ink review: j. herbin rouge opera

J. Herbin Rouge Opera

J. Herbin Rouge Opera should come with a warning. If you fill your fountain pen with it, you will, in short order, develop a compulsion to listen to Puccini, Verdi, and, perhaps, Bizet. The ink is the color of a heavy, velvet stage curtain and of walls lined with brocade. It's the color of soprano Anna Netrebko's dress in the 2005 staging of La Traviata. It's each of those shades from moment to moment, and it's all of them at once. Just try to avoid humming a little Wagner once your pen is inked up.

Practically speaking, the color is a dusky red with a hint of maroon. It exhibits a high degree of shading that ranges from brick red to a dark pink. Rouge Opera's behavior, pleasantly, is decidedly less melodramatic than its color. It took 4 seconds to dry on Rhodia paper and Staples bagasse. On cheap, office-grade copier paper, it dried nearly instantaneously.

Like many of the J. Herbin inks, Rouge Opera exhibits a high degree of feathering on low-quality paper. Bagasse fared the worst, with my Visconti Homo Sapiens producing a medium-weight line from a fine nib. On copier paper, the feathering was noticeable, but tolerable. As always, Rhodia and Clairefontaine paper fared the best.

On Rhodia and Clairefontaine paper, Rouge Opera results in low levels of bleed through and moderate show-through. I noticed significant bleed-through and show-through on both Staples bagasse and on copier paper, however. It is something to be aware of if one's intent is to use both sides of a page.

J. Herbin Rouge Opera water test

Most J. Herbin inks that I've reviewed have not been on speaking terms with water. Bleu Pervenche, for example, ran screaming at the slightest hint of moisture, and Terre de Feu faded into the background, leaving only a shadow of its former self behind. I was expecting the same behavior from Rouge Opera, but was, quite frankly, astounded at how it actually responded.

The smear test, in which I run a wet finger across the page, did result in significant smearing. However, as you can see, the words on the page are still completely legible – most of the ink remains bonded to the paper. The drip test, in which I let droplets of water sit on the page before blotting them up, resulted in feathering and lightening of the lines, but still left the words completely legible.

The soak test was the most surprising of all. While some ink washed away, and what was left feathered noticeably, all of the words are still completely legible and visible. I suppose one could refer to it at this point as Rouge Operetta – still of exceptional quality, just a little bit lighter.

J. Herbin Rouge Opera bottle

J. Herbin fountain pen inks come in a 30ml bottle with an integrated pen rest that is suitable for displaying on top of one's desk. The red label on this bottle is fairly representative of the ink inside.

Rouge Opera is a beautiful, dramatic, and on certain types of paper, well-behaved ink; it's certainly a color that lives up to its title. The excellent water-resistance is an unexpected bonus that puts this J. Herbin ink over the top. Keeping the high degree of feathering on poor quality paper in mind, I highly recommend it.

Review Notes: the fine lines were made with a Visconti Homo Sapiens pen with an extra fine 23k palladium nib. The bold lines were made using a Lamy Joy calligraphy pen with a 1.9mm steel nib. The paper is 80gsm from a Rhodia Bloc Pad.

ink review: j herbin bleu pervenche

j herbin bleu pervenche writing sample

J. Herbin makes watercolor-lovely ink. Some colors, like Bleu Myosotis, give the impression that the viewer is looking at a field of wildflowers through a set of gauzy curtains in the pale light of a spring morning. Bleu Pervenche, on the other hand, places the viewer on a rocky outcropping, gazing out at the blue-green waters of the Mediterranean, one hand against the brow to shield his eyes, squinting in the summer sun.

It's an extremely lovely, bold color, even if it is puzzlingly named. Pervenche means periwinkle in French, and this color doesn't resemble the periwinkle that I'm familiar with in the slightest. It's not a light blue-purple, but a bright, bold blue that leans toward the green end of the spectrum (as opposed to the purple end).

I prefer to use new ink for a week or two before I review it. In this case, I cleaned the Noodler's Black out of my trusty Visconti Homo Sapiens and filled it with Bleu Pervenche. While few inks are as smooth as Black, I was pleasantly surprised at how well Bleu Pervenche handled. It is wet-writing ink, which allowed the pen to move easily across the surface of most paper types I used.

The ink exhibits a high degree of feathering on normal copy paper and Staples Bagasse. It generally behaves well on coated papers like Rhodia pads or Clairefontaine notebooks, but does feather when using wet-writing pens like the Pilot Parallel calligraphy pens in the writing sample above.

Like most J. Herbin inks, saturation is low, which enables the loveliest characteristic of Bleu Pervenche to shine: the high degree of shading that it exhibits even in fine-writing pens. Show- and bleed-though were both moderate on Rhodia paper, though I didn't notice it at all on slightly heavier Clairefontaine notebook paper.

j herbin bleu pervenche water test

J. Herbin inks aren't known for being water resistant, and Bleu Pervenche is no exception. When I ran my wet finger across the page for the smear test, it erased most of the lines, and left a blue haze in its wake. The drip test, in which I let a several drops of water sit on the page for a minute before blotting them up, wasn't much better – most of the ink came up with the blotter. The soak test, where I run the paper under water for thirty seconds, was the most impressive of all – nearly all of the ink was washed away, and only the faintest of lines remains.

j herbin bleu pervenche bottle

J. Herbin fountain pen inks come in a 30ml bottle with an integrated pen rest that is suitable for displaying on top of one's desk. The bottles are slightly challenging to use with a large-nibbed pen, though – I had to tilt the bottle to get a deep enough well to fully submerge my pen.

