The Difference Between Fountain Pen Inks And Calligraphy Inks

It’s easy to get some things about the Fountain Pen and the Traditional Calligraphy pens confused. I mean, they both use nibs and they both need refilling when it comes to ink. While there are similarities with both types of pens, it’s important to know the distinctions between them, especially with the ink. Not knowing these distinctions can be a costly mistake.

What’s The Difference Between Fountain Pen Ink & Calligraphy Ink?

Fountain pen inks are dye-based inks, while Calligraphy inks are usually pigment based inks. Calligraphy inks tend to be thicker or more viscous than fountain pen inks as they use binding agents to make the ink adhere more to the nib. These binding agents cause blockages if used in fountain pens.

I placed an interactive infographic at the bottom that outlines our recommended fountain pens for beginners, you might want to check it out!

While fountain pen inks and calligraphy inks share similarities in that they are both water-based inks and both inks rely on capillary action to work. However, these similarities don’t necessarily make them interchangeable.

Fountain pen inks are mostly dye-based inks. This means that to make fountain pen ink, you need to dissolve dye into the water, breaking them down into extremely small particles that have a reduced chance of blocking the feed (the part of your fountain pen that supplies air and regulates ink flow). Once the dye is successfully broken down in the water, the ink can now flow freely, without the concern of particles blocking the parts.

However, since dye is water soluble, the ink will not be waterproof. This will mean that getting your paper or work wet can cause the ink to run and smudge the writing, effectively ruining it. Also, exposure to the sun may cause the ink to fade.

To avoid this, there are a variety of fountain pen inks that can be used to safeguard your work.

Inks like “bulletproof ink” or “Iron-gall Ink” are both water-resistant and archival, which means you can store it and not worry about the ink fading and turning into blank papers. There is a caveat, though, as not cleaning your fountain pen when using these inks can cause it to rust or clog.

There are also pigment based fountain pen inks but not cleaning the pen or long storage time can cause irreversible blockages.

Calligraphy inks, on the other hand, are more pigment-based. This means that there are larger particles in the ink that creates the color, as the pigments are made from ground materials like husk and soot. Adding the larger particles inside the ink, as well as binding agents such as gelatin and shellac, calligraphy inks are much thicker than fountain pen inks.

There are even some inks that you can mix yourself, grinding up an ink block and mixing the water yourself to have full control of the ink’s viscosity.

While not completely water resistant, calligraphy inks fare better with time and wear, almost being permanent when kept in a dry and dark place. Sumi Ink and India Ink are waterproof, however, and can be used as archival inks.

Below is a table of commonly used types of fountain pen and calligraphy inks:

Fountain Pen InksDye-based Inks
Iron-gall Ink
Bulletproof Ink
Pigmented Ink
Calligraphy InksSumi Ink
Walnut Ink
India Ink

For more on the pros and cons of the different fountain pen inks, click here.

Can You Use Calligraphy Ink In Fountain Pens?

You cannot use calligraphy Ink in fountain pens. Since calligraphy ink is pigment based, once the ink dries in the feed of the fountain pen, it will result in a blockage. Once the blockage occurs, it cannot be fixed until the feed or the whole fountain pen is replaced.


There are two things that can cause blockages in your fountain pens if you do:

  1. The pigments in the ink
  2. The binding agents in the ink

As mentioned above, fountain pens usually use dye-based inks to make runny ink that can pass freely through the feed of the fountain pen. The dye particles are broken down so small that it has a reduced chance of blocking your feed, and ultimately your fountain pen.

How about pigment based fountain pen inks?

These pigment based fountain pen inks can still ruin your pen. If left inside your fountain pen for about a month or longer, these inks can dry and cause blockages or even corrode your fountain pen.

As for binding agents, gelatin or shellac will definitely block your fountain if it dries. These binding agents are waterproof, meaning that once they dry in your pen there is no going back. The will harden like cement clogging the finer passages of your feed.

Can You Use Fountain Pen Inks For Calligraphy?

Fountain Pen inks can be used for some traditional calligraphy dip pens like the pointed pen and the broad edge pen; However, many find fountain pen inks too thin. The effect of using fountain pen ink is that the ink may be too runny and difficult to control and write with.

The main drawback for fountain pen ink being used in calligraphy is the consistency of the ink.

For calligraphy ink, you want it to be thick and have a high level of viscosity for it to adhere to the nib and the paper. This viscosity makes it so that you have more control of the ink once it gets on the paper. It also dries with a bolder, more vivid color compared to other inks.

While using fountain pen ink with dip pens aren’t necessarily bad for the nib or the pen, the result will be you continuously dipping your pen in the ink container or bottle. Furthermore, once you get it on the paper, the ink might just thread and smudge as the flow isn’t as controlled as with a fountain pen.

Fountain Pen Ink Tip:

To use fountain pen ink with traditional calligraphy pens like a dip pen, try adding some gum arabic into it until it thickens into the consistency you prefer.

Gum arabic is a solution that you add when you opt to make your own ink using an ink stick and a grinder. This helps you control the viscosity of your ink, and helps you get the sweet spot in terms of thickness.

Here’s the interactive infographic I promised, feel free to swipe left or right!

I’ll throw in an infographic you can share with your friends who want to start calligraphy as well!




Jm here! I run the Scribbler Planet website. If you're new to bullet journals and journaling, I think I can help you out. I've always had problems with keeping on track with what I'm doing, so when I heard bullet journaling could help I tried my hand at it. Here we are about a year later and I'm glad to say it significantly helped. Here's hoping I can help you do the same!

Recent Content