About ink, and a thank you


First: THANK YOU so much for all the comments concerning the video in my last post – I am overwhelmed by the positive attention it got, and I´m so happy that so many people seemed to appreciate it. I hope I can put together some more videos in a not too far away future.

I got a lot of questions after the video, about what ink I use. It seems a lot of people are struggling to find fountain pen inks that are waterproof without ruining the pens, so I thought I´d write a few lines about what I use. If you intend to try the Platinum ink that I´m using, please read this long ink nerd text to the end. I don´t want to be the one who tells you this is the perfect ink, and then you end up with expensive fountain pens ruined…

So, here goes: I draw mainly with two inks, or maybe three, when using fountain pens: Noodler´s Lexington grey, Platinum Carbon Black and sometimes Platinum Pigmented Sepia.

Platinum Pigmented Sepia

Platinum Pigmented Sepia is a quite new acquaintance for me, so I don´t have that much to say about it yet. It´s waterproof, a nice colour, and I think it´s probably a good idea to rinse the pen every now and then if you use it, though it´s not as mean as the Carbon black.

Noodler´s Lexington Grey

I´m not going to say so much about the Lexington grey either, because I have rambled on about that before, but I can say that it has never caused me any trouble whatsoever. I love it a lot, I like that it isn´t black, it´s a soft grey, very unobtrusive in a drawing. These days I even dilute it with water before filling my pens with it, to make it even lighter. It´s easier to use than the other Bulletproof inks from Noodler´s that I´ve tried, simply because it dries faster. It doesn´t smudge when painted over with watercolours, and works on any paper that I have used.

BUT. Because there is always a but when something sounds too good, right?

A while back, I got struck by Flex Pen Love. It started with Noodler´s flex pen, then a fantastic renovated vintage Wahl-Eversharp, and then I bought myself a Namiki Falcon with a customized nib (added flex), which is now my preferred drawing tool on some papers. And here´s where the ink “but” comes in.

Noodler´s bulletproof inks are meant to be somewhat waterproof, but they only turn waterproof in contact with the cellulose in the paper. With a flex pen, especielly the Namiki Falcon in my case, you lay down quite a bit of ink on the paper surface, because the pen has a really juicy ink flow. This means that some of the ink never comes in contact with the paper to become waterproof, it just lies on top like a drop. With the Noodler´s ink, this causes the ink to dissolve when you lay down watercolours on top of your lines.

Platinum Carbon Black – with a warning

So I started looking for something else to use with the Namiki Falcon, and found the Platinum Carbon Black ink, which works perfectly for me. It is black, and behaves well with watercolours. It dries fairly quickly, but not super fast. I often accidentally smudge a line with my drawing hand, as in the image above (lower right corner of the bottle). My bad.

BUT. Cause there´s a but here too. Two, actually.

But number one:
I have had to spend a lot of time finding good paper for this ink. It has a tendency to spread and creap on some papers, and a juicy pen makes it even worse. I am quite fuzzy about the surface of the papers I use, they need to be strong enough for working with several layers of watercolours, and still be smooth and good for drawing too, and this ink made some of my favorite papers impossible to use.

But number two, and the most important one:
Platinum Carbon Black ink isn´t very kind to fountain pens. It is a fountain pen ink, but you need to really take care of your pens to use it. I used to never clean my Lamy Safaris while using Noodler´s inks in them, but I have had to change my habits with this one.

If you leave Platinum Carbon black in a pen for too long without using it, there is a serious risk of the pen getting clogged. I have started a habit of rinsing the nib under the tap every time I refill the pen, and then taking the pen apart for cleaning every third or fourth refill. I always make sure to keep the pen capped when not in use – the ink dries quite fast on the nib, which is not what you want with a fountain pen.

During Christmas I had my pens with me on a flight to Northern Sweden, and usually flying is not an issue with the fountain pens that I use. This time, however, a Lamy ink converter containing Platinum Carbon ink decided to leak inside a bright red Lamy Safari, only I didn´t notice until I took the cap off the pen one and a half week later. The nib section of this pen is now severely stained by the black ink, and I haven´t been able to clean it off no matter what I tried. So this is a mean black ink, if you treat it the wrong way.

