Permanent fountain pen inks for ink & wash sketching

September 13, 2016 | 56 Comments

I get asked constantly what ink to use if you want to work in ink and wash with a fountain pen. This information was previously included in my comprehensive 7 part guide to sketching with fountain pens, but I thought it would be useful to repeat the information on its own.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Most permanent inks are not designed to be put into fountain pens as the pigments and other ingredients can totally clog up and ruin the feed of the fountain pen. However, in recent years there have been a number of permanent inks designed especially for fountain pens using finely ground pigments. But these can still clog your pen so “use at your own risk” and make sure that you don’t leave your pens lying around unused with ink in them for long periods of time. (More about pen maintenance here). Do not put these inks into any vintage pens without doing your own research on suitability.

The most popular brands of Permanent Ink are

  1. Platinum Carbon Ink. I have only recently started testing this ink but I know that many sketchers use it and are very happy with it. And they come in cartridges that suit the Platinum Desk Pen.
  2. De Atramentis Document Ink (please note: it is the Document ink range only that is permanent). This is the ink that I love to use. It flows wonderfully and comes in a range of colours – in fact they specifically designed a set so that we could mix any colour we want. I just love drawing with different coloured inks – you can see some of my sketches and blog posts here.
  3. Super 5. They come in a range of five different colours and are good fast-drying permanent inks. I haven’t used them extensively but in my limited testing found them to dry out in the pen quicker than De Atramentis. This ink has a new formula which I haven’t tested and is now also available in cartridges.
  4. Noodlers Bulletproof or Polar range of inks. These were the first permanent inks I was introduced to and used without any problems for many years. Other people have had a problems with clogging pens (particularly Lamys) and the ink smearing when applying paint over the top but I rarely had any problems with it. There are many theories that have circulated online (such as ‘Noodlers doesn’t work for Moleskine paper’) but my own experience was different from many of those theories – there are so many variables when using fountain pens for sketching. Lexington Grey (a beautiful colour) is generally considered to be the best performing of the Noodlers inks.
  5. Sketchink by Rohrer and Klingner. I have been told that this ink is same as the original Super5 formula (mentioned above). I find that it dries out in my Lamy pens more than De Atramentis.

Other ink I’ve tried/tested include: Sailor Kiwaguro pigmented inkDr. Ph. Martin’s Ocean Fountain Pen Ink

There are a few other brands of inks on the market but make sure you only use ink that is designed for a fountain pen and say so on the label.

What ink do you use?




  • I use Platinum Carbon, Noodler’s Bulletproof Black and Lexington Gray. However, I’m more inclined to start using dip pens, tired of pens stopping working in the middle of a sketch.,.

  • michael battley says:

    I had started with Pelikan Fount Black ink but after seeing the ink test on the Pure Pens website: (UK stockists of De Atramentis ink) I quickly switched to De Atramentis!

  • Erik Madzen says:

    I’ve been using Platinum Carbon ink cartridges and bottled for the last three years. It’s the best permanent ink I’ve found for pen sketching with or without water color washes.
    Does anyone know of permanent ink cartridges that can be used in Lamy pens?

  • Platinum Carbon ink, Noodlers Bulletproof Black, Noodlers Lexington Grey, Noodlers #41 Brown and De Atramentis Brown

  • Emily DeArdo says:

    I have Fountain pens for writing but I haven’t go full-fledge into fountain pens for drawing–but when I do, it’ll be your set from Goulet! 🙂 And with that in mind, I’ll probably try DeArtemis first. I have one Noodler ink for my Lamy pen now and it really doesn’t work that well.

  • Peggy Bjarno says:

    I use Platinum Carbon ink in my TWSBI Mini. The combination is perfect for me. I can leave the ink in the pen for a month or three, or a year and I pick it up, and IT’S THERE. I thought it might just be me, some weird atmospheric tweak to the pen+ink combination, but I talked with my sister today who has the same ink and pen. She says it sits there for months, then she picks up this (WONDERFUL!) pen, and it’s there. Black lines, unbroken, pen is as responsive as ever. I love, LOVE this combination! Not sure whether to rave about the pen or the ink, but the combination is amazing.

    • Pat Weaver says:

      Please tell me what TWSBI stands for…I’m new to this. Thanks

      • Liz Steel says:

        I don’t know what it stands for either – if anything. It’s the brand name! Just search for it and you will find numerous types of fountain pens.

