I was surprised to find that over the past five months — since I made my ‘ink menu’ back in June — I’d accumulated around 40 new bottles of ink. I knew I’d been splashing out (not literally), but I hadn’t realised quite how much.
Since my ink collection was now bursting out of the boxes and drawers I had it stuffed in, I decided this week that it was time for another one of my periodic purges.
Marie Kondo-style, I get all my inks out. I break the colours down into groups to evaluate them. Yellows, oranges and reds in one group. Pinks, magentas and purples in another. Greys and blacks. Greens. Bright blues. Teals. Dark blues. Browns. Complex colours.
I start to swatch them, roughly in colour order, on to sheets of 300gsm watercolour paper. It absolutely burns through the cotton buds, but it makes crystal clear when I have too many inks sitting in the same area of the colour wheel.
That’s when I have to make some tough decisions.
I ask myself honestly: do I really need all these grey inks, or pink inks, or brown inks, when I write in those colours so rarely? How many yellows do I really need? I look for colours that are too similar. I think about when I last inked a pen with that shade. Scarily, I often can’t remember when I did.
There are reasons to keep an ink beyond simply its colour. I consider properties like shading and sheen, or how fast it dries. I keep some inks because I like the smell, or the bottle, or even the name. Some I keep, if I’m honest, mainly because they’re rare and I’m afraid I won’t be able to buy them again if I change my mind.
I try not to beat myself up, and I don’t force myself to get rid of a bottle if I want to keep it. I found that the lowest I could go in many of the colour groups was seven or eight inks. Overall I managed to cut down to 80 inks in total. You might think that’s loads, or surprisingly restrained. I guess it all depends on your perspective.
With the list finalised, I used more cotton buds to swatch all the inks in roughly rainbow order, creating a ‘menu’ I could look at when picking an ink for a pen. I find this is a great way to see what I’ve got, even those smaller less fancy bottles hidden at the back of the drawer. I still need to do the greys, browns, blacks and complex colours on a second sheet, but you get the idea…
One benefit is clear: my ink now takes up less space. I feel less guilt about having bottles sat unused. And choosing inks is easier. The downside? Maybe less variety, or losing a hidden gem of an ink that I’d never given enough attention to. But honestly that’s the anxiety talking, the FOMO. With 80 inks, and 30 pens, I’m not short of options.
I enjoy this process more than I probably should; it’s cathartic and also fun to rediscover all those inks, get them out in the open. But I hope that isn’t temptation for me to buy another 40 inks over the next five months…