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  1. TAG Kyoto - kyo-iro - Soft Snow of Ohara TAG is a stationary shop in Kyoto (Japan) that produces some interesting soft watercolour-style inks. With the kyo-iro series they produce a line of inks that that are inspired by the city's many beautiful and historic sights. Each of these inks is dedicated to a specific town in the Kyoto area. The inks come in 40 ml bottles, packaged in luxurious thick paper with a texture that feels like heavy watercolour paper. In this review the spotlight is on Soft Snow of Ohara. This ink is best described as a muted grey-violet-blue, an intriguingly complex colour that is named after winter scenery found in the village of Ohara near Kyoto. During ice-cold winter mornings the snowy landscape can take on a violet-blue tinge... that's the colour captured by this kyo-iro ink. I really like this subtle and delicate soft grey-purple, that seems to shift from violet to blue depending on the quality of the light. Soft Snow of Ohara is also nicely saturated and relatively wet-writing compared to other TAG Kyoto inks. Shading is simply gorgeous - not too much contrast between the light and darker parts, which makes for an aesthetically pleasing effect. And this beautiful shading even shows up in finer nibs, which is a feat that not too many inks can pull off. The ink looks great on both white and yellow paper: delicate, understated, elegant simplicity. 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 Tomoe River paper with ink. This gives you a good idea of what the ink is capable of in terms of colour range. As you can see, Soft Snow of Ohara moves from very low to relatively high saturation, without resulting in extreme contrast between the light and darker parts. This translates to elegant & subtle shading over a wide range of nib sizes. The ink's chromatography looks rather monochromatic at first sight, but a closer look shows a range of undertones in the ink - grey, blue, purple, red. Subtle complexity that translates to a beautiful writing ink. In swabs the ink appears like a greyed-down violet, while in writing it's more of an indigo-blue. As is apparent from the lower part of the chroma, the ink has very low water resistance. This is confirmed in my tests: water quickly obliterates your writing, leaving only unreadable smudges on the paper. 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 Lamy Safari The name of the paper used, written with a B-nib Lamy Safari A small text sample, written with the M-nib Safari Source of the quote, with a Pelikan M120 with F nib Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari) Soft Snow of Ohara behaves well on my test papers, with only a tiny (almost invisible) amount of feathering on the more absorbent papers. On lower quality paper there is quite some see-through and bleed-through. Drying times were mostly in the 5 to 10 second range with the Lamy Safari M-nib. The ink looks great on both white and more yellow paper, and lays down a well-saturated line on the page. Writing with different nib sizes The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. Kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara can handle all nib sizes without problem. With the EF nib, you still get a nicely saturated line. Shading is present in all nib sizes. As usual, broader nibs accentuate the ink's shading capabilities, which never gets too harsh but always remains subtle and elegant. I like the greyed down character of this ink, that adds a layer of sophistication to what would otherwise be a simple indigo-blue. Plus points for character! Related inks To compare Soft Snow of Ohara with related inks, I use my nine-grid format with the currently reviewed ink at the center. This format shows the name of related inks, a saturation sample, a 1-2-3 swab and a water resistance test - all in a very compact format. Of special note is the comparison with kyo-no-oto sakuranezumi, which I also like a lot. When you see them side by side, Soft Snow of Ohara is obviously more blue-leaning, while the purple dominates in sakuranezumi. Robert Oster Purple Rock comes close, but is a touch more purple. Inkxperiment - moment of zen With every review, I try to create an interesting drawing using only the ink I'm working on. These inkxperiments show what the ink is capable of in terms of colour range. They are my favourite part of doing an ink review: simply playing around with the ink, and having lots of fun. Inspiration for this drawing comes from the Dreamworks film company logo with the fishing boy sitting on the moon. From here it shifted to a scene with a boy fishing at a lake within a cave. I started with a piece of HP photo paper. This has become one of my favourites for ink drawings: inks really look much more vibrant on this medium. To create the background I covered the photo paper with a wet piece of kitchen towel, and then applied strongly water-diluted ink with a brush. The ink filters through the kitchen towel onto the photo paper, creating a nicely textured background. Next I used a brush with 1:1 water water-diluted ink to paint in the cave contours. The