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  1. namrehsnoom

    TAG Kyoto - kyo-no-oto - aonibi

    TAG Kyoto – kyo-no-oto – aonibi 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. For this review, the spotlight shines on aonibi. And I can tell you up front that this ink fully deserves to be the centre of your attention. Kyo-no-oto aonibi is a soft dark blue, more of a muted blue-grey instead of the typical blue-black. The colour is inspired by the light of the moon floating in a blue-grey sky above Kyoto. Tranquility, harmony, softness, elegance… a pastel-like toned-down dark blue that looks great on paper. I guess you can already tell that I like this ink a lot 😉 The ink writes fairly dry with moderate flow in my standard Lamy Safari M-nib test pen. With broader nibs or wetter pens, the dryness disappears. Although fairly dry, the ink writes with sufficient saturation even in EF nibs. Contrast with the paper is good across all nib sizes. Being a dark blue, aonibi offers a business-friendly colour that is not out-of-place at the office. It’s quite an elegant blue with lots of character, that will certainly draw attention… be prepared for some oohs and aahs. The TAG Kyoto inks share a common gene-pool, which consistently delivers nicely muted, elegant, good-looking inks. They totally fit my taste, and I’m quite glad that I discovered them. 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. Aonibi has a fairly broad dynamic range, ranging from light-blue to a fairly dark blue-black-grey. Despite this broad range, there is no harsh contrast between the light and darker parts. This translates to subtle shading, definitely present but never too strong. This aesthetic shading adds character to your writing. The ink’s chromatography shows the pastel-like nature of the dye-mix. The chroma reflects the soft elegance of the ink. It looks simple and monochromatic at first sight, but a closer look shows hidden beauty and complexity. The bottom part of the chromatography indicates a measure of water-resistance. In practice, aonibi is just borderline water-resistant. It can survive a small accident, but that’s about it. Definitely not a water-resistant ink. 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 M205 Demonstrator with M cursive italic nib Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari) Aonibi looks best on pure-white paper. With more creamy paper, the ink loses quite a bit of its beauty (in my opinion). The ink performs well on my test papers, even on the Moleskine paper (which is quite an accomplishment). Drying times are mostly around the 10 second mark. I’ve also added a few photos to give you another view on the ink. Scanned images and photos often capture different aspects of an ink’s colour & contrast. That’s why I present them both. In this case, the scanner captures the colour best, while the photos give a more accurate impression of the ink’s shading. Writing with different nib sizes The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. Kyo-no-oto aonibi always provides enough contrast with the page, even in EF nibs. But with finer nibs in dry pens, the ink writes too scratchy and with bad lubrication, not pleasant at all. Once you move to broader nibs or wetter pens, the dryness disappears and aonibi becomes much nicer to write with. I really like the way the ink looks in the Pelikan with M cursive italic nib. This pen/nib combination brings out the best the ink has to offer: beautiful colour and really elegant shading. Related inks To compare this dark blue-grey aonibi 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 blue-greys – Prussian Blue comes close, but has more grey to it. Inkxperiment – blue mountain With every review, I try to create an inkxperiment using only the ink I am presenting. Such a one-ink drawing works great to show off the colour-range nuances that are present in the ink. These inkxperiments are the favourite part of my reviews: always great fun and a perfect way to experiment with inks using a number of different techniques. The drawing started with a doodle in my journal. I used an A4 piece of HP photo paper, and taped off the bars with masking tape. Next I painted in the background and sun. I then added texture to the mountain using multiple ink/water ratios and some Q-tips. Once dried, I removed the masking tape, and used a piece of cardboard and pure aonibi to paint in the bars. Finally, I used my Safari M-nib fountain pen to add the trees and birds, and to add some extra texture to the mountain. I cropped the scan of the drawing to a square format, because it looked stronger that way. The resulting picture shows really well what can be achieved with aonibi in a more artistic context. Conclusion TAG kyo-no-oto aonibi is a great ink – a muted grey-blue with a unique colour that is both soft and elegant. The ink works best with broader/wetter nibs – it’s really too dry for finer nibs. Aonibi fully blossoms with pure white paper – it loses quite a bit of its beauty on more creamy paper. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with this one: the beauty of Japan in a bottle! 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 : Diamine Prussian Blue vs kyo-no-oto aonibi I have been playing around with some blue inks the past couple of weeks. Two of them are real beauties that definitely fit my taste: Diamine Prussian Blue and TAG Kyoto kyo-no-oto aonibi. Both are muted, toned-down blues that look really, really nice. They are definitely of the same family, but also totally different in character. This piqued my interest… time for a detailed comparison to find out which ink I like the most. Enter... the Ink Shoot-Out. A brutal fight spanning five rounds, where two inks engage in fierce battle to determine who is the winner. And tonight’s fight is really special: two world-class champions with diametrically opposed fighting styles. In the left corner, from the United Kingdom, the bulldog from Liverpool, grandmaster of free-style boxing … Diamine Prussian Blue. In the right corner, from the temple of Kyoto, the slender kung-fu master kyo-no-oto aonibi. Both