Author Topic: Screaming About Inks  (Read 387 times)

Offline Chessie

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Screaming About Inks
« on: May 25, 2023, 04:44:09 PM »
I need to vent, briefly, about some of the various inks I've tried lately because...AHHHHH.  Please take all of this as my badly informed, only been doing calligraphy for 6 months feelings and opinions.  Also feel free to tell me I'm wrong, because having people point out how I'm wrong has been very helpful.  P.S. all of these were tested on 32 lbs HP paper and Clairfontaine Triomph, mostly with a Mitchell nib sans reservoir.

Speedball India Ink - I can't tell exactly what this is for, but 'not for calligraphy' appears to be the short answer.  On a Mitchell nib without a reservoir it dribbles and flows unpredictably even with a drafting table at 45 degrees.  With a reservoir it fusses and clogs.  Add even a drop of water?  Sploosh. A bit of gum arabic?  Solid mass.  Gum Sandarac powder?  A messy nib tip and uneven distribution.

Pilot Black Refills in a Parallel Pen - Why is this stuff so thin? It feels like using a laser-pointer to write on all but the roughest papers.  Pilot Parallel's are great for practice, but the refills I picked up from Michael's feel just plain *weird*.  The one that came with the original pen wasn't like this.  Maybe I just got a bum batch?

Walnut Ink - I have stained every surface near me and cannot figure out what to clean them with.  My family thinks I have been part of a strange genetic experience to cross-breed a person with a dalmatian. 

Etsy Chinese grinding inkhttps://www.etsy.com/listing/621898646/chinese-painting-ink-stick-oriental-ink?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=japanese+ink+stick&ref=sr_gallery-1-2&frs=1&organic_search_click=1 - I genuinely thought I'd been delivered a sexual aid by mistake when I opened the box.  It's *enormous*.  My ink stone was barely big enough to make this worth using and it is rooough ink.  When I say rough, grinding it looks like there's dandruff floating on top. 

Kuretake Saiboku colored inks - I adore this set of inks, but goodness they're expensive for some very, very small ink-sticks.  That said - the sumi-inks included with this set are super, super smooth.  No notes, just wish it was bigger and cheaper...kinda like my ex boyfriend.

Hukaiwen off Amazon - This has become my 'go-to' ink.  It's not expensive.  It's not super smooth.  It's not perfectly easy to grind.  It just works very consistently and I never get a stick that's cracked half-way up or flaking when it arrives. 

Ranjyatai - From John Neal Books.  This is, far and away, the best ink I've used so far.  It's bizarre how good this stuff is.  It flows smoothly, grinds easily, smells great, and if memory serves it's *painfully* expensive.  Like 'Ow, my wallet, ow' type expensive.

Shanghai 101 - You ever get a tool and realize suddenly that you are way under-qualified to use it?  That was my immediate sensation from Shanghai 101.  This stuff feels like some kind of high precision instrument and I'm going to carefully put it back in its box and put it somewhere I can't touch it until I'm a much, much better calligrapher. 

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Screaming About Inks
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2023, 05:37:57 PM »
This is the funniest post I have read in a LONG time!  ;D

Iím not one for experimenting much with inks. I stick to the ones that have worked for me (which is good and bad). Youíve mentioned a couple I must try now.

I learned early on to steer clear of Speedball India Ink. I have had many a Parallel Pen ink that bleeds. Itís more like Fountain Pen Ink. Which is really interestingÖ donít know what kind of paper they think we are writing on with fountain pen ink but it definitely bleeds.

I tried making my own Walnut Ink out of crystals once Ö once. It was a mess! And I never got the consistency right. So I stick to my Nortonís Walnut Drawing Ink.

Thanks for giving me a good laugh!  ;D
Truly, Erica
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Offline K-2

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Re: Screaming About Inks
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2023, 02:51:45 AM »
Hi, @Chessie - I have a little experience with some of these inks; maybe you'll find it helpful. Pedantry ahoy, @Zivio

This might be a bit of an information dump, so apologies if it's not your jam. I'm really into the composition, chemistry, and properties of ink though. Lol, @Erica McPhee - I'll do all the experimenting for you!

