more for bottled ink than ink refill cartridges. This cost is, however, offset by the volume of ink per bottle compared to a cartridge.

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

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

Chances are you’ve already heard someone talk about their experience with a cartridge fountain pen.

These are pens that have a cartridge system and therefore, can only be refilled with cartridges.

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

  • Waterman ink refill cartridges
  • Parker ink refill cartridges 
  • Pilot ink refill cartridges
  • Platinum ink refill cartridges
  • Monami 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: What to Consider

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. 

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.


Flow, in this case, refers to how well the ink flows through a pen. Whether you decide to choose bottled ink or ink carriage, make sure it complements the wetness of your pen. You’re less likely to experience feathering or bleeding with ink that flows well through your pen.

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.


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

Daniel is the President and CEO of Dayspring Pens. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their four children. Learn more about Daniel's bio.

1 Comment

I love flair fountain pen most

Pawan kumar

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