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  1. Ink Shoot-Out : Rohrer & Klingner Isatis Tinctoria vs kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara I ‘m a big fan of muted and soft-toned inks, and fortunately there are lots of inks out there that fit my taste perfectly. Kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara is one of the great ones among them. Recently, fellow member @JulieParadise graciously provided me with a large sample of the Rohrer & Klingner 2021 Limited Edition ink Isatis Tinctoria – a newcomer that joins the ranks of soft & elegant inks. Another great one, and Julie wondered if it could hold its ground against the Soft Snow. This smells like a challenge to a reigning champion. 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 world-class champions engage in fierce battle to determine who is the winner. Today’s fighters are martial artists that excel in elegant moves to bring down their opponents. In the left corner, from the city of Leipzig in Germany, our challenger: the Kung-Fu master Isatis Tinctoria. In the right corner, from the city of Kyoto in Japan, comes the renowned Tai-Chi fighter Soft Snow of Ohara. Both champions take their place in the ring under 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 in an almost dance-like choreography… soft & elegant moves and countermoves. A weave of energy with some exploratory attacks & feints … a lashing foot-kick that glides off the opponents defense, a lightning-fast arm-strike that is absorbed as by water. This battle ballet is a true feast for the eye. Both champions make a great first impression. These inks are greyed-down blue-purples, with a vintage-style faded look that is 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. These truly are worthy champions, but there are some obvious differences: Soft Snow of Ohara is more of a muted indigo-violet, while the Rohrer & Klingner ink is a blue with some purple-leaning undertones. This is most obvious in swabs, but also in writing when both inks are put side-by-side. Both inks share the faded toned-down look, and elegant vintage vibe. Wonderful stuff… Isatis Tinctoria is the drier ink. Not annoyingly so, but with finer nibs you definitely get more feedback from the paper. Soft Snow of Ohara seems a very wet ink in comparison. The kyo-iro ink looks more saturated, especially in broader nibs. Isatis Tinctoria seems to more readily maintain its muted character across the nib range. Both inks make a great first impression. My personal preference leans towards Isatis Tinctoria: I really like its muted character with the hint of purple shining through. But talk to me later, and I may have changed my mind 😉 Both inks are great ones, worthy opponents that showed their mastery during this initial round. The chromatography of both inks looks eerily similar. You would expect much more similarity in the ink’s colours, but with Soft Snow of Ohara you clearly get a more purple-leaning look. 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. Isatis Tinctoria feels a bit drier than its counterpart, and writes a bit less saturated. Nevertheless, both inks can easily cope with the complete nib range, writing beautifully even with the EF-nib. With broader nibs, Isatis Tinctoria seems to provide a more consistent look – in contrast Soft Snow of Ohara gets more saturated when using broader nibs. Both inks are elegant shaders, even with the finer nibs. It’s not often that you encounter inks that manage to exhibit shading in an EF nib. Both Isatis Tinctoria 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 looks of your writing. Really well executed! For this round, the focus is on writing, and here both inks look equally well on the page. Only minor slip-ups… Isatis Tinctoria feels a bit drier, Soft Snow of Ohara shows less consistency across nib sizes. As such this round ends in a draw – not because the champions were weak… not at all. They both delivered a fine spectacle, showing they are really masters of their martial art. The crowd is loving it! 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, Original Crown Mill cotton paper and Yamamoto Bank paper. All scribbling and writing was done with a Lamy Safari B-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 ? These inks can handle both white and more yellow paper with ease, looking good on either type of paper. Soft Snow of Ohara is a bit stronger in its shading, with more contrast between the light and darker parts. In the scan, both inks look really similar, with just a bit more purple in the kyo-iro ink. This is most obvious with the naked eye and in swabs. In normal writing both inks can look really similar, with the purple dominance of Soft Snow of Ohara only becoming readily apparent when you put the writing samples side by side. But overall there is just one word for these beauties: WOW! In this round the martial art battle is a feast for the eye. Elegant positions that seem to defy gravity, and that give rise to powerful attacks, gracefully deflected by the opponent. A crane position explodes into a powerful leg-kick… the opponent flows like water, absorbing the energy, deflecting it and throwing that energy back in an equally