Forever inks

I periodically check in on this thread on FPN, which basically asks which inks you’d rebuy if you suddenly lost your collection?

It’s great to read the huge variety of inks that people pick, both in terms of the colour families that they find impossible to live without, and the brands and inks they’re loyal to.

I have bought more than 250 bottles of ink over the years, and sold or disposed of about a hundred.

So it would be a real challenge for me to pick just, say, a dozen and feel true to myself that I hadn’t left a fabulous ink out — especially since you can approach the exercise in so many different ways. Do you pick the most beautiful inks? The best ones for fine nibs, or broad? The most suitable for work? A range to suit any unforeseen need? Argh!

But it’s worth a go, isn’t it?

One way in is to filter down quickly is to look at my brand preferences and my ink style preferences. I’ve totally got over the sheen, shimmer and saturation phase of my ink habit.

Now I appreciate lubrication and wetness, clarity of colour, and shading. I like inks that don’t clog or dry out, that clean out well.

As a result, a few brands dominate my collection. Montblanc, for one: I love the variety of colours and they’re always well behaved. And I’m a sucker for limited editions.

Birmingham for two: although I cleared out a lot of my lesser-used colours, they have an incredible flow.

Sailor (and Maruzen, Bungubox, etc) too, obviously: so many beautiful colours, generally intense and wet.

Of course, there are others even in my shortlist pile…

And now, how to categorise? To be honest, I use blues more than anything. Purples, oranges and greyscale inks sometimes. Browns and greens least of all. There are lots of colour categories I love — yellows, pinks — that are too light or bright for most applications, so I rarely keep more than one or two pens inked with them.

But a list of blues wouldn’t be much fun. So I figured I’d step around the colour wheel of my swatches and try to pick just a couple of inks from each colour category that I couldn’t live without. I ended up with 26, which fit on a page, and I stopped myself there.

Here goes.

Purples and pinks

Lamy Dark Lilac: what can I say about this ink? I like it enough that I syringed a couple of dozen cartridges into a little Nalgene pot so I can use it with piston fillers. It behaves well, the colour is deep and saturated, and I do like the sheen.

Montblanc Beatles Psychedelic Purple: the Beatles tie-in is probably my favourite Montblanc ink. It’s really vibrant, just that solid bit lighter that it doesn’t conflict with the Lamy.

Edelstein Star Ruby and Pilot Bishamonten: these are both very vibrant nearly hot-pink inks, with excellent flow and behaviour and gorgeous golden sheen. They are very similar in colour.

What’s missing? I have a few dustier red-toned purples that I used to use a lot. Herbin Poussiere de lune, Montblanc Lavender Purple, and Birmingham Vaudeville Regalia are all great inks that sit in the same general range and would fill a gap in this list.

True pinks don’t see much use for me. I like to swatch and play with inks like Sailor Sakura-Mori, Graf von Faber-Castell Electric Pink, and Herbin Corail des Tropiques, but they rarely make it to a pen for long.

Reds, oranges, yellows and greens

Montblanc Red Fox: this dull colour goes down like blood, with a loose flow and medium saturation. It shades and halos and looks very different from different pens, on different papers, and in different lights. I used to use several inks in this kind of range, including Diamine Blood Orange and Monteverde Fireopal, but they often suffer from nib crud.

Sailor Irori: I hunted for a true bright red for ages, and Irori fit the bill best for me. It doesn’t dull when it dries, and it has Sailor’s usual great performance. For a less punchy but still bright red, I use Montblanc Chine Red.

Penlux Mo Tangerine: I use this exclusively in my ASC Arco, where it’s wet and saturated but with a surprisingly dark tone, which makes it usable daily.

Sailor Kin-Mokusei: a true orange (as I wrote in my review), this ink is translucent and pops on the page. It also suffers less from nib crud than, for example, Montblanc Lucky Orange.

Montblanc Golden Yellow: let’s be honest, who really uses yellow inks? I got rid of most of mine, but I kept Golden Yellow. It is so warm and inviting, with an almost orange outline.

