Our fellow fountain pen enthusiasts often ask us for advice recommending pens for high-maintenance inks, such as ones with heavy pigment, lots of shimmer, sheen, or water-resistance.
We've composed several solid recommendations based on varying ink properties to help you find the perfect fountain pen for your favorite inks.
What is a High-Maintenance Ink?
The vast majority of fountain pen ink is dye-based, but there are a select few that have pigment added to them. These pigments are physical particulate in the ink that dry on the surface the paper when applied, which is good for mixed media art.
A heavily pigmented fountain pen ink features a physical pigment in liquid suspension rather than a liquid dye, which is what conventional fountain pen inks use. It's almost like putting flour in water – it never dissolves but always stays in suspension.
These inks are usually made with the intent of permanence, not necessarily a visual feature, making these inks more of a utility.
Pigmented ink can have some desirable properties for lightfastness and permanence, though they’re additional maintenance. These particulates can clog up your feed, especially if the ink is allowed to dry out in the pen, so you'll want to stay on top of your cleaning regimen when using pigmented ink, or just clean out the pen as soon as you're done using this ink and don't leave it sitting in there.
It’s not always clear which fountain pen inks have pigment in them, so we always try to include this with the pigmented inks listed on our site. It’s best to use pigmented ink in pens that don’t dry out easily or in less expensive pens you don’t care about as much.
*Note: Pigmented inks are all water-resistant, but not all water-resistant inks are pigmented.
Shimmer inks are just regular liquid dye inks with glitter added. But, the shimmer particles don't stay in suspension for long. An excellent comparison for shimmer inks is high-pulp orange juice. When you shake the orange juice, it's ready to go, but settles quickly.
You can agitate your pen to stir up the shimmer particles in your ink reservoir, but that glitter can still find places to hide within your feed which could lead to clogging so more regular maintenance is required with these inks.
An ink with lots of sheen is one that looks shiny on paper. When it dries, a top layer of sheen separates from the rest of the ink to give the surface a colorful shine at certain angles, often in a different color.
The sheening dyes for this type of ink are notorious for clinging to fountain pen feeds.
Inks with a heavy sheen have a ton of dye, which gives them a unique look but makes them flow differently. Usually, they tend to dry out faster than more conventional inks.
Fountain Pen Recommendations
Although using high-maintenance inks in your fountain pens might make cleaning them tedious, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy their unique qualities! In fact, Organics Studio Nitrogen is one of the craziest sheening inks out there and has been our top seller for years.
To help you reduce some of the challenges of high-maintenance inks, we recommend three pen partners that will dance nicely with even the most cantankerous of fountain pen inks.
The Dedicated Pen
One way to mitigate mess from high-maintenance ink is to have a dedicated fountain pen for their use. This has been a popular method of dealing with inks on the more grandiose side. The most popular pen for this is the Platinum Preppy.
The Preppy is very affordable, meaning that if one day you decide you're done with it, you can do so with no repercussions. You can easily clean this writing tool and switch out inks if necessary, but sometimes just knowing that you have the freedom to cast something into the phantom zone makes trying out a crazy ink a little less intimidating.
On another note, the Preppy's cap seals really well and helps keep sheening inks prone to drying out nicely moisturized.
You can purchase a converter for a Platinum Preppy, but they're more on the expensive side. If you're trying a pigmented or shimmer ink, buying the converter is worth it because it's fairly easy to disassemble and clean. However, if you try an ink packed with dye and prone to staining, it would probably be best not to permanently stain your fancy new converter. Suppose you make this your Organics Studio Nitrogen or Noodler's Baystate Blue pen. In that case, I'd recommend refilling a cartridge or converting this pen to an eyedropper using some O-rings and silicone grease.
The Maintainable Pen
Another pen well-suited for unruly ink is the "Maintainable" pen, which can be effortlessly taken apart.
TWSBI pens are great examples of fountain pens manufactured with user serviceability in mind. These writing instruments can be taken completely apart, which makes them an outstanding choice for shimmer inks because no matter where those little glitter bits choose to hide, you can find them. The only downside is that the feeds are a bit fragile. When you pull those out, make sure you don't grab them right at the fins. Instead, grip the nib and feed at the sides, as far back as possible. Once your TWSBI is disassembled, you can use some pen flush and a toothbrush and get all its parts 100% clean.
TWSBI pens also have caps that have a superb seal for those often-dry inks with loads of sheen. As for shimmer inks, TWSBI offers a plethora of clear pens with large ink reservoirs so that you can clearly see when your shimmer particles have settled in your pen. This can help give you a visual cue to remember to constantly spin your pen so that the shimmer bits don't fall into a sad pile of pizzazz and your writing maintains an evenly distributed amount of shining, shimmering splendidness.
In addition to TWSBI, it's also relatively simple to fully disassemble small-batch pens made by companies like Edison and Franklin-Christoph.
The Easily Replaceable-Part Pen
The last type of fountain pen we think is a great choice to co-pilot your favorite drama queen inks are pens with easily replaceable parts.
Fountain pen brands like Edison and Franklin-Christoph have a nib and feed from JoWo, a German company that's one of the most prominent nib manufacturers in the world, that are easy to replace. You can buy a nib unit and thread it into your fountain pen or get a new nib by itself. The other notable part is the converter, which is standard international, meaning it's common, affordable, and easily accessible. If you stain that converter beyond salvation, it's no big deal. If your feed becomes eternally bonded with Organics Studios Nitrogen sheen, again, no worries. Those two parts are the only pieces in regular contact with your ink, and you can quickly get new ones. This is handy for replacing parts and keeping a nib unit and converter as a "dedicated" setup for those crazy-colored inks. Many small businesses make acrylic pens like these brands, and any of them will be just as user-friendly as replacement parts.
Apart from these small-batch fountain pens, some larger brands have pens that contain easily replaceable parts. The Conklin Duragraph is a great example. This pen ranges in price from $60-$80 and allows you to purchase various additional nib units. This tool also takes the same standard international converter mentioned earlier. TWSBI pens also offer separate nib and feed units.
Summary & Additional Notes
As far as which nib sizes are best for showing off properties like shimmer and sheen, the broader, the better. More ink on the page means a faster flow, and that's usually a good thing to keep these inks moving. Plus, there's just more cool-looking ink on the page that you get to enjoy! Writing often with these sorts of ink is also a good idea. None of the ink types mentioned here are ideal for leaving alone for a few months. However, if you do, following these tips should help you be less frightened when you have to clean it.
Now that you've learned what high-maintenance inks are and which fountain pens are best to use with them, check out our selection of more than 750 different inks. Write on!