Revisiting my coloured ink collection

March 31, 2021 | 30 Comments

For the past few years I’ve been chipping away at a  massive behind-the-scenes project. I’m going through and updating all my old blogposts (since 2008) as all the images prior to 2016 were embedded from Flickr or from Blogpost and don’t display clearly. As well as replacing the images I’m also working on my extensive indexing system.

I love going through old work and seeing how my drawing and painting has developed over the years. So this seemingly never-ending task has been an enjoyable experience.

When I started this huge blog upgrade I began with the earliest posts and started forward (BTW here is a link to the first blogpost from 2008!) and made it to the end of 2011 But recently I changed my strategy and I’m doing one month at a time for the years 2012-2016. This means that I’m even more aware of the changes in my work from year to year… the different phases in my work.

Something that is capturing my attention at the moment is my ‘coloured-ink phase’. This is when De Atramentis began to bring out different colours in their Document Ink range, and Super5 inks arrived on the scene too. I really enjoyed sketching with multiple coloured inks – sometimes with as many as seven!

In my SketchingNow courses, I often mention the special magic that comes for me when I alternate between ink and watercolour… but I think that this magic is even greater if I also alternate between different pens.

So yesterday I decided that I wanted to load up a few pens and play with some different coloured inks again.

But what colours should I use? What colours do I actually have in my ink collection? Hmm, time for a colour chart!

And then I loaded up a few pens so this is my current set:

Usual fountain pens (more about each here)

  • Lamy Joy pen (white and red) with F nib filled with De Atramentis Document Ink black – for drawing
  • Green Sailor fountain pen with 55 degree fude nib filled with De Atramentis Document Ink Black – for drawing (especially quick sketches)
  • Platinum Carbon Desk Pen (EF Nib) with Carbon Ink cartridge – for detailed drawings (rare!)
  • TWSBI Eco (white) F nib with De Atramentis Document Ink Black – for all my writing.
  • TWSBI Eco (yellow) F nib filled with De Atramentis Document ink personal burnt Sienna mix – for drawing and writing
  • TWSBI Eco (turquoise) F nib filled with J Herbin Diabolo Menthe ink (water-soluble ) –  for the guidelines for my writing.
  • TWSBI Eco (blue) F nib with Lamy Turquoise ink (water-soluble) – for notes.

Additional fountain pens (all for drawing)

  • Green Sailor fountain pen with 55 degree fude nib filled with De Atramentis Document Ink Brown
  • Blue Sailor fountain pen with 45 degree fude nib filled with De Atramentis Document Ink Fog Grey (it’s a dark blue-grey colour)
  • Blue Sailor fountain pen with 45 degree fude nib filled with De Atramentis Document Ink – my personal raw Sienna mix (yellow and brown)
  • White Sailor fountain pen with 45 degree fude nib filled with De Atramentis Document Ink Urban Grey.

Hmm, that is a lot of different pens!


Do you use any coloured inks? Please let me know in the comment section below.



  • Martine says:

    What an impressive collection! I only have two colours ink and would like to expand in the future (but I keep buying art supplies…I try to restrain myself). I use Rohrer & Klingner sketchInk, which performs fine, no problems with clogging, and much cheaper than a lot of other brands (at least here in the netherlands, alsways a bit depeding on where you live).

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Martine – yes… I was a little shocked how many I actually had! Which Sketchink colours do you use?

      • Martine says:

        I have Lotte (black) and Lily (which is supposed to be green, but is more of a dark grey). Would love to get some red, orange and purple….ooooh, art supplies is such an addiction 😉

      • Liz Steel says:

        good choices! Lily was the first I bought!

  • Anne Marie Percival says:

    I use Noodlers Lexington Grey..which is almost black……..I have several of the D’Atramentis but rarely use them……I like your personal mixes best..both the Raw Sienna and the Burnt Sienna……what is your mix for the Burnt Sienna Liz please?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Anne… Not exactly sure how I mixed it – yellow, red and brown?? Sorry it’s a few years ago now. Might be on my blog somewhere 🙂

  • Arlene Lennox says:

    I’m always on the lookout for waterproof inks. I have several in the DeAtramentis Document and SketchINK series. I probably use Document Brown and SketchINK Lilly the most. Birmingham Pens Co. has a new line of Everlasting inks that I am happy with. Super 5 Frankfurt is a nice gray, but I want to try Document Urban Grey. Looks like they are both a little lighter than Lexington Gray.

    • Susanna says:

      De Atrimentis makes a Dilution Liquid which is wonderfully useful for creating lighter shades of their Document inks.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Arlene – thanks for sharing about the Everlasting Inks. I love Frankfurt but Urban Grey flows better in my pens. Its about the same as Lex Grey

  • I’m curious about the use of fountain pens for writing vs drawing. I got a Noodler’s Ahab (with split nib) and it was very difficult for me to use in writing. I guess I thought it would work more like a calligraphy pen.