I think this product page on Platinum Carbon Black over at Cult Pens (I´m not associated with them in any way) is well worth reading before deciding to use this ink. Please scroll down to read all the way down to the end. For your own good.

With all this badness said, I have never had any problems with the ink other than the leaking accident. I do dare to put it in my Namiki Falcon, which is quite an expensive pen, but I make sure to treat the pen to a good cleaning now and then.

If you have any questions about this, please don´t hesitate to ask in the comments section, I´m sure others would be interested too. Ink is an important dark matter, isn´t it? ; )

13 x 12 cm, Namiki Falcon with Platinum Carbon black ink, and pencil and watercolours on Arches Satinée 300 g watercolour paper.

25 Responses to “About ink, and a thank you”

  1. great article on inks. do you have a suggestion for a cheap fountain pen to use with waterproof ink?

    • Thanks, Cherian. I´m actually not an expert on fountain pens, just the ones I use myself. I use a lot of Lamy Safaris, and I can certainly recommend those. They are not super expensive if you order them online, and they can take a lot of abuse (except leaking Platinum Carbon Black – though my red pen actually still works, it is just not very pleasing to the eye anymore…), and they have nibs that you can change – a very good feature if you ever happen to drop the pen on the ground and crash the nib.
      Otherwise, look below – seems Larry has a lot of good advice to give here! : )

  2. Great post, Nina. You’re one of my favorite artists and it’s great to hear that your experiences with Lex gray and Platinum are similar to what I’m experiencing. Mostly I use Lex gray as it’s a very dark gray and, as you say, less obtrusive in my pen/watercolor sketches.

    In response to a comment asking about inexpensive pens, My Lamy pens have moved back to writing duties as I’ve started using a Noodler’s Ahab flex pen ($20) and a Pilot 78G as my drawing instruments. I wasn’t impressed with Noodler’s standard flex pen but I’ve fallen in love with the new Ahab. It holds an amazing amount of ink and, with a light touch can provide a very thin line (at least as thin as a Lamy XF nib). It can also easily deliver a line 3-4 times that thick with just a bit of pressure.

    The Pilot 78G is a cheap…cheap pen with surprising abilities, giving me the thinnest line of any pen I’ve owned. I use a pen syringe to refill empty cartridges with Platinum Carbon Black. I’ve only refilled it once thus far but, as Nina suggests, I flushed it clean before doing so.

  3. Jenny says:

    Nina, thanks so much about this information on the inks you use.

    I keep my Platinum Carbon Black tucked away for use only when I know it will be properly maintained in the pen. Noodler’s Bulletproof Black has done the job for me EXCEPT in a Moleskine watercolor book or when too many layers of ink are applied. Love the Lexington Gray too. Have you tried the new, 2012, Noodler’s #41 Brown? It’s supposed to be waterproof, but I haven’t tried it under watercolor yet, just plain water.

    My favorite drawing pen is the Pilot 78G, fine point. I know you love your Lamy pens, but the grip too deep for my fingers. I’m waiting for the Ahab pens to get past their manufacturing problems (gunk and trash in nib area) before trying one, but many others love them too.

    Your video is fascinating, and I have viewed it many times. I hope you are planning more in the future.

    Thanks again, and have a great 2012.

    • Thanks Jenny! No, I haven´t tried the new Noodler´s ink, but it sounds interesting. I would love to hear what you think about it´s waterproof qualities (if any) when you have tried it properly. I have heard a lot about the Pilot 78G here, may have to try that one day…

  4. Rob Weaver says:

    I use Lexington Grey in a Platinum pen with music nib. It lays down a nice line on Arches smooth or even medium paper and doesn’t run if allowed to dry sufficiently. I use an Ahab with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black on the same paper. Good pen when it works, but I haven’t been able to get the flow consistent – sometimes it won’t lay down more than a few lines, sometimes it gushes. I find myself leaning more and more towards a Pilot Parallel pen with 6mm blade nib and Lexington Grey. Starts smoothly every time and with practice can deliver a good range of “width”. It can be a little harsh on the paper surface, though.

