Which White is Right?

Finding a high quality white ink is important to most calligraphers. From the timeless, simplistic beauty of white ink on black paper to various other applications, a consistent white is a must. And while there are a few obvious favorite among our customer base, there are many available. It would be nearly impossible to give you a full analysis of each ink in one blog post because inks behave differently on different types of paper. One black paper may yield a completely different result than another due to absorbency, texture, etc. However, a general overview is possible. For sake of consistency, all of the calligraphy ink samples shown in this blog post were done on an inexpensive black cover stock,with a baseline provided by the Slider Writer, using a Tachikawa G nib to create a loose script to simply showcase the ink performance.

By far, our two most popular white inks in terms of sales are Dr. Martin’s Bleedproof White and Dr. Martin’s Pen White.bleedproof white pen whiteBoth are pretty similar in terms of opacity, but they are quite different in terms of use. Bleedproof White cannot be used straight out of the bottle. It is extremely viscous, and requires the user to add distilled water and stir until the desired consistency is achieved. It produces a stunning, bright white color. Bottles tend to last for some time, and the ink reconstitutes pretty easily( I had a bottle that sat for almost three years between uses and still mixed well). Pen White also produces a bright, opaque white, but it is ready to use straight from the bottle. For finer hairlines or flow out of smaller nibs, many calligraphers prefer to add a few drops of water. However, it does not require quite as much effort as the Bleedproof White in terms of preparing it for use.

Other commonly purchased whites are FW White, Winsor and Newton Calligraphy Ink, Pro-White, and Ziller North Wind White. Prior to this testing, I had only used Pro White. In the example pictured here, it likely needed a bit more serious mixing (the pigment was less opaque than I wn white pro white zillerremembered) and a little more thinning down. It is a denser ink and requires mixing to use successfully. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Winsor and Newton White performed. It was easy to use straight from the bottle, was quite opaque, and wrote smoothly. Ziller North Wind White is another very popular fw whitewhite. It is a thicker acrylic (easy to thin down), and it mixes well with all of the other colors in the same line. It produces consistent results as well. FW is a popular acrylic line, and the white is consistent with the good reputation of this line.


mccaffery's on blackFor pointed pen, McCaffery’s inks are always popular. Since releasing Bright White last year, this line now has two whites to choose from, including a lovely ivory. McCaffery’s is not an acrylic and thus has a thiner consistency that is simply perfect for fine hairlines. Ivory has long been a favorite among pointed pen enthusiasts, and the bright white is becoming quite popular as well.

Two somewhat newer whites are Golden’s High Flow in Titanium White and Moon Palace White. The Golden High Flow is actually a thin acrylic paint. When it comes to iridescent colors, the High Flow is some of my favorite ink.However, it does require some work to get it to flow well with pointed pen. I attempted to use the white by just adding a few drops of water to the bottle, but I was not happy with the results. Emptying it into a container and using the magnetic stirrer would definitely yield better flow. golden hf and white sumi The Moon Palace White offers a fun alternative. It has a chalky appearance and would be perfect for wedding invitations that are incorporating the chalk board art theme. Various levels of mixing will slightly change the color/result you can achieve.

Often clients want lettering done on surfaces that are not conducive to a nib and ink, calligraphers just want to use a white pen for a mono line script, or Zentangle artists want to use white ink on black tiles. We have several whites to choose from for pens and markers.

white pens

The Faber Castell Pitt bullet tip marker in white is a newer addition to the Pitt line-up. It delivers an opaque white. The Zig Chalk Pastel mimics the effects of chalk. It can be a bit tricky to write with because the color fades in slowly as you write, but the results are fun! The Sakura Gelly Roll is a tried and true favorite. It produces a great white and has a good flow. The Unibal Signo is our most popular white pen. It provides a bright, opaque white and flows well. The Sharpie Poster Paint, Sakura Pen Touch, and Posca are all paint markers that write well. They are great for more unusual surfaces, and the Pen Touch is available in both a bullet tip and a calligraphy tip. The Posca is also available in a brush tip. Finally, the Rapidograph Universal White is great for use with technical pens (the writing here was done with an Isograph) or Parallel Pens.

Although seeing the comparisons here will be helpful, do remember that changing the paper (or writing surface) could definitely yield a different response from the ink. We still encourage you to experiment for yourself to find the best ink for you! Be sure to stay tuned to the blog for more product comparisons, customer showcases, etc.




    • No, it is not. I didn’t catch that in my quick edit! It’s opaque watercolor. If it crystallizes, you can usually still coax it back into a workable state; it will just take a little patience.

  1. hello
    Great review. Can you tell us wich of these inks arte waterproof? I think FW are waterproof but W&N callygraphic are not. If you can add the dry time it is necessary will be helpfull too


    • You are correct in terms of FW being waterproof. The Golden High Flow is as well. In terms of drying time, that will vary according to your environment. More humid environments will require longer drying times.

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