Ink Review: Kaweco Royal Blue

I began my review of the eight Kaweco ink colors with Pearl Black, though Royal Blue was the first bottle I actually opened. Any manufacturer's version of "ballpoint pen blue" is usually a safe bet - it's like trying the crème brûlée at a new restaurant, or the pale ale at a new brewery. It's a known quantity with minimal variables that provides an easy avenue for comparison.

In my collection, Kaweco Royal Blue is most similar to Lamy Blue, but with a more intense color. Like the other Kaweco colors, it has low saturation, moderate to low shading, and a very dry flow. It produces a thiner line than a wet-flowing ink like Iroshizuku Asa-gao when used in the same pen. It behaves very well on cheap, absorbent paper, and dries relatively quickly on premium sized paper, which, as far as I can tell, was a deliberate choice on the part of whomever engineered the line.

Paper Dry Time Bleed Through Show Through Feathering
Copier 1 second Low Moderate Low
Bagasse 3 seconds Moderate Moderate Low
Rhodia 10 seconds None Low None
Midori 15 seconds None Low None
Canson 10 seconds None None None

Royal Blue holds up to water the same way that the other Kaweco colors do: it doesn't. On the smear test, in which I wipe a wet finger across the page, the ink was wiped completely out, and readily lifted from the page when I blotted it. The same happened on the drip test, where I let a droplet of water sit on the page before blotting. The ink lifted completely away. You can see the same behavior on the soak test, where I hold the paper under running water for a few minutes - no ink remained.

If there is a silver lining, it's that I imagine, though I have not tested, that Royal Blue should clean up easily from other surfaces, like desktops and shirtsleeves. This is an "inside the envelope" ink, certainly not one you'd want to use on the outside.

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Kaweco ink comes in two forms: cartridges and 30ml glass bottles, which is the format I used during testing. The bottles themselves are pleasantly designed, and the labels accurately reflect the color of the ink inside them. I have no real complaints about the bottle, other than I had to tip it to the side slightly in order to create sufficient depth to fill my test pen properly.

After evaluating all eight colors, I've concluded that Royal Blue is the best all-around color, especially if you prefer not-black. the other colors have their place, though, which you'll see in the coming weeks: Palm Green has the best shading and Caramel Brown has a lovely sepia-tone quality, for example. If you're looking for an all-around, ballpoint-blue ink to use in an office environment where cheap paper abounds, then Kaweco Royal Blue is a good bet.

Kaweco Royal Blue is available from:

Review notes: the handwritten portion of the review was created on 160 gsm, acid free, mixed media paper from Canson’s XL line. The broad lines were made using a Pilot Parallel pen with a 3.8mm calligraphy nib. The fine lines were made using a Visconti Homo Sapiens fitted with an EF palladium nib.

A bottle of this ink was generously provided by Kaweco for review purposes.

Ink Review: Kaweco Pearl Black

In the years since I began my fountain pen obsession, I've amassed a fair quantity of ink from a wide variety of manufacturers, but I've never been in the position to review the full range of one manufacturer's offerings. Thanks to the fine people at Kaweco, though, I have all eight colors that they offer, so I can compare and contrast within the line as well as without.

When I first received the big box of ink, ink cartridges, and pens that Kaweco sent my way, I was at a bit of a loss. The ink was dry - extremely so compared to the Diamine and Noodler's ink that often inhabits my pen - almost to the level of an iron gall ink. It felt, in comparison, slightly unpleasant to use. It also lays down a thin line compared to other ink varieties - making any nib seem one degree more fine than expected.

After spending some time with each of the colors and engaging in a bit of experimentation, though, I've developed an appreciation for Kaweco ink. I'm impressed that, aside from some minor variations in saturation and shading, all eight colors have been engineered to perform exactly the same across a wide range of paper types.

Let's start with Pearl Black, the most saturated of the eight colors. It's a solid, coal-black ink that provides good contrast on white, off-white, and cream colored paper. It's not quite as dark and impenetrable as Noodler's Black, but it still provides good coverage. It has the best flow of any of the eight colors as well, though it is still extremely dry compared to ink from other manufacturers.

The characteristic that I found most surprising about Pearl Black, and therefore all of the Kaweco colors, was its performance on cheap, absorbent paper: it behaves very, very well. The dry nature of the ink combined with whatever chemical engineering went into its formulation makes the ink resistant to feathering and bleed through. This is the perfect line of ink for someone who wants the benefits of a fountain pen with a variety of color choices, but who is forced to write on the sort of paper that office administrators buy because it is cheap.

