Permanent fountain pen inks for ink & wash sketching

September 13, 2016 | 24 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.

I am also gearing up to take part in Inktober this year.

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 four most popular brands of Permanent Ink are

  1. Platnium 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 as mentioned above they come in cartridges!
  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 tries out in Lamy pens a little.

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.

  • 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??? 🙂 😀

  • 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.

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