Speedball India Ink - I can't tell exactly what this is for, but 'not for calligraphy' appears to be the short answer.  On a Mitchell nib without a reservoir it dribbles and flows unpredictably even with a drafting table at 45 degrees.  With a reservoir it fusses and clogs.  Add even a drop of water?  Sploosh. A bit of gum arabic?  Solid mass.  Gum Sandarac powder?  A messy nib tip and uneven distribution.

"India Ink" is essentially what the western colonizers call sumi ink - "India" because it came from the Far East. It's a soot based colloidal suspension, often with shellac added as a binder. Because it's a colloidal suspension, it doesn't always take well to doctoring. I'm not a fan of any of the formulations sold as "India Ink" for calligraphy, but I like it as a drawing ink, because it's waterproof and opaque (for lines and for fill), and cheap. I spent a lot of time doing India ink illustrations with a crow quill nib, learning the basics of cross-hatch shading and composition. Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star India Ink is my go-to brand for this purpose; I think it out-performs Speedball.
* ps never ever put it in a fountain pen; it will permanently jam up the gills of the feed and ruin it forever.


Pilot Black Refills in a Parallel Pen - Why is this stuff so thin? It feels like using a laser-pointer to write on all but the roughest papers.  Pilot Parallel's are great for practice, but the refills I picked up from Michael's feel just plain *weird*.  The one that came with the original pen wasn't like this.  Maybe I just got a bum batch?

So the better off-the-shelf formulation for Parallel Pens is the "Mixable Color" refills: https://www.jetpens.com/Pilot-Parallel-Pen-Refill-12-Colors-12-Cartridges/pd/967. They're different from the regular Pilot ink cartridges.
* I guess I would hesitate to put them in any other sort of fountain pens, since they are specifically formulated for the Parallels. Honestly though, I usually refill the empty cartridges with other fountain pen inks - especially the high shading and/or exceptionally shimmery inks. I love the way they meter out the shimmer.

Maybe here's where I put in a word about paper? That 32lb HP is great practice paper for pointed pen, but it doesn't always stand up to the demands of broad edge calligraphy, because broad edge pens lay down exponentially more ink. It works fine for regular fountain pens that put down regular amounts of ink, but Parallel Pens are just super duper juicy. Clairefontaine or Rhodia will work better with Parallel pens filled w/fountain pen ink. If I'm using fountain pen ink with a dip pen (like a Mitchell) on 32lb HP or something similar, I'll usually add a little gum arabic so that it sits on top of the paper while it's drying. If I really want to be sure nothing bleeds, I spray the paper or card-stock with matte fixative beforehand. For broad edge calligraphy, I like a paper with more tooth than those super smooth ones, even though I use them for practice. When I get to my final drafts, I go for watercolor paper or Bristol board.


Walnut Ink - I have stained every surface near me and cannot figure out what to clean them with.  My family thinks I have been part of a strange genetic experience to cross-breed a person with a dalmatian.

Huh. I don't find walnut ink particularly staining as long as I get to it before it dries - maybe hit it with a little ammonia-based cleaner?
@Erica McPhee - I think the crystals are amazing for travel I don't worry about them in my luggage, and they're so cheap. Have dinky dip + walnut crystals; will travel!. It helps to have a very small implement to transfer the crystals neatly into a dinky dip - a vintage snuff spoon is just the thing.

And as for the ink sticks....
Etsy Chinese grinding inkhttps://www.etsy.com/listing/621898646/chinese-painting-ink-stick-oriental-ink?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=japanese+ink+stick&ref=sr_gallery-1-2&frs=1&organic_search_click=1 - I genuinely thought I'd been delivered a sexual aid by mistake when I opened the box.  It's *enormous*.  My ink stone was barely big enough to make this worth using and it is rooough ink.  When I say rough, grinding it looks like there's dandruff floating on top. 