powerful mantis strike. And on and on it goes… The crowd roars its approval and is loving every minute of it. Finally the gong rings, signaling the end of this round. Again, no definite winner emerges… these fighters are really well matched! Round 4 – Ink Properties Being the drier ink, you’d expect Isatis Tinctoria to be the faster drying ink but that is not the case. Both inks exhibit similar drying times in the 10 to 15 second range. Both inks also smudge a little when rubbed with a moist Q-tip cotton swab, with the text itself remaining crisp and clear. Neither ink shows any water resistance. Drip water on your writing, and all the colour dissipates leaving nothing readable on the page. Here both inks are equally weak, and neither of them can impress the public. For this round, neither ink did much to impress the crowd. The champions seem to be saving their strength for the final round, simply circling each other without much enthousiasm. As such this round ends with a draw. The crowd is now getting a bit restless, and is eagerly anticipating the final round. 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 exceptionally 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. From the picture you can see that Soft Snow of Ohara has a deeper saturation point – compare the trees with the underlying rock. With Isatis Tinctoria, you get a more even look, with less differentiation between areas of high and low saturation. In the picture, I used heavily diluted ink (20:1 water to ink ratio) to draw in the background. The rocks were painted in with a Q-tip dipped in ink. For the trees and the sitting champion I used my fountain pen and pure ink. Both champions show their best moves: lightning-fast strikes and intercepts, an elegant choreography of dancing warriors. This is martial arts at its best! The stadium shakes with the applause of the crowd. A truly awesome 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 Soft Snow of Ohara, or the bluer looks of Isatis Tinctoria ? I have no real preference myself: today I would probably choose Isatis Tinctoria, but tomorrow I might be more drawn to the looks of the kyo-iro ink. It’s difficult to choose between two masterfully executed inks. And the judge follows my lead… both champions did equally well, and showed their immense potential. The Verdict Both inks are muted, soft & elegant beauties, that work well on either pure white or more yellow paper. They are well-saturated, and look great in all nib-sizes. These inks even show shading in EF-nibs! During the fight, the inks showed differing styles (blue vs purple leaning), but equally well executed. Both Isatis Tinctoria and Soft Snow of Ohara truly belong to the great ones! It’s not often that a shoot-out concludes without a winner, but in this case both inks rightfully deserve the crown.
  2. Ink Shoot-Out : Diamine Meadow vs TAG Kyoto kyo-no-oto moegiiro Not so long ago I did a review of kyo-no-oto moegiiro – a yellow-green ink from TAG Kyoto stationery shop. I enjoyed the ink a lot – I just love this shade of green. While preparing the review, I noticed that Diamine Meadow looks really similar. This could be a doppelgänger ink! 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 look-alike inks do battle to determine who is the winner. This time around, the battle is between lightweight boxers from different continents. In the left corner – from Liverpool, England – the well-established but relatively unknown champion Diamine Meadow. In the right corner, from the Japanese city of Kyoto, the challenger: kyo-no-oto moegiiro. Both champions make their way to the ring, while the crowd fills the arena with its thunderous cheers. Let the fight begin and may the best ink win… Round 1 – First Impressions The bell rings and the fighters start circling each other. A flurry of strikes and counterstrikes follows, with the champions looking for weaknesses in the other’s defenses. Great moves, feints and blocked-off strikes. This fight looks lively, and both inks make a great first impression. These inks have a lovely yellow-green colour, that looks on the light side but is sufficiently saturated to make for easy reading. Contrast with the page is definitely ok. Shading is fairly heavy, even in finer nibs. Not too harsh though, but really elegant. These inks are almost doppelgängers, but there are some differences: Diamine Meadow looks a tiny bit more yellow, with a somewhat lighter presence on the page. A bit less saturated, but contrast with the paper remains good. Kyo-no-oto moegiiro is a bit more saturated at the darker end of its colour range. It lays down a line that is a bit darker than that of Diamine Meadow. Both inks are great shaders, but with moegiiro the contrast between the light and darker areas looks a bit more interesting with better aesthetics. There is more depth to the shading, which adds character. Both champions make a great first impression. Colourwise, there is little to differentiate these inks. But the slightly darker saturation point of moegiiro adds extra depth to this ink, makes for a more pronounced presence on the page, and provides more aesthetically pleasing shading effects. Both fighters did really well, but it’s the elegant moves from moegiiro that you’ll remember. The Japanese ink clearly dominated this round. No solid hits and no knock-outs, but for this judge, the ink from Kyoto wins this round on points. The chromatography clearly shows that both inks have lots in common. They have a really similar composition, with only a touch more yellow in Diamine Meadow’s mix of dyes. The biggest difference appears to be in the degree of water solubility of the dyes. 