Best Artist Inks in 2022

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Sep 08, 2022 •  Guides

In this guide, I share my recommendations for the best artist inks for drawing, which are used for beautiful monochrome paintings, drawing and sketching, calligraphy, layout, design, and illustration.

Let’s find out which artist inks you should get!

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Top 4 Artist Inks Compared

Here is a summary of my favorite artist inks for drawing. You will find more picks in the overview below, including alcohol-based inks, brushes and dip pens for inks.

My Pick
Also Great
Budget Pick
6 Colors
Description:

Acrylic Ink

Daler Rowney - FW Artists Series - Liquid Acrylic Ink Bottle - Indian Black - 29.5ml

Description:

India Ink

14ml Bottle

Description:

Acrylic Ink

Carbon Black :: 1Oz Bottle

Description:

Acrylic Inks - 6 Primary Colors

Color Drawing Inks Set

My Pick
Description:

Acrylic Ink

Daler Rowney - FW Artists Series - Liquid Acrylic Ink Bottle - Indian Black - 29.5ml

Also Great
Budget Pick
Description:

Acrylic Ink

Carbon Black :: 1Oz Bottle

6 Colors
Description:

Acrylic Inks - 6 Primary Colors

Color Drawing Inks Set

Table of Contents

Overview: Best Artist Inks in 2022

My Picks for Acrylic and India Artist Inks

My Pick
Also Great
Also Great
Description:

Acrylic Ink

Daler Rowney - FW Artists Series - Liquid Acrylic Ink Bottle - Indian Black - 29.5ml

Description:

India Ink

14ml Bottle

Description:

India Ink

Bottle, 1.0 oz, Matte Black

My Pick
Description:

Acrylic Ink

Daler Rowney - FW Artists Series - Liquid Acrylic Ink Bottle - Indian Black - 29.5ml

Also Great
Also Great
Description:

India Ink

Bottle, 1.0 oz, Matte Black

The best and most popular acrylic ink available is dearly loved and highly recommended by anybody who has used it.

Daler Rowney ink has a beautiful flow and superb colors. The saturation is long-lasting and stable and always looks stunning.

Above are also my two favorite picks for the best India ink, and really in my mind, it’s a bit of a toss-up.

Maybe Dr. Ph. Martin’s ink has a more solid and attractive black color, if not by much, and maybe Winsor Newton drawing inks have a slightly better flow, but both are solid, long-lasting inks that make creativity at the highest level fun and easy.

Value Picks for Acrylic and India Artist Inks

Value Pick
Also Great
Description:

Acrylic Ink

Oxide Black :: 30 ML Bottle

Description:

India Ink

Black :: 1 Ounce Bottle

Value Pick
Description:

Acrylic Ink

Oxide Black :: 30 ML Bottle

Also Great
Description:

India Ink

Black :: 1 Ounce Bottle

For the money, it is almost hard to believe the enthusiasm people have and the positive comments they make about Amsterdam ink, but when you try it yourself, you’ll understand.

It flows beautifully, has a gorgeous and intense black color, and lasts forever – both on the page and in the bottle. 

Another favorite from Dr. Ph. Martin, his Bombay ink is nearly as good as the Star ink – which means it is fantastic and wonderful to use – for significantly less money. A real value!

Budget Picks for Acrylic and India Artist Inks

Budget Pick
Also Great
Bottle
Bottle
Description:

Acrylic Ink

Carbon Black :: 1Oz Bottle

Description:

India Ink

2 Ounce Bottle

Description:

India Ink

16 Ounce Bottle

Description:

India Ink

32 Ounce Bottle

Budget Pick
Description:

Acrylic Ink

Carbon Black :: 1Oz Bottle

Also Great
Description:

India Ink

2 Ounce Bottle

Bottle
Description:

India Ink

16 Ounce Bottle

Bottle
Description:

India Ink

32 Ounce Bottle

The Golden acrylic ink is from the makers of some of the best, highest quality, and most beautiful acrylic paints on the market.

Though this is a cheap ink, the inside secret here is widely used by professional artists and illustrators, who love its flow and painterly qualities, intense color, and superb permanence.

