the same fountain pen ink in two different pens

Can Different Fountain Pens Change The Way An Ink Looks?

John BosleyFountain Pen Ink 5 Comments

You might have noticed that when you use an ink in one pen it looks darker or lighter than when you use it in a different pen, even if you use them on the same paper. No, this isn’t because you didn’t properly clean out one pen and old ink is affecting how the new ink looks. The difference can be attributed to the difference in nibs! Let’s take a look at a few examples and see how different nibs can affect how ink looks.

Using The Same Fountain Pen Ink In Different Pens

Why does ink look different when used with different pens? While there are a few different factors that go into it, the main difference is the amount and density of ink that is put down onto the paper. Some nibs are wetter nibs, which lay down a lot of ink, which makes the ink look dark compared to a nib that’s not as wet. Another factor is the size of the nib. Some nibs are broader than others, which spread ink across more surface area, making it appear lighter.

Think of it this way… if you take a drop of ink and spread it across one square inch and take another drop of ink and spread it across four square inches, wouldn’t it make sense that the ink will be more concentrated in the smaller area, making it appear darker? It’s the same idea with fountain pens. Fine nibs generally make an ink appear darker than broad nibs. This isn’t always the case, as it is very dependent on the individual nib and feed, but is a good rule of thumb.

fountain pens change the way ink looks ink drop

You can see how different this ink looks when the same amount is spread over different areas.

Let’s consider another example, this time with a flex nib. While flex nibs can be quite fine, they can also flex to create a very wide line. How do you think a flex nib will compare to a fine and broad nib?

why use a fountain pen nib size comparison

You can see that different sized nibs can make an ink look very different, even when writing on the same paper.

You can see that the flex nib makes the ink look much darker than the broad nib. The reason this happens is because when the nib flexes, ink flow increases and more ink is laid down on the paper. This creates a very dense concentration of ink, making it appear darker.

Using The Same Pen And Ink On Different Papers

It’s not just using different pens that can affect how an ink looks. Different papers can also affect an ink’s appearance. This happens for much the same reason that there is a difference between nibs. Different papers absorb ink at different rates. This means that a fast-absorbing paper might make an ink look lighter than a slow-absorbing paper, simply because the ink gets spread across a greater area when it is absorbed more quickly.

iroshizuku yama budo on copy paper

On cheaper paper that absorbs the ink more quickly, this ink looks lighter than in the next image.

iroshizuku yama budo on hp 32lb laser paper

This is the same ink as in the above image, but it is on better paper, which makes the color look different.

Sheen Can Affect How An Ink Looks

One final factor that can influence how an ink looks is how much sheen it has. Sheen can drastically make an ink look different, so whether or not a particular pen or paper bring out that sheen will greatly affect how it looks. In the images above, especially the first image, you might notice that some of the writing has a gold color in addition to the purple. That is the sheen and it can make the ink look much darker.

Hopefully you will keep these factors in mind the next time you sit down to write. Test out different combinations of pen, paper and ink and note how the ink appears with each combination. There’s a chance you might just find a new favorite combination for an old pen or ink.

Comments 5

  1. Hello John,
    Thank you for maintaining a wonderful site about lots of info on the world of pens, inks and paper. Glad about this and most of the posts are very valuable for newcomers to the field like me.

    Seeing this post and some other posts on this site, I have a query to you. For one who plans to do some calligraphy and intends to maintain a website, how is it best to digitalize the calligraphy on to the web – do i need a scanner to do that, or taking a photo and posting ok for the purpose? I would like to hear your suggestion. This has been in my mind for some time.

    Thanks again, cheers.


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      Hi Firasz,
      Thank you for reading my blog. I’m glad you find the articles useful!

      The easiest way to digitize calligraphy work would definitely be a scanner. When using a scanner you will always know that the paper is flat and the exposure is correct. Still, using a camera does have some benefits. If you want multiple images of your work, especially any that incorporate your surroundings or pens and ink, a camera will be required.

      Still, while a scanner is the easiest method, I can’t say with certainty that it’s the best method. Maybe I’ll work on an article that explores the benefits of each method. To be honest, I haven’t used a scanner very often for written work (I mainly use it for old printed photographs), so it’s worth exploring a bit further!


  2. This is definitely something I should be thinking about more when I feel the urge to dispose of my inks! I almost sold my Lexington Grey before because it would look too greenish on one of my notebooks. It’s my favorite now

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