Printer ink is made of different ingredients than fountain pen ink. Laser printer ink is not even a liquid and resembles fine black soot. You wouldn’t even be able to get it into a fountain pen, but if you did, it would clog up the feed, and you’d probably have to throw the pen away. Inkjet printers use liquid ink that you would be able to suck up with a fountain pen, but it is not necessarily a good idea.
You may be able to use printer ink in a fountain pen, but it is not recommended. Printer ink is pigment-based and designed to be blown through the inkjets. It is made to an entirely different formula than fountain pen ink, and the particulates it contains will clog a fountain pen’s delicate feed.
Pigment-based inks use particles for color and contain different chemical ingredients. They are not designed to work in fountain pens and will either flow out too fast or too slow. Viscosity is an important factor in how well an ink flows, and inkjet nozzles are designed to spray ink, unlike fountain pens. Many printer inks have a much higher viscosity than fountain pen inks, so they could be too runny.
The Qualities Of Printer Inks
A lot of inkjet ink is not water-based, which in itself represents a problem for fountain pens because they use primarily water-based ink. Printer ink is characterized by surface tension and viscosity characteristics that keep the liquid under enough pressure to maintain a steady stream sufficient to form a jet. Oil-based printer ink consists of a varnish, a binder, and a colorant. The varnish is usually a vegetable oil that increases the gloss of the dry ink.
Color printing inks are made of soybean or linseed oil or a heavy petroleum distillate as the solvent. They use organic pigments for color, usually in the form of salts. These are not good things to put into a fountain pen.
Desktop inkjet printers tend to use aqueous ink containing a mixture of glycol, water, and pigments or dyes. This type of ink is primarily used in printers with thermal inkjet heads as they need water to expel the ink. Thermal ink heads use a heating element to vaporize the ink, creating an expanding gas that forces the ink out of the nozzle.
Printers use a variety of inks, not all of which are in liquid form. Solid inks consist of waxy compounds that melt when heated facilitating printing. They harden again when they hit the paper. It would be disastrous to melt this kind of ink and draw it up into a fountain pen’s reservoir. In all likelihood, this will destroy the pen, and you will have to throw it away.
Printers also use solvent-based inks made of volatile organic compounds with high vapor pressures. Color is from pigments, not dyes, to make the ink fade-resistant. Pigmented inks contain particulate matter that can clog the fountain pen’s feed and are tough to clean out because they are usually waterproof.
Solvent-based inks are not the same as aqueous ink as they don’t contain water and are often highly corrosive. Say goodbye to your nib if you try to use these in a fountain pen.
Heat is used by some printers in the ink ejection process. Other print heads use ceramic, electrically polarized devices called piezos. When electricity is applied to the piezo, the material changes shape, causing a pressure pulse to flow through the ink, which pushes a single droplet from the nozzle. This process differs significantly from the way a fountain pen uses ink.
Some printers use UV ink which doesn’t evaporate like aqueous ink. When it strikes, the paper UV ink is exposed to a powerful UV light that causes a chemical reaction in the ink that solidifies it. If you had to use this type of ink in a fountain pen, it might never dry properly, causing widespread smudging on the document.
Users of inkjet printers know that a frequent problem is caused by ink drying on the printhead’s nozzles. It forms a solid, hardened mass that plugs the microscopic ink channels. This results in print failure. The feed of a modern fountain pen also consists of tiny channels and fissures that can be blocked by printer ink. If the ink is not aqueous, it may be impossible to remove these blockages, and they will trash the pen.
Printers use a mechanism to moisturize the printhead with fresh ink and soften ink deposits, and the nozzles are then fired to dislodge them. Even so, an inkjet printer can be ruined due to a build-up of dried ink that the automated cleaning mechanism cannot reach.
What Do Fountain Pen Inks Contain?
Fountain pen ink is a liquid containing water, dyes, surfactants, glycerin to increase viscosity and biocides to stop molds from growing in the ink. It also contains pH modifiers. Surfactants lower the surface tension of ink droplets, improving the flow, and act as wetting agents or dispersants.
Aniline dye is water-soluble and is used to color most fountain pen inks, although a few use pigments. Printer inks are very different from the inks used in fountain pens. A fountain pen is designed for the ink to flow smoothly from the reservoir through the feed to the nib with minimal pressure on the ink.
Inks for fountain pens must be water-soluble and not tinctures. Tinctures use alcohol, not water, as a solvent. Modern pens are made from natural plastics, ebonite, or celluloid which dissolves in alcohol, so a tincture ink would damage them. There is considerable diversity across fountain pen inks, and many manufacturers use proprietary recipes.
Using inks that are not designed for fountain pens always carries the risk that you might damage the pen. There are many affordable and beautiful inks available for fountain pens, so you have to ask why a person would want to use printer ink in a pen in the first place.
Most people don’t buy fountain pen ink in bulk because you are stuck with a large quantity of a single color. Half the joy of using a fountain pen is in the vast array of colored inks to choose from.
People Who Have Tried Printer Ink In A Fountain Pen
You may be able to use aqueous printer ink in a fountain pen, but you should not try this with a valuable pen. If you want to try it, use a cheap fountain pen. One YouTuber in 2016 showed that it could be done, but you do it at your own risk. Make sure to use a pen that can be completely dismantled for cleaning purposes so that if the ink does coagulate, you can wash it out.
A Reddit user from Turkey said that he started using water-based printer ink in his fountain pens because the only fountain pen ink colors he could buy were black and dark blue. He reported that after several trials and asking a chemical engineer’s advice, he developed his own formula that flows smoothly. However, he said he needs to use paper that is heavier than 70g/sqm. He has used his ink in Sheaffer and Parker pens.
Another user said that printer ink is only cheap if bought in bulk and must be stored in a dark, dry place to stop it from deteriorating in UV light. He recommends using only dye-based printer ink as the pigmented ones clog up the feed. According to him, printer ink soaks into the paper faster, which means it doesn’t smear readily, but it bleeds through. He suggested diluting the printer ink with water in a ratio of four parts water to one part ink to stop the bleeding problem.
Although it seems that a few people have had some success with using water-based, dyed printer inks in fountain pens, the question is, why would you? Fountain pen ink can also be bought in bulk from some manufacturers such as Pilot and Pelikan, and since it is designed to work with fountain pens, it should be the ink of choice. Many people don’t need to buy ink in massive quantities as they don’t write enough to warrant it.