Another inside secret here! Yeah, Golden’s ink is better, but not by much, and Speedball is more widely used in the commercial art world, where not just beauty and quality but consistency and control are paramount.

An amazing value in premium India ink; it just gets better and better as the bottles get bigger!

My Picks for Drawing Inks for Calligraphy

Calligraphy Pick
Set
Description:

Calligraphy Ink

Black - 3 Ounce

Description:

Includes Wooden Dip Pen, Antique Brass Holder, 11 Nibs, 7 Ink Bottle and Beginner's Manual (7 colors)

Calligraphy Pick
Set
Description:

Includes Wooden Dip Pen, Antique Brass Holder, 11 Nibs, 7 Ink Bottle and Beginner's Manual (7 colors)

There is almost a cult of positivity and devotion around this amazing ink called “bulletproof” because of its absolute stability, water-resistant, and fade-resistant qualities.

An incredibly solid and beautiful black ink that works as well with dip pens as fountain pens, Noodler’s Bulletproof is a superb product in every way, made completely in the USA – from, as they say, the bottle to the cap to the ink.

Ok, so this cool set doesn’t have as good of ink as Noodler’s, but the inks provided are actually of surprisingly great quality, as are the pen and nibs. At any rate, it is a really fun and useful calligraphy starter set which would make an awesome present.

Full-Color Drawing Ink Sets – India, Alcohol, and Acrylic Inks

Color Set 1
Color Set 2
Description:

India Ink

Full-Color Drawing Ink Set :: 1oz bottles :: 12 colors

Description:

India Ink

Full-Color Drawing Ink Set :: 1oz bottles :: 12 colors

Color Set 1
Description:

India Ink

Full-Color Drawing Ink Set :: 1oz bottles :: 12 colors

Color Set 2
Description:

India Ink

Full-Color Drawing Ink Set :: 1oz bottles :: 12 colors

We may think more of alcohol ink these days, like the Ranger below, when considering a full-color set of drawing inks.

But I must say that the colors of these Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Inks are just fabulous – vivid, consistent, and long-lasting.

They flow well and are superbly controllable, making these among the best drawing inks I’ve ever used.

50 Colors
75 Colors
Description:

Alcohol Inks - Pack of 50

Full-Color Drawing Inks Set :: Tim Holtz Brand Alcohol Inks and 10 Pixiss Alcohol Ink Blending Tools for Alcohol Ink Paper

Description:

Alcohol Inks - 75 Colors + 5 Ink Alloys + 7 Ink Mixatives

Full-Color Drawing Inks Set :: Complete Set with Alloys, Mixatives, Pixiss Blending Tools, Mini Blending Tools and Foams, Premium Brush Set for Alcohol Ink, and Mini Mister

50 Colors
Description:

Alcohol Inks - Pack of 50

Full-Color Drawing Inks Set :: Tim Holtz Brand Alcohol Inks and 10 Pixiss Alcohol Ink Blending Tools for Alcohol Ink Paper

75 Colors
Description:

Alcohol Inks - 75 Colors + 5 Ink Alloys + 7 Ink Mixatives

Full-Color Drawing Inks Set :: Complete Set with Alloys, Mixatives, Pixiss Blending Tools, Mini Blending Tools and Foams, Premium Brush Set for Alcohol Ink, and Mini Mister

The Tim Holz Ranger line of drawing inks offers perhaps the widest range of colors available, and every color is beautiful – solid, saturated, and impactful.

And the inks overall are great in every way, with beautiful flow, great mixability, and amazing permanence.

No wonder they’ve become among the world’s most popular and highly recommended drawing inks!

My Pick
Set 1
Set 2
Description:

Acrylic Inks - 6 Primary Colors

Color Drawing Inks Set

Description:

Acrylic Inks - Pack of 12

Color Drawing Inks Set

Description:

Acrylic Ink - Pack of 12

Color Drawing Inks Set

My Pick
Description:

Acrylic Inks - 6 Primary Colors

Color Drawing Inks Set

Set 1
Description:

Acrylic Inks - Pack of 12

Color Drawing Inks Set

Set 2
Description:

Acrylic Ink - Pack of 12

Color Drawing Inks Set

Wow, sometimes it hits me just how difficult it is to decide!