final scene was drawn in with my Safari fountain pens and pure Soft Snow of Ohara. The end result gives you a good idea what can be achieved with this kyo-iro as a drawing ink. Conclusion TAG kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara is a beautiful greyed down indigo-blue that is a real pleasure to write with: nicely saturated, relatively wet-writing, looks great on all paper types. The muted tone of this ink provides an extra dimension of elegance and simplicity, and gives extra character to what would otherwise be another indigo-blue. Really well executed! Soft Snow of Ohara is also a fine drawing ink, that I enjoyed a lot. Another great ink from TAG Kyoto. Technical test results on Rhodia N° 16 notepad paper, written with Lamy Safari, M-nib Back-side of writing samples on different paper types
  2. Ink Shoot-Out : Robert Oster Purple Rock vs kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara I recently did a review of kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara, and noticed that Robert Oster Purple Rock has a similar colour in writing. Both inks are really nice soft & elegant grey-blurples that look great on paper. Time to do a detailed comparison, and find out which of these inks I like the most. Enter... the Ink Shoot-Out. A brutal fight spanning five rounds, where our champions engage in a formidable battle to determine who is the winner. Today's fighters are Tai Chi masters that excel in elegant moves to bring down their opponents. In the left corner, from Australia, the well-known master Robert Oster Purple Rock. In the right corner, from the city of Kyoto in Japan, comes the relatively unknown fighter Soft Snow of Ohara. Both champions take their places in the ring under a thunderous applause from the crowd. The gong signals the start of the first round. Let the fight begin and may the best ink win… Round 1 – First Impressions The fighters start circling each other, showing soft & elegant moves and countermoves. Some exploratory attacks & feints to seek out weaknesses in their opponent's defences. Both champions make a great first impression. These inks are greyed-down blue-purples, with a faded look that is both tranquil and elegant. They are well-saturated, even in finer nibs, and provide excellent contrast with the paper. Shading is just perfect, without too much contrast between light and darker parts, which adds to the aesthetics of the inks. Both are worthy champions, but there are some differences: Soft Snow of Ohara is more of a muted indigo-violet, while the Robert Oster ink has more of a purple look. This is most obvious in swabs, but also in writing when both inks are put side-by-side. Purple Rock is definitely the drier ink. It writes with sub-par lubrication in my Lamy Safari test pen. Soft Snow of Ohara seems a very wet ink in comparison. Both inks make a great first impression. Personally I find the grey-blue-violet of Soft Snow of Ohara a more pleasing colour. Both inks look great though. Worthy opponents that showed their skill during this round. A pity that the Robert Oster ink made a false move at the start... its dryness is not something that you will easily forget. A minor failure, but enough to grant this round to the Japanese ink from the TAG Kyoto stable. The chromatography clearly shows that the kyo-iro ink has more blue in its composition, whereas the Robert Oster ink is built from a more purple base. From the bottom part of the chroma you can already see that not much ink remains when water is added. Round 2 – Writing Sample The writing sample was done on Rhodia N°16 Notepad with 80 gsm paper. Both inks behaved flawlessly, with no feathering and no show-through or bleed-through. The Robert Oster ink is really dry, and feels very scratchy when writing. But this is not reflected on the page - the ink still lays down a well-saturated crisp line with the EF nib. With broader nibs, the dryness disappears and both inks glide fluently across the paper. Both inks are excellent shaders, even with the finer nibs. It's not often that you encounter inks that manage to exhibit shading in an EF nib. Both Purple Rock and Soft Snow of Ohara can pull off this nifty feat. The shading remains aesthetically pleasing as you move to broader nibs. Due to the low contrast in the saturation range of these inks, there is no harsh difference between light and darker parts. Shading thus remains soft and elevates the elegance of your writing. Really well executed! For this round, the focus is on writing, and here both inks look equally well on the page. As such this round ends in a draw - not because the champions were weak... not at all. They both entertained the public showing off excellent punches and counter-punches, executed with great style. The crowd is loving it! Round 3 – Pen on Paper This round allows the batlling inks to show how they behave on a range of fine writing papers. From top to bottom, we have: FantasticPaper, Life Noble, Tomoe River and Original Crown Mill cotton paper. All scribbling and writing was done with a Lamy Safari M-nib. Both champions did well, with no show-through nor bleed-through. But this round