Not all pen inks are highly suitable for calligraphy. You can’t even use some of them outright. However, beginners seem to think that they can use any ink bottle that they can grab at the office supply store and that would be that. This should not be the case.
Once you try using the best calligraphy ink, you will find yourself not wanting to use anything else. Finding the best ink for calligraphy is a bit tricky because it will depend on your skill level and what outcome you intend to get.
However, we will assume that you are a total beginner when it comes to calligraphy and that you are looking for your first bottle of ink. This article will provide you with a couple of product recommendations, including some that you might want to use once you have already gotten quite experienced.
Best Calligraphy Ink Reviews
1. Daiso Sumi Calligraphy Liquid Ink
This is a Japanese-brand ink that is specifically for calligraphy and brush-painting use. The good thing about it is that you can use it straight out of the bottle. Daiso is the Japanese equivalent of the Dollar Store, which is why this ink is so inexpensive. Despite being low-priced, it is still a great choice for the best Sumi ink for calligraphy.
One nice thing about this ink is that you do not need to dilute it with alcohol or water. It already has a great consistency for Sumi ink calligraphy. I was quite surprised when I first opened my first Daiso ink. I was already preparing the water to dilute it but then I discovered that the ink has the right thickness already.
Some experienced calligraphy artists say that they cannot get enough of the smell of ink, just as gearheads love the smell of gasoline, but that is not everyone’s cup of tea. This will not be a problem with this brand of ink because this is almost odorless.
This ink is also ideal for inking drawings meant for watercolors later. I like using this ink to make illustrations that will be colored in later with watercolors and water-based acrylics. Once the ink dries, it is completely waterproof. It can even withstand watercolors without fading.
There is not that much to complain about with this ink, but there are a couple of slight issues. For one, the ink is not quite as black as other professional inks, but then again, this is a budget-friendly choice that works quite well as is.
- Specifically made for calligraphy and brush ink painting
- Does not have a strong chemical smell
- Waterproof once dried
- The ink already has a nice consistency – This means it is not necessary to dilute it
- Dries up too quickly on nibs
- Not as dark as other ink brands
Although Daiso is the Japanese equivalent of the US Dollar Store, this ink is anything but low quality. If you are a beginner at calligraphy, you probably do not have that much of a budget to splurge on supplies. This affordable Japanese ink is more than enough for practice and even for serious use.
2. Higgins Calligraphy Ink
The Higgins calligraphy ink is a bit on the loose side but it allows it to flow continuously and evenly. However, you will need to use rather thick paper to keep this from bleeding through. You can add a bit of gum Arabic in your inkwell to improve the consistency if you want it to be a bit thicker.
This ink also dries relatively quickly and leaves a semi-gloss sheen. This is great for when you are writing on card stock and thick paper. The ink is also waterproof once dried, so it is also great when you want to put a wash on top of your calligraphy, or if you use it for drawings that will be colored in later.
We will be discussing further how this ink does with dip pen calligraphy, but you should know that this is great for brush calligraphy. The ink is loose and watery, allowing the brush to soak in a lot of it. I’ve been dabbling in brush painting quite a bit and I discovered that this ink is one of the best for this kind of project.
Another thing about this ink is that because it is so loose, it works well for fine-tipped fountain pens. I use this ink in my piston fountain pen and loading it is quite easy. It also flows out smoothly. When it came to fountain pen use, this did not disappoint.
Now, on to calligraphy use. I found out that it is way too watery for dip pen calligraphy. I had to add a bit of gum Arabic to improve its consistency and keep it from dribbling off the nibs. One more thing to note is that this ink is not black at all. If anything, it is dark gray when it dries.
- Flows smoothly and does not clog the nibs
- Dries to a semi-glossy finish and is waterproof
- Just the right consistency if you will be doing brush calligraphy
- Works great for fountain pens
- Not black at all but dark gray
A bit too loose – This makes it necessary to use a bit of gum Arabic to keep it from bleeding.
