If you’ve been following our pointed-pen calligraphy work and online shop full of high quality calligraphy supplies, then you know that we carry a full line of Ziller inks in a rainbow of colors. Some of these, that I specifically developed with Rich and the Ziller team based on my own mix preference, are exclusive to our shop! We also carry one other black calligraphy ink – McCaffery’s – and we’re often asked about the difference between the two black inks.
The Ziller black ink is quite a bit thicker, and more opaque. I use it for all of my envelope addressing and other handwritten projects. It’s great for any work you plan to scan and vectorize for printing because of its opaqueness. It’s also waterproof which is great if you’re concerned about raindrops landing on the envelopes you’ve worked so hard on. It is lightfast, meaning it won’t fade over time if you’re using it for frameable art, such as poems, wedding vows or song lyrics. The same goes for all the Ziller inks in our shop, though I wouldn’t recommend using those for scanning. I always use my Ziller black for that.
The McCaffery’s is perfect for practice, especially if you’re working on Spencerian calligraphy. It’s great for getting fine lines, but not so great for scanning because of this. It is a lighter “black” (more like a gray, I think) and won’t work well for vectorizing. It does darken as it dries, however. I love the fineness of the lines, but sometimes I want the writing to be more black, so in that case, I just add some Higgins ink to it which is a thinner ink, just to darken it. The ink is corrosive, so you need to remember to wash your nib (or use your high powered nib cleaner!) after each time you use it if you intend to use that nib again. Again, I love it for practice, and it’s pretty simple to make it darker if desired.
One popular ink that I NEVER use? Sumi. Sumi ink is inexpensive…and there’s a reason for that. I’ve found that it’s too thin and doesn’t give a crisp enough line for my liking. It tends to bleed on a lot of envelopes, so you’d have to use thickener just to make it usable in that case. Plus, my Spencerian instructor, Michael Sull, told me never to use it, so if that’s not a good enough reason, I don’t know what is! 😉