In this case, we have three incredibly popular premium art color ink sets with a perfect selection of beautiful and nicely mixable colors. All three are sets I have used and loved.

They flow perfectly and are so easy to use, and all are stunning when dry and long-lasting as well. Just do what I did, and get all three 🙂

Best Brushes and Dip Pens for Artist Inks

Let’s look at the best instruments to apply art ink to paper, canvas, or other surfaces.

And so basically, we are talking about only two things – brushes and pens.

Furthermore, with pens, we are only talking about one type – the dip pen.

Now, to be clear, a fountain pen can be great for drawing and sketching, basic lettering, and deluxe letter-writing.

But it does not have the same spread-point nib a dip pen has, so it cannot offer anywhere near the range, control, or expressivity – with, for example, line thickness or weight – that you can get once you master the beautiful art if the dip pen.

Fountain pens are also less flexible in terms of ink – you really should use an ink specifically designed for fountain pens, and lots of other art ink – including many we’ve covered here – will clog and even damage your beautiful fountain pen.

But let’s say you want the best fountain pen for drawing or writing.

In that case, I can easily recommend the superb Faber-Castell E-motion EF Fountain Pen, and the best refill ink I’ve ever used for fountain pens is Montblanc Bottled Ink. You may also want to check out my articles Best Drawing Pens and Best Gifts for Artists.

My Favorite
Recommended
Description:

A truly premium and compelling pen that is luxurious and perfectly finished and feels just amazing in your hand. My favorite fountain pen!

High-quality stainless steel nib in width M (medium)

Equipped with a cartridge/converter system

Description:

Refill Ink for Fountain Pens :: Mystery Black

My Favorite
Description:

A truly premium and compelling pen that is luxurious and perfectly finished and feels just amazing in your hand. My favorite fountain pen!

High-quality stainless steel nib in width M (medium)

Equipped with a cartridge/converter system

Recommended
Description:

Refill Ink for Fountain Pens :: Mystery Black

Best Brushes for Inks

In terms of brushes, I would recommend water-resistant brushes of the best quality you can afford, specifically a good basic set of round brushes in various sizes.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

My Pick
Value Pick
Budget Pick
Also Great
Description:

My Personal Choice for Best Watercolor and Inks Brush Set

100% Kolinsky Sable Hair Brushes for Watercolor Gouache Ink and More - Professional 4 pc Round Watercolor Brush Set Sizes 0 - 1 - 2 - 3

Description:

Best Value Premium Watercolor and Ink Brush Set

Deluxe Gift Set of 5 Aquarelle Artist Brushes - Assorted Paint Brush Sizes

Description:

Best Budget Watercolor and Inks Brush Set

Synthetic Kolinsky Watercolor Paint Brush, Travel Set of 4

Description:

Brush set of 6

My Pick
Description:

My Personal Choice for Best Watercolor and Inks Brush Set

100% Kolinsky Sable Hair Brushes for Watercolor Gouache Ink and More - Professional 4 pc Round Watercolor Brush Set Sizes 0 - 1 - 2 - 3

Value Pick
Description:

Best Value Premium Watercolor and Ink Brush Set

Deluxe Gift Set of 5 Aquarelle Artist Brushes - Assorted Paint Brush Sizes

Budget Pick
Description:

Best Budget Watercolor and Inks Brush Set

Synthetic Kolinsky Watercolor Paint Brush, Travel Set of 4

Best Dip Pens for Inks

My Pick
Quill Pen
Oblique Dip Pen
For Manga
Description:

8 Joseph Gillot nibs and a pen holder. A specialized series of fine artists' pens for ink sketching, mapping, cartooning, engraving, extra fine writing, and drawing

Description:

100% Hand Craft - Golden Calligraphy Pen Holder Hand Carved Dip Pen Stem Best Antique Executive Gift

Description:

