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Hello Fellow FPNers, I have been away from fountain pens for about 10 years after many years using them almost exclusively. Now that I’m back in the fold, I’m wondering if there are any well behaved, beautiful waterproof inks out there I might not know about. I remember that most of the waterproof or bulletproof inks I used (Noodler’s Luxury Blue comes to mind) tended toward nib creep and were very hard to wash out of pens. I’ve recently received a sample of Noodle’rs Zhivago and have been very impressed by its good behavior, lack of nib creep and good flow. But it basically looks black (barely a hint of green) and I’d prefer something in the blue-teal-green spectrum. MUST be a well behaved ink. Thanks for your insights! GNL
Noodler’s Zhivago Noodler’s was established in 2004, and is probably the smallest ink company in the world. Nathan Tardiff’s mission is to provide us affordable fountain pen inks with a decent colour selection. Most of his Noodler’s inks are bullet proof – meaning fraud proof and waterproof. The focus of this review is on Zhivago, a saturated green-black with a faded look. Zhivago comes in the typical no-nonsense Noodler’s packaging: a simple 3 oz bottle, filled to the brim. The ink is advertised as bullet proof. I personally don’t care about the fraud proof aspects, but appreciate the strong water resistance when using this ink in my EDC pens. As always with this type of ink, pen hygiene is important: regular cleaning of your pen can help avoid nasty surprises. The ink’s colour is a nicely saturated dark green-black. Almost black in fine nibs, but more of a murky green-black when used in broader nibs or dry pens. I personally like the washed-out look of this ink, especially when used in a dry Lamy Safari with a B / 1.1 nib. With this combination, the ink looks gorgeous. Zhivago is perfect for the workplace: a serious looking colour, and almost 100% waterproof. And the green undertone makes it look more interesting than a standard black ink. The ink itself writes a very saturated line with good lubrication in my Lamy Safari test pens. The dark colour and strong saturation make it an outstanding ink for EF/F nibs. Shading is almost absent in finer nibs, but with broader nibs the ink gains some depth, and becomes less one-dimensional. The ink has a fairly limited dynamic range, without much contrast between light and dark areas. To illustrate this, I did a swab where I really saturated portions of the Tomoe River paper with ink, pooling it on. With the right pen/nib combination, you can coax some great-looking soft shading from this ink. I personally love Zhivago’s looks when used in a Lamy Safari with 1.1 calligraphy nib. On the smudge test – rubbing text with a moist Q-tip cotton swab – there is quite some smearing, but the text itself remains crisp and clear. Water resistance is near-perfect. A bit of the green disappears, but all text remains undisturbed on the paper. Even with longer exposures to water (30 seconds under running tap water), the ink remains firmly attached to the paper. A waterproof ink indeed! The chromatography confirms this: the dyes remain firmly attached to the paper in the bottom part. You can also see that the coloured dyes in the mix are most likely to detach from the paper. I’ve tested the ink on a wide variety of paper – from crappy Moleskine to high-end Tomoe River. 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 a Lamy Safari M-nib fountain pen The name of the paper used, written with a Lamy Safari B-nib A small text sample, written with the M-nib The source of the quote, written with a TWSBI Micarta v2 with F-nib Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari) Zhivago looks equally good on white and more creamy paper. It is a near-perfect writing ink: across my test set of paper types, I noticed no feathering, and very minimal bleed-through or show-through. The Moleskine paper forms the litmus test: no visible feathering, and even on this horrible paper there is only a tiny amount of bleed-through. Excellent technical behaviour! Drying times are around the 10 second range with the Lamy Safari M-nib. This Noodler’s ink not only looks good, it can also handle any paper you use. This includes typical copy paper you find at the office. As such, I can really recommend this ink for use in an EDC pen. I’ve used Zhivago in my Kaweco Liliput with F nib for the past month, and found the ink perfect for use at the office. At the end of the review, I also show the back-side of the different paper types, in the same order. Since scans alone are not always enough to give you a complete picture of the ink, I also provide you with a few photos for an alternative look at Noodler’s Zhivago. In this case, I think the scans capture best the way the ink looks in real life. Writing with different nib sizes The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. Zhivago manages to look good in all nib sizes from EF up to the 1.9 calligraphy nibs. The ink writes a very saturated line, and as such works great in even the finest nibs. Shading is not the ink’s forte – you need dry pens with broad nibs to coax some shading from Zhivago. For my EDC pens, I don’t care too much about shading. For work settings, I appreciate Zhivago’s waterproof aspects, and the off-black faded green looks. Related inks To compare Zhivago 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. I have a number of green-blacks in my collection, and they all look different. Zhivago is the only one though that shows true water resistance. Inkxperiment – Ghostwalker With every review I try to do a single-ink drawing that shows what the ink is capable of in a more artistic setting. The most fun part of every ink review: I really enjoy brainstorming the drawing’s setting, and the experimentation with different techniques. I’m constantly amazed at the broad range of hues/tones that one can coax from a single ink. Almost unbelievable. For this inkxperiment I used an A4-sized piece of HP photo paper. I taped out the tree trunks, and sponged in the background using a dish-washing sponge and heavily water-diluted Zhivago. For the sun, I used more concentrated ink applied in a circular pattern. Once dry, I removed the tape, and painted in the tree trunks with a piece of cardboard and pure Zhivago. I finally used a brush with pure Zhivago to add the figure of the ghostwalker. I was fairly surprised by the amount of green buried within the almost black looking Zhivago. Hadn’t expected this! Conclusion Noodler’s Zhivago is the perfect office ink: well saturated, can handle crappy paper with ease, is totally waterproof. And it looks great too! I like the washed out faded green undertones that are present in what appears to be a black ink at first glance. Highly recommended for use in an EDC pen. Technical test results on Rhodia N° 16 notepad paper, written with Lamy Safari, M-nib Backside of writing samples on different paper types
* Originally posted on my Instagram. Ink Review: Noodler's Ink - Zhivago Grade: 52.50% Paper Tested On: Norcom Composition, Staples 20lb copy paper, 85g Clairefontaine. Zhivago (Zg) is an interesting ink. At first glance Zg looks completely black, but if you look closely you'll see that Zg is actually a very dark green. You could even call it a green-black ink. This shade of dark green reminds me a lot of moss or water clouded with algae. Zg is a very smooth writing ink that flows easily through every pen I've put it in. It's very wet, and ideal for doing flex writing, even with a long drying time. It's too bad that it doesn't shade heavily. In my Noodler's Ahab it performs very well; but it's not until you put large amounts of ink on the page that you see some nice color variations. On cheap composition paper I have been very impressed with how little Zg feathers or bleeds. However, on 20lb copy paper, and even 85g Clairefontaine, it seems to feather and bleed heavily. Zg is listed as only been partially bulletproof. I've used Zg in ink washes, and the green portion lifts off the page pretty easily. What's left is a black color that resists removal well. Zg's a very subtle color, and I find myself liking it more each time I use it.
I know there's already been a superb comparison of green that included these three inks, but I wanted to add my own -- since the reviews of Zhivago seem so variable, from "just black" to an obvious green. Clearly Zhivago is greener that Graphite but not as green as Evergreen. Colour laid down is not far from the "fresh" evergreen before it lightens over 24 hours. I have tried diluting Zhivago. It does not make the ink any greener; the end result is something even closer to Graphite, though a tad greener. And ye gods, Noodler's ink smells.