Writing Down the Ink #15: Mixing It Up

Over six years ago my journey to find two or three reliable, reasonably priced inks began. It’s been a year since confessing to settling on Pilot Blue-Black as my everyday writing ink. What’s still true since that last post?

  • Pilot Blue-Black remains my main daily ink.
  • A couple of Sailor inks are still here, but the bottles haven’t been opened in quite a while.
  • Waterman Mysterious Blue (the former Blue-Black) is still my “just in case” ink. (Used primarily for troubleshooting.)
  • There’s something new going on.

Price Still Important

Keeping costs reasonable for consumables, such as ink, remains my goal. That goal’s been warped a bit because of the desire for color beyond the basic Pilot Blue-Black.

The good news is Pilot Blue-Black. The cost is still under $.10 per ml shipped when buying the 350ml bottle. What’s not to love about that? A great price point for an ink that has not failed to perform for me.

Meanwhile, prices on both Sailor and Waterman inks have gone up a bit. These 50ml bottles now cost over $.20 per ml without even including shipping costs.

Using the concept of, uh, splurging kept me swimming in Sailor inks for awhile. But when my last bottle of Sailor Doyou was dwindling, I took another hard look at my desire for the occasional color. I tried a couple of other non-Japanese ink options, but after performance disappointments, I returned to ink made in Japan.

Enter Platinum Mix Free Inks

As someone who has curated fountain pens which are issue free with Pilot, Sailor, and Platinum inks, I’m a little spoiled, ay? Knowing my bias towards Japanese inks, I took a gamble on a set of Platinum Mix Free inks. PMF, in short. These inks were designed to be mixed with each other.

Platinum Mix Free set of 9 bottles
Platinum Mix Free set of 9 bottles

Mind you, I was able to obtain the set of 9 inks at a special price of $.20 per ml (shipping included). Normally a set of PMF will cost around $.29 per ml. (If you have to pay for shipping, the cost will be more.)

The ink comes in 60ml bottles. Individual bottles average about $20 (that’s $.33 per ml without shipping costs). Yikes. Here we go again, ay? Although there is that rare place that currently sells them for $16 per bottle ($.20 per ml sans shipping costs).

Platinum Mix Free Ink hit the USA in mid-2011. The inks caused quite a buzz, but seem to fallen flat—largely based on the individual colors provided in the set. Since that time there have been many reviews of the individual colors, but not much discussion about the mixing of those colors.

Certainly, my own past experiments with mixing inks has not been much fun. Sometimes the resulting inks were way too generous in their flow properties. That was particularly true of my Sailor ink experiments.

That said… I took this plunge into PMF not to use the individual colors by themselves, but to mix them together for new colors. Additionally:

  • I jumped in knowing that, based on experience, Platinum inks were likely to  perform well in my pens;
  • and, equally important, I was hoping that PMF would break the desire to chase after beautiful bottles of ink because, hey, I could mix my own to some degree.

I think a lot of us, myself included, would like to be given a guide as to which ink to mix with what other inks. Would one of you artist types write something please about Platinum Mix Free recipes? Pretty please?

Some of us are just pen dweebs, inky scrawler writer types. We’re not artists or calligraphers, we just want some ink to brighten our scrawl from time to time. We don’t know how to mix colors. It’s easier to chase bottles of beautiful inks without going to the bother of mixing.

At least I don’t know how to mix inks. And so, I spent some time studying color theory and mixing, and began experimenting anew with PMF. There’s a ton I don’t know. I’ve devoted a bit of time—not a lot at all—to these experiments.

There’s a specific thread on FPN about Platinum Mix Free recipes. After the initial yet extensive burst of mixing colors together, the thread has not been updated with recipes. Even so, this thread is an excellent resource, and a good place to begin your own study.

FPN also has a forum topic on inky recipes. Although there’s nothing specific about PMF inks, there’s lots of good stuff posted to learn from.

