Spotlight: exploring the luxurious world of gold calligraphy inks
What with Christmas just around the corner, I thought to myself "What better way to add a touch of festive mojo to my calligraphy creations than with gold inks?" Gold calligraphy inks come in a variety of shades, and dry in different ways that give a different effect on paper (or card, or whatever else you're writing on). In this guide, I'll be diving into the striking world of gold calligraphy inks, exploring their textures, colours, and shimmer levels, and sharing my writing experience of each.
On my hit list are my two favourite shades from Finetec Coliro (Tibet Gold and Inca Gold), Dr. Ph. Martin's Iridescent Copperplate Gold, Herbin's Or, Winsor & Newton Gold, and KWZ Yellow Gold. Which ones are the heroes? Are there any duds to look out for? What are the pros, cons, and any other nuggets that you might need to know about? Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, I hope these reviews help you find the perfect gold ink for your next project!
Finetec Coliro - Tibet Gold & Inca Gold
So you may be thinking "How can these be inks if they're solid?". And I hear you; at the start of my calligraphy journey, I was all "whaaaaat?" and was pretty hesitant to try them. At the end of the day, yes they are faffy, BUT, their colour and opacity are beautiful. The fact that you can get tonnes of different shades is also a massive bonus. And in reality, these are a lot easier to use with better results than a bunch of the other inks we'll be talking about today. So don't let the fact that they come in solid form put you off.
All you need to do is add a few drops of water to the pan and let it sit for a minute or so, mixing with a paintbrush as you go. You get a feel for the sweet spot when you've used them a couple of times. If it's too thick, add a little more water, too thin, give it a minute somewhere warm to let some of the water evaporate. Beware, if it gets too thick you won't be able to use it with a dip pen as that ink will not flow!
Colour - Finetec Coliro's Tibet Gold is what I like to think of as a classic gold. It's a lovely warm yellow, not too brassy so it looks high-class in a bunch of different scenarios from invitations to envelopes.
Texture - As thick or as thin as you want it. I prefer mine midway.
Shine - All Finetec pans have a really beautiful, fine shine.
How it writes - A thoroughly pleasant writing experience as long as you've taken the time to figure out the best way to use them for you. They work well with a bunch of nibs, and on a bunch of papers, and as you're filling the nib with a paintbrush once you have the colour at the correct consistency, it doesn't matter if you're using a straight or oblique holder.
Hero or Zero - Hero!
Colour - Finetec Coliro's Inca Gold is darker and warmer than its brother mentioned above. This might be good if you still want gold but need higher contrast on a light paper colour.
Hero or Zero - Hero!
Dr. Ph. Martin's Iridescent - Copperplate Gold
It took me a while to get my head around this one. I mean, for one thing, it comes in a dropper bottle? And it's actually pretty blobby which is annoying if you don't use a trick to make it play nicely with whatever you're writing on. One of the things I did with my first bottle is decant it into a regular jar with a screw top lid. And I'll be doing this with other bottles I buy in future. To get all of the precious mica out once decanted, add a couple of drops of water and attack vigorously with a paintbrush and repeat until most of it is out!
This series also has a bunch of different colours which is great news if you use this and you get on with it, as you can then branch out into different iridescents like White and Frosted Peach!
Colour - This is a delightful old-school gold colour, not brassy but certainly a good, rich yellow.
Texture - It's a little thick and can blob. My trick is that every time I redip, I scrape the edge of the nib against the inside of the jar rim to remove any excess. This means I have to redip more often, but the blobbing is kept in check.
Shine - Pretty shiny, a good quantity of mica in this one. And you'll notice once the mica has settled, that the fluid it's suspended in is a goldy brown, which helps contribute to its warmth and lustre.
How it writes - It can be a tricky beast to get your head around, but with the tip mentioned above you'll have a really nice time using this ink. I find it works well with lots of different papers and cards and is one of the most water-resistant inks I have in my kit. Lots of respect for this ink and well worth having a bottle on hand!
Hero or Zero - Hero!
Projects including this ink:
Herbin's Pigmented Ink - Or (Gold)
There's not a lot I'm going to say about this ink. I don't like it for a variety of reasons. One thing to note is that the bottle opening is quite narrow, hence if you're a fan of an oblique dip pen, this ink will need decanting into a jar too.
Colour - It's so dark I barely think of it as gold. Yes, it has a bunch of fine mica in it, but I don't think there's enough of it to get the colour I'd expect.
Texture - Very thin. This means it's okay to write with, but you don't get much colour payoff, and we're back to the dark problem again.