Paper Dry Time Bleed Through Ghosting Feathering
Copier 1 second Low Moderate Low
Bagasse 3 seconds Moderate Moderate Low
Rhodia 15 seconds None Low None
Midori 15 seconds None Low None
Canson 10 seconds None None None

I had no idea what to expect from Pearl Black going into the water test, as this is the first Kaweco ink I've tested. There is no mention of water resistance in the ad copy, which is good, because it doesn't appear to have any. I was slightly surprised by what the Pearl Black did when water touched it though - in each case, it turned a deep purple before washing away.

In the smear test, in which I run a wet finger across the page, the ink turned into a big purple smudge, which after blotting, turned into a grayish, blue-black smudge. Not much is legible where the water came in contact with the ink. In the drip test, in which I leave a couple of drops of water on the paper before blotting, a similar situation occurred. The ink immediately separated into a gray and a purple component, and left a gray circle behind.

The soak test yielded the best results, counter-intuitively, because the multiple components in the ink washed away quickly, leaving a faint set of lines behind. One could argue that this reflects a minor level of water resistance - clearly some part of the ink is bonding to the paper and resisting removal, but the degree to which the ink bleeds and its eagerness to do so suggests that wetting this ink is mostly likely going to lead to ruin. One should absolutely not use this ink for any type of artwork where washes will be layered on top of it.

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Kaweco ink comes in two forms: cartridges and 30ml glass bottles, which is the format I used during testing. The bottles themselves are pleasantly designed, and the labels accurately reflect the color of the ink inside them. I have no real complaints about the bottle, other than I had to tip it to the side slightly in order to create sufficient depth to fill my test pen properly.

Kaweco Pearl Black is an interesting ink. It's a good example of black ink, and it provides good contrast across a wide variety of paper types. It's very dry, which is appealing to those who desire a fine line or who use cheap paper on a daily basis. It's certainly worth investigating if you fall into either camp, or even if you're just curious about what Kaweco has to offer.

Review notes: the handwritten portion of the review was created on 160 gsm, acid free, mixed media paper from Canson’s XL line. The broad lines were made using a Pilot Parallel pen with a 3.8mm calligraphy nib. The fine lines were made using a Visconti Homo Sapiens fitted with an EF palladium nib.

Kaweco Pearl Black is available from:

A bottle of this ink was generously provided by Kaweco for review purposes.

Ink Review: Noodler's Lexington Gray

Noodler's Lexington Gray

The USS Lexington is the oldest surviving aircraft carrier in the world. Commissioned in 1943, it saw extensive service as part of the Pacific fleet during WWII, where it developed a reputation for being impossible to sink - so much so that Japanese navy began referring to it as a “ghost” ship. This reputation, coupled with it’s blue camouflage scheme, earned the ship the moniker “The Blue Ghost.”

Since then, the Lexington has had a long career, acting first as an attack carrier, then as an anti-submarine carrier, and finally as a training carrier. It was finally decommissioned in 1991 and now lives as a museum ship in Corpus Christi, Texas, where it was designated a National Historic Landmark. If you’re going to pick a ship to name a waterproof, battleship gray ink after, the Lexington is a pretty great choice.

“Battleship gray" was named for the particular shade of gray paint used to rustproof steel battleships - a practice that began in the Royal Navy. The paint gets its color from micaceous iron oxide, a sparkly iron ore comprised of millions of tiny rustproof flakes. Curiously, the same iron oxide was first mined to produce “pounce" - the sandy power used during the 18th and 19th centuries to help quickly dry writing ink. Fortunately, you won’t need any pounce to deal with Lexington Gray, as it’s a very well-behaved ink.

It exhibits a surprising amount of shading for an ink with such a high degree of saturation. It’s not a high-shading ink, but there’s enough variation to make things interesting, even in a fine-nib pen. It’s easy to read on a variety of paper colors and types, from white to cream to yellow post-it notes.

It is smooth-writing ink, though the flow is slightly on the dry side. Overall, it’s easy to write with across most types of paper. It also behaves quite well on all of the paper types I tested. Feathering was low across the board, and dry times were will within expectations for the different paper types I tested: cheap, office copier paper; Staples bagasse notepad; Rhoda Bloc pad; Midori MD notebook; and Canson XL Mix Media notebook. 