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 inks look good in all nib sizes, even the EF-nib. Shading is also prominently present, just a hint with the EF-nib, but really pronounced with M nibs and above. Shading with the Japanese moegiiro looks a bit nicer though, with more depth of character. Beware that the scan exaggerates the shading in the broader nibs – in real-life it looks much less harsh. So, below you'll find a photo that provides an alternative look: The writing sample also clearly shows the more saturated nature of moegiiro. Diamine Meadow is a bit lighter on the page, probably because it has more yellow in its mix of dyes. Overall, I feel that moegiiro shows a bit more character, and looks better in written text. I also noticed that Diamine Meadow writes a bit more scratchy, appears less lubricated than the Japanese ink. But this could also be an artifact of the nibs in my test-pens. The Safari pens used for Meadow had the black Lamy nibs – and I’ve read that these write drier than the corresponding plain steel nibs. For this round, the focus is on writing, and here the advantage clearly belongs to the fighter from Kyoto. The Japanese champion breaks several times through the defenses of Diamine Meadow, delivering solid strikes. Better saturation and with it a superior presence on paper… bam! More character in the shading… bam! No knock-outs, but these punches definitely hurt! This round is a solid win for kyo-no-oto moegiiro. 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, Original Crown Mill cotton paper, and Midori notebook 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 are lovely yellow-green inks that look good on both white and cream paper, but really show their best on pure white paper. On their own, both the English and Japanese ink look beautiful. But it’s when you put them next to each other that the richness of moegiiro becomes fully evident. A bit less yellow, a bit more saturated… these small differences have a significant effect on the end result. Diamine Meadow tries its best, but it cannot reach the depths and elegance that moegiiro has to offer. Again, the scan exaggerates the contrast in the writing, so below is a photo of the same information: The Japanese champion shows much better footwork, moves more fluently. With his superior technique, he continuously puts his adversary on the offensive. Still no knock-out, but moegiiro clearly dominates the play. And the public agrees… they’re now chanting for the fighter from Kyoto who’s stealing the show. This round is definitely a win for the Japanese ink. Round 4 – Ink Properties These inks are not fast-drying, requiring about 15 seconds to dry. Diamine Meadow even takes a little bit longer. Both inks are reasonably smudge-resistant. Some colour rubs off when using a moist Q-tip cotton swab, 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 inks show their weakness in this respect. With Diamine Meadow, nothing remains on the paper (from the bottom part of the chroma, I had expected better). And kyo-no-oto moegiiro just leaves some unreadable smudges. Neither ink likes to come into contact with water. For this round, the fighters just keep circling one another. Neither makes an attempt to please the crowd. The public is now boo-ing. This is not what they paid for… The bell rings, signaling the end of this disappointing round. Round four thus 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. Yellow-green inks are usually fun to play with, and these two are no exception. Both inks do well, and are great for creating some artwork. The colour range you get is just perfect, with light and darker areas complementing each other nicely. I really enjoyed using them. In the picture, I used different water/ink ratios to draw in the background. The horizontal tree bark was painted in with a piece of cardboard and pure ink. The trees and decorative elements were added in with a B-nib Lamy Safari and pure ink. Both inks work well as drawing inks. Personally, I prefer moegiiro a bit more, mostly because the range between light and dark parts can be a bit wider, and because it’s easier to get a darker saturated green. But either ink is just excellent to draw with. A big thumbs-up for both champions, that really did their utmost to please the public in this final round. No real winner, only a real spectacle that is greatly appreciated by the crowd. As such, round five ends with a draw. The Verdict Both inks are joyful yellow-greens that are great for journaling and drawing. Diamine Meadow and kyo-no-oto moegiiro look quite similar… real doppelgängers. But in the end, the Japanese ink has a bit more depth and character to it, which makes it the nicer one of the two. No knock-out in this fight, but a solid win on points.