Shine - Not as much shine as you'd want either. The official write-up says it's a subtle sheen. If I (or a client) want gold, neither of us is thinking about subtlety! The interesting thing to note with this one is once the mica separates from the holding fluid, the fluid itself is a murky grey. I can't help but feel this isn't helping with the colour.
How it writes - Reasonably easy to write with, but I do find it tends to bleed a little if you're not careful with which papers and cards you're using it on. Finetec and Dr. Ph. Martin's are much more forgiving by comparison.
Hero or Zero - Zero
Winsor & Newton Drawing Ink - Gold
What is with ink makers putting their inks in weird-shaped bottles? And this is by far the weirdest! It's a tiny pyramid-shaped thing, which looks lovely but is in no way practical for an oblique dip pen. So for this example, I switched to a straight holder because, frankly, there are not enough hours in the day to deal with weird-shaped bottles!
Colour - For me, this leans a little on the brassy side of yellow. And that's not to say that I don't like it, but I think you'll want to pick which projects you use this on carefully.
Texture - The ink itself is pretty thin, which would be great, but it's stuffed with a not particularly fine mica...
Shine - So much mica that you will have problems with ink flow.
How it writes - For this example I used the Blue Pumpkin nib, which as you probably know does not tend to produce fine hairlines. But even that struggled to produce a visible upstroke. It also tends to blob if you're not careful handling your compound curves. That said, because it's so packed full of mica, if you can get it to write properly your letters will look like a mirrorball and will have a distinctly raised profile from the paper once dry.
Hero or Zero - I'm on the fence; there's a lot to love and a lot to hate. Choose your project wisely and see how you get on! Is this the Marmite of gold inks?
KWZ Calligraphy Ink - Yellow Gold
KWZ have a wide range of coloured iron gall inks. I haven't used any of them, but I do have the metallics from their calligraphy ink range.
Colour - This is a very yellow gold (hence the name) and might not be to everyone's taste. But it has a high colour payoff if that's what you're looking for.
Texture - Thick. I'm not entirely sure what ingredients go into making this, but when I dropped my stir bar into the pot after it had been sitting a while, the magnet couldn't so much as nudge the bar! I had to give it a vigorous manual stir first before the bar would even budge.
Shine - Plenty shiny. Even though the holding fluid is a milky white, it doesn't seem to affect the overall colour of the ink which is marvellous news.
How it writes - It's OK. It's not my favourite colour, but it's still nice. It's not my favourite texture, but it's not the worst. But I know some people get on really well with this, so it might be worth you giving it a go. Of their three metallics, I think the gold is the best one to have on hand.
Hero or Zero - A good egg, but not hero-level
Bonus section: my kit for working with metallic inks
Working with metallic inks, while rewarding, can present some challenges due to the mica settling in the ink (or the pan drying out too quickly, looking at you Finetec). These are a couple of tools that I have on my desk that I consider essential when I'm dealing with metallic inks:
Magnetic Stirrer: When working with metallic inks like gold, it's common for the mica to settle at the bottom of the bottle or jar. Instead of constantly interrupting my flow to manually stir the ink with a paintbrush, I got a magnetic stirrer. It can effortlessly agitate the ink, ensuring a consistent and shimmering texture throughout my calligraphy session.
And learn from my mistake! I bought a very expensive Soap calligraphy ink stirrer by Luis Creations. Don't get me wrong, it was a very nice stirrer, but then the velvet coating started peeling and it looked an utter mess and was left feeling oddly sticky too. Then I got a scientific stirrer from Amazon (for about half the price of the Soap stirrer), and that works beautifully (and as it's mains powered I don't have to worry about finding batteries). The only problem with the scientific stirrers you buy is that the magnetic bars supplied with them are pretty big, so you'll need to find some smaller ones to fit in your ink bottles.
Brush pen with water reservoir (for Finetec): If you're specifically working with Finetec gold inks, a brush pen with a built-in water reservoir is a smart addition. It allows you to conveniently moisten the pan as you work, ensuring that the mica remains evenly distributed for a more consistent writing experience.
Small paint brush: Because you will inevitably need to stir something at some point when dealing with mica-based inks.
I hope this blog post has helped you learn more about gold calligraphy inks and enabled you to choose the perfect one for your next project. With so many great options available, you're sure to find the perfect ink to add a touch of elegance to your creations.
And as I know there are a bunch more on the market, which golds should I add to my case of inks? Drop me a line below to let me know!