(See $20 promotion details at bottom of post)
I get a lot of questions on which white ink is best to use when scribing with a calligraphy pen. There are a lot of options, & it mostly depends on the paper you use, & the effect you're going for. In my experience, & the look I tend to gravitate towards, Liquitex Acrylic Ink in Titanium White has been the best for me. The reason being, it contains super-fine pigments, is water-resistant, & has a high rating of lightfastness (I know, what the heck is "lightfastness. "When light strikes a painted surface, it can change the chemical bonds of the pigment in ink or paint, causing them to break, & therefore, change in how vibrant it is against the paper. Lightfastness is a property of that pigment or paint that describes how much it resists fading when exposed to light when light strikes*), which means it will contain a high quality & count of the color particles you'll want to scribe with each time you dip your pen into the ink & make a mark. Which will make you say "oooh" & "ahhh" when you make that first, gorgeously white stroke.
Yes, most calligraphy inks are similar to watercolor paints (gouache, india inks), so it seems like an opposing idea to use something that's of a heavier paint. The paint I recommended is technically a drawing ink. Neither are bad to use with your calligraphy pen. But, with white particularly, if you want the white to truly "pop" off the paper in a vibrant way, the ink you use should be more on the painterly side, rather than watery side. If you practiced with regular, white calligraphy ink from your art store, it would remind of the milk pens you used in high school--it'd be, well, milky! Which is not a bad thing, but I'd imagine you'd prefer an immediate, intense white color on paper, not a watered-down version of white.
A couple of tips before we begin: when using drawing or acrylic inks, you'll need to pay extra care to your nibs. If you think about it, if you've ever painted with acrylic paints, you've probably noticed how quickly it dries as soon as it touches the surface. With this said, acrylic-based inks hold a similar effect to your nibs--it will dry more quickly than other inks you've been using. You will simply need to dip it in water & use a napkin to more carefully wipe off any paint left on your nib before you store it away. In my experience, using the white ink I use can sometimes lessen the lifetime of a nib, but that white-popping effect is worth it!
Enough on the science & care of white ink--let's get to the fun part!
If you've taken my class, you've probably completed what I call the "Letter Study," where you take a sheet of paper & fill it with many variations & styles of your favorite (or not so favorite) letter. This is a fun activity & really helps you explore your personal writing style in the beautiful "doodles" of your letter of choice. Only this time, you're going to use a smooth, colored paper (black, gray color, kraft, your choice!) & white ink! You can choose any letter of the alphabet, & really explore uppercase & lowercase versions of this letter, too. Sometimes, lowercase letter styles are a great way to write uppercase letters, instead, so open your mind to inventing & creating new letterforms on this Letter Study page.
You'll notice when using white ink, it has a thicker consistency than the black we've used in my class when you make a stroke. It's because it's acrylic (paint) based rather than water-based, so it will still have a smooth feel, just a thicker finish. Another tip when using this ink: I would recommend closing the lid on the ink every few letters & giving it a little shake (if it comes with an eyedropper, just squeeze the dropper a few times to help mix the particles in the ink). Since it has super-fine particles in the ink, & is so dense, those particles settle to the bottom of the bottle quickly, & you'll notice overtime, your strokes will be a little less vibrant & won't "pop" as well off of the paper. That's when you know it's time to give it a little mix & shake.
A last tip if you choose kraft paper as your paper color of choice: I wouldn't recommend using traditional kraft paper--more a kraft colored card stock. The reason is due to the fact that traditional kraft paper is very soft & "toothy." If you look closely to this type of paper, you can almost see the tiny paper fibers on the surface. This will not be your calligraphy pen's best friend, because when the nib strokes down the surface of a toothy paper, being that it's so pointy & sharp, it will easily pick up those tiny paper fibers between the "tines" of your nib. Why is this a bad thing? Because when those tines close as you pick up your pen from making a stroke, those fibers will become stuck between them. When you create another stroke with those tiny paper fibers between the tines of your nib, it will cause your ink to clog & your ink will bleed out & mess up your page.
So, long story short, be sure to find a smooth, kraft-colored card stock, if that's the color you choose!
Okay, now it's time to zone out, open that white ink, dip that calligraphy pen, & hang out with your favorite letter. When you've completed your homework, feel free to share it on instagram & use #openhomework. You may also ask me any questions along the way!
*Source: notes from college, believe it or not. I can't believe I've kept them around for this long!"
Sale extended. Calligraphy 101 is $20 off, no coupon necessary. Also included is the free printable above ($12 value).
Written by: Lindsey Buck
Lindsey has taught many calligraphy workshops over the past year, with local artisan shops & Terrain. Her calligraphy has been seen in Anthropologie catalogs, store signage, & gift wrap; as well as Uppercase Magazine, Oh So Beautiful Paper, & various blogs. Her hope is her experience will help you begin your own & lovely handwriting journey!