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  1. Rohrer and Klingner Isatis Tinctoria (2021 Limited Edition) Rohrer and Klinger – founded in 1892 in Leipzig, Germany – is a company that is mainly focusing on inks for all purposes, including fountain pen inks. Like every self-respecting company these days, they have started the tradition of releasing a limited edition ink every year. In 2021, they introduced this splendid Isatis Tinctoria, a dusty blue with purple undertones. The ink comes in a 50 ml bottle presented in a stylish box. Isatis Tinctoria is already quasi impossible to find, and has reached “unobtainium” status. Fellow member @JulieParadise was so kind to provide me with a generous sample of this ink, with the request to compare it to kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara (resulting in an ink shoot-out). Afterwards, enough of the sample was left for a complete review of this wonderful ink. Thank you Julie for providing this opportunity. This Limited Edition R&K ink is a soft dusty blue with definite purple undertones. A really elegant & beautiful ink that totally fits my tastes. According to Wikipedia, Isatis Tinctoria (also called dyer’s woad) is a flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae. Since ancient times, woad was an important source of blue dye and was cultivated throughout Europe. Rohrer & Klingner definitely succeeded in translating this inspiration into a fantastic ink colour. The chromatography shows a mix of blue, purple and grey. The dusty looks of the ink are clearly present. This combination of dyes translates to a soft and muted grey-blue with purple undertones. Definitely not a vibrant colour! But nevertheless an elegant ink – soft, quiet, shy. Part of my education comes from the 5-year old in the family, so I’m fluent in Frozen… for Isatis Tinctoria, think Anna, not Elsa. Isatis Tinctoria looks best in broader nibs, where it shows some really nice shading. But it can handle the complete nib range with ease – even with the EF nib, you already get hints of shading. 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 a piece of 52 gsm Tomoe River paper with ink. This gives you a good idea of what the ink is capable of in terms of colour range. Isatis Tinctoria has a fairly narrow colour span, with limited contrast between light and darker parts. This translates to soft shading, that is very present but remains delicate and aesthetically very pleasing. The shading on this ink is really well executed! Technically, the ink felt a bit dry-writing in my Lamy Safari test pens, especially with the finer nibs. Not so much an issue of wetness, but more of lubrication. With the finer nibs, you definitely feel more feedback from the paper while writing. With broader nibs, lubrication improves, and the ink starts writing much more fluently. In the writing samples below, I added a new paper to my test-set: Clairefontaine Smart Print Paper 60 gsm – a very fine fountain pen-friendly paper (Tomoe River-like in weight, but not as smooth but with some feedback while writing). On each scrap 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 Safari fountain pen The name of the paper used, written with B-nib Lamy Safari A small text sample, written with the M-nib Lamy Safari Source of the quote, with an Edison Collier 1.1 stub Drying times of the ink on the paper, with the M-nib Lamy Safari I’ve also added a few photos to give you another view on the ink. Scanned images and photos often capture different aspects of the ink’s colour & contrast. That’s why I present them both. In this case, both scan and photo capture the ink’s colour well. Isatis Tinctoria looks good on all types of paper, both white and more creamy ones. I personally prefer it on pure white paper, where its soft and delicate character is best presented. The ink prefers high-quality paper. On lower quality papers (Moleskine, printing paper) you can see a tiny bit of feathering, and you also get some see-through and bleed-through. Writing with different nib sizes The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. Isatis Tinctoria writes a well-saturated line in all nib sizes, notwithstanding its softness. The saturation sample already showed the limited contrast range of the ink. As a result, this R&K ink manages to look really consistent in colour across the complete nib range, both in wet and dry pens. Personally, I like this ink best in the broader nibs, where the soft shading is a bit more prominent. Related inks To show off 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. Isatis Tinctoria has a quite unique colour. It sits somewhere between kyo-no-oto keshimurasaki (which is greyer) and kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara (which is more purple). Inkxperiment – neuromancer As a personal challenge, I try to create interesting drawings using only the ink I’m reviewing. I find this to be a fun extension of the hobby, and these single-ink drawings often present a real challenge. It also gives you an idea of what the ink is capable of in a more artistic setting. Inspiration for this inkxperiment comes from the book “Neuromancer” by William Gibson. This book from 1984 is considered one of the earliest and best-known works in the cyberpunk genre. In the book you are presented with a drab and dystopian physical world, with the characters spending most of their time in the matrix of cyberspace. The whole book is written in adrenaline-high turbo-language – a quote: “He’d operated on an almost permanent adrenaline high, a byproduct of youth and proficiency, jacking into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix.” I started with an A5 sheet of 300 gsm watercolour paper, and used heavily water-diluted Isatis Tinctoria to paint in the light-blue background. The data towers in the matrix were coloured with a felt-tip pen, dipped in pure ink. The code in the matrix flows from the data towers, and was written with a 1.1 stub Edison Collier. Gravity has no place in the matrix – so the people living in it can assume any position. The reality in the upper-left corner was drawn with a fine brush and Q-tips. The main character is ready to leave reality, and dive into the vortex of cyberspace. The end-result gives you an idea of what can be achieved with Isatis Tinctoria as a drawing ink. Conclusion With this 2021 Limited Edition, Rohrer and Klingner delivered a beautiful soft & muted blue with purple undertones, that is already reaching “unobtainium” status. If you thrive on vibrant inks, this one will not be for you. But if you enjoy dusty and toned-down inks, then Isatis Tinctoria is sure to please you. In my opinion, it sits among the great ones in this category. If you can still get hold of a bottle, don’t hesitate and buy it immediately. You will not be disappointed! 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 : 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.

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