is not about technicalities, it is about aesthetics and beauty. Are the fighters able to make the paper shine ? Both inks can handle both white and more yellow papers with ease, looking good on both types of paper. The kyo-iro looks the more beautiful of the two - to me it seems to have more depth to it, and the grey-violet looks a bit more pleasing to the eye. Purple Rock shows a definite weakness on the Tomoe River paper. Look closely at the scribbles below the text, and you'll notice that the ink has lost its purple character, and even takes on a bit of a green undertone. There is something in the composition of Purple Rock that can clash with chemicals in the paper. Below is a much more extreme example on Moleskine paper: here all the purple in Purple Rock is lost and replaced by a sickly green undertone. When the chemistry doesn't undermine Purple Rock's looks, both inks look great, although I prefer the bluer tones of Soft Snow of Ohara. But when the chemistry goes wrong, Purple Rock completely caves, and loses all of its appeal. Gone is the elegance and beauty... the champion now becomes a stumbling wreck. The crowd hasn't failed to notice this, and neither has the judge. The advantage in this round goes to the kyo-iro ink. A deserved win! Round 4 – Ink Properties Being dry and scratchy, you'd expect Purple Rock to be a fast-drying ink. But that is not the case. On the Rhodia paper it took over 15 seconds to dry (using a Lamy Safari with M-nib). And although Soft Snow of Ohara feels much wetter, it is still a fast-drying ink at around 5-10 seconds. The Japanese champion scores a solid hit on its opponent in this area. Both inks smudge when rubbed with a moist Q-tip cotton swab, but the text itself remains crisp and clear. The smudging is a bit more pronounced with Purple Rock. Neither ink shows any water resistance. Drip water on your writing, and all that is left is an unreadable mess. Here both inks are weak, and neither of them can impress the public. For this round, neither ink did much to impress the crowd. But at the start of the round, the Japanese ink managed a surprise attack that really hurt its opponent. Soft Snow of Ohara is surprisingly fast-drying for a wet-feeling ink. Not exactly a knock-out, but a definite win on points. The stadium roars its approval for the TAG Kyoto champion. Round 5 – The Fun Factor Welcome to the final round. Here I give you a purely personal impression of both inks, where I judge which of them I like most when doing some fun stuff like doodling and drawing. The drawing was done on HP photo paper, that typically brings out the best from inks. Both inks do well, and allow for some nice effects. They both have a fairly medium colour span, that results in subtle colour differences between areas of lower and higher saturation. The contrast is never harsh, which translates to a soft-toned image that looks pleasing to the eye. I really enjoyed using them. In the picture, I used different water/ink ratios to draw in the background. The trees were drawn in with my fountain pen and pure ink. I also used the fountain pen to add some texture to the mountainside. Both champions show their best moves: lightning-fast strikes and intercepts, an elegant dance of warriors. The stadium shakes with the applause of the crowd. What a fight! Both inks work superbly as drawing inks. It's really a question of personal preference: do you prefer the more purple tones of the Robert Oster ink, or the bluer violet of Soft Snow of Ohara? Myself, I liked Purple Rock just a tiny bit more. It's easier to bring out some of its undertones: if you look closely, you can see some red in the mountainside, and a subtle hint of green in the air. But objectively speaking, both champions did equally well, and showed off their immense potential. As such, this round ends with a draw. The Verdict Both inks are muted, soft & elegant beauties, that work well on both pure white and more yellow paper. They are sell-saturated, and look great in all nib-sizes. These inks even show shading in EF-nibs! Purple Rock has a big weakness though: with some paper types, the chemistry clashes and the ink is reduced to an ugly green-grey mess. If you can avoid these circumstances, Purple Rock definitely is a beautiful writing ink, although a dry & scratchy one. Counting the points, the outcome is obvious: Soft Snow of Ohara is clearly the winner of this exciting fight!
