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Never Mix Two Different Inks?


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I'm a newbie to this site although I've been a pen enthusiast for years. Recently I purchased a bottle of Jacques Herbin Rouge d'Orient ink which I love. I'd never before tried their products. I was surprised that right on the box there was a warning: "Never mix two different inks!" This company has been around since 1670, when Louis XIV was 32 years old--so they obviously know a thing or two. But are they right? And if so, why? I have a few inks that are wimpy and too dim for my liking and would love to try adding something darker to make them more virile. How does one know whether to take a chance or not, especially with a fine pen?

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The biggest danger is if one ink is acidic and the other alkaline -- they may react forming precipitates.


Though inks that are wide apart in pH even if both acidic or both alkaline might also have some reaction. If the pH values are within a few points and on the same side of neutral (7), it might be feasible.


And then there are the inks sold as "mixable" sets.

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In theory you CAN mix inks -- within reason. But it's a good idea to not put the mix into a pen until you see how the inks interact. Even within the same brand....

A few years ago someone decided to make the (for her) "perfect" blue-black ink, and mixed Noodler's Black (standard line) with Noodler's Bay State Blue (which are ONLY supposed to be mixed with the other Bay State inks, due to the pH of that line); and the person *immediately* inked up a pen, and posted photos of the results. The photos weren't pretty.... The two inks never really did mix (some lines were in black, some were in blue, and a few places they actually mixed. But then the inks bonded and came out of the pen in CHUNKS.... I cringed when I saw the photos. That's why I end up being more than a little OCD about flushing pens out between changes of inks -- and why Bay State Blue gets its own dedicated pen (currently a Noodler's Charlie eyedropper).

Some people have made successful mixes, but they always let the mix sit in a sample vial for a day or two to see how the inks work together, or if there's a bad interaction between the pH levels.

I don't bother mixing inks, myself, because there are so many amazing colors out there, and so many different brands. Additionally, some inks work better in some pens than others because of the wetness or dryness of the ink in combination with the wetness or dryness of the nib and feed.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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I really enjoy mixing inks. It is one of great things about writing with real fountain pens. ----- I almost always, mix a very small amount at first to "try it out." ---- Often some mixes become "pour out" ink. --- I can remember only one time when a mixture turned out to be really, REALLY bad. --- Often the mixture is fine, but the color just does not "speak to me." ---- They also become "pour out ink." (not well written, excuse me, in a hurry


Remember, be careful. ---- Small amounts at first until you find a winner. ---


C. S.

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I trial mix inks not by mixing them before filling... but by putting them into 2 pens. As you write with one, stick the nib tip of the other into the nib breather hole of the first. Keep writing and the colour will change. Once colour has ceased changing, remove the piggybacked pen and keep writing until colour reverts to original. If there's one particular shade you like in the mix, the distance it occurs along the line makes good estimate of the % mix you need.


No idea what happens if inks go chunky. Never yet happen for me. :)

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When I first started mixing inks, I found some helpful rules that kept me out of trouble until I knew a bit more.


#1 - Use inks from the same manufacturer

#2 - Use a separate vial to mix inks in

#3 - Never mix in your pen

#4 - Mix well in the vial and let sit for a couple of days, then observe if there is any precipitate, odor, unintended color, etc.

#5 - Use a less expensive pen until you are certain of the outcome of the mixture.


Recently, I decided to mix two inks from the same manufacturer. I had a small amount (perhaps .3 ml) of one color - a heavily saturated purple - left over in my TWSBI Eco. But I wanted to lighten it up, and decided to use a light blue-grey ink. I had used both inks before and never had any problem with either. So, I threw caution to the wind and violated rule #3. I just added about 1 mL of the second ink to the pen, and violated rules #2 and #4. I wrote a few lines with it then put the pen away. A couple of days later, I opened my pen case and noticed this strange green, shiny stuff on the inside of my TWSBI and the ink was thicker than the original inks. When I removed the cap, I noticed the same stuff all over the nib and feed. Under closer examination, it was a shiny green precipitate that actually came from the purple ink, since it had a green sheen to it. It took me two days to clean out the ink from the pen, and now the feed and barrel is stained a reddish purple. I have learned my lesson and will go back to the "rules".

"Today will be gone in less than 24 hours. When it is gone, it is gone. Be wise, but enjoy! - anonymous today




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I have mixed inks for years (mainly to tone down bright colours) and I've never had a problem with the formation of precipitates. Only one of my mixtures (Parker black with Waterman purple) resulted in the tiniest amount of a floating precipitate (you have to look for it, to see it). The mixture works fine in the pen.


The advice given by others above (e.g. don't mix the ink in the pen itself) is no doubt good advice, but the chances of irretrievable damage being done to the pen by the reckless mixing of inks is remote. That said, I'd be more careful with one of my favourite pens, than with a cheap and cheerful one.

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Even with the same manufacturer, you can have problems, such as the one with the person mixing a Bay State Series Noodlers ink with one of the Noodler's Standard line inks.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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I have never mixed two inks and came away with the thought, 'Wow, I am glad I did that'. The worst that happened was that the ink sepearated in the bottle by next morning, clear water at the top with jello gloop underneath.

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I mix to get something I can't otherwise obtain and, sometimes, to salvage an otherwise never to be used again color. Blurple and Binder Burgundy are mainstays. My wife has a mix of Violet Vote and Noodler's Purple in her daily carry pen and loves it. I mixed Diablo Menthe and Lierre Sauvage for years to grade drafts of student papers. I follow DrDebG's rules for new experiments and have never damaged a pen.


I taught chemistry for a few years and, after school administration prohibited me from making "touch powder" to demonstrate formation of a precipitate, resorted to mixing slightly diluted samples of BSB and Noodler's Black. Nasty stuff resulted.

Dave Campbell
Retired Science Teacher and Active Pen Addict
Every day is a chance to reduce my level of ignorance.


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I mix test combinations in small plastic vials, observe over time for any signs of precipitation and adverse behavior, and test in easy-to-clean pens. I only mix within the same line/brand of inks. So far so good. The worst that happened was a mixture where the final color was not stable: shifted toward gray after a few weeks, more muddy hue. I also dilute some ink with water for a lighter color: for example I prefer diluted KWZ IG Green Gold for a nice water-resistant olive green.

Edited by Intensity

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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Some time ago I used Diamine Teal exclusively for a period, then decided I needed a bluer teal. I purchased several samples of various RO, Sailor, Iro and KWZ inks to dip test, the remainder of which I dumped into the Teal bottle. That was two years ago. I have added a bit of this and that to it in the interim.


No preciptate, no explosions. I use the ink in a dedicated WS 698 for note taking.

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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As long as I have been using fountain pens (50+ years) I have been mixing inks. Other than ending up with some truley revolting colors, I have never experienced a problem.

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