Olive & Reid Studio


Luxury calligraphy London

Easy-to-find calligraphy inks in the UK

20140727-linthelLike everything with pointed pen calligraphy — particularly modern calligraphy — your ink choice comes down to a number of various factors. You need to consider:

  • the paper you're writing on
  • your personal style of writing
  • the quality of the ink

As a newbie to calligraphy, I have a lot to learn, and I found a really comprehensive review about inks over at The Calligraphy Pen that's worth a read. My approach here is by no means scientific, but I hope gives you an idea of the different kinds of inks that are available for you to try out yourself. I'd love to hear your experiences and favourites.

My favourite calligraphy inks

In doing this exercise, I've narrowed down my favourites (for now. It changes as I go):

  1. Speedball. It's one smooth criminal
  2. Winsor & Newton (calligraphy ink)
  3. Daler Rowney Calli
  4. Gouache mixes
  5. Pelikan 4001 (a good practice workhorse)

The paper I've used

Different papers will take ink differently. Some will bleed, some will catch, and some will be so smooth you won't want to stop writing. I'm still in the process of investigating paper variants, so for this exercise, I've used:

You'll see that two inks in particular didn't sit so well on the laser paper (Higgins [non-waterproof] Sepia and W&N Nut Brown). I'll review how they sit on vellum (Rhodia) paper soon. The review I linked to earlier highlights that the Higgins Eternal is a better option for calligraphy.

The inks I've used

I've used the variety of calligraphy and drawing inks I've collected over the last six months. I go into more detail about them beneath the images, including where you can buy them online*, and my experience in general (if worth noting) with them on this type of paper.

In general, I wouldn't recommend using the W&N drawing inks (use the calligraphy inks instead) as they don't have the pigment that you need. And please excuse that I've spelt "Winsor" and "Pelikan" wrong in my examples... duh.

*Note: where I've linked to a product, an italicised link indicates that I haven't had experience ordering from that company yet.

Black, brown and metallic ink

20140727-inks-lgHiggins and Windsor & Newton inks

Speedball and Windsor & Newton metallics

Windsor & Newton gold and silver

Ink Colour Type Where to buy
Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black Fountain Pen Ink (non-waterproof) Amazon.co.ukScribblersThe Pen Company, Cult Pens
Speedball Superblack India Ink Waterproof Amazon.co.uk, Blots Pen & Inks, ScribblersSAA
Winsor & Newton 951 Black Indian Ink Permanent Blots Pen & Inks, Cass Art, Jackson's
Higgins Sepia Non-waterproof Try Higgins Eternal instead Amazon.co.uk, Scribblers, Blots & Pens
Winsor & Newton Nut Brown Water resistant drawing ink Cass Art, Blots Pen & Inks
Speedball Gold Super pigmented acrylic Blots Pen & Inks
Winsor & Newton Gold Water resistant drawing ink Amazon.co.uk, CornellisenJackson's
Winsor & Newton Silver Calligraphy ink (non-waterproof) Blots Pen & Ink, CornellisenSAA, Jackson's

The Higgins and W&N nut brown inks are definitely not friends with the quality of paper I was using. They are better on Rhodia (vellum) paper, but I think there are better alternatives from the same brands.

Although I prefer the finish of the W&N gold better than the Speedball gold, it's just too hard to write with. The fine hairline upstrokes are virtually impossible to make smoothly.

Blue, purple and green ink

20140727-inks-1-lgSpeedball and Calli blue inks

W&N violet and green, Schmincke gouache mix

Ink Colour Type Where to buy
Speedball Blue Super pigmented acrylic Blots Pen & Inks
Daler Rowney Blue Waterproof Amazon.co.ukBlots Pen & Inks, Turners
Winsor & Newton Violet Non-waterproof Jackson's, Cornellisen's, Blots Pen & Ink
Winsor & Newton Green Non-waterproof Jackson's, Cornellisen's, Blots Pen & Ink
Schmincke helio green bluish & white Gouache (Horadam) Cornellisen's, Scribblers Blots Pen & InkSAA

I've just learnt that a Schmincke 'calligraphy' gouache is available. I do find the one I'm using to be a little scratchy, so it would be interesting to see if the calligraphy version is smoother.

White and metallic inks, watercolour and gouache

20140727-inks-3-lgWatercolour, gouache and Speedball gold

Ink Colour Type Where to buy
Dr Ph. Martin's Bleedproof white Amazon.co.uk, Blot Pens & InkJackson's
Winsor & Newton White Watercolour (with pointed pen) Amazon.co.uk, Cornellisen's, SAA
Winsor & Newton White Watercolour (with brush) Amazon.co.uk, Cornellisen's, SAA
Schmincke White Gouache Cornellisen'sScribblers Blots Pen & InkSAA
Speedball Gold Super pigmented acrylic Blots Pen & Inks
Winsor & Newton Gold Water resistant drawing ink Amazon.co.uk, CornellisenJackson's
Winsor & Newton Silver Calligraphy ink (non-waterproof) Blots Pen & Ink, CornellisenSAA, Jackson's

Lettering in the leaves

And now, here's our fun gallery of words in the weeds, calligraphy in the coriander, lettering in the lettuce, writing in the rosemary. Enjoy.

Black, brown and metallic calligraphy ink.

Blue, violet and green calligraphy inks

White and metallic calligraphy inks

SuppliesKate Watson