R&K Alt-Goldgrun: Alt-G is wet and shades well, with enough saturation and muted tone to be usable. I went through lots of brighter pale greens like Iro Chiku-Rin, Diamine Meadow, Akkerman #28, and Herbin Vert Olive before I figured that I had very specific tastes in greens.

I left out Robert Oster Bronze, Sailor Tokiwa-Matsu, Pilot Hoteison, Troublemaker Hanging Rice, and Edelstein Olivine and Adventurine. Eek.

I kinda wish I had included Montblanc Emerald, Montblanc Pierced Sky, Edelstein Aquamarine and other green-blue inks — but as you’ll see, I picked Bungubox June Bride to serve that niche.


Oh boy, the blues. I left out loads here that are in continuous use (for example, Montblanc Lapis Lazuli in my Scribo, Bungubox 4B in my Martele). I didn’t include any of my bright turquoises (Montblanc UNICEF, Herbin Bleu Pervenche) and I still have a huge list.

Bungubox June Bride: put this against other blues, and it looks green. Put it against greens and it looks true blue. This ink is bright, fun and like all Bungubox inks, deliciously lubricated and free-flowing.

Robert Oster Fire & Ice: the hot ink from a couple of years ago, I find it’s not as much of a sheen monster as its reputation led me to expect. It flows well and has a great colour. A little less green than June Bride.

Pure Pens Celtic Sea: permanently in my Aurora Nettuno. Like all the Pure Pens inks, it’s a fabulous performer. A little less green than Fire & Ice!

Edelstein Topaz: a real long-term favourite. Really bright, but noticeably darker than say Ama-Iro. A candidate for desert-island ink for sure.

Montblanc Greek Blue: I just love this ink — it’s like nothing else. It looks like a normal blue ink, perhaps a bit like Topaz, when it goes down wet. Then it dries powder blue. It’s also quite wet and behaves nicely.

Birmingham Truss Blue: This is a ‘true blue’, almost like a grown-up school blue. Like all Birmingham inks it behaves just perfectly, lubricating and taming nibs. I have it in my Namiki Urushi 20 and I never think about changing it.

KWZ Azure #5: I have used more than half a bottle of this ink, and that says a lot for me. In use this ink is magical. It is so smooth, and the colour is deep and rich. It also smells great.

Birmingham Celestial Blue: I have to say, I really struggled picking a blue-black. Bungubox 4B sheens too much. Maruzen Eternal Blue is awesomely wet but again sheens too much. Tsuki-Yo was an option, but I have several green-leaning blues here, and for that reason I also discounted Yama Dori and Noodler’s Air Corps. I have a few blue-blacks from Birmingham, including Boiler Steam, but Celestial Blue is a very solid performer and ended up with the pick.

Kobe #51 Kano-Cho Midnight: One blue-black that was easy to pick was #51. I have two bottles of this stuff, and I always have it in at least one pen. It is dark, luxurious, oily, and yet still behaves perfectly.

Troublemaker Abalone: of the three complex Troublemakers I have (the others being Milky Ocean and Petrichor), I like Abalone’s colour the best. There is something magical about chameleon inks like this.

Blacks and greys (and a brown)

Sailor Studio 123: well, of course I would include 123. I don’t always have it in a pen, but its balance of grey and purple is so hard to pin down, it’s captivating.

Kobe #53 Hitano Pearl Silver: given the number of grey inks I own, I’m always surprised at how little I use them. Birmingham Independence Grey gets a lot of use. Herbin Gris Nuage is pretty, as is Iro Fuyu-Syogun. Kiri-Same is warm and soft. Montblanc has Web Grey and Exploration Grey. The list goes on. But I picked Kobe #53 because to me it hits just the right level: not too cold, not too warm, not unusably light, not so dark it looks like a weak black. And of course it performs like a Sailor.

Bungubox Ink of Witch: Undeniably a top-five ink. It’s really a purple, but it behaves like a black. Feels like velvet, sheens prettily.

Iroshizuku Take-Sumi: I covered this before. There’s something great about the way Take-Sumi feels on the page. It looks almost blue next to Ink of Witch, but it is dark enough for my needs.

Kuretake Ryuno Black: And, ah, here it comes. It smells like soap. It is pigmented to within an inch of its life. The king of black inks.

