Sunday, June 12, 2016


Trying out some new ink today. I've been playing around with different inked line colors in my watercolor mandalas and wanted to try some lighter shades, so the outlines give a different effect because they don't contrast so much.
The green inset at the top left uses light green ink lines;
the top inset at the right uses pale grey lines;
the bottom picture uses grey straight from the bottle.
The samples above were all using Koh-i-noor Trans-Mix inks, which come in about 20 colors. I really love the way they work in technical pens, and had collected all the colors over the years, although the white had sat unused until recently. I'm not sure if the ink being a decade old or more was the problem, or if white is just problematic, but the white ink was thick like cream rather than the nice inky consistency of all the other colors. Brighter and darker colors can get away with a thin medium and their staining effects, but white needs big pigment particles to stay on the paper surface and make it opaque. Thick ink quickly clogs technical pens, which rely on a very skinny metal tube with a wire running inside that to convey the ink from the barrel to the tip.

Online reviews spoke favorably of Daler-Rowney's FW Acrylic white ink, although most people were using brushes or dip pens for their work. FW inks seemed a lot easier to find online than Trans-Mix, offer a number of colors, and claimed to be safe for technical pens. So, click-click-click and two days later Amazon had sent me a bottle for about $16. I optimistically opted for the big bottle, but it comes in a one ounce size too for about half that price.

I was really glad to have a syringe on hand for filling fountain pen cartridges and converters, because there would be no other graceful way to transfer my mL into the ink reservoir. Koh-i-noor makes an entry level technical pen set that I chose to use so I could see what was going on inside and to minimize losses if something bad were to happen. I picked the boldest size, with the biggest steel tube.

I filled the reservoir with white and added the smallest drop possible of a Trans-mix color, one experiment each with Vermilion and Sepia inks. Trans-Mix + FW seemed to go well into the pen. The FW white was a lot thinner than the Trans-Mix white, so one problem has been solved. I used a toothpick to thoroughly mix the ink, then tested the outcome on white and black papers.

Both were suitably pale, but not as opaque as I'd hoped. When used on top of pencil lines, it seems to seal the pencil lines in and let them show through, rather than cover them up. I was pleased where the pen strokes overlapped that the area didn't show as being doubly dark. The mix was fully waterproof, which is an important essential quality, and was expected since both components are waterproof. With the Sepia mix, I initially had some issues keeping the pen primed. It required a fair amount of fussing to make the lines solid. The Vermilion was better, and since the Trans-Mix part was so minimal, I'm writing it off to the pen itself and not the ink. It was also the same pen I used the Trans-Mix white, so it may have left some internal clogging. Time for the ultra-sonic bath!

Most of the color tinting is lost on black.
You never know what you get when you mix two different brands of inks, even though one was in the merest quantity today. Leaving the pen sitting capped for about 30 minutes, things became a bit unmixed. Nothing that couldn't be gently agitated back into submission, and nothing that became evil (gummy and globby.) 

The final test will be drawing something and painting it. I need to buy a few colors of FW inks for mixing to follow up this review, so stay tuned for a part 2.