In 2011, Okami-Julie wrote a blog post detailing her attempt to reproduce Montblanc Racing Green. There’s rumors of a Sailor style Red-Brown recipe, but I haven’t seen it anywhere.

If you can find a Pantone chart with mixing ratios, it’s not perfect for this task, but can be helpful.

Getting Started

You don’t have to buy the full set of PMF inks to start mixing them. Bottles can be bought individually. The mixing jars and dilution liquid can also be bought separately.

You can even start with three or four inks that kind of mimic the color basics.

Primary palette:

  • Blue = Aurora Blue
  • Yellow = Sunny Yellow
  • Red = Flaming Red

Or you can try a sort of CMYK palette:

  • Cyan = PMF Aqua Blue
  • Magenta = PMF Cyclamen Pink
  • Yellow = PMF Sunny Yellow
  • Black = PMF Smoke Black

The PMF set comes with two plastic mixing jars, and two small plastic pipettes of a sort. The set also comes with a dilution liquid. I have not as yet used the dilution liquid, nor the included plastic pipettes. My understanding is the dilution liquid is actually colorless ink.

You can also buy the dilution, jars and pipettes (as a group) separately from the ink set.

pmfkit

Two identical jars. One contains clear dilution fluid.
Two identical jars. One contains clear dilution fluid.

Instead of using the plastic pipettes, I use syringes to draw ink from the bottles.  The syringes are labeled, with one devoted to each ink. This singularity was to ensure no contamination from one ink to another.

blunt syringes
blunt syringes

During the mixing process, I use a Heritage nib in a wooden holder to write with the ink. There’s no feed attached, making the nib quick to clean between dips. Because the Heritage nib is a fountain pen nib, it gives me a pretty good approximation of how my own pens will write with the ink.

dip

Also, there are two 70ml Pilot bottles devoted to holding my two most commonly used recipes. I like these bottles because they have what I feel is the best plastic insert inside the bottle for getting a good converter fill of ink.

repurposed Pilot 70ml bottles
repurposed Pilot 70ml bottles
ink bottle inserts left to right: Sailor, Namiki, Pilot
ink bottle inserts left to right: Sailor 50ml, Namiki 50ml, Pilot 70ml

Remembering What’s Successful

In order to remember where a mix came out well, or where it went badly, required dedicated notebook, of course.

Starting out, I swabbed all the nine inks. Additionally, I did a paper towel chromatography of each ink. That was very helpful to see what additional colors were making up some inks. For example, as you’ll see in the photo below, Smoke Black has multiple colors involved in it. These chromatography pieces were taped inside the notebook.

pmfp1

pmfp2
Chromatography on left is Sunny Yellow. On right top to bottom: Leaf Green, Cyclamen Pink, Flame Red, Earth Brown.

The tiny insert that comes with each bottle of ink, codes the inks as follows:

  • Aqua Blue = QB
  • Aurora Blue = AB
  • Cyclamen Pink = CP
  • Earth Brown = EB
  • Flaming Red = FR
  • Leaf Green = LG
  • Silky Purple = SP
  • Smoke Black = SB
  • Sunny Yellow = SY

pmfleaflet

In the beginning I was very conservative, measuring out small .ml portions of ink. When I found an ink I liked, I upped the ratios so that pens could be inked up.

A new recipe is tested out on my everyday papers, and these writing samples are pasted into the notebook.

You can see from the pages below that, in the last six months,  I’ve made very few colors. Once I like a color, well, I move on to using it. Frequently.

pmfp5
On the left, chromatography includes Sailor Chu-Shu & Sailor Shigure. Otherwise all chromatography is of PMF inks.

pmfp3 pmfp4 pmfp6 pmfp7 pmfp8

My number one favorite recipe is named “Olive Oil.” I play with the ratios a little bit, to see how far I can push the recipe’s appeal. Sometimes it’s very gold-green, other times very yellow-brown, and other times deep, dark brown. It’s fun to be able to adjust on a whim.

After “Olive Oil,” comes “Gray Sky,” and “Definitely Teal.” At some point, I’ll experiment more to find a deep dark purple, and a gray-green that I like.