3. CODACE Calligraphy Ink
Calligraphy should not just be black, blue, red, and sometimes white. I like using colored inks to give my calligraphy projects a bit more depth, like giving my flourishes different colors.
This set of colored inks is nice because it contains 24 different and distinct colors, which is more than enough for what I usually do. Now, if ever I decide to do ink painting, I would have all the colors I need.
This ink set is ideal for use on glass pens, which means they need to have just the right consistency. The ink should be thick enough to grab onto the nib, and yet loose enough to flow off it.
When it comes to the colors, this set of calligraphy dip pen ink boasts of vivid pigmentation. You can easily tell the different shades of colors apart from each other. Even the yellows show up clearly on white paper, unlike other inks and paints that I have used before. This set has the best white calligraphy ink I have used so far.
Now, since these inks are water-based, they are not waterproof at all, so when they get wet, they will bleed into the paper. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing because you can also use this ink like you would regular watercolor, but with more vivid colors.
The only issue that I have with this set of inks is only in terms of the metallic inks. The glitter suspended in the inks tends to clog the tips of nibs, especially the fine ones. On the other hand, if these inks were purposely made for glass pens, this problem should not be an issue.
- Contains a good number of colors, including a couple of metallic calligraphy ink
- Good viscosity – It flows nicely off nibs and brushes
- Vivid and semi-transparent colors
- Water-soluble, allowing you to use them like watercolors
- The glitters in the metallic ink tend to clog the fine nibs
- The rubber stoppers that cover the bottles are a bit hard to remove
This set of colored inks is mainly for glass pens, but they can still work well with regular steel nibs. However, you need to clean your nibs thoroughly after use as the inks easily stain the metal.
4. Yidege Chinese Calligraphy Ink
This is one great option for black ink for calligraphy, specifically for Chinese calligraphy, which means you will be dipping a brush into this ink. However, I did find that this is also passable ink for calligraphy dip pens. I usually add a splash of water in the inkwell and it will loosen the ink just enough to make it flow nicely from a nib.
As mentioned earlier, this is great for brush calligraphy, especially Chinese or Japanese styles. The ink coats the brush head evenly and allows the bristles to form a sharp point.
Another great thing is that this ink has a nice, deep black color. This is not quite as dark as India ink, but it is very close. Even when diluted with water, the ink still leaves a very clear and distinctly black line when it dries. This ink is also archival quality so you can expect it to last for many years without fading or discoloration.
Because this ink is quite affordable, I would often use it to practice my calligraphy, and I would usually use cheap copy paper. Now, even when using thin paper, I noticed that it still does not bleed through. The pigment stays on the surface and does not penetrate that much through the paper, which is quite impressive.
I do have a couple of complaints. First, the ink has a faint chemical smell. It is not that strong but you can still smell it when you open the cap. Speaking of the cap, it easily broke. I was always careful when popping off the cap, but the plastic is so thin and brittle that it easily cracked.
- Nice consistency, assuring users of a good flow without clogging the nibs
- Works great for brush calligraphy
- Incredible deep black color
- Goes on paper well without bleeding
- Has a faint chemical smell
- The bottle’s cap broke easily
This ink is specifically for brush calligraphy, so you might need to dilute it a bit with water if you are using calligraphy pens. Overall, you are getting a good quality ink that is a fraction of the cost of top branded inks, like Winsor and Newton calligraphy ink.
5. JapanBargain 1980 Japanese Calligraphy Ink
The nice thing about many Japanese products is that aside from being affordable, they are also still of impressive quality. Take this ink, for example. I bought this thinking that I would only be using it for practice. However, I was quite surprised by how good it worked. The ink is ready to use right after opening.
This India ink calligraphy is primarily for brush calligraphy and it works great for it. The ink provides great and consistent coverage. Even the broad brushstrokes are opaque and have very little feathering. When used for pen calligraphy, the ink always comes out evenly and without skipping.
I also liked how this ink has very minimal bleeding even when used on thin paper, like rice paper or parchment. It is nice how the pigment would just sit on the surface of the paper and not bleed through the fibers. Even when I use it for practicing my calligraphy on cheap paper, I would see very minimal bleeding.