  3. 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.
  4. Ink Shoot-Out : Mont Blanc Burgundy Red vs Papier Plume Red Beans and Rice The other day I was playing around with Mont Blanc Burgundy Red, enjoying the ink a lot. I just love these toned down colours that move towards pastel territory, and this ink fits the bill. This definitely is NOT a bright and vibrant red! It occurred to me that Red Beans and Rice from Papier Plume is from the same colour family. 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 truly formidable inks do battle to determine who is the winner. This time around, it's a battle between a prominent heavyweight, and a new kid on the block. In the left corner, the Mont Blanc muscle-man: Burgundy Red. In the right corner, from the French Quarter in New Orleans, Red Beans and Rice - a relatively new talent from the Papier Plume stable. Both champions enter the ring, the crowd starts cheering! Let the fight begin and may the best ink win… Round 1 – First Impressions The fighters immediately engange one another with a flurry of strikes and counterstrikes. They make a great first impression. These inks have a really nice toned-down dusty dark-red colour with a faded look, like text in an ages-old manuscript. Both inks are well-saturated, even in finer nibs, and provide excellent contrast with the page. Shading is delicate and subtle, without too much contrast between the light and darker parts - just as I like it. These inks are definitely on par with each other, but there are some differences: Burgundy Red's colour is a bit more purple-leaning, while Red Beans and Rice has more of a brown undertone. This is most obvious in swabs, less so in normal writing. The Mont Blanc ink writes really smooth. In contrast, Red Beans and Rice has sub-par lubrication, and feels a bit scratchy, especially in smaller nibs. With broader nibs - e.g. with the scribbles made with a 1.5 mm calligraphy nib - the Mont Blanc ink tends to be a bit oversaturated, drowning out most of the delicate shading. Red Beans and Rice, being a drier ink, looks better in these circumstances, and shows a bit more character. Both inks make a great first impression. Personally I like the Mont Blanc colour a little bit better, but that's not what counts. When exchanging the first punches, Burgundy Red showed much smoother and fluid play, in stark contrast with the scratchy performance of the Papier Plume ink. With broader nibs, Red Beans and Rice recovers, becoming a smooth writer that manages to keep the delicate shading, while the Mont Blanc ink blows out most of the subtle shading with its wetness. But from this round, it's mostly the scratchiness from Red Beans and Rice that you'll remember - and not in a good way. As such, the first point goes to Mont Blanc Burgundy Red. The chromatography clearly shows that both inks have lots in common. They have a really similar composition, with only a touch more blue instead of grey in Mont Blanc's mix of dyes. 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, the wet Mont Blanc ink lays down a smooth line with excellent contrast and saturation. Red Beans and Rice struggles with the fine nib, and feels really scratchy. The low lubrication in fine nibs is a recurring theme with the Papier Plume inks. With broader nibs, the scratchy feeling of the Papier Plume ink disappears. In fact, it's more at home with broad nibs than the Mont Blanc ink. Look at the broad nib sample: Red Beans and Rice maintains the delicate shading present in the ink, while Burgundy Red loses some of the shading's appeal, flooding it away with its wetness. Colourwise both inks look similar in writing, although there is definitely more of a red-purple undertone in the Mont Blanc ink. Both inks also shade nicely, without too much contrast between light and dark parts. This aesthetically pleasing shading gives more character to your writing. For this round, the focus is on writing, and here both inks show strengths and weaknesses. Burgundy Red is definitely the better ink with fine nibs. But with broader nibs, I feel that Red Beans and Rice gets the advantage. Overall, these strengths and weaknesses cancel each other out, so this round ends in a draw. 