Kuretake Saiboku colored inks - I adore this set of inks, but goodness they're expensive for some very, very small ink-sticks.  That said - the sumi-inks included with this set are super, super smooth.  No notes, just wish it was bigger and cheaper...kinda like my ex boyfriend.

Hukaiwen off Amazon - This has become my 'go-to' ink.  It's not expensive.  It's not super smooth.  It's not perfectly easy to grind.  It just works very consistently and I never get a stick that's cracked half-way up or flaking when it arrives. 

Ranjyatai - From John Neal Books.  This is, far and away, the best ink I've used so far.  It's bizarre how good this stuff is.  It flows smoothly, grinds easily, smells great, and if memory serves it's *painfully* expensive.  Like 'Ow, my wallet, ow' type expensive.

Shanghai 101 - You ever get a tool and realize suddenly that you are way under-qualified to use it?  That was my immediate sensation from Shanghai 101.  This stuff feels like some kind of high precision instrument and I'm going to carefully put it back in its box and put it somewhere I can't touch it until I'm a much, much better calligrapher.

Okay - so the quality of sumi ink (and the price) stems from the size, uniformity, and source of the soot particles. The smaller and more uniform the particulates, the better quality and more expensive the ink is. And the better the ink performs for painting - on rice paper and on silk. Remember, ultimately, all these sumi inks were developed for brush calligraphy and painting - not for metal nibs; so when we use them for western calligraphy (broad edge or pointed pen), we're getting an extremely limited sense of their qualities. I think there must be a break-even point for the size of the soot particles where they don't perform any better for what western calligraphy demands of them. Hmmm. this might make a good lab experiment.

Some antique/ancient Chinese ink, made from pine soot, has never been matched for the incredible fineness and uniformity of the particulates. That's why Donald Jackson insisted on sourcing vintage ink sticks for the Saint John's Bible.

That "Shanghai 101" is a descendent of that tradition. Extra-finely milled, creamy, dense color payoff, with a warm/brownish undertone and beautiful shading.

The Ranjyatai ink is made out of the same rare, fragrant wood used for incense - which is why it smells great, grinds great, and costs so much. It has a cool/bluish undertone and beautiful shading.

I haven't used the other ink sticks you mention (my father never thought I was good enough to merit using the colored inks, and then I left home and went to college and got corrupted by the decadent Western influences).

But hey, that is a very BIG STICK. But now you see it is not the size of the stick, but the size of the particulates or the soot balls that matters most. I'm searching for a Carbon60/Fullerene/Bucky-Ball joke in there somewhere. [why yes, my teenage sons find me utterly mortifying. why do you ask?]

Offline JanisTX

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Re: Screaming About Inks
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2023, 09:28:10 AM »
OK! I know that I am the only one. I ďgetĒ that!  But for reasons known only to God & the universe, I love Noodlerís ink! I know that it is a fountain pen ink.  I know that it is not really intended for pointed pen calligraphy. Why?? I dunno! Itís the ink that I first used when I was learning Copperplate. I find it to be very reliable. I use it everyday! It bleeds on loosely bonded paper. (That drives me crazy!). BUT, otherwise I find it to be very reliable!

So, my advice to you is to find an ink that you love and that loves you back! 😃. Itís out there, just waiting to be discovered!

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: Screaming About Inks
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2023, 04:34:35 PM »
I have a little experience with some of these inks; maybe you'll find it helpful. Pedantry ahoy, 

This might be a bit of an information dump, so apologies if it's not your jam. I'm really into the composition, chemistry, and properties of ink though.

Love it.
So. @K-2 , aka "Inkmaster," two questions:

I've bought a "Col-o-ring" to save samples of my burgeoning ink supply. As you put new samples on the ring, do you group them in colors (roygbiv, for example) or in some other way?

I have two of the Inkvent calendars plus some larger bottles of those inks,  Do you store them in the original boxes? Add to that, 24 bottles of Dr. Martin's ink (fortunately still in their original circular trays), and a myriad of individual bottles of all sorts of inks.  How have you organized your inks so you can find what you want?




