Ideas For Pairing Pens And Inks


Deciding which pens and inks to put together can be anything from a pleasant endeavor to a time-consuming frustration. Do you have rules for matching pens and inks? I don’t after more than twenty years of using fountain pens. However, I have developed a few observations that help narrow my choices when either a pen or an ink is begging for a workout. More often than not, the pen comes first and then the ink. These guidelines help refine my search.

  • Dark green and red inks work best with narrow nibs.
  • Blue, brown and black work with all nibs.
  • Orange and purple suit medium and wide nibs.
  • Turquoise and burgundy go well with medium nibs.
  • Pastel and pale inks are best paired with wide nibs.
  • Blue, teal and brown inks are good with fine to medium fude nibs.
  • Wide fude nibs bring out the best qualities of gray inks.
  • For the palest pink inks, only the Platinum #3776 Music Nib will do.
  • Sailor Peach Pink, Sailor Sakura Mori, Iroshizuku Kosumosu, Herbin Bouquet D’Antan are pretty with any wide nib.
  • Characteristics like sheening, outlining and shading are best revealed with stub and italic writing.
  • Often I will forget which ink is loaded in which pen, so I keep a scorecard nearby.
  • I track how pens and inks perform together by writing a few words in a dedicated pen and ink notebook.
  • If there is an outstanding combination, like Diamine Violet with a TWSBI 580 1.1mm stub, that gets noted, too.
  • I can be guilty of matching inks to pen colors though on occasion to shake things up, I will put together complementary ones. Red pen with green ink as an example.

Perhaps too many guidelines, but they suit my needs. Most came from analyzing how I put things together without giving my actions any prior thought. They help me narrow my search, and with the size of my collection, they are essential. Your list will be different, but creating one can be a helpful action if choosing pen and ink mates is challenging, frustrating or even too time-consuming. Or you might just do it for fun.

Van Gogh Palette


  1. Agree about grey inks and fude nibs – ruling pens also work a treat to show off shading. Meanwhile I can’t seem to stop loading amber and golden inks into my Pilot Custom 74 SFM!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Is there an amber or golden ink you would recommend? I have never used a ruling pen but good to know they play well with grey ink. For now, my fude nibs will do.


      • For golden amber, recently I’ve been really enjoying Robert Oster Antelope Canyon. R.O. African Gold is also beautiful. For drawing in that color family, using semi water resistant inks is my preference, so Noodler’s Kiowa Pecan was a surprise winner, and I also like Platinum Sepia Black.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ll look into the R.O. inks. Thanks for the recommendations. Kiowa Pecan and Sepia Black go in and out of my rotation. So I would agree on those two especially the former. It has a depth of color that makes it ideal on cream colored paper. Moving away from the warm inks, Noodler’s Lexington Grey is one that works well for drawing. Neutral and it stands up well to watercolor paint. So far, it hasn’t met a pen it didn’t like. Do you use it?


  2. I like demonstrators, so I will often pair inks with pens purely to show off the color in the pen barrel. It does mean that darker inks usually go into non-demo pens, while I like to put the lighter inks where I can see them. That said… there are some brands or styles (like sheening inks) that I only put in my pens with thicker nibs, regardless of demo-or-not, so that they can properly show off on paper.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this list. Great tips. I’m just now beginning to get a bit obsessed with inks. I’m on the search for a subdued orange to use in my flex pen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy to help. My experience with orange inks is limited, but among those that I have used, J. Herbin Orange Indien and Iroshizuku yu-yake might be considered subdued. Stipula Calamo Zafferano (Saffron) even more so. As for performance with a flex nib, though darker and more red, Noodler’s Apache Sunset is worth considering. Have you used any of them?


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