View Full Version : Testing Paper -- Bigger Effect from Pen or Ink?

September 18th, 2015, 08:09 AM
I guess this is mainly a question about paper, but it's kind of a pen/ink/paper combination, so mods should feel free to move this if they deem appropriate. To keep this relatively short, I have a bunch of pens, inks (samples and cartridges), and papers that I've been trying out. There are differences in the resulting writing, of course, but what's the primary cause of them? I realize that line width is mostly likely nib size, but what about things like feathering, bleed- or show-through, dry time, etc.? To simplify things a little bit, let's fix the paper type: on a given paper, what differences in the resulting writing are due more to the pen, and what are due more to the ink? I realize there are differences between papers, but since I'd like to use a bunch of different pens and inks in each individual notebook, I'm trying to work out whether less-ideal results are more because of the pen or the ink. Since I have a lot of pen/ink/paper combinations already with lots more possible, it's not easy for me to do systematic tests, meaning it's a little hard for me to tell the cause of differences. That's why I thought I'd ask here and see if I could get some help. Thanks!

September 18th, 2015, 04:31 PM
Can I additionally ask how you might know in advance what to expect from an ink or ink/paper combo without trying it first? What to look for to indicate what effects may be before buying, not including reading reviews.

September 18th, 2015, 08:01 PM
It's complicated: different nibs behave often differently on different paper, and different inks may result in wider or narrower lines on one paper, but not on another. That's the fun of it: some inks spread, but not on all papers. Some inks are wet on one paper, appear drier on another (and not necessarily only on a more absorbent paper) In other words: It's complicated!

September 20th, 2015, 11:08 AM
I'm not expecting to know the exact result of a particular pen-ink-paper combination without trying it. I've been testing my currently inked pens in a few different notebooks and seeing what happens. For example, I see that my one fine nib pen with a matching brand ink cartridge generally doesn't have any bleed-through to the back of the paper, while a different brand medium nib pen with a different, non-matching brand bottled ink generally does. So the first example is a good combination for my notebooks, but the second one isn't. Then the question is: Is that second case more likely to be a result of the pen or of the ink? In other words, which is more likely to give a better result: the same ink in a different pen, or the same pen with a different ink? I'm trying to get an idea of how to get better results when I already have some initial results.

From inklord's post, it kind of sounds like there isn't any clear way to tell, which is unfortunate. I'd really rather not have to play a complete guessing game. And a full test of every ink in every pen on every paper I own isn't possible right now -- I simply don't have enough ink for that (all of my bottled inks are sample-sizes). Even if I did, it would probably take a lot of time since I'd want to use up each converter-full of ink rather than possibly wasting ink just to change inks in the same pen right away. And waiting to use up ink could leave me with a bunch of poor combinations that I have to deal with for some time. If there's no way around that, I'm starting to think that I'll end up going back to matching ink brand with pen brand and not experimenting much beyond that, and then if a particular pen/ink combo isn't very good in general, taking the pen out of my active rotation. Sure, playing around with this could be fun, but I don't think it's something I want to spend a ton of time on.

Jon Szanto
September 20th, 2015, 11:24 AM
There may be a lot of variables, but - frankly - I don't think it's that hard to get down to some basic pens and inks that should serve you well in most situations.

To understand the pens you own, I'd start with a very, very standard and accepted ink. Maybe a Waterman ink, for instance, or even a plain Sheaffer blue or something. Middle-of-the-road, no frills ink. Try it in a number of your pens. The two biggest areas of interaction that the pen imparts are the width of the nib and the flow. If you have a very broad nib, or you have a pen that flows a lot of ink, you are going to have a lot of wet stuff on the paper. You need to take that into consideration. If you write with an xxf nib, you aren't going to be laying down a lot of ink on the page.

Correspondingly, after you have gotten a good idea of how much ink your individual pens put down on the page, you can then try to match inks that you like (or that interest you) with the appropriate pen. You don't even have to get samples of all of them - one of the nice things about the age we live in is that you can see peoples comments and reviews on inks all over the place. Whether it is ink reviews here, or FPN, or in the comments of the online retailers, look for feathering, for bleed-through, and the other areas that might concern you. People will describe an ink as wet, or dry, and knowing those characteristics can help you match inks to the pens you own (and have, in step one, become better acquainted with).

Finally, it is well and good to think about these issues, but it all comes down to trying it out, and honestly, you'll still need to play around with things. You've got so many variables, and I'm sorry, but none of this is terribly cut-and-dry. You can always find one or two very standard, well-behaved inks and just go with those. But a big part of the fun is finding some special ink for a pen that wants to shine in a certain way, and eventually finding that relationship can totally make the journey worthwhile.


September 20th, 2015, 01:49 PM
Dronak, ytou're on the right way already, just as Jon Szanto said - you're trying inks out! With just two inks you already got one combo good to go! Ink samples help with trying out without spending a fortune on ink-never-to-be-used.