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 ? These muted red inks look best on pure white paper. In my opinion, they lose some of their appeal on more yellowish paper like that of Life Noble. With the Tomoe River paper, Red Beans and Rice looks a bit too faded, certainly compared with the more robust presence of Burgundy Red (the latter's wetness gives it an advantage here). Overall, I personally prefer the slightly more reddish look of the Mont Blanc ink. Both inks are on par with each other, but Burgundy Red has a slight advantage in the looks department. For this round, victory is granted to the Mont Blanc ink. Not a knock-out, but definitely a win on points. Round 4 – Ink Properties These inks are not fast-drying, requiring 20-25 seconds to dry completely (with an M-nib on Rhodia paper). Red Beans and Rice takes a bit more time to dry. Both inks are reasonably smudge-resistant. Some colour rubs off when using a moist Q-tip cotton swab, but the text itself remains crisp and clear. The smudging is more pronounced with Burgundy Red. 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. Here, the Papier Plume ink scores a real uppercut, drawing a roar from the crowd! Red Beans and Rices shows amazing water resistance! The red colour disappears, but a crisp grey line is left, that remains very readable. Really impressive. For this round, the American ink floors its opponent, in a big way. A thundering uppercut... Burgundy Red drops to the floor. The crowds get on their feet, the applause is booming through the stadium. What a spectacle! This round is a well-deserved win for Papier Plume. 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. Both inks do well, and allow for some nice effects. They both have a fairly broad colour span, making them interesting inks to draw with. I really enjoyed using them. In the picture, I used different water/ink ratios to draw in the background. The buildings were painted with pure ink, using bleach to draw in the windows. Both inks work well as drawing inks. With water added, Burgundy Red becomes a much more red ink, while Red Beans and Rice becomes more of a dirty grey-red. I personally prefer the more reddish looks of the Mont Blanc ink. For drawing, Burgundy Red looks more vibrant and alive - in my opinion of course. And since it's the Belgian judge that awards the points, this round goes to Mont Blanc Burgundy Red. The Verdict Both inks are real vintage-vibed beauties, that work on all types of paper. And being water-resistant, they make fine inks for use at work in an EDC pen. Despite the uppercut in round 4, the Mont Blanc champion showed a more consistent play, and raked up the points across rounds. Counting the points, this makes Burgundy Red the winner of this exciting fight!
  5. 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!
  6. Ink Shoot-Out : Papier Plume Sazerac vs Diamine Golden Honey For no special reason, I have been using quite some ochre & orange inks this summer. While playing around with my inks, I noticed that Papier Plume Sazerac and Diamine Golden Honey seem to be quite similar oranges. This peaked my interest... time for a detailed comparison of both inks to find out which one 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. Tonight we have a free-form fighting tournament... anything goes... but no biting! In the left corner - from the French Quarter in New Orleans - François "La Guillotine", the killing machine that chops down his opponents. In the right corner - from London's Soho district - "Gentleman" Joe, whose jaw-crunching uppercuts are always accompanied with a "my sincere apologies". Both champions enter the ring. The crowds are cheering for what promises to be a brutal fight. The bell rings and signals the start of the first round. May the best ink win... Round 1 – First Impressions Both inks make a great first impression on me. These are nicely muted oranges, and definitely not vibrant. I like my inks this way... a good presence on the page, but not eye-searing and in-my-face. These inks have style! Both inks also exhibit subtle yellow-leaning shading, without too much contrast between the light and darker parts. This gives your writing an aesthetically pleasing look. But even in this first round, it's definitely a dirty fight! Both champions show off their elegant moves, but they also throw some heavy punches that really hurt their opponent: Golden Honey is without any doubt the master of the finer nib. Sazerac feels really dry and undersaturated with fine and medium nibs. Golden Honey writes nicely wet with much better lubrication, and leaving a more saturated line. "My apologies"... but it's clear that in this area the New Orleans