Inks are usually available both as a sample, and in either a small or large bottle; some brands are available in both; and others give you a collection of three different inks in a smaller bottle in a nice package.
I have never bought a sample or anything but the largest bottle available.
This is my process every single time I am going to buy a new bottle of ink. I have a text file with all the different inks I have seen, that I haven’t bought before, that I think looks interesting. When I’m going to order something I usually go for something I know I liked, and have used before, or I go for something new.
The first thing I do is to open my text file, and open every single link, and look around until I decide on a colour. Then I close everything except the inks that match that colour. And finally I eliminate one by one until I have two or three options left.
Then I move into the research stage. I start by looking at the writing samples at both Goulet and JetPens, before I read every single review I can find. What I am looking for is to get an overview of how the ink is to use, and how it looks with different pens. Because I use thin and wide nibs; wet and dry. Most inks will look different in the different scenarios.
My goal is to know as much as I can about it, before I order. It isn’t unusual for me to use at least an hour to figure out if I want to order a ink or not.
The result is that I have never bought a bottle of ink that I was unhappy with. I have owned a bottle of ink I wasn’t happy with, a bottle of black Lamy ink. The story behind that is that I got it for free when I bought my Lamy 2000, so it doesn’t count.