Another thing that I appreciate about this product is how easy it is to clean off the nibs and brushes. This is a water-based ink, so you just need to rinse it off under the tap.
As mentioned, this ink is water-based; hence, it is not waterproof. This means whenever you are doing calligraphy, set your cold beverage a good distance away from your workspace. If even a small drop falls on your lines, they will immediately smudge the ink.
- Has a good consistency that is just right for brush and pen calligraphy
- Provides great coverage and has a deep black color
- This does not bleed, even when used on thin rice paper or parchment
- Easy to clean off brushes and nibs
- Has a weird chemical smell
- This is not waterproof calligraphy ink. It will smudge when it gets wet
True to the brand name, you are getting a good bargain with this ink. Even though it is one of the most affordable inks that I have tried, I feel that this is good enough for serious projects and even for some paid work.
6. ZZKOKO Calligraphy Ink
Each of the 12 different colors in this set of colored calligraphy ink had amazing vibrant colors. If you would like to try doing calligraphy with colored inks, which you should, then you would like this set of vibrantly colored inks. I recently started adding colored flourishes to my calligraphy and I am liking them so far.
All the inks in this set are water-based, which means they are not waterproof, unfortunately, but it also means that you can use them like you would watercolors or washes. You can dilute them as much as necessary until you get the shade that you like.
The consistency of these inks is also perfect for use in fountain pens. Aside from calligraphy, I also like to journal, and of course, I primarily use fountain pens. I would sometimes switch the colors of the inks I use for journaling, depending on what mood I had that day.
For a water-based product, this ink sure does have good coverage and dries mostly opaque. When I use it undiluted, like when I am doing calligraphy, I could not see the paper underneath the ink unless I am using the lighter colors. It is like I am writing using acrylic paints.
Now, here is something that you need to know about this set – it does not come with black ink. You will receive one of the best silver calligraphy inks, but you will need to buy a separate bottle of black ink in case you need something to draw outlines with.
- Has 12 vibrant colors of ink
- Water-based inks – You can also use them in the same way as watercolors
- Has just the right consistency for dip pens and fountain pens
- Dries quickly and is mostly opaque
- Does not come with a black ink
- Horrible packaging – Some bottles leaked and lost a good amount of their contents
Whether you like colorful calligraphy or want to try your hand in ink painting, these inks would be great for your needs. Whether you are using dip pens, glass pens, or brushes, you have a guarantee that you will have fun using them.
7. MEGREZ Yidege Practice Brush Calligraphy Ink
This ink is from a Chinese company, which means it is very affordable, but don’t judge it just by those merits alone. When it comes to quality, this ink is not that bad. I even discovered that it is quite nice. I have almost emptied an entire half-liter bottle and I have very few minor complaints. I will be buying another bottle once this one is gone.
I loved that it is ready to use straight out of the bottle. Whether you are doing brush calligraphy or using dip pens, you will realize that the consistency of this ink consistency is just right. I would sometimes dilute the ink with some water just to get a slightly grey tone when I am doing ink paintings, but other than that, I use the ink as is.
The blackness of this ink is still not quite the same as real India ink but it is close. To the untrained eye, the differences between these two inks once dried are very negligible. As I mentioned earlier, whenever I am doing ink paintings, I have to dilute this ink just so I can make it less dark.
Here is another surprising fact about this product. It is of archival quality. This means that even after many years have passed, this ink will not fade or get discolored. This is quite surprising because the price of this ink is comparable to regular water-soluble inks.
The only rather big problem that I have with this product is that it has a rather strong smell. I like the smell of ink, but even I have a hard time liking the smell of this ink. I suggest opening a window when you are using this for calligraphy practice.
- Provides plenty of ink for a reasonable price
- The consistency is quite good – works great for brush calligraphy
- The blackness of the ink is excellent
- Archival quality ink – will not fade once dried
- Has a very strong smell
- Takes a while to dry but not by that much
If you can withstand the rather strong smell of the ink (or just open the windows), I think this rather affordable bottle of ink is ideal. It works not just for practicing your calligraphy but also for use on commissioned pieces if you plan on selling your art.
8. Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink
Dr. Ph. Martin’s is the ink of choice used by professional calligraphy artists and this set of colored inks is not an exception. These inks are incredibly lightfast, meaning they do not fade even when exposed to direct sunlight. Also, once dried, these inks are completely waterproof. These will not smudge or bleed when wet.
Although this is a set of Bombay inks, I am happy to say that they are more suitable for painting. I often use them for ink paintings by adding a bit of water to a drop or two of ink. This results in watercolor-like effects.
However, unlike watercolors, once a layer of ink dries, you can no longer go over them with water to wash the color further.
Although this set is more suitable for painting, that does not mean they are not good for calligraphy. However, instead of the usual dip pens, I often use glass pens with color inks. They are just much easier to clean. If you will be using steel nibs, you will need to use separate pens for each of the colors you are planning to use.
Another nice thing about this product is that the colors on the labels are highly accurate to the hue of the ink. If you are at the point where you are still choosing which colors to use for your project, you do not need to make swatches. Just base your decision using the colors on the bottles.
As mentioned earlier, you can use these inks for calligraphy. However, you need to mix them with a bit of Arabic gum to give them a slightly thicker consistency. The reason is that right out of the box, these inks are a bit too runny for calligraphy use.
- Extremely lightfast and waterproof
- Can be diluted with water to achieve a watercolor effect
- Ideal for use with dip pens and glass pens
- The colors are true to the label
- Some of the colors are too runny for calligraphy – You will need gum Arabic for consistency
- Difficult to clean off brushes and nibs
This ink set is more suitable for ink paintings rather than pen calligraphy. With that said, I do not mean that these will not work with dip pens. You can still expect them to work but they are a bit hard to clean off the nibs.
9. Xi Ling Yin She Calligraphy Ink
This is one of the best gold calligraphy ink brands that you can use if you are interested in brush calligraphy, especially the Chinese or Japanese variations. Straight out of the bottle, which by the way has a convenient pour cap, the ink already has a texture and consistency that is just right for brushes.
This ink comes in gold and black. I got both, but I am a bit more impressed with the gold ink. It shows up nicely on dark-colored paper while providing excellent coverage. Even if you dilute it to make it flow better for ink pens, the gold ink would still be thick enough that you won’t see the paper underneath.
Speaking of the color, it is consistent. This means that you will not see patches without any color in your strokes. The pigment is evenly distributed in the ink that you do not even need to shake the bottle before pouring out the ink. Even when I use this for dip pen calligraphy, the color remained consistent throughout.
Both the black and gold ink are archival quality. I cannot attest how long this ink will last since I have only been using it for a couple of months. However, I can say that this ink does not fade easily even when left under direct sunlight for hours a day.
Now, this might scare off potential buyers, especially newbies, but this ink smells horrible. If you are using this, make sure that you are in a well-ventilated room and that you are upwind of the inkwell. If horrible smells cause you to experience nausea easily, this ink might not be for you.
- Has a nice velvety texture that is great for brush calligraphy
- The gold ink has a nice metallic sheen
- Boasts of consistent colors
- Does not fade because the ink is of archival quality
- Requires users to dilute it a bit with some water if used with dip pens
- Has a horrible and overpowering smell
If you will be using this ink for whatever project you have, open all the windows in the room. Make sure that it is downwind from you. If not for the excellent quality and value that you will get from this ink, I would not bother using this because of the smell.
10. KenTaur Calligraphy Bottle Ink
If you are tired of the noxious-smelling calligraphy inks, this will be a refreshing new experience. One of the things I liked about this product is that it has a nice, subtle blueberry scent. I did not notice the scent too much at first, but when I managed to write an entire page, I finally got a good whiff.
The color is bright and it has good coverage, which is nice for water-based ink. However, you might notice some slight streaking when you are using a wide nib and writing on white paper.
