For those who want to try something new, I’ll show how to write with light inks on dark paper – this can look very beautiful and special. There are some tricks to keep in mind, which I’ll show you in this post.
Why premixed inks can cause problems
It can be difficult to find the right kind of white ink. Often it’s not opaque enough for dark papers, for example that was what happened to me with the Standardgraph White Ink – even though I like their darker colors very much for writing calligraphy. Winsor & Newton and Dr. Ph. Martin are said to have good white inks, but I haven’t tried either of them (anyone who has is welcome to drop me a line, I love hearing back from you!).
I have resorted to mixing my own white ink – with acrylic paint.
The solution – mix your own white ink
Acrylic paint has the advantage of not bleeding on paper and thus can be used with almost any papery surface, even there where darker inks fail.
Acrylic paints can be mixed with each other, for example you can get nice pastel colors if you mix white with a tiny dollop of color. They dry fast. For calligraphic purposes you don’t have to use expensive artist colors, low- and middle-priced colors will do – they all have enough pigments for writing.
Just to clarify: if you buy premixed drawing ink, it’s basically the same thing: pigments on an acrylic base diluted with water. It’s just that the manufacturer has done the work of mixing the color. You can read more about differences between inks in this article.
An introduction to writing with self-mixed colors is available here, of course all the tips apply to white paint, too. You simply put a dollop of paint into a small jar (film cans work nicely for me) and add a little bit of water, until the consistency is right for writing. This sometimes takes a while to figure out – think of whole milk, it should look like that.
Which nibs are good for writing with white ink
Basically you can use almost any nib, although I have noticed that softer nibs give better results. The Nikko G, which is otherwise a fine beginner’s nib, doesn’t really shine when you use it with white ink, it produces very transparent hairlines. Nibs I have had better results with and would recommend are the Brause Rose, the Brause EF 66, and the Brause 334 EF and the Leonardt 33. The Leonardt 300 also writes very nicely with white ink, but then this is an easy nib to write with anyway.
What to do when the ink is too thick or too thin
Self-mixed white ink should roughly have the consistency of of whole milk. If it’s too thick, it won’t flow from the nib onto the paper. You can dilute it with a small amount of water, preferably applied with a pipette and stirred thoroughly.
Ink that’s too thin (and this goes for any ink, not just white) can be left open for a few hours so some of the water in it will evaporate. You can also experiment with gum arabic, which is a binding agent that’s used in a lot of inks anyway.
Guidelines on dark paper
As you can’t put a sheet with guidelines under your dark paper and the light box doesn’t work either, you have to draw lines directly on the paper to ensure you write in a straight line. You can use a simple pencil or a soapstone pencil (those are a bit harder to get), draw a very light line, and erase it afterwards.
Storing mixed inks
I store remnants of mixed acrylic paint in small film cans – they close tightly so that the color won’t thicken, and you can dip the pen holder right in because the opening is wide enough. Plus they’re easy to clean.
Examples for white writing on dark paper
From envelopes, to greeting cards, to little stickers, the possibilities of self-mixed white ink are almost endless, and the light color on dark papers always looks very special and classy.