Fountain pen ink doesn’t have to be expensive. Today fountain pens might seem like a luxury product, but let’s not forget that not too long ago they were a standard writing tool used everyday by millions of people worldwide. Those people weren’t using luxury inks with delicate undertones, they were using dependable, affordable fountain pen ink.
Don’t let the marketing hype fool you… those great, cheap inks still exist.
Good, Cheap Ink From Top Brands
These inks are sorted from cheapest to most expensive, based on their price-per-milliliter. Prices were checked in July 2020, from the United States, using mainstream online resellers.
Pelikan 4001 fountain pen ink in 1L size
Pelikan 4001 series inks are some of the best everyday inks made today, but did you know that the 50 ml bottle you commonly find it in isn’t the most economical way to buy it? That’s right you can buy Brilliant Blue and other great Pelikan 4001 inks in 1 liter containers.
Price per ml: 5.6 cents
(Currently Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Blue is $56.01 for 1000 ml)
Pilot Blue Black, Black or Red
Pilot’s huge 350 ml bottle of Blue Black ink is the king of cheap, mainstream ink. Sold under model INK350BB, you can get this ink for about $25, or much cheaper in Japan. This is solid, reliable, good-looking ink that will keep you happy through the whole bottle. And 7x the size of a normal large bottle of ink you should have this one through many months of writing.
Price per ml: 7.1 cents
(Currently Pilot Blue Black is $25.00 for 350 ml)
Diamine inks can range from a good deal to an insanely good one, depending on where you live. Buyers in the UK will have a big advantage over the rest of the world because that’s where the ink is made and where it’s the cheapest, but it’s still an OK deal elsewhere.
Assuming you are in the UK, or really Europe at large, you can get Diamine for really affordable prices, so while this is a limited deal, it’s still worth knowing about for local and travelers.
Price per ml: 9.8 cents
(Currently £2.35 for 30 ml, including VAT)
Noodler’s has a huge array of ink colors, almost all of which offer serious value. Typically you can get a 3.0 oz bottle for about $13 or a 4.5 oz one for about $18. Some colors will be more expensive than others, but so long as you don’t need anything specialty (like fluorescent or glow-in-the-dark) you’ll be able to find a color you and it might even be pigmented as well, if that’s your preference.
Price per ml: 12.6 cents
Sheaffer Skrip ink, like the Parker Quink that it has often competed with, is another solid, longstanding ink. Skrip inks are often cheaper in Europe as well, as they are made in Slovenia. The ink sells for about $10.50 for 50 ml in the US, but about half that in Europe, making for a very solid value.
Back in the day this ink was sold in 2 oz and huge 32 oz bottles, but sadly those are no longer sold.
Price per ml: 13.1 cents
(Currently £5.25 for 50 ml at Cult Pens)
While it’s not sold in 1 liter bottles, Parker’s Quink fountain pen ink is available in a 2 oz (59 ml) size that offers a lot of value given just how good this ink is. The 2 fluid oz. bottle will normally cost you about $10 and you’ll be able to find it in any color, so long as it’s blue or black that you want.
We like this ink for use on lower quality paper and copy paper. It’s not as good as, say, a Noodler’s X Feather, but it is generally more forgiving than a typical on cheap paper.
Price per ml: 17.3 cents
(Currently Washable Blue is $9.90 for 59 ml)
Waterman has a selection of their standard inks, all of which are excellent workhorse inks. Despite Waterman’s storied history the inks aren’t fancy or luxury goods, just solid everyday writers. Waterman’s main colors: Intense Black, Serenity Blue, Mysterious Blue, and Inspired Blue will typically range from $9.99 to $12.50 for 50 ml when purchased online, which is a lower price point than we’d expect given their quality.
Price per ml: 20.0 cents
(Currently Intense Black is $9.99 for 50 ml)
Cheap Ink From Other Brands
If you are willing to get adventurous with you inks then you can really find some cheap ink. These aren’t inks we’ve personally tested (with Hero being the main exception) or would recommend, but they are out there and there are some really quite cheap.
On marketplaces like AliExpress you can find ink for under 1 cent per milliliter, a price that is significantly cheaper than anything you’d see from the brands above. That said, these inks are coming from brands you don’t know and may damage your pen (especially a vintage fountain pen), eat through your paper, or who know what else.
We recommend staying far away from nameless ink vendors, but if you want to experiment with super cheap inks, here are some options that people around the fountain pen community have tested and recommended. Just make sure to test them with an inexpensive fountain pen with a steel nib before you put them into anything fancy.
One perk of many of these is that they are both affordable and sold in an ink cartridge, which is a rare combination with more popular ink brands.
Super Cheap Ink
- Typically found on Etsy
- The most recommended color is 232 Blue Black
- Expect to spend around $6.50 for 60 ml (10.8 cents per ml)
- A popular Indian brand
- Another popular Indian brand. The most recommended color is Blue Black
One notable ink missing from this page is something from Platinum pens. Platinum sells many 60 ml ink bottles but is missing a 500 ml or even a 1000 ml (1 liter) bottle size. Similarly Montblanc, who is known for luxury pens but relatively affordable ink, doesn’t have any fountain pen ink bottles larger then 60 ml, which means a truly affordable fountain pen ink isn’t possible from them either.