Akkerman SBRE Brown: So, uh, brown inks. I have a few: KWZ Newky Brown. Maruzen Athena Sepia. Robert Oster Caffe Crema. Edelstein Smoky Quartz. Montblanc Single Malt. I don’t use them a lot… for some reason, I don’t get on with browns. But SBRE is probably the one I use and like most.

The pain of indecision

The more I run through this article the more gaps I see. Definitely need to add a proper turquoise, maybe Ama-Iro or Pervenche. The unclassifiable ‘taupe’ Swan Illusion is absent. I’d add a second, darker grey — Jeff Goldblum, perhaps? One of the powdery purples, probably Poussiere de Lune. A green, maybe Aventurine or Hoteison.

And that would take me up to 31. Which sounds like a lot, but, hell, it’s less than a third of my current collection. So it feels somewhat ruthless!

And if I had to pick a top ten from these?

  1. Montblanc Psychedelic Purple
  2. Sailor Irori
  3. Bungubox June Bride
  4. Pure Pens Celtic Sea
  5. Montblanc Homer
  6. Edelstein Topaz
  7. Kobe #51 Kano-Cho
  8. Sailor Studio 123
  9. Bungubox Ink of Witch
  10. Kuretake Ryuno Black

Ouch, that was hard. What would your top ten be?

24 thoughts on “Forever inks

  1. I would probably take the Crayola crayon approach–one ink color for each of the crayon colors in a standard box of eight. Or perhaps round it out to the rarely-seen box of 12 (which would allow white, pink, a light blue and a grey). But then I would just want to push it out 4 more colors to match the box of 16 …

    And before you know it, I’d try recreating the classic 72 color set.

    Sighh … So maybe I should just do the Crayola 8 and add 2 for an even 10 and be done with it.

    Impossible task.

    But … here goes:

    Red: Robert Oster Red Candy (But J. Herbin Rouge Grenat cries out, “Pick me! Pick me!”)
    Orange: Lamy Copper Orange. (Or Robert Oster Orange Rumble, because Lamy’s ink is hard to get.)
    Yellow: Lamy Candy Mango
    Green: Iroshizuku Chiku-Rin (but then my eyes want a darker green for contrast, dang it)
    Blue: Monteverde Sapphire Blue … but …. (This is really hard. Impossible. I love too many blues to limit myself to one.)
    Purple/Violet: Lamy Dark Lilac (but because it’s hard to get, I’ll stretch it out with Diamine Amazing Amethyst or Diamine Imperial Purple)
    Brown: SBRE Brown
    Black Diamine Onyx Black

    That’s 8. To bring it to 10:

    Another Blue: Lamy Blue
    A Pink: Lamy Vibrant Pink

    And …. yeah, no. The list just doesn’t satisfy. I would simply want more. ;p

    Liked by 1 person

    • So the crazy thing is I’ve only even tried six of the fourteen inks you mention! Sounds like you’re a Lamy ink fan, eh? 🙂

      I really like the idea of the Crayola box.


      • LOL! HI there!

        Lamy fan? Yup! Perhaps it’s merely the immutability of first impressions but they were the first large ink purchase I’d bought when I rediscovered fountain pens at the start of my modern era of fp obsession.

        Not listed in the above is my growing collection of Diamine Shimmer inks, because despite how low maintenance they are in my beloved TWSBI Ecos, the shimmer particles WILL cause problems on that deserted island. I thought it best to choose ink that was low-to-no maintenance. 😉

        However, if I had to use the Crayola Crayon color method in my shimmer inks, the list would look something like this:

        Red: Diamine Red Luster
        Orange: Lamy Copper Orange (it has a very very faint shimmer. The blog shows this clearly)
        Yellow: Diamine Golden Sands
        Green: Diamine Golden Ivy
        Blue: Diamine Cobalt Jazz
        Violet/Purple: Diamine Purple Pazzazz
        Brown: IT’S A TIE between Diamine Cocoa Shimmer and J. Herbin Caroube de Chypre
        Black: IT’S ANOTHER TIE between Diamine Sparkling Shadows and J. Herbin Stormy Grey

        (Adding the 12 color “expansion pack”)
        Pink: Lamy Vibrant Pink
        Light Blue: J. Herbin Kyanite du Nepal
        Grey: Diamine Moon Dust
        White: Noodler’s Blue Ghost–okay, technically not a shimmer ink but it fluoresces under Black/UV light!

