This is not meant to be a definitive list of waystations where you will come to rest in your inky journey. You may not visit all of these places. But I've seen people say that each of these is where they are.
In no way do I presume or mean to suggest that any of these places is better than any other place. No matter which of these you may be in, or what inks you're crushing on, I regard you with fond affection. For one thing, I've crushed on inks before myself. For another, these are all matters of taste. De gustibus non disputandem.
- You mean there's COLORS???!?!?!??
A lot of people think of pens as only having four colors: black, blue, red, and (maybe) green. I am pretty sure that there are currently over a thousand different fountain pen inks on the market, and no two are quite exactly alike. (Okay, except for Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black and Cross Black.) Some people respond to this discovery by obtaining every ink that catches their interest. It's driven by a love for novelty, and sometimes also by a bit of acquisitiveness.
- Blackest Black EVAR!!
This one is pretty common. You think your writing ought to be like unto a collapsar or a hole in the page, from which no light shall ever escape. I've been here myself, and bought a bottle of Noodler's Borealis Black to scratch this itch. Others blackest blacks that are often mentioned are Aurora, Sailor Nano Black, Levenger Raven Black, Noodler's Black, and Noodler's Heart of Darkness.
- Brightest Colors EVAR!!
Amberlea Davis lives here, joyously. It's marked by a preference for retina-searing colors, high saturation, and inks that POP! The ink should (metaphorically) leap off the page and slap you for attention! Private Reserve and Noodler's both have numerous inks to scratch this itch.
- My writing shall be preserved for EVAR!!
Many inks fade. Some fade quickly. A few fade even if they are not exposed to light. Some become illegible with only the slightest of splashings. Nathan Tardif made his original Noodler's Black ink to resist any chemical assault that would not also destroy the paper (and some that would). He called this level of resistance "bulletproof." This sort of archival-level durability is found not only in Noodler's bulletproof inks, but also their Warden inks, nano-pigment inks, De Atramentis' Dokument line, and MontBlanc Permanent Blue. Bear in mind that not all of Noodler's "bulletproof" inks are completely photoresistant.
- I'm in love with [color]!
The color varies from person to person. Maybe you've never thought about using it before, or you even disliked it a bit, but now all the variations on this theme are enchanting, and you want them all. So you buy a bunch of different inks in a particular color family, such as gray, or burgundy, or blue-leaning purples, or whatever, because for whatever reason, it has become the most fascinating color there is.
- Quest for the perfect [color].
You're not happy with one of your ink colors (blue is a fairly common contender; member Shawndo once bought over 250 different blue ink samples in his quest), and now are seeking just the one ink that is exactly what you want in that color. You buy samples and mix them incessantly, trying to get just the right balance of color, saturation, and behavior.
- Oooooh, shady!
Shading is the result of varying amounts of a relatively unsaturated ink in your writing. Where there is more ink, the line is darker and more saturated. Your writing shows some variation in shade. Some people find themselves unwilling to use or buy any ink that doesn't shade. The effect is enhanced by a sloped writing surface (causing excess ink to all flow in the same direction) and paper that is relatively slow to absorb the ink, giving it time to puddle.
- Oooooh, sheeny!
Inks are usually combinations of several dyes, and they may spread across or through the paper at different rates. This shows up in slight color variations across your writing; halo effects are common, and it can also show up around puddles, like shading. This sort of variation is often best viewed at an angle, especially by photographic equipment. We call this sort of thing sheen. Again, a less-absorbent paper usually enhances the effect.
- Oooooh, subtle!
This is what happens when you are no longer impressed by super bright, super brilliant, super saturated inks, and you want something with a hint of this, a slight undertone of that, or is quite different depending on the pen or paper you're using. More than once, I've seen people wax eloquent or affectionate over dusky purples, muddy greens, greenish browns, and "stealth" blacks with a hint or undertone of some other color.
- I just want it to work!
This is when fussiness becomes the bane of your existence. You can't abide by inks that feather, inks that dry up, inks that make your pens sputter, inks that gush, or otherwise misbehave.
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As for myself, I'm in a bit of an odd place, the center of a Venn diagram including I Just Want it to Work, You Mean There's COLORS?, and My Writing Shall Be Preserved For EVAR!! I call it the Six Essential Inks for Writing.
