Fountain Pen Inks Explained! What Ink Should You Use in a Fountain Pen?

Fountain Pen Inks Explained! What Ink Should You Use in a Fountain Pen?

In our latest YouTube video, Fountain Pen Inks Explained, I explain some of the different ways you can use ink in your fountain pen--most often, the choice comes down to ink cartridge and ink bottle and be sure to watch the video for more information that will help with that decision. 

Then, there is a little more to think about with the decision between the type of ink you want to ink up with. If you are concerned about archival properties and waterproof ink, you'll want to go with a pigment-based ink and if you are just here for the pretty colors (like me most of the time), you'll have lots of fun options with dye-based inks. Christine has also written a helpful blogpost on ink types that you might want to check out here

Ink Properties: Shading, Sheening and Shimmering

Once you've picked out your ink type, the next thing you'll want to think about is ink properties--shading, sheening and shimmering. These are terms to describe the color of an ink once it has dried on paper.


Shading is the word for ink that appears to be more than one color in the same stroke of writing. Some inks shade between different shades of one color--lighter and darker depending on where the ink pools and many of the newly released shading inks shade multiple colors. One ink can have a base color of purple but it shades green, blue and lavender when you write with it.

In this photo, Pilot Iroshizuku Kiri-Same shades light and dark grey while Sailor Yurameku Kyokkou shades light grey, pink and purple. Sailor Manyo Nekoyanagi and Sailor Ink Studio 123 are other examples of very popular shading inks. The paper used is Tomoe River 52 gsm and pen used was the Fonte Glass Dip Pen.


Sheening inks dry and appear to have a metallic luster when you angle your writing in the light. 

In this photo are some of our most popular sheening inks: Ink Institute Jadeite, J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor and Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-Budo. Jadeite is a dark green ink that sheens pinkish red, Emerald of Chivor is a turquoise ink that sheens dark red and Yama-budo is a plum colored ink that sheens green but is a little more subtle than the other two mentioned. The paper used is Tomoe River 52 gsm and the pen was the Fonte Glass Dip Pen.


Shimmering inks have physical particles of glitter mixed into the liquid ink resulting in glimmering writing on the page. Since the glimmer is resulting from glitter particles, how visible it is depends on how much glitter is coming out of the pen at a time and broader nibs are recommended for the best results and to prevent clogging.

In this photo, Dominant Industry No. 11 Autumn Forest is a greenish grey ink with pink glitter particles and J. Herbin Stormy Grey is a grey ink with gold glitter particles. As you can see, the glitter is a lot more apparent on the ink blobs than when writing and that is to be expected. The paper used is Tomoe River 52 gsm and the pen was the Fonte Glass Dip Pen.

Testing Sheening, Shading and Shimmering on Different Papers and Pens

I wanted to do some testing with these different properties on various papers using different pens to answer the question: What combination of paper and pen make sheening, shading and shimmering show up the best?

Paper and Pens Used

I tested across 6 different papers:

  • Tomoe River 52 gsm 
  • MD Paper
  • Rhodia
  • Life
  • Maruman Mnemosyne
  • Stalogy Editor's Series 


And with 3 different pens:


Best Nib Size for Shading, Sheening and Shimmering: Mediums, Broads and Dip Pens

The Pilot Kakuno Fine nib is a very fine fountain pen as with most Japanese-made pens and it was selected as a contrast to the TWSBI ECO Medium nib, which is a much wider nib size. The differences between how inks appear coming from the Pilot Kakuno F and the TWSBI ECO M illustrate the well-established point that the thicker your nib is, the more shading, sheening and shimmering will be demonstrated. The same goes for a glass dip pen, in this case, the Fonte Glass Dip Pen, which is typically much wetter (much more ink comes out) and will show off ink properties very well.

In this photo, the shading from Ink Institute Electric Blue Spider Lily is a lot more pronounced in the TWSBI M than the Kakuno F. The same can be said for sheening and shimmering. 

Best Paper for Shading: Life, Tomoe River and Maruman Mnemosyne

These photos show my testing of Ink Institute Electric Blue Spider Lily, a highly shading ink across 6 different papers. As you can see, the shading is much more noticeable in the TWSBI Medium nib, the thicker nib. But is it more pronounced on one paper? Not really. 

This led me to want to test shading on a standard ink. Are there certain papers that bring out shading in an ink? The answer is yes!

I tested a pretty standard ink that is not known for its shading properties, Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Gaki to see if it would shade more on certain papers and here were the winners:

In this photo, you can see the this standard ink shades a bit more on these three papers. So if you are using a highly shading ink, it will shade no matter what paper you are writing on as long as you are using a wider nib, but if you are using a standard ink and want to bring out its shading properties, you should be writing with a thicker nib on Tomoe River 52gsm, Life, and Maruman Mnemosyne paper.

Best Paper for Sheening: Tomoe River, Life and MD Paper

The ink I originally chose to testing sheening across papers was Sailor Manyo Ume, but the ink that ended up sheening most out of these swatches was Dominant Industry No. 19 Lapis Lazuli and the sheen was most noticeable on Life, Tomoe River 52gsm and MD Paper. 

Sheening on Tomoe River 52 gsm

Sheening on Life

Interestingly, out of the 6 papers I tested, there was some sheen across all the papers for these inks, but the one paper that took all the sheen out of these inks was Rhodia.

In this photo, you can see that there is absolutely no sheen even in the highly sheening ink of Dominant Industry No. 19!

So, if you are using a sheening ink and want to bring out the ink's sheening properties, you should be writing with a thicker nib on Life, Tomoe River 52 gsm and MD Paper.

Best Paper for Shimmering: Any Fountain Pen Friendly Paper

When it came to shimmering inks, it wasn't too surprising that there was no one paper that brought out shimmering more than the others, but what does matter is your nib size. This makes sense since the shimmer is derived from the presence of physical glitter particles. Those particles are there no matter what paper you're using, but the more ink that's coming out of the pen, the more glitter particles there are! So, if you are using a shimmering ink, you should be writing with a thicker nib on any fountain pen friendly paper. 

I hope you all enjoyed this ink journey and my findings on the different inks, pens and papers! Fountain pen inks are one of my favorite things. I love switching it up and trying lots of new inks, and when I flip through my old journals and planners, it's fun to see what ink color I was into at that time and re-discover inks in that way. 

To check out more inks at Yoseka, you can click here! Oh, and did you know you can filter by different colors? 

For more information on fountain pen inks, be sure to watch our video!


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