Paper Dry Time Bleed Through Show Through Feathering
Copier 1 second Moderate Moderate Low
Bagasse 5 seconds Moderate High Moderate
Rhodia 10 seconds Low Moderate None
Midori 15 seconds None Low None
Canson 20 seconds None None None
Noodler's Lexington Gray water test

Noodler's Lexington Gray water test

Lexington Gray is advertised as "bulletproof" - Noodler's term of art for ink that resists removal from that paper, once dry. As you can see by the water test, the description is entirely accurate; the ink isn't going anywhere. Once again, the Lexington lives up to its reputation as unsinkable. This is one of the most impressive water tests I've done. If I didn't tell you that the scan above was from after the water test, you'd never suspect it.

I do three types of tests to evaluate an ink's water resistance. In this case, the first test was the smear test, in which I ran a wet finger across the page. The ink didn't budge. Second, I performed the drip test, in which I placed several droplets of water on the page and let them soak for a few seconds before blotting them up. The ink looked at me and laughed. Finally, I ran the paper under a stream of water for thirty seconds in a process that I call a soak test. The ink just shook its head and said, "Hey buddy. I ain't going nowhere, nohow."

One other item worth noting is that Lexington Gray is also advertised as UV light-proof. Testing ink for light-fastness isn’t part of my standard repertoire, but I do understand that it is a concern for those looking for an archival quality ink. If the water-fastness test is any indication of the ink’s light-fastness, though, I’m guessing that you could leave your work face up in the middle of the Sahara desert for several millennia, and it wouldn’t fade one bit. 

Noodler's Lexington Gray bottle

Noodler's Lexington Gray bottle

Noodler’s bottles are very utilitarian, and this one is no exception. The bottle of Lexington Gray is their standard, stock bottle, filled to the brim with ink. Be careful when opening a bottle of Noodler's ink for the first time - it's easy to spill if you're even the slightest bit careless. On the label is a picture of the ink's naval namesake, the USS Lexington. Noodler’s is never going to win design awards for their bottles or packaging, but they don’t need to when the ink itself is so good.

If you’re a fan of gray ink, or of bulletproof ink in general, Noodler’s Lexington Gray is well worth picking up. It’s a workhorse of an ink, and it will definitely become one of those that makes it into my regular rotation.

Noodler's Lexington Gray is available from many fine retailers, including:

Review notes: the handwritten portion of the review was created on 160 gsm, acid free, mixed media paper from Canson’s XL line. The broad lines were made using a Pilot Parallel pen with a 3.8mm calligraphy nib. The fine lines were made using a Visconti Homo Sapiens fitted with an EF palladium nib.

Ink Review: Diamine Blaze Orange

Diamine Blaze Orange. Click to embiggen.

Blaze orange is well known to Americans as the color of construction barrels, traffic cones, and hunting caps. It’s a color designed to provide significant contrast to the environment – critical when dodging traffic during rush hour on a busy highway or when creeping through the woods with dozens of other hunters, all of whom have high-powered rifles in hand. In those contexts, the color is aggressively monotone, obnoxious, and prosaic, but when embodied in ink form by Diamine, it becomes delightfully dynamic, engaging, and lyrical.

Its most laudable characteristic is its extremely high degree of shading, which is evident even in fine nib pens. It creates the impression of a flickering flame that dances directly off the page. My one quibble with the ink is that it is low in saturation, which, combined with the color, makes it hard to read on cream-colored paper. It looks good, though, on off-white paper and really comes to life on bright-white paper.

Blaze Orange is generally pleasant to write with. Like most Diamine ink, it is neither especially dry nor especially wet. It writes very easily on fountain pen-friendly paper like Midori, but doesn’t do much to make paper with a bit of tooth feel smooth.

In my experience, Diamine ink performs consistently across the different colors of the line: it feathers a bit on absorbent, un-sized paper, and it behaves admirably on coated, ink-resistant paper. Blaze Orange behaved as expected on the five paper types I used to test it: cheap, office copier paper; Staples Bagasse notepad; Rhodia Bloc pad; Midori MD notebook; and Canson XL Mix Media notebook.

Paper Dry Time Bleed-Through Show-Through Feathering
Copier 1 second Yes Medium Low
Bagasse 3 seconds Yes Medium Low
Rhodia 15 seconds No Low None
Midori 10 seconds No Low None
Canson 15 seconds No None None

Diamine Blaze Orange water test. Click to embiggen.