      • pbass wil says:

        The only thing to know is that people pronounce it Twiz-Bee.

        But for the curious, their website says:
        The parent company is TaShin Precision.

        TWSBI’s name stands for the phrase “Hall of Three Cultures” or “San Wen Tong” in Chinese. The character “Wen” translates into language and culture. The phrase “San Wen Tong” also brings to mind the Hall of the Three Rare Treasures created by Emperor Qianlong as a memorial to three great masterpieces of Chinese calligraphy. The initials of the phrase “San Wen Tong” was reversed and thus turned into “TWS”. The last letters “Bi” was added with its literal meaning of “writing instruments”. Thus combining the two segments, creating TWSBI.

    • Skint Student says:

      I’m late to this comment party but glad to hear this. I only put Platinum Carbon in a cheap Platinum Preppy (02 EF which is about a TWSBI XF) because I didn’t want to gum up my good pens!

      I also won’t cry if I lose the Preppy… and as you can get a bunch of coloured Preppy I use a blue coloured one (02 EF) for my Noodler’s Blue Ghost (UV ink).

      You can buy maybe 4 Preppy for one Lamy so when I move into urban sketching that’s what I’ll be using.

  • Chris Redman says:

    I use Rohrer & Klingner Dokumentas brown bought from The Writing Desk. Its more of a dark khaki colour but flows very nicely in my Lamy and good for pen and wash.I really have come to like their shade of ‘brown’.

  • Gitte Blomsterberg says:

    I use the Rohrer & Klingner Dokumentus Brown ink too and a Lamy Safari and the ink is the best I have tried so far. Even if I haven’t used the pen for weeks it’s still ready to go. I have Black ink from the same brand too and it dries in the pen very fast and so does Noodlers bulletproof ink. I have tested on Stillman & Burn Alpha series, Moleskin, Monsiernotebook and Boesner Watercolor sketchbook and the brown ink dries very fast and you can use watercolor right away not like Noodlers were you have to wait for it to be completely dry.

  • Jason Chan says:

    I’ve just received my Super5s last week. Tried it today and I love it! I’m a little worried when you’ve mentioned that the ink dries out in your pen. Will that make cleaning much harder or even clog my pen if it happens?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Let me know how you find it. Don’t leave it lying in a pen unused but should be ok if you use pen all the time.

  • Yoke-Inn Chan says:

    Thank you very much for the information about waterproof inks for fountain pens. I find it very helpful for a beginner like me. Would you mind telling me if any of the waterproof inks you’ve mentioned is odourless? The reason I ask is that I’m allergic to the smell of certain inks like the old Quink Solv-X ink and Hero inks. I am currently using Lamy black and blue-black and Sheaffer black because they don’t smell (but I don’t think they are waterproof). Many thanks in anticipation for your help.

  • Gary Davis says:

    Hiw about the Higgins Calligraphy ink? It say on the jar that it is good in fountain pens, and waterproof. Anyone tried it?

  • Dena Limpede says:

    I use Noodler’s Bulletproof Black and Lexington Gray (favorite all time), Platinum Carbon, and De Atramentis Document.

  • Alan Barbour says:

    My No. One for ink & wash (because it is truly waterproof) is de Atramentis Document Black.

    For an inexpensive daily use almost 100% waterproof ink, I use Noodler’s Black Eel.

    To tame excessively wet nibs and feeds, I use Rohrer & Klingner Oak Gall inks. A one to one mixture of the Salix (dusky blue) and Scabiosa (dusky rose) makes a very good blue-black ink that darkens on exposure to air. Water resistance seems better after it darkens, about the same as Noodler’s Black Eel. Wash out pen very well if changing between Oak Gall and other types of inks.

  • Thanks Liz!

    I found the expensive ($35) Platinum carbon black to work great and not dry out in the pen over weeks / months, and resists smearing during washes after a short drying time.

    I just discovered a cheap ($8) bottle of “Art Alternatives Pen & Ink” brand labelled as “India Black Fountain Pen Ink. Water-based non shellac micro pigmented lightfast permanent. Ideal for sketching. Dry Ink does not bleed when used with a wash” which I tested after 5 minutes and it worked well. I haven’t tested it over time drying out in the pen.

