Inks That Cause Problems Including Negative Opinions


Recently a Tweet about ink caught my attention. In 140 characters, a pen blogger announced he was ending his use of a well-known brand of ink. Apparently a bad experience with one ink means all inks in the line are bad. He may have had other bad experiences, but only referenced one in the Tweet. Certainly, no one wants to damage a pen over the use of an ink. Unless mold-contaminated, nearly every ink has its place and pen mate. That should make it pretty darned hard to condemn an entire company over one ink.

Not to condemn any brand, but I’ve had problems of one sort or another with Diamine, J. Herbin, Private Reserve, DeAtramentis, Rohrer & Klingner, Parker Penman, Iroshizuku and Noodler’s. (Note that Diamine, J. Herbin, and Noodler’s are on my short list of favorite brands.) In most cases, the issue was with a particular color. A few inks degraded over time while others stained vintage pens. Some grew mold though that could have been contamination not attributable to the manufacturer.

R&K is a special case since the ink isn’t a problem, but the caps on my bottles don’t seal well. That has produced evaporation and messy leaks. I haven’t purchased a bottle in two years, so that issue may have been resolved.

Sure, some of my pens have been damaged by ink. Two Esterbrooks with green barrels sport stains acquired on my watch. Since that happened to two different models with the same type of plastic body and with two different brands of ink, the material might be the cause rather than the ink.

So here’s the deal. Highly saturated inks can cause pen staining and other forms of pen damage. Some inks have bad reputations for good reason. But if you use one of them, you “takes your chances.” Is it worth it? If you love an ink’s color or properties, then go for it, but in the right pen, please.

Reviews and opinions will vary, but it’s the lack of context and balance to those Twitter remarks with which I would take issue. If I have been remiss in this regard in the past, I apologize. There are rarely no positives. People who are sincerely trying to make pen, ink, and paper products that expand our choices deserve our support and sometimes a measure of constructive criticism – not condemnation or company death wishes.

Despite it all, I use every brand though not every color. If it makes me happy, the ink gets a mate and goes to work. And that is what enjoying fountain pens is all about.

Inkophile’s Guidelines for Ink Use

  • Pricey pens get low saturated inks.
  • Inks with dicey reputations go in cheap pens or a dip pen with a feed.
  • Saturated inks go in converter pens.
  • Vintage pens get low saturated inks especially Waterman and some J. Herbin colors.
  • Pens with sacs get low saturated inks and/or very frequent cleaning.


  1. You raise some very valid points, and this is a great idea for a post, by the way. I have had some very surprising experiences (unfortunate surprises, that is) with certain inks from certain brands, as well. I’ve come to accept that this might happen with inks, and so I’m a little bit more judicious with my pen/ink pairings. I think things through a bit more than I used to, and I like the “guidelines” that you listed; that happens to be the same protocol that I follow when inking my own pens. I have been pretty happy with this routine, thus far.


    • It took far longer for me to develop those guidelines than it did you.😀


  2. Like all careful fountain pen users I too have a set of rules for inks vs pens in my collection. As I use a database to give me my pen, nib and ink combos I have given every pen a rating and every ink a rating. Expensive plunger pens get the lowest ratings and inexpensive convertor pens get the highest. Inks made and sold by companies that also make expensive pens get the lowest rating, Non-saturated inks from non-pen companies get the next lowest and so forth up to Noodler’s Baystate Inks that get the highest rating. I keep an eye on the reviews and forums to catch any problematic inks and give them a higher rating. So an ink can only be used in a pen if it has a rating equal to or lower to that of the pen. I also limit a pen in rotation to 15 days to avoid an ink sitting in a pen for too long. It has be so far all good with this method.


    • That’s a great system. Thanks for sharing it.


  3. […] Inks That Cause Problems Including Negative Opinions – An Inkophile’s Blog // That recent tweet, assuming I’m thinking of the same one, through me for a loop to since I was surprised a whole brand was damned. It’s the type of statement I tend to ignore, no matter who makes them. Good guidelines in the article. […]


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