When I was ramping up to do Lapsed Vigilance, one of the subjects for a fair amount of testing centered around what ink to use. During that time I found an ink that I not only used for the project, but has become my standard black for everyday dip pen use*: Best Bottle Sumi Ink. (This isn’t a detailed review, just a commentary.)
When I started practicing for Lapsed Vigilance, I went to my always-on-hand selection, Noodler’s Black (I use fountain pens). It has reasonable flow and is a permanent ink. However, as I was practicing I discovered a trait that isn’t an issue with fountain pens but is definitely one with calligraphy: on both bristol and illustration board it has a tendency to smear when you erase guidelines. Considering how many guidelines I was going to have to scrub off the final board, that was not something I could live with.
Eventually my search ended with Best Bottle. It was a close call between that, Moon Palace (another sumi ink), and Pelikan Tusche A drawing ink. Best Bottle isn’t a waterproof ink, so I wouldn’t use it if I was going to apply a wash — which wasn’t an issue with this artwork. Where it excelled was with having a fast dry time on illustration board with minimal hairline erosion when faced with a white plastic eraser. What subsequently made it my go-to ink, even for practice, is economy. At around $16.00 USD per 200 ml (6.75 oz) bottle (compare with about $13 for 90 ml of Noodler’s Black or $20 for 60 ml of Platinum Carbon Black), it’s an economical option for calligraphic practice and a qualitative option for final work.
Best Bottle isn’t perfect. As I mentioned, it’s not waterproof. With some broad-edged nibs, especially on marker paper, it can be a little finicky. Also, it’s not a commonly available ink, which means you have to shop around the ‘net to find it. If you are mindful of all of this, it’s definitely an ink for calligraphic consideration.
* Caveat: this is a pigmented ink not suitable for fountain pen use. Only use a fountain pen ink in fountain pens.