My top 12 inks and project review 2021

Although it’s been another challenging year with various strains of Covid 19 wreaking havoc here, there and everywhere, in the obscure world of Fountain Pen Ink Art the project continues apace.

By way of introduction, this is a brief annual review of my fountain pen ink art project – reimagining fountain pen inks for creative purposes other than for just handwriting – which began in 2015 with no real goals or time parameters, just investigating, experimenting and having fun. The last six years (has it been that long?) have been full of fabulous surprises and discoveries and the inks just keep on coming and the ways in which they can be utilised still continue to astound. So, here we have a brief overview of what I’ve been up to over the last 12 months and my pick of the top 12 inks for the year too. Enjoy.

IMG_9817I began 2021 as I intended which was to further explore, expand and refine painting and illustration techniques with fountain pen inks and have to say that I’m pleased with my efforts which culminated with this year’s Inktober challenge. Hopefully, I managed to demonstrate what can be achieved by using just one ink, water and bleach to create images from loose and abstract to really tight and graphic. Lessons learned point to using good quality reference, collected in advance, and using standard inks with a decent tonal range and, if required, inks that have good chromatic behaviours. And as always, different paper types will offer different outcomes – something that many have learned from swatching this year’s Diamine Inkvent calendar! And it was wonderfully encouraging to see so many more artists using fountain pen ink in their work – and long may it continue. This really is a unique and magical visually creative medium and we really must keep spreading the word!

As well as developing the illustration side of the project, I also managed a fair amount of creative swatch carding, which included inks from Visconti, Montegrappa, Birmingham Pen Company, Troublemaker, Lennon Toolbar, Krishna, Kobe and Diamine plus some exclusives for Cult Pens and Stationery Studio in Hong Kong.

02Sadly, due to the pandemic, there were no live workshops in 2021 BUT I did manage to do a small online workshop for Cult Pens which was great fun! So, for 2022, provided that students have had both jabs plus booster(s), I see no reason why live workshops can’t go ahead. Groups will be a maximum of six (just until things get more settled) and I’ll be running the activities from my studio here in Rochester. And have I got some fabulous inks for you to try out. I’ll be posting dates in the next week or so to my workshops page.

In June this year I also posted a piece called Fountain Pen Ink in a Decadent Age in which I shared my thoughts about why a medium which should in theory be facing obsoletion is actually gaining interest. Something seems to be happening – fountain pen ink design and production appears to be increasing and from all corners of the world too – as does production of journals and fountain pens – and the choice and the quality of products just keeps getting better! Why not have a read and see what you think?

Traffic to my Blog, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube platforms continues to grow. The number of students experiencing the online course, Fountain Pen Ink Art – The Basics, is also increasing – 336 to date – with a new online course to be launched in 2022. If you grasped the skills in the first course, this is a natural progression showing you how to maximise and apply your fountain pen ink art skills to art journaling and creating standalone art. More about this to follow – you’ll love it!

And so to the bit you’re after, my top 12 inks for 2021. One might think that there is a finite amount of fountain pen inks that can be created. Well apparently NOT. And although not the biggest quantity swatched in a year, the diversity of those I have, has been extraordinary and it’s been very difficult to choose just 12. (If you click on the Click for more links you can see the whole ranges from where the chosen inks came from).


Greenwich 1675 (Vinta) – this is one of several inks exclusively created for Cult Pens. As well as the chromo I really like that cool green shimmer. Click for more. 

Old Vineyard with Peasant Woman (Visconti) – This is one of the Van Gogh Ink Collection. I liked the fact that it bleeds out greys and neon turquoise. Might be quite good as a sketching ink. Click for more.

Okamoto Pink (Kobe) – This is one of eighty inks I am currently swatch testing. I could have chosen any one of them, they are all made by Sailor and are just lovely. Keep an eye for my future Kobe posts.  Click for more.

Galactic Twinkle (Birmingham Pen Co) – I was quite impressed with the intensity of these shimmer inks and in this case the sheen too. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to test the standard ink range at some point. Click for more.

Matthew (Diamine) – Another one of the Cult Pens exclusives with all the qualities of Earl Grey but with a salmon pink chromo as opposed to the fuschia pink. Click for more.

Cult Blue (Robert Oster) – Another one of the Cult Pens exclusives with all the chromo qualities one expects from the Wizard of Oz. Click for more.

Foxglove (Troublemaker) – As some of you may be aware, I adore the Troublemaker shading inks and this is one of the group I haven’t highlighted before. It’s just gorgeous. Click for more.

Freedom Park Rose (Troublemaker) – This is one of the standard ink range. I could have picked any of them. Great colour, chromo and sheen. Click for more.

Timeless Blue (Ferris Wheel) – This is the only ink from this brand I have tested so far and it’s a very pretty shimmer sheen with lovely chromo and a neon reaction to bleach.

Garland (Diamine) – One of the many fabulous inks from this year’s Inkvent Calendar! Click for more.

Tempest (Diamine) – One of the many fabulous inks from this year’s Inkvent Calendar! Click for more.

Storm (Diamine) – One of the many fabulous inks from this year’s Inkvent Calendar! Click for more.

And so there you have it! As mentioned, I have a least 60 more Kobe inks to swatch in 2022 as well as inks from Wearingeul, Ferris Wheel, KWZ and more from Sailor – so don’t go away!

A huge thanks to all of you who support what I’m up to and who can see both the inspirational, educational and mindful benefits that fountain pen ink art can offer. Repurposing products for alternative uses offers huge potential for our future. It just needs people with imagination and courage, who aren’t afraid of making mistakes. People like you!

Here’s to 2022! Bring it on!

01And HEY! If you’re interested to know more about how to use fountain pen inks in more creative ways – whether it’s simply to observe their chromatic behaviours, or, to recreate one of my swatch cards, or, to learn how to use them in watercolour painting, illustration and calligraphy, why not check out my online course?

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