Ink Sample Junkie

I admit it. I’m addicted to ink samples. Ever since I found out that I could order a 2ml sample of ink from, I’ve been going a little crazy. I love that I can sample an ink color before I drop down the big bucks for a bottle. Of course, not every bottle requires an expenditure of big bucks. Still, if you order an entire bottle of ink, you should really be in love with it because it will probably take you a long time to use up all that ink. I didn’t really understand that until I ordered my first bottle and inked up a pen. I swear, the ink level in that bottle did not even budge!

My problem was, that after I discovered these wonderful ink samples, I found color after color that I wanted to sample. And at anywhere from only $1.25 to $1.70 to try out an ink color, I found myself ordering more and more of them. What’s another dollar or two, I would ask myself. And then, to top it off, I discovered that I could order entire packages of ink samples based on certain properties like color, brand, property (i.e. waterproof, scented, shimmery, etc.).

After I hit 50 samples, I started to realize that I had no real handy way to store all these little vials and I was starting to forget what colors they each were. Sure, I could look at the ink in the vial, but that doesn’t always tell you exactly what it looks like in a pen or on paper. I could also go online and look at the color. But often, I just wanted to browse through my sample vials and pick an ink by color to fill up my next pen. I am one of those annoying people who prefer that the ink match the color of the body of the pen. I do give black inks an out – they can go into any pens. And clear, black, silver, and gold pens can also be filled with any color. At least those are the rules I like to adhere to.

So, what to do? While I was surfing around on the net one day, I came upon a fantastic idea from ‘Pens and Art’. They had discovered that the little ink sample test vials fit perfectly in 15/17mm test tube holder racks! And, they labeled the top of their test vials with paper reinforcement rings colored with the ink in the sample bottle so they knew at a glance the true color of the ink. You can check out their inspiring page here:

I absolutely loved their solution! So, I followed their lead. I bought some test tube holders from Amazon for a measley $6.50:

I also bought some paper reinforcement rings and colored them with the sample ink colors. However, instead of inking the entire ring with a Q-tip, which they noted sometimes caused the rings to disintegrate, I just drew patters on the ring. I actually ended up liking this better because it allowed me to see how the ink looked against the white of the reinforcement ring paper.

The next dilemma was how to sort them and organize them in the tray. Should I put them in order alphabetically? By manufacturer? By color? My first thought was to place them in the trays by color in the same order as a standard color wheel. Remember those from art class? So that’s what I did. Now, whenever I wanted to fill a pen with a certain color, say purple, I could easily browse through all the purplish sample inks, because they were all right next to each other, and pick one. Done, right?

Not quite. Unfortunately, I found that often I would want to find a specific ink by brand and name, and it was a pain to sort through them all to find the exact one. Sure, I knew if it was a red ink that I could just look through my red samples, but I soon had over 100 samples. I keep a spreadsheet of all the sample inks I own, sorted alphabetically by brand and then by the name of the ink, and can therefore easily determine if I have the ink I want. However, I still struggled sometimes to find the ink I was looking for in my plethora of sample vials. So eventually, I ended up resorting my samples to the same way I organized them in my spreadsheet. Now I can find a the ink sample I want easily. And if I’m just browsing for a color I like, I can quickly scan through them all by looking at the color on the top, and pick just the right one.

I’m not sure if I’m an exception, or if there are a lot of other sample ink junkies out there like me. But just in case, I thought I’d share my experiences and final organization method. Hopefully, there’s something in here that someone will find useful. Oh, and did you hear that Goulet Pens just made available a sample pack of the 12 new Diamine Shimmertastic inks, and that they also began carrying an entirely new brand of inks by Robert Oster? I may need to buy a few more test tube racks!

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