How to choose a fountain pen ink colour

A concept showing a fountain pen jetting out a swirling plume of thick rainbow coloured ink on an isolated light background.

The question of black or blue ink has traversed the decades and is still a topic that elicits passionate responses from pen enthusiasts worldwide.

While official documents often insist on black ink, the broader world of penmanship leaves room for a vivid spectrum of colours.

Let’s dive into the art of selecting the perfect fountain pen ink colour. We’ll begin by considering what you might use a fountain pen for, then venture into the fascinating realm of what different ink colours convey.

How to change the ink colour in a fountain pen

Mastering the art of changing the ink colour in your fountain pen is the crucial first step before you embark on the exciting journey of choosing your ink shade.

For those with fountain pens that accept ink cartridges, it’s a matter of straightforward replacement — out with the old and in with the new. You can flush your pen before introducing the fresh colour, or let the pen transition to the new shade organically.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, consider refilling your used ink cartridges. This allows you to customise your fountain pen with your preferred ink, creating a unique writing experience.

Alternatively, your fountain pen may have a piston or squeeze converter designed for use with bottled ink. The process here involves inserting it into the pen and twisting the end knob fully. With the nib submerged in ink, a simple twist in the opposite direction retracts the piston, filling the converter with your chosen colour.

A squeeze converter operates similarly — insert the converter, immerse the nib, gently squeeze the converter, and slowly release it. As the converter rebounds, it gracefully draws ink into its chamber.

We wrote a blog post on using fountain pen ink converters if you need more information.

Some fountain pens boast built-in piston or vacuum filling systems. Here, immerse the entire nib in an ink bottle, twist the knob until the piston fully extends, and reverse the action. This retracts the piston and fills your pen with ink, ready to make your mark on paper.

On the other hand, the vacuum filling system involves unscrewing the knob from the pen’s end, pulling the plunger back entirely, and then pushing it back down. Placing the nib into the ink bottle afterwards creates an automatic vacuum effect, drawing ink into the pen.

Now that you’ve mastered changing your pen’s ink, it’s time to choose that perfect colour to bring your words to life on paper.

A fountain pen writing a signature with blue ink.

How to choose a fountain pen ink colour

When selecting a new fountain pen ink colour, you should consider the purpose of the writing and potential symbolism associated with each colour.

Consider what you’re using the fountain pen for

Signing documents

While black ink traditionally takes the spotlight for signing formal and business documents, there’s a growing trend of using blue ink.

This shift may be attributed to the practical advantage it offers in legal documents, where verifying the authenticity of a signature amidst a sea of black text becomes notably more manageable.

Filling out forms

The practicality of black ink shines through when filling out forms, especially those that will be photocopied or scanned.

Additionally, in today’s digital age, many companies rely on optical character recognition (OCR) software to effortlessly transform paper documents and images into accessible electronic text.

If you find yourself in a workplace where these technologies are in play, it’s advisable to stick with the reliability of black ink. Don’t fret — there are a plethora of beautiful black bottled inks and ink cartridges to choose from.

Take a moment to double-check whether it specifies the use of a ballpoint pen, as some do. You should also ensure the paper plays nicely with your fountain pen. If you’re uncertain, conducting a quick test in a discreet corner can save you any unwelcome surprises.

Annotating documents

When adding handwritten notes to a document, it’s wise to steer clear of black or blue ink, as these shades blend in with the existing text, making your annotations less visible.

Red ink can be perceived as aggressive — hence why many teachers have switched to green ink when marking pupils’ work — so you’d do best to avoid that, too.

Select another ink colour contrasting the document’s text or original handwriting, ensuring your notes are easy to read.

Writing cards, letters, and journals

When writing with your fountain pen for sheer enjoyment, the world of ink colours is yours to explore.

However, even with creative freedom, it’s essential to bear in mind the colour of your paper.

For the best results, opt for a white or very light ink colour when writing on dark paper, ensuring your words stand out against the background.

What your fountain pen ink colour says about you

A fountain pen and envelopes placed on a vintage suitcase in autumn.

Colour goes beyond mere visual aesthetics — it holds the power to convey messages and trigger assumptions in the eyes of the reader. Your ink colour can evoke profound emotional responses and lead to various interpretations.

Incorporating colour psychology into your writing decisions is thoughtful, particularly when composing sombre pieces like sympathy cards. It allows you to communicate your message with sensitivity and impact.


In the world of ink, black is a timeless classic cherished by many. But what lies beneath its surface?

Black ink is a multifaceted choice. It can bear negative connotations or exude an aura of mystery. When you wield black ink, you project authority, power, and a formality that few other ink colours can muster. It also carries a subtle whisper of elegance.

