Ink Review: Kaweco Ruby Red

I'm a big fan of red ink. Red is my favorite color - I'm drawn to its vibrancy and dynamism. If the color red has a drawback, though, it is the quality that makes it so interesting: the high degree of contrast that makes it stand out from the crowd. In nature, red is an attention getting color, sending one of a number of messages depending on the organism in question: I am poisonous, I am ripe, I am dangerous, I am delicious. Unfortunately, all the extra stimulation that our brains must endure when dealing with the color can cause red ink to be fatiguing to read over a long period of time.

To find a regular spot in my ink rotation, then, a red ink's aesthetic qualities have to outweigh the burden of use. Some colors capture my imagination: Diamine Red Dragon is magical and J. Herbin Rouge Hematite is spectacular while Iroshizuki Momiji is sublime. Kaweco Ruby Red, though, is more prosaic: it's a pragmatic magenta red, and it makes no pretense about being more. It exhibits low to moderate levels of shading, depending on the width of the nib, and provides very high levels of contrast on white, off white, and cream colored paper.

As with the rest of the Kaweco line, Ruby Red is a dry ink that behaves well across all paper types, from the super-smooth Midori MD to the cheap, feather-prone, low-grade copier paper found in most offices.

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

In the water test, Ruby Red showed no resistance at all. The smear test, in which I rub a wet finger across the page, resulted in a red smear that then lifted completely from the page when blotted. The drip test exhibited the same behavior: the ink lifted easily after a drop of water sat for a few seconds. The soak test, in which I run the paper under water, washed away the ink completely.

Each of the Kaweco colors behaves similarly with regard to water resistance: they have none. As long as you keep this in mind, it shouldn't dissuade you from using the ink - just make sure to limit your use to applications that don't require 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.

Ruby Red is a fine red ink - it's well behaved and moderately priced - but it fails to capture my imagination. I don't think it will find its way into my regular rotation for that reason. However, if you are in a position where you need a vibrant ink and you are stuck working with low-grade paper, it could be a very reasonable choice.

Kaweco Ruby Red 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. All lines, broad and thin, were made using a Pilot Parallel pen with a 3.8mm calligraphy nib.

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

Words Matter

Words matter. More so than self awareness, tool use, and opposable thumbs, language is the characteristic that best defines humanity. We are a species that has words and knows how to use them: to hurt and to heal, to communicate and confound, to define ourselves and others. On a global scale, wars have been won, lost, and waged over words; religions founded and fractured based on the interpretation of words; cultures cultivated and sustained through the repetition of words. 

Humanity uses words to record its history, its discoveries, its fumbling and stumbling attempts to make sense of its place in the great, infinite, star-speckled universe in which it finds itself. Humanity uses words to write haiku and Herculean epics; to write the Bible and Qur’an and Bhagavad Gita. It yells and whispers and demands and hates and loves and gives through the use of words. 

Hobbes wrote in Leviathan that life in a state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short. Humans may have gathered together in those early days of civilization in order to pool their labor, but it was the words that they developed that kept them together. Like Virgil, words guide us out of the gloomy wood and elevate us from a life of brutish survival to a life of discovery and purpose. 

We use words to write the narrative of our lives – the stories that we tell ourselves and which we consequently tell others – so the words that we choose become our lives. Yes, we are cells and plasma and bones and hair and microbiomes, but we are so much more than that. We are our words. They are we and they are us and we are they, and because we matter, because we all matter, they matter. Words matter. 

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.

Inkventory: 2015

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 Three years ago, I took stock of my ever-expanding ink collection. It feels like it's time to tackle that process again. Here is the full list of ink bottles that I own, most of which are pictured above:

De Atrementis

Diamine

Everflo

J. Herbin

J. Herbin 1670

Kaweco

  • Caramel Brown
  • Midnight Blue
  • Palm Green
  • Paradise Blue
  • Pearl Black
  • Royal Blue
  • Ruby Red
  • Summer Purple

Lamy

Noodler's

Parker

Pelikan

Pelikan Edelstein

Pilot Iroshizuku

Platinum Pigmented

Private Reserve

  • Chocolate
  • Orange Crush

Roher & Klingner

Sailor

Waterman

  • Florida (Serenity) Blue
  • Purple

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.