  5. Michael says:

    I’ve been following your advice on pens and ink for a while now and I find that it paid off extremely well. I tend to keep using the same ink with the same pen so that I can follow what works best. (Admittedly, this can be expensive.) My Lamy Safari performs extremely well with Platinum Carbon – it doesn’t clog or gush despite being idle for a couple of weeks. My Ahab flex works nicely with Noodlers Black American Eel but recently I experienced some of the ink lifting when I applied a watercolour wash. However, I suspect that the paper was the real problem since I didn’t experience this when I worked with Fabriano watercolour paper. I also tried out a beautiful Hero fountain pen but found that it clogs almost all the time with any ink. I think its important to keep a log on what works and what doesn’t.

    I enjoyed your December postings and was impressed that you could generate all those sketches over the busiest month of the year! Thanks for all the great advice, I’ll continue to follow your blog in 2012.

    • Thanks for your input, Michael. And I´m glad you enjoyed my little December series. Those drawings gave me at least one hour of calm every day, which was very much needed. : )

  6. Thanks, Nina! I’ve definitely had the brown clog a pen, as did the Noodler’s new formulation #41. Siiiiih…I love brown ink, but it IS moody! Cleaning your pens is a very good idea…

  7. Paulo says:

    Hey Nina!
    I live in Lisbon and I am also in a blog in Portuguese Urbansketcher (Traço is my nickname).
    A long ago that I subscribe your drawings. I love them!
    In the beginning was curious to see the drawings of the city where I have lived, but in fact your drawings are fantastic.
    I’m sorry it was not possible to know you personally in the Symposium/2011, perhaps a future meeting here in Lisbon.
    I was fascinated by your pen (Namiki Falcon). Here in Portugal I can not find this model. If it is possible, what site can I buy the same model. Thanks for the information and many good drawings in 2012.

    • Hi Paulo! Nice to hear from you, and I hope we´ll meet in the future! : )
      I will do a post on the Namiki Falcon. It is available from a lot of online shops, and I can actually get it in a store here in Stockholm too, but to a much higher price. I ordered mine with a customized nib, which is what I want to write about, so stay tuned!

  8. Pedro says:

    Another but:
    The Carbon BI is spreads in the paper making it impossible to use a very thin line.
    The difference between the F and the EF nib goes almost imperceptible: http://bonecosdebolso1.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-01-03T21:57:00Z
    Thanks Nina for all the advice.

    • Yes it does spread, but only on some papers. The Platinum Carbon black is incredibly sensitive to the paper you use. Did you try it on other paper qualities? I collected a whole bunch of papers to try it on, and the difference is incredible. On some papers it gives a very sharp thin line. It also seems to depend on the moisture in the air. I have one brand of paper which works well with this ink here in Stockholm, but didn´t work at all in Lisbon, because of the heat and moisture… Funny.

  9. Catherine Rogan says:

    Thanks Nina, interesting and inspiring. You make me want to draw and I’m considering taking part in this :


    Although I am a bit nervous as I am a complete beginner really (apart from constant doodling)

    Can you tell me where you buy the Noodler’s ink? I bought some ages ago with my Lamy Safari pen (as recommended by yourself) and love it but it’s become impossible to get it in Britain.

    Thanks again, Catherine

    • Hi Catherine,
      seems like a fun challenge, good luck with it! I buy Noodler´s ink online, the last time from http://www.gouletpens.com . I have only found it on very few sites in Europe, and then the colours I want have usually been sold out. It´s more expensive to order from the US, of course, but a bottle of Noodler´s lasts for a long time, so I figured it´s worth it.

