L'Artisan Pastellier Callifolio - Bleu Ultramarine
L'Artisan Pastellier is a small company in southern France that specialises in natural pigments, and offers customers authentic and reliable products in beautiful colours based on mineral or vegetable pigments. In a collaboration with Loic Rainouard from Styloplume.net, the chemist Didier Boinnard from L'Artisan Pastellier created the line of Callifolio fountain pen inks. These pastel-coloured inks are traditionally crafted, and can be freely mixed and matched. Overall these inks are only moderately saturated, and have low water-resistance. The inks were specifically designed to work well with all types of paper, and all types of fountain pens.
Being pastel-tinted, these inks have a watercolour-like appearance, and are not only fine inks for journaling, but are also really excellent inks for doodling & drawing. I only recently discovered them, and they are already the inks I gravitate towards for personal journaling.
In this review the spotlight is on Bleu Ultramarine, one of the many blue inks of the series. From Wikipedia we learn that Ultramarine is a deep blue colour and a pigment which was originally made by grinding lapis lazuli into a powder. The name comes from the Latin ultramarinus, literally "beyond the sea", because the pigment was imported into Europe from mines in Afghanistan by Italian traders during the 14th and 15th centuries. Ultramarine was the finest and most expensive blue used by Renaissance painters.
Sounds interesting, but unfortunately - for me - the ink doesn't live up to its name. I find it to be a rather standard blue, in line with the run-of-the-mill Royal Blues of other ink manufacturers. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm not exactly a fan of this type of colour. Personally I find that this ink lacks complexity, making it rather dull and uninteresting. This is not an ink that captured my attention.
Technically, the ink feels well lubricated even in my rather dry Lamy Safari test pens. That's a welcome change from other Callifolio inks that often feel a bit dry on the nib, and work best with wetter pens. Bleu Ultramarine shows some nice shading in broader nibs, with an aesthetically pleasing balance between the light and darker parts. With fine nibs though, this shading is mostly absent, and makes the ink look flat and dull.
To show you the impact of saturation on the ink's look & feel on paper, I made some scribbles where I fully 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. Bleu Ultramarine disappoints a bit in this area - the ink has a rather limited dynamic range.
On the smudge test - rubbing text with a moist Q-tip cotton swab - Bleu Ultramarine showed a lot of smearing, but without impacting readability of the text which remains crisp and clear. Water resistance is low: most of the dyes quickly wash away under running tap water, leaving only a faint residue, that is quite unreadable. With still water though, even a 15 minute soak leaves a perfectly readable result on the paper. Not a water resistant ink, but if you spill some fluid on the page and quickly dry it with a paper towel, your text will survive.
The soak test nicely shows the purple undertones in this ink - the more water-resistant dyes are a bit purple-leaning. This subtle purple undertone can be used to good effect when drawing with the ink. For me, this under-the-surface purple component saves the ink from being a total bore.
I've tested the ink on a wide variety of paper - from crappy Moleskine to high-end Tomoe River. For the Callifolio reviews, I'm using small strips to show you the ink's appearance and behaviour on different paper types. On every 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)
Bleu Ultramarine behaved perfectly on all the paper types, with no apparent feathering even on the lower quality papers in my test set. Drying times are mostly around the 5 to 10 second mark, making it a fast drying ink. Not really suited for lefties though, because it lays down a rather wet line, albeit one that dries super fast. The ink is equally at home with both white and off-white creamy paper. It shows a consistent look across all the papers in my test set - quite impressive.
I also show the back-side of the different paper types, in the same order. With the low-end Moleskine there is some show-through and bleed-through. With the other papers, Bleu Ultramarine's behaviour is impeccable. The ink copes really well with a wide variety of paper types.
Inkxperiment – Village at the Lake
As a personal challenge, I try to create interesting drawings using only the ink I’m reviewing. I find this to be a fun extension of the hobby, and these single-ink drawings certainly present a real challenge at times. With these small pictures, I try to give you an idea of what the ink is capable of in a more artistic setting. For this drawing I used 300 gsm rough watercolour paper. The background was brushed in with water-diluted ink. I then added more and more ink to the mix, to paint the darker layers of the "Village at the Lake". Due to Bleu Ultramarine's limited dynamic range, it wasn't easy to add depth to the picture. In some parts, the purple undertones show through, adding a bit of complexity to an otherwise monotone picture. In the foreground, I painted in some plants with bleach - just to show you that this ink reacts nicely with the bleach, resulting in a golden-yellow colour.
Bleu Ultramarine is a run-of-the-mill standard blue, with a consistent look across different paper types. The ink writes really well, and can even cope with lower quality paper. Technically, this is a good ink! Personally, I'm not a fan of this type of blue, which to me lacks a certain appeal (which is a nice way of saying that I find this type of blue boring as hell ;-). But if you like Royal Blues, you owe it yourself to give Bleu Ultramarine a try.
Technical test results on Rhodia N° 16 notepad paper, written with Lamy Safari, M-nib
Backside of writing samples on different paper types