Flex Nibs And Ink Characteristics


When it comes to ink, color grabs us first. Whether the jewel-toned dual colors that have emerged in recent years or the traditional single colored inks that have been around forever, it is the property we prize the most. But what else does fountain pen ink have to offer?

Prior to the introduction of inks that sheen and shimmer, more subtle characteristics like shading and outlining (sometimes called haloing) received the attention and praise of aficionados. They are natural properties of some inks that can lend the written word a very unique look.

Shading happens when ink pools usually at the bottom of a letter. The higher concentration of ink produces a deeper shade than the upper portion. Outlining is a thin, dark line around a letter and is less common than shading. Flex nibs produce it best though wide nibs can do it, too.

Writing examples that illustrate shading and outlining.

Noodler’s Standard Flex and Apache Sunset

Platinum Century FF and Iroshizuku fuyu-syogun

Namiki Falcon SF and Diamine Mediterranean Blue

Noodler’s Standard Flex and Australian Roses

Noodler’s Konrad and Blue Nose Bear

Namiki Falcon SF and Noodler’s Kiowa Pecan

Noodler’s Dostoyevsky

Esterbrook 9128 with Namiki Blue

Platinum Music Nib and Diamine Sepia


Diamine Sepia will outline well, but paper may matter more with it than the other inks.

There are too many inks on the market these days to test them all so my list is rather short. You may find inks you already own will outline when used with a soft or flexible nib. There are a few relatively inexpensive fountain pens that would be up to the task of testing ink, but in that category, I only have experience with Noodler’s Standard Flex Pen. It might be better called a soft nib, but it will, with a little practice, produce enough line variation to tease an outline from an ink that is so inclined.

A thread at FPN offers more suggestions. I have used a few of the inks mentioned but have experienced different results or at least less dramatic results. Diamine Wild Strawberry is a case in point. It is excellent in my Platinum Century Nice medium nib with good performance all around. Though it produces crisp edges, the outlines are so close in color to the ink, that they are only discernable under magnification. Thus it outlines but not in a meaningful way. Some of the other inks mentioned in the FPN thread look promising and several are truly dazzling especially those from Robert Oster and Blackstone.

Does outlining appeal to you? Let me know if you discover an ink that does it well. Not that my ink collection needs to be expanded, but for outlining, I could make an exception or two.



  1. I think my interest in shimmering inks is running its course. Still left with full bottles of them. Now that outlining looks awesome. I like shading inks, and sheening. But those you showed with outlining. Mmm! That is worth learning about and finding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For personal use, I don’t need to be bedazzled. An ink that writes well, especially one that is easy to maintain, is all that’s necessary. But I understand the lure and give great credit to the ink manufacturers who have discovered how to produce the shimmering, sheening confections.

      There are so many pretty inks to be found these days, but outlining is still an uncommon characteristic. It is also inconsistent. I think Diamine Sepia was the first ink that did it for me though only on a few brands of paper, Moleskine back when it was good quality and Rhodia. At that time my pens were fine to extra-fine vintage Parker Vacumatic, Parker 51, and Esterbrook. These days, Sepia goes into a stub or italic nib, most often a TWSBI or Conklin Duragraph.

      If you can, get samples to find out how specific inks work in your pens. More than a few have produced unexpected results for me making a small vial all I would ever want. Consequently, my money goes toward the inks that will get used again and again and that makes them good investments though I still have far too many. Ah, the bane of a collector.

      Those full bottles are understandable. I have far too many, but from time to time I remember an ink that was quite fun to use and bring it out again, perhaps in a different pen or with a new paper. Switching around does keep things interesting.


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