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Robert Oster Signature - Charcoal

robert oster signature charcoal purple-grey

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7 replies to this topic

#1 namrehsnoom



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Posted 29 December 2017 - 20:05

Robert Oster Signature - Charcoal


Robert Oster is an Australian ink maker that is well-known for its unique range of colours. On his website, he describes our shared love quite eloquently: “Robert Oster Signature originates from one of the most famous wine producing regions of the world, the Coonawarra district of South Australia, an idyllic setting with great influence on the senses. There is my inspiration. It’s a joy to share it with you.” Well, we are certainly fortunate to have inspiring ink makers like Robert Oster to satiate our thirst for glorious inks.




In this review, the center stage is taken by Charcoal. Catherine from Sakura provided me with a sample of this ink to play around with – much appreciated! This particular incarnation of a Robert Oster ink is a purple-leaning grey. The ink provides good contrast with the paper, which is good. On the other hand, I found it to be quite dry in smaller nib sizes, which is not good (this with my Lamy Safari, which is itself on the dry side). Only with broader nibs did I achieve a pleasing writing experience. I liked the writing experience a lot when paired with a B-nib.




Charcoal shows some heavy shading, with quite a bit of contrast between the light and darker parts. I prefer my shading to be more subtle though – for me personally, heavy shaders are less aesthetically pleasing. The ink itself is a complex mixture, with multiple undertones. When used for drawing, you can bring these blue, red and green undertones to the surface in washes.
To show you the impact of saturation on the ink’s look & feel on paper, I made some scribbles where I really saturated portions of the paper with ink. This gives you a good idea of what the ink is capable of in terms of colour range. 
Like most Robert Oster inks, Charcoal has zero water resistance.  Short exposures to water completely obliterate the text, leaving next to nothing on the page. This is evident from the chromatography – the ink detaches easily from the paper, as can be seen in the bottom part of the chroma. Smudge resistance is quite good though.

I’ve tested the ink on a wide variety of paper – from crappy Moleskine to high-end Tomoe River. On every small band of paper I show you:
  • An ink swab, made with a cotton Q-tip
  • 1-2-3 pass swab, to show increasing saturation
  • An ink scribble made with an M-nib fountain pen
  • The name of the paper used, written with a B-nib
  • A small text sample, written with an M-nib
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib)
Charcoal behaved perfectly on all paper types, with no visible feathering – not even on Moleskine paper, which is quite a feat. On the other hand, the ink shows some unusual chemistry on Moleskine paper, resulting in a sickly greenish colour.  Really strange, and something I also observed with Purple Rock, which is also an ink with purple components. Could it be something with the chemistry of Robert’s purple dyes that clashes with the Moleskine paper ??? The same occurred – to a lesser degree – with Tomoe River paper. Charcoal manages to look quite ugly on Tomoe River. Overall, the ink dries quickly near the 5-second range, with makes it a suitable ink for lefties. 
 I also show the back-side of the different paper types at the end of the review. No troubles there, except with the Moleskine paper, which shows a bit of bleed-through.  All in all, a very well-behaving ink.




Robert Oster Charcoal is a purple-grey ink, that is at its best in broader nibs, where it truly shows off its colour range and heavy shading. Unfortunately, the ink has no water resistance – the briefest touch of water completely obliterates your writing. The ink also has trouble with some types of paper – it looks horribly green on Moleskine paper, and looks rather sickly on Tomoe River. All things considered, I’m personally not impressed by this particular Robert Oster creation as a writing ink. For drawing, this ink has some potential, due to the complex undertones that easily surface in washes.
Technical test results on Rhodia N° 16 notepad paper, written with Lamy Safari, M-nib
Back-side of writing samples on different paper types

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#2 titevm



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Posted 29 December 2017 - 21:12

Oh, I think I'll have to put this on my list  :blush:


Thank you for the wonderful review!

#3 Lgsoltek


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Posted 29 December 2017 - 21:13

I think the colour variation at different saturation is lovely, and I quite like the colour, but that kind of Osteresque (dry and no lub) behaviour just puts me off.


And the sketch is gorgeous. Are those some kind of crystals, molecule structures?

#4 ENewton



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Posted 29 December 2017 - 23:32

Purple Rock is a similar color and not notably dry, but unfortunately it also turns green on certain papers, either initially (on holiday gift tags) or over time (on Tomoe River).

#5 namrehsnoom



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Posted 30 December 2017 - 00:26

Purple Rock is a similar color and not notably dry, but unfortunately it also turns green on certain papers, either initially (on holiday gift tags) or over time (on Tomoe River).

Indeed. Purple Rock is a wetter (and also more daringly purple) ink in comparison to Charcoal, which makes it a superior ink in my book. But also that strange greenish effect on some papers, probably due to some of the same dyes used in both inks.

#6 Newjelan



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Posted 01 January 2018 - 03:42

Beautiful colour, fabulous review, what a shame it is a dry ink.

#7 finnegans


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Posted 03 January 2018 - 19:27

What a great, comprehensive review - thanks!

#8 FinScherlis



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Posted 03 January 2018 - 22:58

Wonderful review! Thank you! And: What a colour! What a variation in its hues!

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: robert oster, signature, charcoal, purple-grey

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