As a fountain pen user, you might be looking for a way to add just a bit more character to your writing. While you have different types of nibs and many different colors of ink to choose from, there are two more things you might want to consider… sheen and shimmer. Fountain pen inks can have sheen, shimmer, neither or even both. In this article I want to explain what they are and talk about the difference between sheen and shimmer in fountain pen ink.
What is sheen?
Sheen is currently one of the most desirable aspects an ink can have. People go crazy over new inks that have huge amounts of sheen that shows itself easily. So what’s the fuss all about?Sheen is a property of ink. It occurs when ink is not absorbed into paper very quickly and has time to dry on the surface. When this happens, an ink with sheen will appear to have different colors. While some parts of the writing might be the original color of the ink (say purple for example), other parts might have a completely different color (maybe gold). I’m not going to go into much more detail than this, but please read this article about what sheen is for more info.
For this discussion, the most important thing to know about sheen is that it is a chemical property of ink. It occurs when chemical compounds in ink dyes are not absorbed into paper and remain on the surface. Sheen will be the most intense where the ink was the thickest on the paper. This means that wet pens and slow-absorbing paper are very important in getting the most (or any) sheen out of an ink.
What is shimmer?
Shimmer is another property of ink. While sheen is a chemical property of ink that is related to the dyes, shimmer is pigment that has been added to the ink… basically glitter. This shimmer makes inks sparkle once they dry on paper. While sheen requires specific pens and paper to appear, shimmer will appear regardless of which pen or paper is used.
One concern that many people have about shimmer is that it has the potential to clog pens. Since there are actually particles in the ink, there is a chance that they can eventually clog a pen’s feed. Because of this, it is usually recommended that shimmer inks not be continuously used in pens. Instead, best practice would be to fully flush a pen after using shimmer ink and not let it sit for days inside of a pen.
Now that you know the difference between sheen and shimmer, which is better?
Which is the better ink property between sheen and shimmer? It really depends on how you want your writing to look. Sheen is unpredictable, only appears with particular inks, pens and papers and isn’t always very obvious. In spite of all that, sheen has enchanted the world of fountain pen users who seem to love the mystery and challenge that sheen can present. On the other hand, shimmer always works and can look really neat, but sparkly words aren’t for everyone. I have used sheening inks that look amazing, and I’ve used some that you can’t see any sheen in. I’ve used shimmer inks and like the look, but don’t want to use them on a regular basis. Also, I should add that I have kept shimmer inks in a few pens for days at a time and have not experienced any clogging or other ill effects.Of course, you don’t always have to choose one or the other. Some shimmer inks will actually sheen and some inks with a strong sheen have a bit of added shimmer. For example, J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor 1670 is widely regarded as an ink with beautiful sheen, but it also includes just a bit of shimmer (even though it’s not sold as a shimmer ink). If you’re not interested in either of these, you can always use inks that have neither sheen or shimmer.
Hi, my name is John. I’m a Colorado-born professional photographer who recently moved back to Denver after spending 3 years in San Francisco. I’ve been using and collecting fountain pens for over 20 years. I got my first one in college when I got bored taking notes with ballpoints and pencils. Since then I’ve bought and sold hundreds of pens, but have consistency in my love of Esterbrooks.