  10. VB says:

    Well, I’ve been wanting to try Platinum Carbon in my Noodler’s flex pen, but now you’ve got me worried… :D

    At least the Noodler’s can be taken apart for a thorough cleaning. It even survived my little experiment with Ph.Martin’s Black Star hi-carb, which clogged like crazy (no wonder, since apparently it’s meant for use ON CELLULOID).

    So far I’ve been sticking to Pelikan’s Fount India, mainly because it’s easy to find in Stockholm. Not the blackest of blacks and not completely waterproof, but there’s no clogging and I’ve found it gets more resistant with time. If you can stand to wait to the next day it can withstand a water color wash pretty well, as long as there’s not too much “loose ink” on top of the lines (like you sometimes get with a flex nib) and you’re not scrubbing too hard. I haven’t tried any of those cellulose-binding inks, but it sounds like the experience would be fairly similar.

    (Oh, and: no affiliation with any brand mentioned above)

    • Could be just my Noodler´s flex pen, VB. They seem to be rather moody, those pens, so who knows – it might work with another pen. Anyhow, since you can take them apart, as you say, I didn´t worry too much.
      I never tried the Pelikan´s Fount India, but the drying time is rather crucial to me, so I don´t think it´s for me. I even stopped using Noodler´s Bulletproof Black because I had to wait for too long to put the watercolours on…

  11. Stephen Jeffrey says:

    Hi Nina,
    Thanks for the blog, very interesting and informative, love the work too!
    Has anybody here tried the Platinum carbon Pen DP-800S?
    It is supposed to be made for the carbon ink and has some flex in the nib, also quite cheap.
    Can anybody recommend it?

    Oh, and is the Lamy Safari nib flexible, any recommendations for nib size in the Lamy?

    • Thanks Stephen! I never tried the Platinum pen, I think Cathy Johnson has mentioned it somewhere on http://artistsjournalworkshop.blogspot.com/ , maybe she knows.
      I answered the Lamy question in an email, but I might as well give my two cents here too, in case someone else is interested:
      no, the Lamy Safari is not flexible. The Extra Fine nib size has a little springy feeling to it, but I wouldn´t call it flex. The bigger sizes are super stiff.

  12. Don Colley says:

    I’m really loving the post Nina. Great drawing and useful info. After reading this post I set about cleaning my pens, some of which slay about with ink in them for several weeks. I usually have 8 -10 inked with various colors so I can grab and go but as you’ve stated, some inks make that a poor practice to maintain. I too like drawing with the Platinum Carbon, it was Bill Sharp who turned me on to it, as I like to go over it with wet mediums. But as with Noodlers, I don’t like to put it into pens that cost more than $125. I’ve been using it in my Pelikano Jr. ($12) and feel it is great in my Visconti Rembrandt. I use in in the Visconti which is a touch pricey but make sure I flush it out regularly. Just recently got the Namiki Falcon which is an EF, a touch thinner than I like as I prefer Mediums and Broad nibs. One of my workhorses for drawing is a Pelikan M215 which at $110-140 is not too dear in price but also you can unscrew the nib and and separate the nib fron the feed and use a q-tip to clean out the piston. The Holy Grail for me is an ink that you can use in fountain pens that sets up, is waterproof, super black, lightfast, archival, and doesn’t clog the feed if you should leave it in for a few months. That ink doesn’t exist as yet so your words of caution to the wise about fp inks was well placed.
    The video of you darwing the apartment block was excellent. Thanks for the beautiful posts.

    • Thanks Don. I´m trying to fathom the fact that I actually inspired someone to clean his pens – I, who never used to do that until I bought the Platinum ink! ;)
      It´s interesting to see what fountain pens you use – I really haven´t tried much else than the Lamy Safari, some vintage ones and the Namiki Falcon. Oh yeah, the Noodler´s flex too. I´ve had a lot of pen input in the comments of this post, a real treat to read.
      I´m with you on that Holy Grail – isn´t it funny, with all the fantastic engineering possibilities of today, still no one managed to make that perfect fountain pen ink…

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