The Differences Between Fountain Pen Ink and Calligraphy Ink

Last Updated on September 28, 2023
Fountain Pen Ink Vs Calligraphy Ink

The differences between fountain pen ink and calligraphy ink are few but are still important. If you aren’t careful you can damage and even ruin certain tools like fountain pens or pilot parallels.

Fountain Pen Inks

Fountain pen ink is a solution, which means it is a fluid that is made up of a solvent and a solute. A solvent is a liquid that the solute (in this case coloured dye) has been dissolved in, so that it is one consistent solution. In fountain pen ink, the solutes are reduced to the molecular level and therefore it contains no solid matter to clog up a fountain pen. You could use this for a calligraphy dip pen, except that it may be too thin of an ink and may fall off the nib as soon as it hits the page.

List of inks suitable for Fountain Pens:

Ink that is Safe for Pilot Parallels:

Anecdotally, I have put Ecoline Liquid Watercolour into my pilot parallels and have yet have one clog up (6 years as of 2020). However, your mileage may vary, as there is gum arabic in Ecoline ink. Gum arabic is an ink thickener and has been known to clog pens.  I wouldn’t put it in an expensive pen (just to be safe) but if you have multiple pilot parallel pens you can try my favourite and most used ink below:

Ink that is *anecdotally* suitable for Pilot Parallels:

Calligraphy Inks

Calligraphy inks are typically pigmented, which means their color is derived from not dissolved dyes but from finely ground up solid matter, similar to paint. Similar to oil and water, the particles settle over time and the ink containers need to be shaken. These particles will clog up a fountain pen. Certain inks, like India ink, contain gum arabic which is a thickening agent that will further clog up a fountain pen.

List of typically used calligraphy inks:


Use each ink for their respective purpose as they are specifically designed for each kind of tool. However, if you want to use fountain pen ink for calligraphy, try it and if it doesn’t spread nicely on the page, thicken it with gum arabic or just buy the actual ink. Meanwhile if you want to use calligraphy ink for fountain pens, just don’t.

Any questions, comments, or concerns? Leave a comment down below:

11 thoughts on “The Differences Between Fountain Pen Ink and Calligraphy Ink”

  1. Hi Richard – I bought the Winsor and Newton Calligraphy Ink because it says that it can be used for “Fountain and Dip pens”. Should I not use it in an ordinary fountain pen?

    • Hi David,

      If it is labelled for “fountain and dip pens” I would be very interested in the product and would like to try it. Based on it’s labelling, it should be fine.

      However, anecdotally, I have only seen “For dip pen and brush” on Winsor and Newton Calligraphy Ink. Which definitely should NOT be in you fountain pen.

      It might be fine… but if you want to be safe I wouldn’t use it, since typically calligraphy ink means pigmented ink which is not good for fountain pens/pilot parallel.


  2. Hi J and Richard,

    Thanks for your comments on this. I did try using the Winsor and Newton Ink in my Pilot Metropolitan….and the results weren’t great; the ink was quite reluctant to flow. So I flushed the pen and bought standard ink which works well. No harm done that I can tell, but that’s the last time I will use the calligraphy ink in a fountain pen, notwithstanding the label “For Fountain and Dip Pens”
    Once again thanks for taking the time,


  3. Hello HJ and Richard and others:
    I also made a mistake and used Calligraphy ink in my old
    Parker pens. It slowed the flow of the ink enough in both
    the 45 and 51 that I had to take them apart and clean out
    the tanks and the tip. I spent quite a bit of time getting all
    the residue out. After the flush I put the QUINK ink back in
    and have not had any problems since. I will leave the calligraphy
    ink for those pens only.

    John Paul

  4. Yes, I used that Winsor and Newton dual purpose ink in one of my cheap fountain pens. It was rather too thick and the pen wrote dry and was reluctant to start after being left. Since then , I have been making my own iron gall ink. I found that Quink would wash away at the least bit of water splash. Not much use for say, addressing envelopes in the UK.

  5. Fountain pen ink flows across the page smoothly and easily due to its thin and liquid consistency. Contrarily, calligraphy ink is often made of a thick, rich, and sticky texture that catches the eye and leaves a striking impression.


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