  • Related articles: Updated sketching kit details - Liz Steel : Liz Steel
  • marta says:

    My two LAMY’s cannot handle Roher and Klingner inks….. I cleaned them twice and it is just not working at all. I cannot get any fluid line out of two of them. Time to switch however really pity — I have four different bottles that are unusable. So… maybe it is time to buy other pens??? 🙂 😀

    • Liz Steel says:

      The twsbi eco has a better feed I have been using it with Sketchink and haven’t had a problem

      • Cindy Salaski says:

        Liz, what nib did you get with your TWSBI ECO? I have a Lamy Safari with a medium nib which I like very much but the pen dries up fast using SketchInk. Thinking about taking one of your online classes soon. Thanks for all your help here!

  • Peter Curry says:

    Does anyone have any issues with carbon black bleeding or running when water comes into the equation? Is it not as waterproof as say the microns? It almost seems like I got a bad bottle or something.

    • Sean shepherd says:

      Make sure you shake the bottle well before filling your pen. I had a problem with De A ink till I discovered this. It never bleeds now and is totally waterproof.

    • Dawn Libby says:

      Talk about late into the conversation, but YES! I even gave it plenty of time to dry and still. Was so disappointed. I don’t mind splurging on something I know will work. Was sure this would. Could also have a bad bottle. Maybe try ordering one from excellent pen company instead of Amazon. Amateur mistake. Thanks for sharing your skills and tips Liz!

  • Julie Noyes says:

    I recently purchased my first fountain pen for drawing. I have some inks at home but I’m concerned about using them in my fountain pen (even though they are for technical pens). However, I snagged a bottle of Platinum Pigment Ink in Sepia at an artist gear exchange (SCORE!) so I’m going to start with that one. If anyone has any experience with Dr. PH Martin’s Bombay India Ink I would love to hear about the results. Thanks,

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Julie – don’t use any ink unless it says it is suitable for fountain pen. Enjoy your Platinum Pigment Ink in Sepia!

      • Julie Noyes says:

        Thanks Liz, after reading all the comments I purchased a bottle of Noodler’s to try. I wanted some fun colors to work with. Thanks again.

      • Liz Steel says:

        Have fun Julie – if you use noodlers make sure you use your pen frequently. Noodlers sitting in an unused pen can cause problmes.

      • Julie Noyes says:

        Thanks so much for the tip…I really appreciate your blog and all your wonderful tips. Take care,

  • Julie Mansell says:

    Hi is there any permanent cartridges you can use in the Lamy safari? I have just ordered the pen but need to buy ink for drawing and would prefer permanent, thought a ready made cartridge would be less messy and easier.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Julie – sadly there are no Lamy cartridges with permanent ink. I simply refill mine using a pipette and bottled ink.
      Some people use carbon ink cartridges in their Lamy but I haven’t done that myself- its not a perfect fit

      • Julie Mansell says:

        Thanks for replying Liz, are you refilling the original Lamy cartridge or using the converter? Do you know where is the best place in Australia to order permanent ink from?

      • Liz Steel says:


        De Atramentis Document ink from larry post

  • Susan M says:

    SketchINK (black) and Kakuno aren’t working well for me. It helps to keep the pen horizontal overnight. Once the ink starts flowing, it’s great but in the time it takes to paint a small sketch, the ink dries in the pen.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Susan – thanks for sharing. I find that 1. sketchink dries in the pen more than the other brands. 2. Kakuno are quite temperamental anyway – even with De Atramentis ink in them.

      • Susan M says:

        Last year I learned permanent documental ink isn’t waterproof. Didn’t realize the pen mattered that much for waterproof inks. Will try SketchINK in my Sailor fude and probably buy Pilot Carbon ink some day. De A ink is 3x the price so not an option. Thanks so much for your response – very helpful.

    • Susan M says:

      As a further note … After using about half the bottle of SketchINK both my Sailor Fude and Platinum Plaisir pens started leaking ink into the caps. It happened consistently for quite awhile. I eventually started stirring the ink with a bamboo skewer before filling the pens and finally got good results with the ink.

  • Susana Smith says:

    Hi Liz … I have Lamy Safari with an M nib and am using a Lamy cartridge. Is it possible to put bottled Lamy ink into an empty Lamy cartridge using a pipette or is it best to use a converter? I was concerned that a reused cartrdge may leak. Thanks.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Susana – I’ve reused a cartridge for a number of years without any issues.