1 Penholder w/ 4 Nibs, 2 Pen Points

Description:

Manga/comic dip pen trial set includes 1 pen holder, 3 pen nibs and 3 manga papers in post card size

My Pick
Description:

8 Joseph Gillot nibs and a pen holder. A specialized series of fine artists' pens for ink sketching, mapping, cartooning, engraving, extra fine writing, and drawing

Quill Pen
Description:

100% Hand Craft - Golden Calligraphy Pen Holder Hand Carved Dip Pen Stem Best Antique Executive Gift

Oblique Dip Pen
Description:

1 Penholder w/ 4 Nibs, 2 Pen Points

For Manga
Description:

Manga/comic dip pen trial set includes 1 pen holder, 3 pen nibs and 3 manga papers in post card size

Yes, some skill is involved in using paint and ink and mastering the amazing expressive range of a true dip pen, but it is well worth the time and effort, and the results can be breathtaking!

I hope you are inspired to push yourself a little, try out a new medium and style of art, and that the experience is truly rewarding. Please let me know how it goes.

What are Artist Inks Used for?

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the beauty and expressive power of pure black and white ink drawings and paintings.

Sure, we can create amazing things with a full palette of colors and shades. But when you look at, for example, the ancient Japanese art of ink wash painting, or Suiboku-ga (水墨画), you realize that a different, and in many ways far more powerful, kind of artistic expression is available in monochrome art.

And that’s the beauty of artist inks. It can be used for a thousand different things:

I like that last one – simple and spontaneous gestures because it gets at the heart of much of Asian art – which is one of the main genres or uses we associate artist’s ink with.

There is something about the simplicity of single broad strokes, open, minimalist compositions, positive and negative space, and pure black and white in not just drawing but in painting that moves something inside us as artists, as well as moving us – pushing us, even – to new realms.

And indeed, as I often challenge my students (or myself), limiting yourself to black and white can open things up inside of you – creative ideas and understanding, vision, technique, and a lot more – that may lay dormant if we are always “limiting” ourselves to ordinary, conventional full-color painting.

Certainly, simplicity and directness affect our eye and direct our hand, and basic understandings of form, flow, and open space can be developed to much higher levels.

Plus, painting with the best drawing inks is fun, meditative, and direct, and can even be kind of cathartic – and the results can be so beautiful.

But again, that’s just one part of the picture. Ink painting is lovely and a great exercise, but good inks, as well as beautiful ink brushes and dip pens, are brilliant for any kind of drawing or sketching, whether incredibly precise or rough, simple or complex, as well as beautiful lettering, illustration and illumination, character design, comics and cartoons, all sorts of illustrations, technical drawing, and on and on.

What Makes Good Artist Inks?

The great thing about this is that an ink that is good for, say, Asian ink painting also tends to be the best choice for calligraphy, comic characters and panels, drawing, fabric, and other art and craft work. In other words, high-quality ink is extremely versatile and useful.

The richness, solidity, and permanence of the different pigments or soluble dyes – whether black or another color – and the flow and control afforded by the best drawing inks is as applicable to painting, rough sketching, and spontaneous gestures as it is too precise and complex drawings.

There have been many different kinds of drawing inks used by artists over the centuries, from lamp black ink (hand-made by artists or writers by burning oils or resins by candle flame) to iron gall ink (made of iron salts, plant pigment particles, and binding agents – the most common ink for maybe 800 years), to today, with our modern acrylic- and alcohol-based drawing inks.

Admittedly these may not be as romantic as burning pine resin in your artist’s garret late at night, as the icy wind howls outside and the meager fire sputters and slowly dies.

But they are far more stable, permanent, consistent, and controllable.

So we can say that the very best drawing inks have a few basic characteristics:

But rest assured that these important factors and more – including value – will be considered in this buyer’s guide for the best inks available for artists, designers, calligraphers, crafters, and all kinds of creatives.

Alcohol Inks, Acrylic Inks, Indian Inks  – Which Is Better for Artists?

This is a seemingly simple question and should have an equally simple answer.