  3. TAG Kyoto - kyo-no-oto - sakuranezumi TAG is a stationary shop in Kyoto (Japan) that produces some interesting soft watercolour-style inks. With the kyo-no-oto series they produce a line of inks that replicates traditional Japanese dye colours. According to available only info, the manufacturing process of the kyo-no-oto inks follows traditional dying techniques dating back to the Heian era between the years 794 and 1185. The inks come in 40 ml bottles, packaged in luxurious thick paper with a texture that feels like heavy watercolour paper. In this review I take a closer look at sakuranezumi. The ink's name derives from a type of pigment (iron-holding Magnesium-Aluminum-Silicate) that is traditionally used in Japanese painting techniques. The name literally translates to "Cherry Blossom Mouse" and refers to the purple and grey character of the colour. Sakuranezumi is a dusty grey-purple that fits an ancient Japanese setting. Understated and elegant, with an inherent complexity that is very appealing. I immediately took a liking to this ink. It's still early in the year, but this one will probably end up in my top 3 of 2020. The ink feels a bit on the dry side in my fine Safari nibs. But not so dry as to be unusable. The line is still nicely saturated, even with fine nibs - you just get a bit of feedback when writing. With medium Safari nibs and with wetter pens, the ink just feels perfect and writes smoothly. Shading is great, without too much contrast between the light and darker parts - just as I like it. In writing, this purple ink leans heavily towards the grey, which just looks great on paper - classic, vintage, elegant, aristocratic... I love it! 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 Tomoe River paper with ink. This gives you a good idea of what the ink is capable of in terms of colour range. As you can see, sakuranezumi has a medium colour span. This ink moves from a light to a dark grey-purple, without a sharp contrast between these extremes. In writing, this translates to subtle shading which is aesthetically very pleasing. The ink's chromatography shows a wonderfully complex mix of muted pastel-like dyes. Cherry blossom and mouse-grey/blue tones are clearly present. The resulting mix is definitely a purple, but with a strong grey undertone that clearly shows in writing. In swabs and when used as a drawing ink, the purple dominates. The bottom part of the chroma seems to indicate that there is some measure of water-resistance, but alas... in practice the ink shows zero water resistance (both with still and running water). 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 Lamy Safari The name of the paper used, written with a B-nib Lamy Safari A small text sample, written with the M-nib Safari Source of the quote, with a Pelikan M400 with F cursive-italic nib Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari) Sakuranezumi behaves well on all my test papers, with no visible feathering. It even worked reasonably well on the horrible Moleskine paper, without feathering and with only minimal bleed-through. Drying times were mostly just above the 5 second mark with the Lamy Safari M-nib. The ink looks great on both white and more yellow paper, and behaves well across all my test papers. Writing with different nib sizes The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. Sakuranezumi can handle all nib sizes without problem. With the EF nib, you still get a nicely saturated line albeit without shading. Shading starts to appear with the F-nib, and is strongly present in broader nibs. Because of sakuranezumi's medium colour span, shading is never harsh and looks very eye-pleasing. And the strong grey undertones in this ink really add a layer of sophistication and elegance to this dusty purple. Related inks To compare sakuranezumi with related inks, I use my nine-grid format with the currently reviewed ink at the center. This format shows the name of related inks, a saturation sample, a 1-2-3 swab and a water resistance test - all in a very compact format. This kyo-no-oto ink is different from my other dusty purples, although Diamine Damson comes close (Damson has just a touch more purple). Inkxperiment – men's best friend With every review, I try to create an interesting drawing using only the ink I'm working on. Such a one-ink drawing is a great way to show off the colour-range nuances the ink is capable of. These inkxperiments are my favourite part of the review: often challenging, but always great fun. The elegance and complexity of sakuranezumi already implied that this would be a great drawing ink - I just had to verify this with the inkxperiment. I wanted to use watercolour paper for this drawing, but mistakenly grabbed a piece of cardboard paper (a Fellowes binding cover) - I only realized this when the drawing was finished. Inspiration comes from the apocalyptic zombie movie "I Am Legend" starring Will Smith and his dog. The city setting and dog kept lingering in my mind, and form the concept for this drawing. I painted in the background with a Q-tip and 4:1 water-diluted ink. Next I painted in the dog and the people with a fountain pen and brush using pure sakuranezumi. The city backdrop was added with a Q-tip, and building accents were penciled in with the fountain pen. I personally like the end result. It shows quite well what can be achieved with sakuranezumi as a drawing ink. Conclusion TAG kyo-no-oto sakuranezumi is a winner! A very sophisticated dusty grey-purple that is a beauty in writing: nice contrast with all nib sizes, works well with all paper types, looks great on both white and off-white paper. It is also a superb drawing ink, that I really enjoyed. In my book, this is a must-have ink. I can almost guarantee that you will enjoy it! 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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