champions enter the ring. The crowds go wild for what promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime fight. The bell rings, signaling the start of the first round. May the best ink win … Round 1 – First Impressions Both inks make a stellar first impression. Wonderful soft muted blues, that look great on paper – both in written text and in swabs. These inks have a definite vintage vibe, giving a certain “chic” to your writing. These champions have style! Both inks exhibit elegant and aesthetic shading, without too much contrast between the light and darker parts. Great looking stuff! In this first round, both champions give their best, and both throw serious punches at their opponent: Prussian Blue is definitely the better writing ink. It writes wet and well-lubricated. The Japanese ink also lays down a fairly wet line, but suffers from sub-par lubrication resulting in a scratchy feel of pen-on-paper. Kyo-no-oto aonibi shows a more delicate colour that soothes the senses. Prussian Blue also looks great but has more of a dirty purple-grey undertone… nothing delicate about it. Aonibi’s lines look sharper and more defined on the page. In comparison, Prussian Blue’s lines are spread wider. Both inks make a great first impression. Prussian Blue is a delight to write with, but aonibi manages to look seriously better on the paper – it just has that delicate softness that is missing from the Diamine ink. A fair fight with punches in both directions, but overall the supple moves of aonibi win the day. As such, the first round goes to the fighter-priest of Kyoto. 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. With the EF nib, aonibi felt really scratchy, with barely tolerable lubrication. This improved when using broader nibs, but overall the ink keeps suffering from sub-par lubrication. In contrast, Prussian Blue glides effortlessly across the page even with the EF nib. With a lightning-fast left-right, the English champion delivers a solid strike that punches through it’s opponents defenses. The crowd jumps to its feet, roaring its approval. Aonibi recovers by showing a much crisper line on the page: your writing looks sharper and more defined. And the kung-fu master’s moves are a delight, even when they fail to connect. Colourwise, aonibi just looks better! But this round is about the writing act, and here the bulldog from Liverpool certainly has the upper hand. As such, this round goes to Prussian Blue on points. The crowd cheers on the champions. A great show with superlative fighters that are closely matched! Round 3 – Pen on Paper This round allows the battling 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 ? One thing is immediately apparent: these inks are at their best on pure white paper. Muted blues are no good match for creamy paper… they just don’t look right. Diamine Prussian Blue has definite purple grey undertones that are fairly obvious. Aonibi is a much purer and richer blue, which shows more depth and has a more delicate nature. It just looks more refined next to Prussian Blue, showing superior soul and character. In my opinion, there is no competition: aonibi rules the fight. The English champion tries to hit its opponent, but the kung-fu master just glides away with supple gestures. And suddenly… aonibi hits its opponent with a flurry of four thumping strikes, stopping short of the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart blow. Prussian Blue simply crumbles to the floor. For a moment the boxing hall falls to a complete silence. Then the audience explodes and roars its approval. What a fight! Round 4 – Ink Properties Both inks have drying times in the 15-20 second range with the M-nib in my Lamy Safari. The Japanese ink dries just a tad faster than Prussian Blue. To test their smudge resistance, I rubbed the text with a moist Q-tip cotton swab. Here, both inks show definite smudging, but the text itself remains crisp and clear. To test water resistance, I dripped water on the grid and let it sit there for 15 minutes, after which I removed the water with a paper towel. Both champions can survive watery accidents. Some colour disappears, but there’s enough ink left on the page to easily read what is left. Kyo-no-oto aonibi leaves more smudges on the page though. A slight advantage for the Diamine ink. Not a great round. The champions keep circling one another, without much initiative from either side. As such this round ends with a draw. 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. And for this round, both inks are simply amazing. I did the drawing on HP Advanced Photo paper. The background uses heavily water-diluted ink. For the field I added a bit more ink, and next used a brush to paint in the lines that add texture. The trees and clouds where painted in with pure ink. Diamine Prussian Blue clearly shows its dirty grey-purple undertones. Aonibi retains its delicate muted blue nature – even when diluted with water. As far as colour goes, I definitely like the Japanese ink more. But Prussian Blue surprised me by the way the ink dries… you get a strong haloing effect that gives the drawing a cartoony feel. Really special. Both inks are great looking when used in a more artistic setting. I enjoyed using them both. For this round, both champions recovered completely, and gave their best. Lightning fast punches , elegant and graceful moves, solid kicks. A stunning display of exploding energy… The crowd can’t get enough of it. This truly is the fight of the century! Round 5 is the crown jewel of this fight, but in the end both champions are equally good, and no clear winner emerges. As such, this round ends in a draw. The Verdict Both inks are great-looking soft and muted blues, that simply look fantastic on pure white paper. They have quite different characters… and I love them both. These champions deserve their place among the greatest. But the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart move cannot be ignored, and wins the day. As such, the Belgian judge declares kyo-no-oto aonibi the winner of this exciting shoot-out.

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