Selecting the Best Calligraphy Ink for Your Work

art supplies art supplies review artist review calligraphy calligraphy inks dip pens illustration tools pen and ink product review yasutomo sumi ink ziller soot black ink

yasutomo sumi ink ziller soot black ink calligraphy inks pros and cons

Today I'm dipping my toes into the wide world of calligraphy inks. There is so much I could cover with a post on these inks: blacks, whites, colors, and even using watercolors as inks. But I'll take baby steps for now and compare two favorites: Yasutomo Sumi Ink and Ziller Soot Black.

Yasutomo Sumi Ink

yasutomo sumi ink demonstration vanduinen studio

The Pros:

  • The perfect beginner ink. This ink is perfect for practicing calligraphy at any stage, and that's especially true if you're new to the game. It's on the thinner side, so it glides very easily down a nib. It's also very easy to draw with for the same reason.
  • It's a nice, rich black. Although it is a thinner ink, on the page it's an opaque black. I really love working with it for both ease and aesthetics.
  • It's blendable. Take a paintbrush and a little water, and you can get some really cool effects! As long as you don't add TOO much water, the lines stay distinct even as the ink blends out into shadows around your words or drawings.

The Cons:

  • It's blendable. On the flip side of the coin, be VERY careful about your surroundings when working with this ink! If you're not intending to blend your lines, don't get it anywhere near a drop of water. It doesn't take much to cause this ink to start bleeding across the page.
  • The bottle is not conducive to calligraphy. The sumi ink comes in the tall bottle pictured, which has such a skinny top that there's no way to dip a pen in. I solved that issue by pouring some of the sumi ink into a small, airtight glass jar with a wide mouth. You can find those many places, I'm sure, but I got mine here.

Final Verdict:

I will always have sumi ink around! It's a great option for a variety of purposes, especially practicing calligraphy drills. You can find it at small calligraphy businesses like The Postman's Knock or Paper & Ink Arts, or big name stores like Blick.

Ziller Ink in Soot Black

ziller ink demonstration soot black

The Pros:

  • Soot black, indeed! This one definitely lives up to its name. The ink is a really intense black, immediately adding a ton of contrast to your calligraphy or pen and ink art. Ziller actually makes several different colors of this ink, so you can bet I'll be adding to my collection as time goes on.
  • It's waterproof. I promise I swiped water over those lines along the bottom, same as with the sumi! As you can see, the Ziller ink doesn't budge, even when a fair bit of water is applied. Actually, it's what I used to draw all of the original art for the Birds+Blooms collection, since I knew it would hold up to being painted over with gouache (if you're not familiar with that paint, it's like a more concentrated version of watercolors). You can see here how crisp my ink lines stayed even after being painted:

No bleeding whatsoever!

  • The bottle is great for dipping. The mouth is nice and wide, so you can easily dip either straight or oblique pens in with ease. I appreciate that I didn't have to add yet another jar to my already cluttered desk to use this one.

The Cons:

  • It's trickier to work with than the sumi ink. Not by much, but enough to be worth noting. It's a thicker consistency, which means it's a little more prone to blotting than the sumi ink. You can dilute it with water to make it flow off the nib easier, but it takes a little practice to get it just right.
  • Watch out for your clothing! Its waterproof quality has a downside - if you get any on your clothes, it is NOT coming out. I use a piece of cotton to clean my nibs, and it's been through the laundry a couple times. The Ziller ink doesn't budge. If you have a toddler in the house like I do, keep it as far away from them as you would a Sharpie!

Final Verdict

Ziller is another tool I will always keep in my belt. Between the two calligraphy inks I've mentioned here, I have the perfect ink on hand for almost any project I can dream up. If you're interested in Ziller, you can find it in the same three places as the sumi ink: The Postman's Knock, Paper & Ink Arts, and Blick.

Did either of these pique your curiosity? Would you use the ink for calligraphy, drawing, or both?


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