champion takes some pain. Papier Plume's Sazerac on the other hand looks richer and shows a broader tonal range in the swabs and on the saturation sample. A bit more character, more elegance. That's a rib-crunching chop from "La Guillotine". Looking at broader nibs (the squiggles drawn with a 1.5mm calligraphy nib), Sazerac becomes more saturated, but - in my opinion - also loses some of its charm. Golden Honey keeps a more yellow-orange appearance, retaining more of its muted character. Both inks make a great first impression. Sazerac looks slightly better for drawing, but Golden Honey is clearly the better ink for writing. The fact that Sazerac still feels very dry in my M-nib Safari costs it points though! A fair fight with punches in both directions, but Gentleman Joe clearly dominated this round. In my book, this round is a solid win on points for Diamine Golden Honey. 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, both inks were equally horrible... dry, scratchy, unsaturated. Yuk! With the M-nib, Diamine recovers and writes nicely wet and with good saturation. But Sazerac still suffers, and keeps feeling dry and scratchy. With broad nibs, both inks offer a pleasant writing experience. But looking closer at the broad nib, you can see that Sazerac leaves a wider and a bit over-saturated line. It almost becomes too wet, where the line left on the pages expands a bit too much. This also seems to result in a flatter and less-pleasing look. Diamine Golden Honey on the other hand retains its crispness, and shows more character and depth. I definitely like the Diamine ink better in this respect. Colourwise, both inks look quite similar. But for writing there are big differences! Here the English champion delivers an uppercut that totally floors its opponent. "My sincere apologies" indeed! Sazerac goes to the floor, totally dazed. The crowd goes nuts, and roars its approval. What a spectacle! There is no doubt at all... round 2 is a solid win for Gentleman Joe. 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 ? One thing is immediately apparent: these inks are at their best on pure white paper. Due to the yellow undertones, their presence on more yellowish paper (like the Life Noble) is underwhelming. With the M-nib, the Diamine ink is more saturated, much wetter, and offers a superior writing experience. Looking at the swabs and saturation samples, Sazerac shows more depth and character. For this round, both inks are on par with each other, both scoring some points and taking some punches. Sazerac seems to recover, and now stands up again to the English champion. But neither ink dominates, and as such this round ends in a draw. Round 4 – Ink Properties Both inks have drying times in the 15-20 second range with the M-nib in my Lamy Safari. To test their smudge resistance, I rubbed the text with a moist Q-tip cotton swab. Here, Diamine Honey shows a little bit more 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 are weak! Water resistance is totally absent, and all ink simply disappears from the paper. Not good! What a disappointing display! Both champions went on the defensive, and performed very weakly in this round. The crowd gets restless, starts boo-ing. That is not what we paid for! For this round, neither champion gets points. Round 4 thus 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, which brings out the yellow. For the flowers I used 2:1 diluted ink, while the flower accents and stems use pure Sazerac and Golden Honey. I dare you the find the difference! Both inks are equally gorgeous looking when used in a more artistic setting. I really enjoyed using them. For this round, both champions recovered completely, and gave their best. Punishing kicks, solid blocks, graceful moves, loads of energy… The crowd is loving it... this is what we came to see. Round 5 totally rocks, but in the end both champions performed equally well, and no clear winner emerges. The Verdict Both inks are great-looking muted yellow-oranges, that look fantastic on paper (provided you use broader nibs). For writing, Diamine Golden Honey is without any doubt the better ink. It's still horribly dry in fine nibs, but starting with M-sizes the ink recovers and provides a smooth & pleasant writing experience. Otherwise, both inks are really quite similar. But round 2 clearly determines the outcome of this fight, and so the Belgian judge declares Diamine Golden Honey as the winner of this shoot-out.