Blaze Orange exhibits very little in the way of water resistance. When I ran a wet finger across the page for the the smear test, I left a giant orange smudge behind. In the drip test, where I let a drop of water soak on the paper before blotting it up, the ink fared no better – the affected ink lifted cleanly from the page, leaving only a soft, orange haze behind. During the soak test, in which I ran the page under a stream of water for 30 seconds, the ink almost completely washed away, fading to a ghost of its original self. This is not an ink that one should use to address an envelope or anything else that might be exposed to the elements.

Diamine Blaze Orange bottle

Diamine Blaze Orange bottle

Diamine ink is available in 30ml plastic and an 80ml glass bottles, both of which are utilitarian and slightly boring in appearance. The 30ml plastic bottle has a neck that is very small in diameter, and I found that some of my larger pens would not fit all the way in, which made getting to the ink a bit of a challenge. Though you may wish to go with the smaller volume to try out a new color, my recommendation would be to go for the larger bottle due to its superior usability.

Blaze Orange isn’t likely to be an everyday ink for most people, but it is a pretty amazing one. I highly recommend it if you’re the kind of fountain pen user who keeps several pens inked at once, or if you just happen to be in a vibrant state of mind.

Diamine Blaze Orange is available from multiple sources, including:

Review notes: the handwritten portion of the review was created on 160 gsm, acid free, mixed media paper from the Canson XL line. The broad lines were made using a Pilot Parallel pen with a 3.8mm calligraphy nib. The fine lines were created using a Visconti Homo Sapiens fitted with an EF palladium nib.

Ink Review: Diamine Meadow

I’m not a connoisseur of green ink. I’ve reviewed J. Herbin’s Vert Olive and Vert Empire, and I have Iroshizuku Shinryoku sitting on my shelf, but none of them have spent much time in my pens. Over the years, I’ve reviewed plenty of red and blue ink, and I love a good purple, but green isn’t a color that captured my imagination – until I tried Diamine Meadow.

There’s no mystery in the inspiration behind the name of the ink – no foreign (to English speakers) language to parse or obscure tidbit to research – only the verdant, vibrant, green of an English meadow. The ink is a lovely, moderately saturated yellow-green that exhibits a very high degree of shading. Like most Diamine ink, it is neither especially dry nor especially wet. It is pleasant to write with, but doesn’t go out of its way to make the pen glide across the page.

In my experience, Diamine ink performs consistently across the different colors of the line: it feathers on absorbent, un-sized paper, and it behaves admirably on coated, ink-resistant paper. Meadow behaved as expected on the five paper types I used to test it: cheap, office copier paper; Staples Bagasse notepad; Rhodia Bloc pad; Midori MD notebook; and Canson XL Mix Media notebook.

Paper Dry Time Bleed-Through Show-Through Feathering
Copier 1 second Yes Medium Moderate
Bagasse 3 seconds Yes Medium Moderate
Rhodia 8 seconds No Low None
Midori 15 seconds No Low None
Canson 20 seconds No None None

While an actual meadow is invigorated by a healthy rain, growing bolder and more verdant as a result, Diamine Meadow is affected in precisely the opposite fashion. The smear test, in which I run a wet finger over the paper, produced a lovely yellow-green smudge, obliterating the lines on the page. In the drop test, in which I leave water on the paper for 10 seconds before blotting it up, the ink lifted easily from the page, leaving a ghostly haze behind.

The soak test, in which I run water over the paper in an attempt to wash the ink away, completely obliterated my writing; only a hint of color remained. In fact, I cut the test short for fear of washing the ink away entirely.

Diamine ink is available in 30ml plastic and an 80ml glass bottles, both of which are utilitarian and slightly boring in appearance. The 30ml plastic bottle has a neck that is very small in diameter, and I found that some of my larger pens would not fit all the way in, which made getting to the ink a bit of a challenge. Though you may wish to go with the smaller volume to try out a new color, my recommendation would be to go for the larger bottle due to its superior usability.

Diamine Meadow is gorgeous and I’ve had a fantastic time using it. It looks phenomenal flowing from an extra-fine nib, a flex nib, and a super-wide calligraphy pen. It’s a tremendous value for the cost – 80ml for about $15 – which is good, because the shading that it displays seems to compel serious amounts doodling.

Diamine Meadow is available from multiple sources, including:

Review notes: the handwritten portion of the review was created on 160 gsm, acid free, mixed media paper from the Canson XL line. The broad lines were made using a Pilot Parallel pen with a 3.8mm calligraphy nib. The fine lines were created using a Noodler’s Konrad fitted with a steel flex nib.