But, based on either casual searches, in-depth research, formal education, or even real-world experience, there are no clear or reliable explanations about the difference between the various kinds of ink or, for that matter which is better or more suitable for artwork, be it painting, drawing, illustration, crafting or whatever.

Liquid Indian inks

Indian ink is probably what most of us think of and is not only the oldest type of ink commonly used by artists but also the most often connected with writing and calligraphy, drawing, and painting.

Acrylic inks

Acrylic inks are the most paint-like and wonderful in many ways – especially if you already know and love acrylic painting.

Alcohol-based inks

Alcohol inks are much newer, are incredibly popular right now, and have an intensity none of the others can match.

They are mostly available as full-color sets, not just black ink.

All we can do is talk a little about the qualities and characteristics of these three main kinds of ink so popular today with artists, and I hope it helps you decide which is best for you – unless you just take my route and get and try all three!

That’s about as clear and complete as I can be, and it still may not answer potential inkers’ real questions. And anyway, some of the characteristics, qualities and straight facts about these kinds of inks are not always true – India ink is not always water resistant, acrylic ink is not always opaque, etc.

So, let’s get down to use.

Use of Artist Inks

Painting (Ink Drawing Skills)

If you are painting, all three ink types are great, and the above descriptions will give you at least some idea of how they will behave.

I love acrylic paint ink, and it is controllable and precise and offers consistent results, but India ink’s incredible washy, absorptive effects are amazing.

This is all more applicable to monochrome painting, as I talk about in the beginning, but if you want to do full-color ink painting, alcohol ink is the obvious choice.

Drawing (Ink Drawing Skills)

Again, all three will work for drawing, but most people think of a good India ink as the best choice. For full-color drawing and illustration, especially when bold and intense colors are wanted, alcohol ink.

Calligraphy (Ink Drawing Skills)

India ink is the preferred option for calligraphy – just make sure it contains no shellac so that it won’t clog or damage your nibs – but again, all three can be used.

If you already love working with acrylic paints, in many ways, acrylic inks are my favorite and most versatile, and easiest to use. But, again, I think it is a wonderful idea – especially since none of them are that expensive – to try various kinds of ink on various kinds of paper, canvas, and fabric. 

You may come up with a clear favorite as I have, or you may find that you love using different ink and see clear advantages and beauties with each… Uhm… like I have…

How Can You Find the Best Drawing Inks for Your Art?

Well, that’s why I wrote this guide.

If you want to try ink painting, beautiful old-school drawing, calligraphy, or lettering, and this whole world of drawing inks is new to you, I make sure you can find the very best ink for your purposes – whether you want the best of the best or the best value to start out with.

And if you are already an experienced inker and may want to try a new brand, you also find the information and recommendations you need.

I’m drawing upon my own experience – I have, after all, tried lots and lots (and lots and lots!) of different inks for different purposes – as well as the recommendations and feedback I have gotten from my colleagues and students.

And to make this guide for the best drawing inks as complete as possible, I include recommendations for acrylic ink and India ink for the first three categories.

For the color sets, I include alcohol-based inks as well. For calligraphy, I go all purists on you and only recommend the best of the best – Noodler’s Bulletproof – but I also throw in a wonderful calligraphy set, which would make a perfect present for almost anybody!

FAQs – Artist Inks

What are the best inks for art?

The best inks for art are India ink, acrylic ink for monochromatic art, and alcohol ink for color art. My favorites are Daler Rowney FW Artists Series Liquid Acrylic Ink and Winsor Newton Drawing Black Indian Ink.

What is acrylic artist ink?

Acrylic artist ink is the most fluid version of acrylic paint. It is very painterly, and artists use it to paint more expressive artwork.

What is the difference between acrylic ink and drawing ink?

Acrylic inks, compared to drawing inks, or India inks, are very painterly, fluid, and flow better. To get technical, they are a fluid version of acrylic paints, so artists use them to create more expressive artwork.

Visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for tons of other inspiring ideas, resources, articles, guides, and a lot more!

Other articles in the Artists Kits & Sets series:

Other articles in the Watercolor, Acrylic, Gouache, and Oils series:

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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