Despite the high degree of feathering and the logistical issues of the small bottle, I have no hesitation in recommending J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche for those that enjoy bold, vibrant colors. It's nearly impossible to be unhappy when writing with this ink. It's an instant pick-me-up, and worth picking up to add to your collection.

Review notes: The fine lines were created by a Lamy Safari that was equipped with a steel EF nib, the medium lines with a Lamy Joy 1.9mm calligraphy pen, and the broad lines with 6.0mm and 3.8mm Pilot Parallel calligraphy pens. The paper is bright white, 80gsm, from a Rhodia Bloc pad.

ink review: j. herbin terre de feu

Rating: 4.0

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If J Herbin Café des Isles is the color of coffee with cream, then Terre de Feu is the color of powdered cocoa. It is a lovely milk-chocolate ink with a slight reddish undertone – almost reminiscent of red clay. It possesses a low degree of saturation and a high degree of shading in even a fine nib pen.

As with most J Herbin inks, Terre de Feu is slightly watery – as a result, it flows easily, but does not provide significant level of lubrication between pen and paper. It is well-behaved in other respects, though. It exhibits a low level of show-through and no bleed-through at all on each of the papers I tested it against.

Dry time was average. On the slow-drying and non-absorbent Rhodia paper, it took 5 seconds to dry to the touch. On the absorbent and typically fast-drying Ecosystem paper, it took slightly longer, at 6 to 8 seconds. I've seen this behavior with occasional inks, and it always startles me. Feathering was atypically low for J Herbin inks on both papers, which is nice to see.

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Water resistance was generally low. In the smear test, in which I run a wet finger across the page, the red-brown dyes ran easily, creating a lovely smudge on the page. The drip test, in which I let several drops of water soak into the page for a minute before blotting them up, pulled the red-brown dye right off the paper, leaving a ghostly grey line behind.

The results of the soak test, in which I run the paper under a stream of water for thirty seconds, were better than I anticipated. While the red-brown dye washed off almost immediately, it left behind a light grey line that is similar to a pencil line. As a result, a catastrophic encounter with water might not completely obliterate one's work. However, I wouldn't use Terre de Feu with anything I intended to resist the elements, like the outside of an envelope.

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J. Herbin fountain pen inks come in a 30ml bottle with an integrated pen rest that is suitable for displaying on top of one's desk.

Brown inks are a versatile lot. It is a relatively conservative color, so one could quite likely use it for business purposes. It reads easily on white and off-white paper, and therefore works well for journaling or personal correspondence. This ink, in particular, is lovely for calligraphy and other artistic endeavors, with a rich, earthy character hiding under its surface.

I like J Herbin Terre de Feu more than Café des Isles. It is a versatile ink that walks the line between conservative and bold, and the red undertones are evocative and lovely. While the water resistance is low, it is otherwise a delightful ink to use, and, for those that like brown ink, is a worthwhile addition to your collection.

Review materials: For the wide strokes, I used a Lamy 1.1mm steel calligraphy nib in a Lamy Safari. For the narrow strokes, I used an EF steel nib in a Lamy Safari. The paper is Rhodia 80gsm from a No. 16 Bloc Pad.

j herbin 1670 in flex nib

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I'm continuing to experiment with my Noodler's Flex Nib Piston Fill fountain pen. Above is a writing sample with J. Herbin 1670 - their 2010 limited edition anniversary ink. 1670 does some very interesting things when used in a flex nib. A golden/copper tone appears in the heavily shaded areas. In fact, in the right light, it actually shimmers a bit.

The script I'm using is an adaptation of the "brush script, broad-edged minuscule 2" from The Calligrapher's Bible: 100 Complete Alphabets and How to Draw Them.


You can see the golden/copper tones in the image above. No shimmering, though, due to the scanner.


Another detail sample, taken with a camera.

ink review: j. herbin bleu myosotis

Rating: 4.0


J. Herbin Bleu Myosotis is a lovely, pale blue ink that evokes a field of wildflowers – like its namesake “myositis,” which is more commonly known as “forget-me-not.” The low level of saturation allows for an extremely high degree of shading in both fine and wide nibs. In fact, in a wide enough nib, it almost looks like one is painting with watercolors.

Like Vert Empire, Myosotis is one of the wetter J. Herbin inks, which are, as a group, among the wettest inks I own. As a result, it writes smoothly, but tends to feather on Moleskine and other lower quality papers. On Rhodia paper, it behaved itself, but just barely. I could tell that it was giving the paper a run for its money – especially with the 6mm calligraphy pen I used.

Beyond the tendency to feather, this ink is otherwise well behaved. Both show-through and bleed-through were low to negligible, and the drying time was consistent between Rhodia and Moleskine paper: about ten seconds.

Blue inks are generally acceptable in business use, and I expect that Bleu Myosotis would be no exception. It’s a bit pale for my tastes, and, in fact, I find it a bit challenging to read on off-white paper due to its low level of contrast, but it is a lovely ink. For those who like a more ephemeral ink, this would be a good choice for journaling or correspondence. Where I see myself using it most often is in calligraphy, since the level of shading in a wide nib is simply gorgeous.


J. Herbin fountain pen inks come in a 30ml bottle with an integrated pen rest that is suitable for displaying on top of one’s desk. In fact, the colored labels provide a nice burst of color when one has a significant collection assembled.

J. Herbin Bleu Myosotis is a very pretty ink that will appeal to those that like softer, more artistically inclined inks. Those that prefer bold inks that produce consistent lines, however, should avoid it.

Review materials: For the wide strokes, I used three calligraphy pens: Pilot Parallel 6.0mm and 3.8mm pens, and a 1.9 mm Lamy Joy. All three have steel nibs. For the fine strokes, I used a Lamy EF steel nib on a Lamy Safari. The paper is Rhodia 80g.