I also liked how this ink is readily usable for fountain pens. Unlike other inks I have used, this one does not need dilution to make it flow from a fountain pen nib. I am using this ink on a fine-tipped fountain pen and it flows out smoothly onto paper. Also, unlike some of the colored inks I have tried, this one does not clog the nib
If you like using inks as a medium for painting, this product works well. I tried using it for a monochrome ink painting and because it is water-soluble, I was able to get multiple shades just by adding more water. The results looked very similar to watercolors. You can also wash them out further once dried, which is nice.
However, I was initially disappointed when I first tried using this ink. The reason is that this “blue” ink is more aquamarine. You will notice the slight green tinge in the ink when you are using this for ink painting, and it is not subtle.
In addition, this ink is a bit too thin for dip pen calligraphy. I had to mix some Arabic gum into the ink to give it more consistency.
- Has a nice scent with a hint of blueberry
- Has a bright color and good coverage
- Works well with fountain pens
- Water-based inks, which makes them ideal for painting
- A bit too watery
- The color is more aquamarine than blue
I was a bit disappointed with the color being a bit too greenish for my tastes, but it does have a quirky color that some people might like. Also, the blueberry scent is quite nice compared to the other horrible-smelling inks out there.
What to Look For When Buying a Calligraphy Ink
There are so many different brands of inks out there that it can be challenging to pick just one. So, to make your choice a bit easier, here is a quick guide on shopping for calligraphy ink.
What are you Using?
Will you be using a dip pen, glass pen, a brush, or a fountain pen? Depending on which writing tool you will be using for calligraphy, you will be basing your choice of ink on it.
For instance, if you will be using a dip pen, the consistency needs to be a bit thick, or at least thick enough that the nibs’ reservoirs can hold them. On the other hand, if you will be using mostly fountain pens, loose and free-flowing ink is better.
What Kind of Calligraphy are you doing?
If you are doing Chinese or Japanese calligraphy, then you would mostly be using brushes to make your art. This makes it necessary to use inks that have good consistency.
Meanwhile, if you are doing classical Western or Arabic calligraphy, you will mainly be using dip pens, and sometimes, even fountain pens. With that in mind, you will need the ink to be somewhat loose and watery.
The Color Intensity and Coverage
If you can, make a couple of test pages using the ink that you are thinking of buying. If you will be paying a good amount for it, it should look like how you want it. For instance, if you are searching for black ink, it should be absolutely solid black and not just dark gray.
In terms of coverage, when you write anything using ink, you should not be able to see the paper underneath.
Many calligraphy enthusiasts say that they just love the smell of a fresh bottle of ink, and I say that it is an acquired taste. If you are a beginner the strong smell of calligraphy ink might be enough to dissuade you from the hobby.
Since you are just starting and mainly looking for a bottle of ink to practice with, look for the ones that have the least odor, or at least one that you can tolerate.
Professional-grade calligraphy ink is not that expensive at all. However, if you go through bottles just for practice, then costs will add up. Since you are just practicing your craft, consider using ink made in China or Japan. I usually use budget store inks from Japan as they are usually nicely tinted, archival quality, and very inexpensive.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where to buy Calligraphy Ink?
You can buy calligraphy ink in most stores that offer school supplies and stationery. You do not even need to get ink specifically for calligraphy. The reason is that almost all brands of pen ink are fine for that purpose.
Is Calligraphy Ink Toxic?
Most brands of calligraphy inks are non-toxic. However, some of them also contain a lot of iron, which makes them harmful when consumed.
Calligraphy can be a fun and relaxing hobby, especially if you have the right ink. It does not matter if you have calligraphy pens, markers or brushes. If you are using the wrong kind of ink, your writing will not look right.
Although you will need to sort through a lot of options, finding the best calligraphy ink is not necessarily that hard. The entire process can also be fun at times. For most calligraphy artists, the hunt for the best ink is never-ending. There will always be times when you will see a better ink than what you are currently using, and that is okay.