At the time of this writing, it’s the second week of October and I’ve been participating in Inktober. 31 days, 31 ink pieces, shared using the #inktober hashtag. It’s a fun annual tradition that challenges artists to create and share their work every day for a month. That said, it seemed timely to post a review-style article about the best calligraphy inks I’ve come across.
I’d like to mention these opinions are simply my own and that I’m not getting paid to write anything positive about a particular brand’s products.
I’d also like to note that these inks are used in the context of flat pen calligraphy. Therefore, the criteria in which I’m judging on may or may not be relevant to your own work. However, if you’re into gothic or abstract calligraphy, then I highly suggest giving these a try!
The Best Calligraphy Inks
Without further ado, here are my favorite calligraphy inks in no particular order.
Ecoline Watercolor Inks
Ecoline’s watercolor inks are amazingly vibrant and even though they’re marketed as watercolor inks, you can use them for any color-based application on a light background. The way they blend together is unbelievable. The possibilities are truly endless. You can put them in your Pilot Parallel. You can add a few drops into white ink to give it a pastel tint. You can even mix a few drops of gold or silver ink with some Ecoline to give your palette a metallic effect.
They’re a little bit expensive, but they’ll last a long time. I’d recommend starting with a 10-piece set to get the basic colors and then buying individual bottles if you need to restock or desire additional colors.
Liquitex Metallic Acrylic Inks
Liquitex Metallic inks are extremely versatile inks. They’re more fluid than any other metallic ink or paint I’ve ever worked with which makes them perfect for calligraphy with no need to dilute (I wouldn’t recommend it). If you can buy them individually, do so. The full set includes gold, silver, copper, bronze, white, and black. Unfortunately, the white isn’t that great.
Make sure you give them a serious shake prior to use. I prefer to dip my automatic pens in these inks, but you can also load them into your Pilot Parallel — just remember to clean it immediately after use.
Liquitex Carbon Black
Liquitex Carbon Black ink is my favorite black ink on the market. It’s inexpensive and high-quality. When using it with a Pilot Parallel, you can get a pretty rich and dark black, which can be difficult to achieve with such a fine nib without producing a muddy line.
My one complaint with this ink is its odor. Maybe it’s just me, but I hate the way it smells. Oh well.
Golden High Flow Acrylic Inks
Golden’s High Flow line offers a fantastic selection of vibrant colors that can be purchased individually. However, you can find them in assorted packs of 10. Some colors are more opaque than others, so I wouldn’t recommend them on darker surfaces, but they’re perfect on light mixed-media surfaces. If you’re after a certain hue, they mix beautifully.
Each color comes in a 1oz bottle or a 4oz bottle. My recommendation is to start with a 1oz bottle to ensure you’re happy with the color. If you really enjoy it, stock up with a 4oz bottle. Regardless, 1oz goes a long way.
Higgins Super White Ink
I’ve poured a fair amount of time and money into finding the best white ink to load in my Pilot Parallel and Higgins Super White is my FAVORITE by far. It flows beautifully and it’s opaque on nearly every black paper I’ve tried. What more can you ask for?
Note: I wrote an in-depth post about Pilot Parallels and white ink that you might find helpful if you’re interested in trying it for yourself.
Higgins Eternal Black is my “work” ink. It’s cheap, easy to come by, easy to wash off when I spill or make a mess (which is often), and the bottle it comes in is huge, so I don’t feel the need to be conservative.
If you use this ink with a flat pen or brush, you’ll probably find it’s not always opaque. I personally like the effect the transparency gives my overlapping strokes, but others might find it bothersome.
Speedball Calligraphy Inks
Just like Higgins Eternal is my black “work” ink, Speedball’s calligraphy inks are my “work” color inks. The colors are relatively basic primary and secondary shades, but they’re inexpensive for both their quality and quantity. So once again, I don’t feel the need to be particularly conservative with them.
Another great thing about these inks is how versatile they are. They can easily be blended and mixed as well as diluted with water to achieve lighter tones. They’re also quite resilient. You can dip right into the well while working with other colors without contaminating the hue.
Fw Artist Inks
Fw artist inks are fantastic inks. They are a little bit more expensive than the Speedball line of inks, but they’re bigger in size, have a much larger color offering, and they come with an eye-dropper. They’re comparable to other inks on the market (such as the Calli line), but their color selection and applicator make them the obvious choice.
There are obviously thousands of inks on the market and this post is comprised of just several. I haven’t tried every ink on the market, but I’ve tried quite a few and I’m confident that I’ve found everything I need for the work I do with just these inks.
If you’re a flat pen artist and are particularly fond of an ink not listed here, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please drop me a line.