        All but three are gold shimmer, two of which are silver shimmer (Kyanite du Nepal and Moon Dust).
        The remaining one is not a shimmer but still has a special effect all its own.

        And there you have it!


      • Ohhhh, so I can’t contain my curiosity any longer: which of the eight inks in my list have you not tried yet? I might be able to swing you a sample or two! ^_^


  2. Hmmm, not easy at all, though my collection isn’t anywhere near as big as yours and I don’t have that many different brands, it’s still tricky to try and pare them down to one of each, but here’s my selection:

    Red: Sailor Oku-Yama
    Orange: KWZ Grapefruit
    Yellow: R&K Helianthus
    Green: Noodler’s Army Green (or J Herbin Olive Vert)
    Blue: Monteverde Turquoise (but for a more traditional blue, Diamine Sargasso Sea)
    Purple: Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses (or Pelikan Violet)
    Pink: Krishna Myrtle
    Brown: KWZ Honey
    Black: Beaufort Obsidian Black
    Grey: Diamine Earl Grey

    Thank goodness I don’t have to keep to just ten though.


  3. Love the selection of blue colours. I too struggle with an abundance of blue inks.
    Most recently I’ve got my eye on the Chinese Blue ink by Montblanc. Have you tried that one?

    In my blue rotation currently I’m using – Homer Blue, Lamy Benitoite, Sailor Yonaga and Lapis Lazuli.

    Haven’t tried the troublemaker inks yet but those look lovely.


      • The other blues are quite nice too. Prefer the lapis between the new blues though.

        Yonaga is my favourite deep blue. It writes wet and the colour has depth that is easy to miss. Also some sheen even in finer nibs. I went through many dark blues before settling on this one.


  4. My go – you’ll have tried most of mine:

    * Take-Sumi (completely agree w/ you on this one)
    * Diamine Asa Blue (a darker version of Topaz)
    * De Atramentis Midnight Blue (my favourite dark teal, feathers a bit)
    * Robert Oster Spearmint (saturated, good shader, not too vibrant)
    * RO Bronze (my preference over Alt GG)
    * Cult Pens DD Orange (great shading dark orange)
    * KWZ Grapefruit (gloriously vibrant orange/red with a hint of pink)
    * Sailor Jentle Shigure (my favourite dark purple)
    *Kyo No Oto Aonibi (dry, but a spectacular blue-black in a wet nib )
    * GvFC Stone Grey (definitely not black, but a legible, shading grey)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have been doing this same exercise over the past few months, I have my list down to below 30…mostly, and like you I went mainly by color category and started whittling down from there. Still not quite finished though…every time I think I am done, another ink pops into my brain that I just can’t leave out.


  6. Ooh, this is hard, though not because I have too many, but because (comparatively) I have so few inks! Seven in total. My definite choices are Pelikan Edelstein Sapphire, a beautiful blue purple, dry enough to use on bad paper, but wet enough to be useable in fine nibs; Sailor Miruai, a dark green with hints of teal or brown depending on paper, with wonderful Sailor quality; and perhaps Diamine Sargasso Sea, my least favorite of my most favorite inks, a darker, purer blue with coppery red sheen, though it’s a tad too watery. I have a bottle of TMKR Seaglass languishing in the postal system though, so my top three might be due for some change.


  7. Pingback: Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – April 12, 2020 | Fountain Pen Quest

  8. Hello,

    first time visitor here. I love this post! What a colorful collections to have, I wish I have a huge collection like yours!
    I can’t help but noticing the ink on the pen that you’re writing with. Is that a blue-gray shade? Have you review this ink before? Totally want to find some info about that ink.


  9. Hello,

    first time visitor here. Such a beautiful ink collections that you have! I wish I have a huge collection like yours! I also really like the ink color that you wrote with. Is that a blue-gray shade? Have you review this ink before?


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