Offline K-2

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Re: Screaming About Inks
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2023, 01:11:27 AM »
@AnasaziWrites - are you going to make me expose myself as a deranged ink hoarder? (I prefer to think of it as thoughtfully arranged ink hoarding)

@Chessie - I fully endorse the advice @JanisTX offers (rather like relationships): find one you love, and hang on tight.
If I were to name my one true ink, it would probably be Parker Quink in black (a fountain pen ink, like JanisTX's favorite). We had a thread about our favorites a little while back.
* Desert Island Ink: https://theflourishforum.com/forum/index.php?topic=7330.0
On the other hand.... so many inks. so little time.

Mike - I keep my ink samples of full-size bottles in one Col-o-ring bundle (in roygbiv order), roughly corresponding to how I have them shelved. I have another Col-o-ring bundle just for Inkvent inks (I have all three sets); and a third, smaller bundle for the metallics, browns, greys, blacks, and special effects inks.

Here's a picture I drew of my ink cabinet a little while ago - it is now well past capacity, and my carpenter friend is making me another one with more specific storage for those little 12ml Inkvent bottles. I keep sumi sticks in their original boxes in a box with my ink-stones, bottles of sumi, walnut crystals, and assorted other mixing and painting tools.

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Screaming About Inks
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2023, 04:09:42 PM »
I am in awe. That is fantastic!!!
Truly, Erica
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Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: Screaming About Inks
« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2023, 09:16:21 AM »
So, my advice to you is to find an ink that you love and that loves you back! 😃. Itís out there, just waiting to be discovered!
Agreed.
For me, it's McCaffery's Penman's Black.

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: Screaming About Inks
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2023, 09:30:45 AM »
@AnasaziWrites - are you going to make me expose myself as a deranged ink hoarder? (I prefer to think of it as thoughtfully arranged ink hoarding)

Deranged? No. Rather Appreciative of many kinds of ink. And how could I accuse you of being a hoarder, when I have a pen and 100 nibs for every bottle of ink you have.
Quote
Mike - I keep my ink samples of full-size bottles in one Col-o-ring bundle (in roygbiv order), roughly corresponding to how I have them shelved. I have another Col-o-ring bundle just for Inkvent inks (I have all three sets); and a third, smaller bundle for the metallics, browns, greys, blacks, and special effects inks.

Here's a picture I drew of my ink cabinet a little while ago - it is now well past capacity, and my carpenter friend is making me another one with more specific storage for those little 12ml Inkvent bottles. I keep sumi sticks in their original boxes in a box with my ink-stones, bottles of sumi, walnut crystals, and assorted other mixing and painting tools.
Interesting. I was thinking the morning before you posted, that I would build or buy just such a cabinet/shelving for my inks. Unfortunately, I have virtually no wall space or flat surface upon which to put such a cabinet, having three walls with large windows and the fourth covered floor to near ceiling with book cases filled with books and other things. Deserves further thought.
 

Offline Chessie

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Re: Screaming About Inks
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2023, 11:20:03 PM »
So, my advice to you is to find an ink that you love and that loves you back! 😃. Itís out there, just waiting to be discovered!

I do love a specific brand of middle of the road ink stick.  I'm deeply imperfect as an ink grinder, but it can get some lovely, tight little serifs and it keeps pretty comfortably for up to 24 hours without settling straight to the bottom of a dinky dip. 

As weird as it might sound, I genuinely enjoy just using broad edge calligraphy to write.  It slows me down and necessitates thinking through each word as well as taking breaks very regularly, every few sentences, to stretch my fingers and feet.  I can sit and fill a page with words that would take about 5 minutes with keyboard, but forcing it to take a few hours and be pretty is deeply satisfying to some holistic part of the mind. 

Using an ink I don't worry about spilling or under-grinding because it's cheap enough I can grind it thick just lets it become an act of creativity without being a practice.  I practice enough.