The Six Essentials began with the idea that some colors are good for writing, and others are not, because they detract from legibility. For me, the telos of writing is that it is meant to be read. The ink used should not detract from that.
I asked myself, which color families should be an essential part of the ink wardrobe? Which colors are so bright or pale that they inherently difficult to read on the vast majority of paper? Which colors do I just not want regularly to write with? I want them to be dark enough for easy reading. This largely excludes red, turquoise, orange, pink, yellow, and sufficiently pale anything.
Brightest Colors EVAR!! is a requirement for inks used for markup and editing, not inks used to write things others would be expected to read. If you are writing corrections and suggestions on a printed document, you want those to be impossible to miss, and clearly and instantly recognizable as such. This is the right and proper use of reds, oranges, bright turquoise blues, sky blues, 00FF00 green, magentas, fuchsias, and pinks.
I was looking, more or less, at the traditional ink color families. The colors had to be dark enough for good contrast on typical paper colors. I also wanted each ink to be distinctly a member of its actual color family. If darker versions of the color are called something else, then those were regarded as a different color family. For example, when you lighten reds up, they cease to be reds and are instead called pinks. When you really darken an orange, it usually winds up being a brown. And so on.
The result was six essential colors: black, blue-black, purple, blue, green, and brown (there's COLORS?). I don't worry too much about water damage, but I do want fade resistance (preserved for EVAR!). And while I don't have to have ink that never feathers or balks, it shouldn't do either very much (I just want it to work!)
Of course, I have to actually like the colors involved in each. At this time, I don't really like burgundy, and I regard gray as a betrayal of black. (Just you wait, in a few years, I'll crush on one or both of those colors.) I have inks that fulfill my needs for several of the Six Essential Colors.
Black: Noodler's Heart of Darkness. It is everything-proof, plenty dark enough to read, never fades, and has never given me any trouble. Odds are very good that it will be the next black I buy. Of course, I'll have a hard time making myself buy it when I have bottles of MontBlanc-Simplo Black with SuperCleaner SC-21, Parker Permanent Black Quink with Solv-X, Noodler's Borealis Black, and Noodler's Bad Black Moccasin to use up first. And I may decide that some pens require a more traditional aniline dye only ink (e.g. my Sheaffer Pen for Men II), such as J. Herbin Perle Noire or Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black.
Blue-Black: This one is narrowed down, but not quite there. The two contenders are Pilot Blue-Black and Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo. Tsuki-Yo is probably closer in color to what I think of as blue-black, but Pilot Blue-Black is a true workhorse. But I may never even bother; I may decide that what I ought to be doing is mixing that bottle of Noodler's VMail Midway Blue that's not quite deep and dark enough for writing and not bright and bold enough for markup with some black or other to see what I get.
Purple: Purple inks can be surprisingly fugitive. In my last fade test, no fountain pen ink faded faster than my bottle of Waterman Purple. Right now, I have a four-way fade-off going between samples of DeAtramentis Aubergine, Diamine Damson (currently the top contender), Noodler's Purple Martin and Noodler's Violet. We shall see how it goes. Or I may adulterate that Waterman purple with a little bit of red, a little bit of blue, and a little bit of black.
Blue: I am using Noodler's Blue. If I run out (and use up the so-called Waterman Florida Blue and Blackstone Blue Cashmere that I also have), I may choose Blue Eel instead, as my pen for blue ink is a piston filler, and the two look very much alike.
Green: Diamine Sherwood. It's a medium-dark green that actually lightens up a bit as it dries. I am really fond of it, especially since I bought an 80ml bottle without getting a sample first.
Brown: I recently traded for a sample of Iroshizuku Yama-Guri (and got some Noodler's Walnut in the bargain). I just might prefer something a little warmer, but if I decide I like the sample, that will be enough to settle on it. Its fade and water resistance have both been amply demonstrated, it is (like nearly all of Pilot's Iroshizuku inks) highly praised for its good behavior, and hey, I really do want all my inks to just work.
So that's where I am in my inky journey. I came here with the hope and intention that it will be my final destination, but just as I could not promise I will never crush on greys or burgundies, I cannot promise that I will never decide that the Six Essentials are too constraining, or too dull, or otherwise unsuitable.
So where are you on your inky journey?