Thursday, April 14, 2016


Platinum Carbon from a brushpen

A question from Mark regarding fountain pen ink resulted in this post. He’s very good at getting such results.
His question: “Do you have a waterproof black ink that you could enthusiastically recommend?”
Well! Push my dork button, why don’t you.
I’m a fairly recent convert to fountain pens. By recent, I mean 2009. Before that, I used gel pens, almost anything else that didn’t contribute to wrist pain like ballpoints and my death grip did. And fountain pens opened a range of colorful ink possibilities, all suitable for writing but nearly all water-based, and probably fugitive. I wanted fountain pens to draw with, so I needed ink that wouldn’t shred or clog the feed. And could be put into a new favorite (as of 2009), the Pentel Pocket Brushpen (thanks, Craig Thompson) — and! most importantly! — could hold up under another rediscovered obsession (2009 too — a magical year): watercolors. 
All the pretty colors. So pretty, and probably fugitive.

To my rescue came Russell Stutler. And his strange frankenpen (from Jenny Ortuoste: “The term “frankenpen” is used by fountain pen collectors to refer to a pen that incorporates parts from other pens – say, a cap or a barrel. The prefix “franken-” comes from the fictional monster cobbled together by Dr. Frankenstein.”). And his favorite ink for said frankenpen, Platinum Carbon.
Platinum Carbon ink was the answer to nearly all my demands. Even at the hefty price of USD $20+ per 60 mL bottle, it was worth it to me to keep at hand: it was dark, it had little shading, and it stayed put under watercolors.
But it does have a few caveats besides cost.
It doesn't like staying in a pen. So if nib creep bothers you, Platinum Carbon will push all your nib creep buttons, all the time.
Depending on the kind of pen you put it in, and the kind of paper you slap it on, Platinum Carbon can muddy your watercolors. If you've got a pretty fine nib that tends to write dry, the greater the chance Platinum Carbon will dry quicker on the paper. If you've got a wet writer, or anything thicker than a fine nib, prepare to wait a while before adding watercolors. Or get blotter paper to carry with you to help it. Paper towel tends to spread ink and not really blot, but others have done fine with them, or a tissue. I've not had the same graceful luck.
Once you put it in a pen, keep using that pen until Platinum Carbon has run out of it. Platinum Carbon requires more maintenance because it's a pigmented ink, so the pigments, fine as they are, can clog and damage the feed if left to dry for too long. Damaged feeds means a dud pen, or a call to a nibmeister. The Platinum Century 3776, though designed to let Carbon ink stay there with irregular use, does have its limit, though I try not to find out what that is. Clean any pen inked with Platinum Carbon as often as you can — and let it give you another reason to get *more* pens.
Brushpens are another thing. I like Platinum Carbon in them, but I’ve yet to experience clogging as I usually wear down the brush tips before any sort of cleaning happens. I assume the same rules apply, but your mileage may differ.
Platinum Carbon ink has been my choice above and beyond others I’ve tried, including Sailor Nano Kiwaguro, which to my eye presents more shading even in the finer nibs I prefer to use. Noodler’s Heart of Darkness was an old favorite, but a bottle turned rancid and I was overwhelmed by the strong chemical odor every time I wanted to ink up a pen. I like my ink to lie flat and catacomb-dark, to emit only the slight musky scent of ink and little to no strange chemical perfumes, and to prove itself unperturbed by anything smeared or slathered on top of it.  
There are other waterproof alternatives, such as DeAtramentis Document, Diamine Registrar’s, or iron gall, inks. Each has particular properties that invite just as much, if sometimes more, caution as Platinum Carbon, so read and research carefully on the care and feeding of these inks if you want to try them and make them part of your regular sketchkit. 
Platinum Carbon and watercolor.

Still interested in fountain pens and how you can incorporate them into your own kits? Here are some resources:

If you’ve any questions, please leave them below and I’ll try to answer them as best I can. If you have links to resources to share, please add them below! And if you have favorite tools you love and think others may find helpful, write a post. Cheers and happy sketching!


  1. I am ruthlessly bad about taking care of my fountain pens. Cleaning them only when they get so dried they refuse to write- which barely if ever happenens. Having said that, I have found de Atrementis document black to be bolt tight waterproof. From my disposables to my Pelikan, regardless of paper, it stays put and, I have never had a clogging issue. There are other waterproof inks I like such as NOODLER'S wampum (a grey purple), Lexington grey and Brown but on rare occasions, on certain papers, they pull a fast one and decide to smear when paired with water. Very frustrating. I remain undeterred and try and create washes of colored ink when that happens.

  2. Good review of the Platinum Carbon ink. That is what I use most and I really haven't had a problem with it on my paper or in my pens.

    1. Thank you. I use it most of my pens and brushpens — no problems save for one, but that was my fault entirely (I left it to dry...oops).

  3. Wonderful article. On the strength of trying Mia's Platinum 3776 Pen after the THOR workshop I was convinced. Bought one with an extra fine nib and a bottle of the pricey Carbon Ink. Magnificent. Love them both. Best waterproof ink solution I've tried. Thank you for the recommendation and for sharing your experience with everyone.

    1. Thank you! And glad to enable such worthy purchases.


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