      • Susana Smith says:

        Thanks Liz. How do you use different coloured inks? Is it best to have a number of converters? Also, I can’t decide about my second Lamy … whether it should be an EF or a F or if I should buy a F and an EF nib so that I can interchange?

  • Susana Smith says:

    Hi Liz … does one have to be careful using De Atramentis ink in Lamy fountain pens … like having to make sure they are used regularly to prevent the ink from damaging the pen (as can happen woth some permanent inks)? Thanks.

    • Chas says:

      I have been using DeA document black in my yellow Safari and my black Joy for several years with no leakage problems. However I haven’t been scrupulous in cleaning them and after about two years the ink flow became temperamental resulting in broken lines. A good cleaning and flush cured that problem and I have carried on with DeA just giving them a good clean about once a year.
      I have also used Platinum carbon black but stopped when I found that it smeared if it wasn’t quite 101% dry. I also tried Noodler’s black (the one with the catfish on the label) and found that it seemed to take forever to dry and was always making a mess.
      As they say in the ads, your mileage may vary…

  • Peggy Cobey says:

    Has anyone one else had carbon platinum ink that smudges over time? I used it in my sketching journals and noticed over time smudges appear on the opposite page. I tested the dry ink by rubbing pages together and it left rub marks on the other page so I stopped using it.

  • Caroline says:

    Hello, I’m pretty new to the fountain pen world, I don’t sketch (only write) but I’m particularly interested in document/archival inks. So far I only have a Lamy Logo with a (supposedly) extra fine nib and the Rohrer & Klingner Documentus Black ink. I also have a dip pen and some nibs that go well with the R&K iron gall Salix but that’s another story.
    So, I’ve noticed, playing around with my dip pen, nibs and inks, that the Documentus spreads more than the iron gall (which behaves beautifully), which is a bit annoying since I write tiny and the EF Lamy nib doesn’t help.
    I’ve heard in a video by Goulet Pens that those inks spread more than the non-archival ones. Have you noticed anything of that kind? Have you come accross document/archival inks that spread less than others? If so, which ones would you recommend for people who write tiny?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Caroline- have you tried Noodlers Bulletproof. In my experience that ink moved the least but I haven’t used it in years.

  • Sylvie Kaos says:

    Hi Liz
    I’m just starting out. I have a Sailor fude 55 which I will be using with De Atramentis ink. I’m currently using up the one cartridge of Sailor ink that came with the pen. Here’s my problem.
    As soon as I apply watercolour, the ink runs. I’ve tried waiting. I’ve tried waiting longer.
    I’m assuming that inking and colouring in one sitting is normal? Is this problem likely to change when I move to De Atramentis ink?
    Any and all advice gratefully accepted.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Sylvie. The ink in the sailor cartridge is not permanent- need to use De Atramentis document ink or other brands. I always drain the cartridge of ink with a syringe and then replace with De A

      • Chas says:

        When I first started refilling cartridges, and later converters, it was a pain in the neck to find suitable syringes ( pharmacies seemed to assume that a young guy had only one use for a syringe and it didn’t have anything to do with ink.
        Times have changed. Last week I bought twenty 1cc syringes with large bore blunt needles perfect for doing refills from Amazon for $10.
        Yes, I have used plastic pipettes as well, but 1cc syringes are the perfect size for filling a cartridge and having twenty lets me use one per type of ink with a lot of spares.

      • Liz Steel says:

        Hi Chas – this is what I use from Daiso in the cosmetic aisle

  • Anna R says:

    I’ve found that my top 3 waterproof are close to yours, and the difference between them is VERY slim:
    1) Platinum Carbon Black (most water resistant and also feather resistant compared to #2)
    2) DeAtramentis Document Black (used in lab notebooks, survived chemical spills)
    3) Rohrer & Klingner sketchINK – “Lotte” black (excellent water resistance but prone to hard-start and drying on the nib. Slightly less dark/dense black than the other two, or maybe just dry flow)

    Platinum Carbon Black price must have dropped; I just found it on Amazon for $15. Assuming it’s genuine, of course!

    PS Apologies for resurrecting a post from 2016…I’ve been told that’s poor netiquette, but how else do we talk?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Anna. Thanks for your comment and of course it’s okay to comment on an old post. This one is still active!

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