With so many different brands of fountain pen inks literally flooding the market right now, it’s easy to find yourself paralyzed by indecision. If you’re just starting out, where do you even begin? I recall feeling baffled by the number of different colors and ink properties in the Noodlers and Private Reserve lines, and I’m not sure what I would have done if I’d had to contend with Robert Oster, KWZ, or Iroshizkuku, not to mention all the various lines of Sailor. That’s why, when someone new to the hobby asks me for my recommendation on a “best first bottle of ink” to buy, I often recommend that they stick to the basics. The blue, black, and blue-black inks manufactured by Waterman, Pelikan, and Lamy will all serve you well.
So let’s talk about Lamy, one of my all-time favorite stationery brands. I’ve written repeatedly about how much I enjoy their flagship fountain pen, the Lamy 2000, to the point where I now have one of every model of that pen made available to the general public (yes, even the overpriced Bauhaus 100th Anniversary model and the much-maligned “Black Amber”). Lamy doesn’t experiment much - they typically release a special edition Safari and AL-Star, and maybe a Studio, along with a limited-run ink that matches one of their special edition pens. This perceived lack of creativity causes Lamy a lot of grief in in the '“pen press” and on social media, and their efforts to change and chase trends can come across as ill-conceived and ham-handed, but I wanted to look at the other side of the argument: what if this “slow to change” strategy is one of the reasons Lamy is still around? With Lamy ink, you definitely know what your getting, and its good.
Why Do I Love Waterman and Lamy Inks So Much? Aren’t They Boring?
In short, yes and no. There’s nothing really exciting about Lamy Washable Blue, unless you count the fact that it’s erasable if you use Lamy’s proprietary ink eraser pen. (See note below.) With all the variety available, some people will turn their noses up at anything labeled merely “blue,” “black,” or “blue-black.” What you may not realize, however, is that Lamy Black is actually a rich and interesting black, with subtle variances in tone that make it look dark green in certain lighting, and Lamy Blue-Black is one of those vintage-style blue-blacks with gray undertones. Look, neither of these inks is going to blow up Instagram, but that’s not the point. They work well in most pens, dry relatively quickly, and don’t feather and bleed except on the cheapest of paper. Most notably, Lamy inks are widely available and extremely inexpensive.
Side Note: One neat fact about Lamy’s standard “Washable Blue” fountain pen ink is that you can use Lamy’s “X Eraser Pens” to correct mistakes. I remember seeing these things for the first time when I was attending college in France and thinking they were the coolest stationery item ever made. The white end covers up the fountain pen ink, and you can use the blue end to write over the correction. Be aware that these are only supposed to work with standard Lamy blue ink, and no other colors.
What’s NOT boring is Lamy’s ink bottle. Not only does it incorporate an “inkwell” design with a slight depression in the center to help fill your pen when ink levels get low, but each bottle also comes with a roll of blotting paper to help you clean the nib section after filling. The blotting paper works extremely well, and you don’t need to use that much, so the paper may even last you the life of the bottle.
What About the New Lamy Crystal Inks?
This year Lamy released a series of new gemstone-themed inks in smaller 30ml bottles, dubbed “Lamy Crystal.” I have a handful of these inks, and I’m still in the process of working my way through them. My initial impression, however, is that they don’t behave the same as standard Lamy inks. The Lamy Crystal inks are more saturated, which makes the colors pop, but at the price of the consistency I’ve come to expect from Lamy. Certain Lamy Crystal inks tend to feather and bleed, and are slower to dry. While I need to do more testing before I make a general pronouncement, as it stands now I think I prefer the properties of Lamy’s standard lineup.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
Along with Waterman, Lamy makes some of the best inexpensive “no fuss” fountain pen inks you can put in a pen. Standard Lamy Black and Lamy Blue-Black are two standbys that I regularly use, particularly in my Lamy 2000s, and I highly recommend them to both new users anxious to enter the world of bottled inks, as well as those who write a lot on a daily basis and are looking for a reliable standby. To me, the functionality built into the bottle itself is representative of what I’ve come to expect from Lamy as a brand, and why I keep coming back to their products.
As I mentioned, Lamy ink is extremely inexpensive, with retail pricing as low as $10.50 per bottle. It’s also widely available from most pen retailers, including site sponsors Pen Chalet, Vanness Pens, and Appelboom (for those of you outside the U.S.). There’s something to be said for being able to easily acquire the entire range of colors for less than $100!
Disclaimer: This post contains links to paid sponsors and affiliates. I purchased the ink featured in this review with my own funds, for my own use.