Thinking on Inks

Fun Ink

In my experience, fountain pen collectors also tend to be ink collectors. They will not only have one or two go-to “signature inks,” but also have several other bottles. Either they like to have some other inks to mix things up, or they are accumulated while finding the right shade.

(Or, they had a signature ink that was discontinued, so they are on a quest to recreate it.)

I’m no different. I just counted around two dozen bottles of ink, plus various collections of cartridges, in my ink drawer.

I always divided my inks into two categories: “professional” inks (basically blues and blacks) and “fun” inks (basically everything else). While I would use a “fun” ink once in a while, I usually kept the main pen I took to the office with a more professional color, mostly so people would think I was fairly serious. Ostensibly, I would need to use that color to sign some legal document.

However, I realized a few things. First, I rarely-if-ever had to sign a serious legal document without forewarning. I could plan to have the right pen with a business ink to sign with.

Also, I always carry a ball pen along with my fount for a number of reasons. Usually, it has blue-or-black ink in it. I always figured one of the reasons was if I needed to sign something unexpectedly. I can also always be less fussy and use whatever pen I was handed.

But the big thing is the context of my life. I’m an IT professional a quarter of the way into the Twenty-First Century. Almost everything I write by hand these days is by choice, and basically meant for my eyes. I’m not writing letters (that’s what email is for) or even quick notes for someone on the phone (we have Microsoft Teams for that). Pretty much, what I write would go into a journal or my personal notebook for my reference.

Bottom Line: No one cares what ink I use, as perhaps they might have for most of the Twentieth Century. But today, working on global teams, often from home, means it’s rare over the last ten years anyone has seen the media I was taking notes in–it could be pink Comic Sans in OneNote, for all anyone knows or cares.

I’ve decided I’m going to worry a little less about using fun inks. I still tend to favor blues and blacks, and my current signature ink is a blue (that emulates something long discontinued). But I’m not going to worry so much if I go many days in a row with red, orange, green, or purple. My hadn writign is for me, so I’m going to pick what makes me happy.

Fun Inks and Ball Pens

I mentioned one of the reasons the ball pen (ballpoint, rollerball, or gel pen) I take with me tends to have blue or black ink is to have something “professional” on hand should the need arise. There is another reason as well.

With a fountain pen, changing inks is fairly easy: I can dump the ink (either into the sink or back into its bottle) and fill it fairly easy, with little loss. In practice, I tend not to do this unless there is a very little bit left (and why certain pens tend to have certain colors in them). Contemporary ink manufactures make scores of inks–there are well over a hundred inks from Robert Oster–thirty-two blues alone.

Ball pens are a bit more limited. Fountain pen snobs joke that a ball pen is just a fancy holder for a refill. There is some truth to this: the feed and writing service (ball) are built into the refill. While I can pull out a refill and pop in a new one, the outcome may range to not a huge deal (ballpoint) to risk the one not in use drying out (rollerball).

More importantly, the color choices aren’t there. You can find gel pen packs of twenty (or more) colors, but a lot of common D1 or Parker style refills may be available in more than just the core blue-black-red-green choices, but it’s more of a special order. It’s complicated by the fact not every refill goes in every pen (a bottle of ink is universal). In short, the logistics of fun ink in a ball pen is a bit more complicated.

So, having a ball pen that is in “professional” colors is handy if I’m rocking purple ink on a given day, it’s more a side effect than intent.

HTML Codes for Inks

For about 10 years, I basically used Diamine ink, as that’s what the shop near me carried, and they had fun colors. But I’ve recently been ordering a lot of interesting and different inks. Two of my favorites are Robert Oster and Colorverse.

One thing that tickles me about Colorverse is they include the HTML color code on their website. If I’m using Delicious Sleep, I know it’s #7b6698b.

I went and looked and found a site that, among other things, posts color codes for various inks. I’m not sure I agree 100% with their samples, but it’s a good starting point/inspiration. It has also inspired me to make my own samples.

Is there a practical application in this? Not really. But it makes me happy I can type an email and set the text to be the same color as the ink I’m using that day.