  7. Ink Shoot-Out : J.Herbin Vert de Gris vs L'Artisan Pastellier Callifolio Olifants In 2018, J. Herbin released a number of new inks in their "Perle des Encres" series. The one I fell in love with is Vert de Gris, a terrific grey-green-blue ink that rightfully deserved a spot in my favourite inks of the year short-list. Recently I accidentally discovered that Callifolio Olifants has a very similar hue... in fact, these inks are really close matches. 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 two inks engage in fierce battle to determine who is the winner. And today truly is a special fight - our French champions are masters in the art of Savate - also known as French kick-boxing. In the left corner, the deadly weapon from Paris - J. Herbin Vert de Gris aka the "Grey Reaper". In the right corner, from southern France, the steel-footed "Elephant Kicker" – L'Artisan Pastellier Callifolio Olifants. The champions enter the ring! The crowd is roaring! The bell rings and the first round begins... may the best ink win! Round 1 – First Impressions These French inks are well matched, and make a great first impression. They show a muted grey-green-blue colour, that really appeals to me. The colour contrasts nicely with the Rhodia N°16 paper in my Lamy Safari M-nib. The inks show character, with nice shading even in finer nibs. I especially like their dusty appearance. These inks are definitely teals, but also lean towards the grey, giving them a vintage appearance. I really like what I see here. Both inks look very much alike, but there are some differences: Vert de Gris is more saturated, and leaves a wetter line on the page. In contrast, Olifants is a much drier ink, which feels less lubricated. This is especially noticeable in finer nibs. Olifants has a bit more blue in it, which is most obvious in swatches. Both inks make a great first impression. In the looks department, they are well matched. But Vert de Gris feels nicer in the pen due to its superior lubrication. A small difference, but the first kick goes to the Grey Reaper. Just enough for a win on points. 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, the better saturation of Vert de Gris comes into play, resulting in more contrast-rich writing. With broad nibs though, Vert de Gris becomes a bit too saturated and loses some of its character. Here the drier Olifants looks more pleasing to me. Colourwise both inks look very similar in writing. Both inks also shade nicely, without too much contrast between light and dark parts. This aesthetically pleasing shading gives more character to your writing, and shows up even with the finer nibs. For this round, the focus is on writing, and here both inks are strong performers. Vert de Gris works a bit better in EF/F nibs, producing a more saturated line. On the other hand, Vert de Gris tends to oversaturate in broader nibs. Here the drier Callifolio Olifants manages to gain the upper hand in the looks department. But both inks are jewels, that are really on par with each other. Some nice punches, some good kicks, but neither ink gets the upper hand. As such, this round ends in a draw. 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 ? One thing is immediately apparent: these inks are at home on a wide range of papers, both white and off-white ones. On more absorbent paper like Fantasticpaper (top), the drier Olifants makes the best of the paper. But on less absorbent paper, the roles are reversed - due to its better saturation, Vert de Gris definitely looks better in these circumstances. The inks both consistently produce great-looking writing on all the papers I tested them with. Swatch saturation varies across paper types (depending on absorption and roughness of the paper), but for writing these inks manage to produce consistently contrast-rich lines on the page. Both champions move with lightning speed - throwing kicks and punches - but neither champion gives ground. As such, round 3 also finishes with a draw. The crowd is going nuts... what a fight! These inks show no weakness! Awesome! Round 4 – Ink Properties Both inks have drying times in the 15-20 second range on the Rhodia paper. But... oh my god... look! ... the Grey Reaper explodes in a flurry of kicks, and finally punches through the defenses of the Elephant Kicker. In the smudge resistance test - rubbing the text with a moist Q-tip cotton swab - Vert de Gris shows itself to be less prone to smudging. This better water resistance also shows up in the droplet test, where I drip water on the grid and let it sit there for 15 minutes. Vert de Gris definitely shows better water resistance, losing colour but showing a crisp greyish residue that remains very readable. Olifants behaves quite well on itself, but can't reach the level of water resistance shown by Vert de Gris. What a spectacle! J. Herbin Vert de Gris pulled some kicks and punches worthy of Jean-Claude van Damme, the Muscles from Brussels. Callifolio Olifants totally caved! The crowd is cheering... More! More! More! There is no doubt... this round is a solid win for Vert de Gris. 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 the most when doing some fun stuff like doodling and drawing. Both inks do well, and show off a broad colour spectrum, ranging from very light greyish-blue to a really dark teal. I really enjoyed using them. Personally I prefer the greyer looks of Vert de Gris. This ink shows a bit more character, and provides more of a gloomy feel that I really like. The accompanying drawing was done on HP photo paper, and on this medium Callifolio Olifants definitely shows its blue-er nature. For this round, both champions are again well matched. They both look beautiful, but this judge prefers the greyer gloominess of Vert de Gris over the more bluish tones of Olifants. A personal judgement, but still... this round goes to Vert de Gris on points. The Verdict Both inks are real jewels, that look beautiful on all types of paper. And it took a while to notice some worthwhile differences. But in the end, round 4 is the decisive one : Vert de Gris clearly dominates when water resistance comes into play. It also wins on points in some of the other rounds - but that's more of a personal impression of the judge. Both J.Herbin Vert de Gris and Callifolio Olifants are top quality inks. But put them next to each other, and the result is clear: Vert de Gris throws the better kicks and punches, and is the definite winner of this exciting fight.





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