Waterproof Ink In Fountain Pens For Watercolor Painting
The world of fountain pens is quite a rabbit hole, and purchasing one can seem overwhelming and intimidating. There are a lot of options, a huge range of cost and quality, and oh then there are all of the inks.
I'm not going going to pretend I'm a fountain pen expert - I'm not. But I do enjoy having them as a component of my travel watercolor supply kit.
In this post I am specifically going to talk about using fountain pens with waterproof ink for watercolor painting.
Why Waterproof Ink?
Using waterproof ink will allow you to watercolor over your sketches or writing. This is a technique used a lot in Urban Sketching, Illustrated Journaling, and mixed media. Also, if you enjoy embellishing envelopes or hand-written letters with watercolor, waterproof ink is a must.
If you are using water-soluble ink, which is generally the standard in most fountain pens, it will run the moment water touches it. It is extremely frustrating to complete a drawing and go to add color - only to have the ink lines bleed all over the place. Using waterproof ink solves this problem, but it needs special attention in your pen.
Choosing the Right Pen
First, think about how you will be using your pen. In our case, we want something that can survive traveling around in an art kit and that is compatible with waterproof ink. Here are some points to consider:
- For a fountain pen you'll be both sketching and writing with, and carrying around with you, you will want a balance of quality and utility.
- Try to avoid spending so much money on a fountain pen that you will feel sick over losing or breaking it, as is an unavoidable possibility when traveling.
- Think about the quality of line you want: Thick or thin? Variable line width or not?
- What is your budget?
Disposable fountain pens are available, but you lose the luxury of switching out your inks. Copic makes a decent waterproof fountain pen, which I have used. This is my recommendation if you are on a tight budget.
If you have a flexible budget, I would suggest a fountain pen in the $50 - $200 range. You want it to be high enough quality that it works beautifully, but the extra status-symbol frills are only a liability when traveling and using your pen for art (as opposed to document signing).
The flexibility of the metal nib is what determines the line width variation possible. I like a nib that is reasonably stiff for sketching, but with a broad tip so the line is more juicy than scratchy. A 'Medium' or '0.7' tip seem to work best.
I feel most comfortable selecting a pen that is known to be compatible with waterproof ink. Look to see if the manufacturer offers waterproof ink options.
Using Waterproof Ink In Your Fountain Pen
Waterproof ink is just that: waterproof. This means it is more difficult to clean up than regular ink - or your watercolors. A fountain pen containing waterproof ink needs some extra awareness to stay in working condition. Here are a few tips:
- Be aware of where your ink is when it dries. If it dries somewhere you don't want it, it will require some extra work to clean up.
- Store you pen with ink in it so that it doesn't dry out. A pen with an empty or nearly empty ink cartridge is much more likely to dry out and leave the feed and inner workings of your pen gunned up with dried ink, which can clog it.
- When reasonable, store your pen point down or on it's side. BUT. Know your pen! Some fountain pens are prone to leaking, so storing them tip down can create a big mess!
- Don't store your pen unused for long periods with waterproof ink in it. When it contains waterproof ink, try to use your fountain pen regularly, or clean it out before storing.
Really, using waterproof ink in your fountain pen is just about awareness. You don't have to do much differently, just remember that cleaning up waterproof ink is more of a hassle and take a few small actions to avoid it.
When Your Fountain Pen Gets Clogged: Troubleshooting & Cleaning
I am rather hard on my art supplies. I USE them. And so I learned all of this the hard way when I stored my fountain pen point up with an empty waterproof ink cartridge in it for months without touching it. If you go to use your fountain pen with waterproof ink and it won't write, here is what to do:
- Dip it in water and give it a go on smooth paper. Just use regular computer paper to test it.
- Check the ink. Make sure the cartridge is fresh and not dried out.
- Remove the cartridge and run some warm water into the section (the pice at the grip that the cartridge feeds ink into). Then lightly try to blow the water through. It should come out of the tip and air should be able to pass through. Try not to get ink all over your mouth!
- Soak the section and tip in a cup of water.
- Take apart the tip of your pen. The feed and nib are generally friction-fit into the section (grip). Grab a rubber kitchen pad or a few paper towels and slowly work the nib and feed out of the section. Rinse all of these pieces in warm water and use a stiff brush to gently clean them. Then reassemble them and blow some water through.
- If you see little flecks of ink coming out in the water then you can assume you're making some progress.
- If none of this works, contact your pen manufacturer for their recommended pen cleaning solution or to request a repair.
My fountain pen of choice is the German-manufactured Super5 with .7 tip and gray waterproof ink cartridges. After taking apart the section, feed, and nib, running them under hot water, gently cleaning them with a brush, and blowing water through, I had it up and working again after my neglect and mistreatment of it. The fact that this pen was able to withstand my abuse AND be restored to working order meant that it gained my ultimate approval.
Mentally Invest in Your Fountain Pen
Anything that isn't disposable will require some extra care if you want it to last. Prepare to get to know whatever fountain pen you choose so that you can keep it in working order. Again, this is all really just about some awareness and really isn't very complicated.
Fountain pens are beautiful tools that are a joy to hold and draw or write with. Using waterproof ink in them gives them even more dimension and can transform them into an integral part of your watercolor tool kit.
This post is intended to be a quick crash course on getting those of you who are interested up and running with a fountain pen to incorporate into your painting practice. This is by no means exhaustive, but just a place to start.
I hope you enjoy blending your sketches and watercolors together using waterproof ink!
Please share with me your favorite pens, inks, and pen rescue stories! Thanks for being here,