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The UK's 5 best white calligraphy inks

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photo of the various white calligraphy inks
photo of the various white calligraphy inks

I have long been a convert to Dr Ph Martin's Bleed Proof White™ as the best white calligraphy ink. But over the last year, I've been introduced to two new products, so I thought it was time to pull open the bottom drawer and surround myself with my white ink options, some of which needed little more dusting than others.

Find out what's in my white calligraphy ink stash and how they fit into my work. There are more white inks I'll be adding to the review (I'm keen to try out W&N calligraphy ink as reviewed by The Postman's Knock), but, for now, these are my top 5. The details are correct at the time of publishing.

#1 Dr Ph Martin's Bleed Proof White™

1 fl. oz / 29.57ml £9.49 (buy from Scribblers)

close up of dr ph martin's bleedproof white calligraphy ink
close up of dr ph martin's bleedproof white calligraphy ink

It feels a little unfair to include Dr Ph Martin's Bleedproof White because for so long it has been incomparable. Consistently and reliably creating bold downstrokes and fine hairlines, I have never questioned or even strayed far from using this product as a white calligraphy ink.

It is supplied in a very thick fluid form, which requires you to dilute to the right consistency. I usually mix with water (you can either do this in the supplied pot, or transfer to another container) until it's runny enough to write, but not so runny that it slides right off the nib. Others will call this the texture of heavy cream, and I guess that would be about right! I got a great tip from Suz Cunningham's Calligraphy Master's video that suggested if the ink was bit too thick to write, you could simple dip your nib tip in water to get the flow going. It works for me every time.

Watch the video of me writing calligraphy with Dr Ph Martin's Bleedproof White

#2 Dr Ph Martin's Pen White

1 fl. oz / 29.57ml £9.95 (buy from Scribblers)

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In May 2017, Lauren from Oh Wonder Calligraphy brought Bleedproof's sister, Pen White, to our attention.

Of course, I leapt aboard the Pen White train, but my first impression was that it was a little too thick and globbed all over my paper. I think I might have just needed to shake it like a polaroid picture as the image included above was written straight from the bottle just fine. If you're really having trouble, you could add a little water or gum arabic to get it to the right consistency.

Watch the video of me writing calligraphy with Dr Ph Martin's Pen White

#3 Gouache

15ml (W&N - £4.99 Amazon.co.uk / Horadam - £8.45 +pp Amazon.co.uk)

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I've never met a paper that gouache cannot perfectly suit. Where other inks bleed or pool (often unexpectedly) on certain card stocks, gouache has always come to the rescue. I recently had a limited number of customer-supplied place cards to calligraph, and my first attempt was a complete shambles when the ink when skating across the page at first nib touch. I mixed up gouache and was able to carry on without losing any more of the cards.

Gouache is so versatile for use across different lettering styles and on different textures and surfaces, and can be used to mix gorgeous unique colours, so it will always be one of my best white calligraphy inks. In the image I've included, the mix was a little too watery, but don't let that put you off. Just ensure you've got a creamy consistency and you're set.

A fantastic tip I received from Tina Warren of Alphabition Calligraphy is:

I use permanent white gouache for using as pure white and zinc white for mixing with colours.

Watch the video of me writing calligraphy with white Gouache

#4 Winsor & Newton Drawing Ink

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14ml £3.50 (buy from Amazon.co.uk)

Winsor & Newton's white drawing ink was one of the first calligraphy purchases I made when I had no clue what materials I needed, so I just bought stuff that seemed relevant. Ink, yep. That should do it. But, of course, it's never that simple is it? Not all inks are created equal. I quickly relegated this ink to the box, fast to be forgotten until right now. It was useless for creating fine hairlines. I wasn't going to give it another chance, but seems I couldn't part with it either.

So, here we are, and with vastly more experience behind me, I can say that there's now not an ink I won't do battle with. Four years ago, I was looking for inks that I could use for delicate copperplate calligraphy. Now, my repertoire and confidence has expanded so that I'm more willing to try an old ink on a new application.

While I don't find this ink useful for copperplate script due to consistency issues (I *could* spend time trying to get it to work with gum arabic or distilled water, but when I already have other excellent options, I just don't need to) there's nothing to stop it from being a fantastic go-to for brush lettering work. It's not as opaque as some of the others, but lettering with some transparency definitely has its charm. Or, unlike with nib work, you could easily do a second layer with the brush to get a more opaque finish.

I plan to test W&N calligraphy ink, as recommended by Lindsey over at The Postman's Knock.

Watch the video of me writing calligraphy with W&N white drawing ink

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#5 Herbin White Ink

10ml (part of a set of 5 inks) £13.95 (buy from Bureau Direct)

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The Herbin set of inks has been awaiting a review for an embarrassingly long time. Dominic from Bureau Direct (home of my favourite calligraphy paper) kindly sent them to me just before my second daughter was born in June 2017. I'm writing this in May 2018. I'll be honest, I did briefly set about testing the inks back in 2017, but realised that they would need more work than I had time for then.

I will do a more detailed review of its metallic counterparts, but for the purpose of this article, I will say that, like the W&N drawing inks, these inks are best suited for brush lettering. They come in liquid form, making it easy to get going with the brush immediately. Though these pigment-heavy inks need frequent shaking as the pigment quickly settles to the bottom. Also, they would be a great way to pen a letter quickly using one of the sturdier nibs (such as the Nikko G), where you don't need to worry about pressure creating thicks and thins — you can create monoline handwriting as though using a pen, but with much higher opacity pigment.

These inks are not suitable for delicate pointed pen work. They are dense and do not allow for fine hairlines required.

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Watch the video of me writing calligraphy with Herbin White Ink

What's your best white calligraphy ink

Are you a Bleedproof fan like me, or do you use something I haven't even mentioned?

I've already heard from @simonethessa on Instagram in response:

My favourite white ink is North Wind White from Ziller Ink. Scribblers sells it! I like it so much because it’s waterproof and perfect for envelopes 💌 It’s an acrylic ink and you have to clean your nib more often in between, but I don’t mind. I somehow never get a nice consistency with Bleed Proof White....

Share your thoughts in the comments. I'd love to chat ink.

A note about links

The prices and links in this blog post are provided for ease of comparison, and most of these should be available by a number of suppliers. If you choose to buy from Scribblers or Amazon.co.uk via the links here, I will receive a small percentage of the sale. Thank you! 

SuppliesStudio Team