    • Roger Wujek says:

      Noodler’s Ahab lays down a lot of ink. I have several any they ARE an acquired taste. Perhaps your nib needs tweaking. I have been writing with fountain pens for 50 years and love the expressively of them. Endless colors available. Noodlers are waterproof as are DeAtramentis document and archive and Platinum’s Carbon Black. I lightly recommend Lamy Safari with fine nib, as does Liz. Don’t us the ink in the cartridges. Get a syringe and use bottled ink.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Jane,
      Such a personal thing… but there are some pens that suit my writing the best… and some pens that I love to draw with.
      To get Ahab like calligraphy I think you would have to work on varying your pressure and that might be unnatural for the way you normally write.

  • Roger Wujek says:

    You might consider looking at Arteza art brush pens. The set I have is 48 ink colors, water soluble, each color in a separate pen. No clean up and colors are vibrant and easy to shade. Perfect for on-site sketching.

    I’d add a picture if I could.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks for sharing Roger – I will check them out. There is something nice about fountain pens and ink though 🙂

  • Jamie C says:

    I love this! I have a large collection of pens and inks myself! I agree drawing in inks is great fun. De Atramentis just came out with some new Document colors I’m super excited about, dark green, dark red, and a sepia brown! Must buy items for me ASAP!

  • Suzanne McVetty says:

    Through the courses I have taken with you, you have inspired me, Liz! I now have a Lamy Joy for everyday writing, with a few more pens (TWISBY) with great ink colors, also for everyday writing. I love DeA Jane Austen green, a lovely olive, and DeA Colombin Blue, a Caribbean blue, both for everyday writing (it depends on my mood). To get close to your own burnt siena, I purchased Lamy Gold for sketching, especially secondary sketches. I use DeA Violet for writing in my sketchbook. Sketching is done with DeA Document Black ink using a Green Sailor Fude pen with 55 degree point. I love everyone of the pens and the ink colors. Sketching in pen and ink has opened a whole new world colorful for me.

  • Kate Powell says:

    I use inks for drawing and have moved into ink-painting. I love their vibrancy compared to watercolors, and their unpredictability — they are a step closer to a zen experience from watercolors.

    In non-waterproof, my favorite ink comes from your neighborhood, Robert Oster Signature inks — saturated color, and the way some of his inks separate when hit with water are stunning, and his colors are the palette of AU, which is incredible. Others are Birmingham, Papier Plume, Taccia, Vinta, Waterman (best for vintage pens) and of course, Diamine, which is a great ink and is quite inexpensive world-wide. Pilot and Lamy inks are pretty but very dry in many pens unless they are gushers, and dry inks can lead to hard starts and skipping in good pens.

    In waterproof, I still prefer DeA Document inks and Super5 inks best… A caution about DeADoc White tho in that I won’t put it in a pen anymore — it clogs quickly, not sure why. When I want to use touches of white I use a dip pen.
    I finally tossed my Noodler’s inks (Lex Grey and Polar Brown). Competently inconsistent, not waterproof on all papers (so you have to test it on every paper you use, and there is not reason for that inconsistency) whereas DeADoc inks and sketchInks and Super5 are completely reliable if you let them dry before putting water on top of them.

    Actually, even Noodler’s non-waterproof inks are inconsistent, and people who like him say it is because he is a small company (he isn’t) and even so, I have many inks from small batch companies (like Papier Plume) and they handle consistency just fine. Good product is good product, and who has time for poor product? I talk about product consistency a lot on my blog.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks for sharing Kate. And yes, you have to be careful with the white ink- i put mine in a preppy!

  • Celeste says:

    I like DeAtramentis’ document urban gray for sketching–it isn’t as forceful as black and doesn’t overwhelm a delicate watercolor. I am also partial to the DeA document dark blue and document brown (esp for nature sketching). I do keep DeA document turquoise in a Platinum Preppy refillable marker; it makes for a fun headline or emphasis writer.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Great choices Celeste!

      • john lai says:

        i also like doc urban grey and in a mix 2 parts urban grey to 3 parts doc brown to create a sepia brown for old world like ink sketching and as especially old world architecture line work for watercolor. i recall that may have been inspired by a suggested mix from one of Lizs blogs

      • Liz Steel says:

        Hi John,
        Thanks for sharing… I have never mixed urban grey with brown (so not my idea) but I like it!!!

  • Kathy Harbison says:

    I’ve recently purchased ink by Robert Oster made in South Australia. Nice to support local !!
    Don’t think they are waterproof. I bought Great Southern Ocean. Loved the name,
    there were so many blues to chose from and I wanted a blue for everyday writing.
    All the best on your travels. What a fun thing to do exploring your own country.

  • Marta says:

    Do you have any information about how lighfast these inks are? Does it fade away sooner than watercolours?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Marta – my understanding is that any ink with pigments is permanent… and that generally implies lightfast. But I don’t have any specific information

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