How I do ink swatches

When you have 200+ inks, it’s all too easy to find yourself picking up a bottle and having no recollection of the ink at all. You uncap it, and all you see is some dark, shiny liquid. Hmmm. If only there was some way to keep a a record of how each ink looks on paper, so you can quickly compare inks and see what you have?

That’s what swatches are for.


Everyone has their own style of ink swatches. I’ve standardised on a particular way of doing them, which works for me. Here’s how I do it, and why.

First, the paper. I use the Col-o-Ring books from Well Appointed Desk.

The ring is handy, they’re big enough, and the paper is good. It doesn’t show sheen as well as Tomoe, but it’s a darn sight sturdier. Look at how much Tomoe buckles:


And the colour is sufficiently neutral that inks show true.


Next, the process.

  • I take a cotton bud (a q-tip, in common parlance), give it a good dip in the ink, lay it nearly horizontal, and zigzag a block across about 70% of the sheet.
  • I re-dip the bud, and do another zig-zag over about two-thirds of the first patch, starting from the same place (the top right).
  • I re-dip the bud again, and do a final zig-zag over one-third of the first patch.
  • Finally, I use the saturated bud to colour a strip at the bottom of the swatch, right up to the edge.
  • To label the swatch, I take a glass dip pen, and write the name of the ink in full in cursive above the colour swatch.

I lay the swatch aside to dry, with the bleeding edge hanging in empty space to avoid staining anything.

Then I place it in the right place in the ring (which is easier said than done).

The advantage of this approach is that I get to see the ink in all its guises, from the driest end of the first run to a completely saturated spot that’s had three dunkings, and it’s completely consistent across my whole collection. It also doesn’t take long at all, and it’s really therapeutic. 

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Ink swatch lollypops.

A post shared by Anthony Newman (@ukfountainpens) on



6 thoughts on “How I do ink swatches

  1. Pingback: Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log -July 14, 2019 | Fountain Pen Quest

  2. Pingback: Forever inks | UK fountain pens

  3. Thank you for this useful entry. I have enjoyed a lot doing swatches of my ink collection in these lovely Col-o-ring cards.
    Best wishes


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