Choose black ink when the occasion calls for it, like drafting crucial documents, expressing condolences through sympathy cards, or lodging formal complaints. Its presence lends weight and gravitas to your words, making a lasting impression.


Blue, a classic hue for fountain pen ink, holds a surprising power — it can gently lower your reader’s heart rate and induce a slowdown in their metabolism.

Blue ink embodies sincerity, serenity, and compassion. It’s the colour of choice when you wish to convey heartfelt thoughts, and it hints at the writer’s inner contemplation, adding depth to the words on the page.

For moments of personal reflection, journaling, or composing an earnest letter to a friend, consider filling your pen or converter with blue ink. It’s a choice that captures your sentiments and has the potential to bring a sense of tranquillity to your reader.


Brown has an unassuming demeanour and doesn’t clamour for attention. Instead, it speaks of virtues like reliability, honesty, and steadfast support.

Tread carefully with darker shades of brown, though, as they may inadvertently convey a sense of dullness and over-maturity. Consider the warmth of lighter brown tones for your written communications instead.

Brown ink, with its undertones of dependability and trustworthiness, finds a natural place in the correspondence between employers and employees. This choice lends an air of professionalism and sincerity to your message, subtly reinforcing the bonds of trust and responsibility.


Red is a colour that ignites strong emotions — elevating blood pressure and stirring excitement. It’s an attention-grabbing hue that embodies various sentiments, from passionate love and boundless energy to fiery anger and imminent danger.

When you want your writing to carry feelings of deep passion or heartfelt love, reach for the vibrant power of red ink. Red’s intensity mirrors your emotions, making it an ideal choice for crafting love letters that leave an indelible mark on the heart.

However, exercise caution when considering red in other contexts. When crafting an apology note or providing annotations on someone else’s work, it’s best to steer clear of this commanding colour. Its inherent intensity may inadvertently overshadow the intended message, potentially muddling the tone and intent of your words.


With its soothing presence, green has a unique ability to evoke a sense of calm in people. Often associated with peacefulness, this colour vividly represents nature’s beauty and alludes to growth, purity, and renewal.

Green is a delightful choice when writing for occasions that resonate with these qualities, such as Easter cards or celebrating new life.

When you annotate or mark work, green ink is a wise selection. Its non-threatening air fosters an environment of constructive feedback, allowing your assessments to be viewed as supportive rather than critical.


Orange is a vibrant, uplifting colour with the extraordinary power to infuse readers with energy and joy. This ink colour is your perfect ally to spread motivation and encouragement. It lends a sunny disposition to good luck cards or cute lunchbox notes, making recipients happy and content.

But the magic of orange doesn’t stop there — it has a unique ability to inspire open and uninhibited communication.

Orange can act as a catalyst in workplaces, schools, or therapy sessions, enabling candid conversations and encouraging individuals to voice their thoughts freely.


Grey ink offers a subtle, business-casual aura clear of strong emotional undertones. It’s the ink of choice when you want to deliver a relaxed yet composed impression.

This colour embodies diverse qualities, from balance and sophistication to modernity, but it can also hint at conservatism and ambiguity.

It’s crucial to employ grey in contexts that best complement your desired effect, allowing its versatile nature to work in your favour.


With the steadfastness of blue and the vigour of red, purple is a colour steeped in opulence, royalty, and affluence. It is the shade of choice to share an air of luxury and sophistication.

However, purple also embodies attributes of creativity, enigma, and enchantment. This multifaceted colour is ideal for those moments when you wish to evoke an aura of mystery or infuse a touch of magic into your writing.

Choose purple ink when you aim to make a lasting impression, such as crafting formal invitations. Alternatively, let purple be your muse when you embark on creative endeavours and playful exploration.


If you wish to deliver a sense of gentleness, innocence, and nurturing through your handwriting, then pink ink is your ideal choice.

Traditionally associated with femininity, pink embodies love, youthfulness, and kindness.

It’s important to note that the world of pink offers a spectrum of shades, each with its nuances.

Lighter shades of pink, in particular, exude a gentler and more understated presence compared to their bold and vibrant counterparts.

So, when selecting pink ink, consider the shade that best aligns with the message you wish to send.


White, commonly related to purity and innocence, plays a unique role in fountain pen ink.

It shines brightest when writing on black or dark paper or cardstock, providing a striking contrast that ensures your words stand out with clarity.

Final thoughts

When selecting your next fountain pen ink colour, a world of possibilities awaits. Dive into the vast spectrum of shades offered by esteemed brands like Diamine, Caran d’Ache, and Graf von Faber Castell.

Let your choice be guided by the nature of your writing, the recipient, and even the intriguing realm of colour psychology.

Above all, though, relish the joy of writing with ink colours that resonate with you.

Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

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