I love finding new inks to try with my calligraphy and recently I came across Troublemaker. A small brand which specialiises in fountain pen inks. These inks come in some lovely vibrant colours and they also make what I would refer to as “special” inks. These combine multiple pigments to create an iridescent effect on the paper.
As I said, these inks are formulated specifically for fountain pens. However, I mostly use dip pens which usually require slightly thicker ink. Despite saying that, I’ve fallen in love with these inks and want to share my thoughts.
About Troublemaker Inks
Troublemaker (also known as TMKR) is a small studio, hand-making fountain pen inks in the Philippines. The inks are sold at cost, so your money goes directly to the crafters making the ink. Troublemaker has 4 signature styles of ink, Standard, Shimmer, Sheening and Shading.
Each style of ink works in slightly different ways. The thing which made the Troublemaker inks stick out to me was the pigmentation, and how the inks react as they dry. Troublemaker has a small, but dedicated fanbase. I had no issues with ordering, however a quick google suggests that their inks tend to sell out very quickly due to their small-batch nature.
Where To Buy
Troublemaker has a dedicated website where they sell inks for around $16 per bottle. It might be good to note that depending on where you are in the world, there may be some significant shipping fees on top of that. I bought my inks through Pure Pens, a UK-based stationer, again these retailed for £16 per bottle. Though I did note some inks were sold out at the time of my purchase.
A quick look at Reddit suggests the best way to buy Troublemaker inks is through Shigure Inks. A US-based company where you can sign up to get emails about when the Troublemaker inks are being restocked.
I’m not going to lie, I had a real hard time choosing what colours of ink I wanted. I ended up going with Mango which is a really lovely deep orange colour which dries into patches of orange/ red. I also went with Simoun and Starry Night Blue. Both of these inks have multiple pigments in the formation and so other colours come through as they dry. Simoun is a pink/ blue mix while Starry Night Blue (as you can probably guess) is a blue ink with green tones through it.
I loved all three of these colours. It was fascinating watching the colour change as the ink dried. The Simoun colour is particularly lovely, with the red tones showing through if you get it in the right light. There’s almost something eerie about this ink, I’m not sure how to explain it but the ink looks red and blue at the same time. It’s very strange.
I tried all three inks on GF Smith colour plan paper, which is what I typically use for calligraphy, along with a few notebook papers. Just in case anyone is wondering, I’m writing with a Leonardt EF Principal nib and the Tom’s Studio nib holder. What I’ve found with these inks is that the nib feels more scratchy than what I’m used to. The Leonardt EF nib is much sharper compared to what you’d have in a fountain pen so I’m assuming this won’t be an issue.
The Simoun ink did surprisingly well in the Leuchtturm notebook. Admittedly, there were small spots where the ink had bled through the page. But the Leuchtturm notebooks in general don’t handle fountain pen ink well. I was also working with a broad-edged nib which lays down a lot of ink, it’s very obvious where this has pooled on the page.
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I also tried the Troublemaker inks in the MD Paper notebook. This notebook is really more used a sketchbook so the Troublemaker inks are by no means the first I’ve used in it. It was quite interesting comparing the TMKR inks to others. The specific inks I was comparing with were the black Pilot Parallel pen ink and my own custom black which is a mix of Sumi-e and walnut ink.
The only thing I’ve got to say about using the inks in the MD Paper notebook is that the pooling is quite noticeable. Though, I’m assuming if you buy these inks it’s because you want that to happen. I didn’t have any bleeding issues, but there was some ghosting. However, just in general ghosting tends to be pretty bad in the MD Paper notebooks because of the thin paper. They also coped far better than the Pilot Parallel pen which I honestly would not recommend using in the MD Paper notebook. The only time I used that ink it took over a day to dry fully, ruining a few sketchbook pages in the process.
Can you use Fountain Pen ink with a Dip Pen?
I am slightly hesitant to talk about how it feels to write with the Troublemaker inks because as I mentioned before, they are made specifically for fountain pens and I use a dip pen. Fountain pens are just automated dip pens so they work in a very similar way. The only real difference is that fountain pen ink is much thinner compared to what you would typically use with a dip pen.
There are some important reasons for this difference. Ink for dip pens tends to be thicker because it helps the ink stay on the nib. The difference in consistencies isn’t massively noticeable, think comparing water to runny cream. But it makes a noticeable difference when writing with the inks. I did notice that the Troublemaker inks would “run out” quicker than I would expect when doing calligraphy. But a little gum arabic mixed into the TMKR ink made a huge difference.
I should point out this is by no means a bad mark against the Troublemaker inks. I’m not using them as they were made to be so you can’t expect them to work perfectly. This is just my experience.
The one true negative I have with the Troublemaker inks is that they are extremely water-soluble. Both times I tried to do calligraphy with these inks the final artwork was ruined because the paper happened to get wet. Once because I had a window open and rain got onto the paper (which is admittedly my fault). But the other time I didn’t even realise there was a drop of water on the paper till it had made a rater noticeable spot.
I would rather not test these inks with water in a notebook but I imagine the results won’t be pretty. Maybe this is just me and I’m used to using inks which can handle a little water. But I do think it would be frustrating to have pages, or a whole notebook ruined because of a water spill. Which can happen.
I’ve never really written a review about inks before so I hope I did it justice. Overall I liked using these inks. I’m a sucker for a bright orange so I think the Mango colour will get a lot of use. It would be great to hear if anyone else has tried these inks. I’d love to see how they go in a fountain pen.