The inks are as silky smooth as you’d expect from, for example, Platinum Blue-Black or Sailor inks. The surprise to me was the shading the inks produced.

The colors are complex, and different papers or nibs will bring forth different expressions of a recipe. Uh… I didn’t make complex colors, the inks themselves are complex which is cool.

Check out the coffee ring resistance:

Pretty good coffee resistance, ay?
Pretty good coffee resistance, ay?

Here are four recipes, top to bottom: #1 Olive Oil, #2 Dusky Plum, #3 Gray Sky, and #4 Definitely Teal:

PMF
#1 = Olive Oil; #2 = Dusky Purple; #3 = Gray Sky; #4 = Definitely Teal

When I have more time, I want to experiment to find a deep, dark purple that I like. Dusky Plum was nice but not quite right.

Will PMF break my Sailor ink habit? So far so good. As always, more to be revealed as the pens are written along the journey.

Cleaning Up

For cleaning the ink from pens, Platinum (of course) recommends their Platinum Ink Cleaner formula. The cleaner comes in foil packets boxed along with a small, plastic squeeze bulb. Five packets of cleaner are included in a box, along with detailed cleaning instructions. The box comes in two configurations: one for Japanese nibs, and one for European (aka JoWo-style) nibs.

cleaner

cleaner2

The cleaner is not inexpensive, costing anywhere from $14 to $20 per box. Again, I lucked out on a deal at under $8 a box from a seller who was closing out Platinum products.

The stuff is stinky! Like rotten egg stinky.

A single packet is meant to be diluted in 100ml of lukewarm water, and then discarded. I use an old Rapido-Eze jar to hold the diluted cleaner. Then I pour a little of it into another container for the actual cleaning of pens and syringes. Over time, I end up diluting the cleaner with about 200ml of water, and find it still works great.

Repurposed Rapido-Eze jar
Repurposed Rapido-Eze jar

The cleaner is powerful stuff; highly effective. I wrote Platinum Pen USA to see if an MSDS sheet was available. There wasn’t one but they assured me the cleaner was safe, and they had been using it regularly on their own pens.

Even so, I would not recommend soaking anything but plastic sections in the cleaner. The instructions are to soak the nib overnight in the cleaner. I take care not to soak urushi and celluloid sections in the cleaner, making sure only the nibs are sitting in the liquid.

Is the Platinum branded cleaner necessary? Dunno. Since I have it, I’ve been using it.

If you have specific Platinum Mix Free ink recipes to share, I hope you will share them either in the comments here, in the FPN thread on Recipes, or on your own blog. Or if there’s something out there in the ether I’ve missed, please chime in!

Over time, I expect to discover that some bottles of PMF are used more than others. My most commonly used PMF colors are the two blues, Earth Brown, Leaf Green, Smoke Black, and Sunny Yellow. That’s six out of nine bottles. The three colors that are the most depleted thus far are Smoke Black, Earth Brown, and Sunny Yellow.

Among the nine colors that come in the set, there are none I’d use on their own. That’s me, ay?

I don’t know that using Platinum Mix Free for mixing is a good path for a reduction in ink costs overall, but the set has definitely curtailed more ink purchases.

Platinum Mix Free Olive Oil, Pilot Blue-Black, Platinum Mix Free Gray Sky
Platinum Mix Free Olive Oil, Pilot Blue-Black, Platinum Mix Free Gray Sky (Maruman Report Pad W)

A Few Links

Updated on 2016-03-06 to include:

Cheryl at ShopWritersBloc has many recipes for various ink brands on her blog. Thanks kp for the reminder!

Other Writing Down the Ink posts are here.

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One thought on “Writing Down the Ink #15: Mixing It Up

  1. Another very informative article from you, Julie! I am bookmarking several of the links that you’ve provided here. Also, the shopwritersbloc blog has posted several interesting ink mixing articles over the past few years that might be fun to check out.

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