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18 Black Inks, Scanned


klundtasaur
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So, some of you expressed interest in scans of my ink journal. It took me a bit longer than I thought, but I finally found a scanner and put the whole thing through. I'm gonna start with the blacks, as Tas expressed a specific interest in them. My whole process is a bit...obsessive, so here's a description what you're looking at with each scan. I can usually do the whole page with about .25ml of ink with this method.

First, I pull a small amount of ink from the vial with a blunt syringe. And then I saturate the feed of my Lamy Vista (a la this Goulet video).
I have some laid-pattern, 90gsm, slightly-creme white (92 brightness) paper from work that I use for all my samples. The laid pattern means it has a bit of tooth to it, and it has a fairly good balance of being quick drying but also feather resistant and showing some sheen/shade.
I write out the ink name, the source of the sample, the nib in the Vista (invariably an M), and a few 'quick brown fox's. I write each pangram at a different speed, just to see how the ink keeps up, and to give me an idea of what kind of shading I'm likely to see depending on how I'm writing. When I first started, Ylvis' fox song had just gone viral, and it was playing in the background the first time I journaled. So...some of the pangrams aren't actually pangrams :)
I write a few words with different styles (shading, feathering, sheen) to further emphasize ink shading and feathering. Then I do a timed smear test, and a few scribbles/semi-random patterns on the page to further check the flow.
I dip a Q-tip into the sample vial, do a swab on each bottom corner (the left corner with the freshly dipped q-tip to show off shading, and the right corner without redipping to spread more even color), a 3-pass test to see how it layers, and then some random lines with the q-tip just to show off the color. I also put a paper hole reinforcer on top of the sample vial, and use the q-tip to swab the reinforcer for quick reference in my vial holders.
Lastly, I use a straight-edge to draw a grid with what's left in the Lamy, which I use to test the waterproof properties of the ink. 4 drops of tap water: top right is immediately wiped off, top left is immediately blotted, bottom right sits for a few seconds (~45s) before I wipe it, and bottom left I let dry overnight on the page. Each drop is supposed to represent how I (or someone else) might react to getting a letter or envelope wet, rather than any kind of "total durability/bulletproofness" test.
Then, I flush the Lamy feed with a full bulb syringe twice, and do the next sample. The whole process takes me about 8-10 minutes per page.
Once the waterproofness test dries (overnight), I put it into a 3-ring-binder, organized by color (ROY G BIV, brown, grey, black, then fancy (Blue Ghost, Stormy Gray).
The only exceptions to this whole obsessive ritual are the few times I've bought empty inky bottles (mostly Caran d'Ache, as I think they're the nicest ink bottles outside of Akkerman). As there's rarely enough ink to saturate a feed, I just swab the inside of the bottle with a q-tip, and do the corner swabs and some "painting" with the q-tip until it dries up.
Anyway, with that ridiculous intro, here's the swabs. In case they don't upload correctly, here's an imgur mirror: http://imgur.com/a/lJIy3
http://i.imgur.com/Gw0bxL8.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/QjcUuKZ.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/fplz6jv.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/FFzXKGZ.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/yb7oqQ5.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/4lAmZe0.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/xCM8E1y.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/JWeACpq.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/uQUEFoU.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/xJqXweE.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/XzIJ3XJ.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/ERUYbIs.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/HOsbuww.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/kVEMGwb.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/W20c8KV.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/uFqSnLh.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/tAsv8D2.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/5TZ25bB.jpg
I did all of these pages (except the Stormy grey and the Caran Cosmic Black) in one weekend, looking for the perfect black. The primary criteria I was looking for with a black ink was that there be absolutely NO shading from the Lamy M nib when dry. Waterproofness was my next goal, but it wasn't a necessity. Feathering and flow were next and last in importance, respectively.
The absolute blackest on the page were unquestionably the two pigmented inks: Platinum Carbon Black and Sailor Kiwa Guro. They are literally indistinguishable from each other on the page, either in writing or in swab, though the Sailor was slightly drier in the pen. Either one would likely be my top choice if they weren't so difficult to clean out. I left them in a semi-regularly used Lamy Vista for a week and then cleaned them out. The Vista's clear section shows what residue has to be scrubbed at with a q-tip. Both of them required probably 10 minutes of cleaning, with some good scrubbing (with just water, no ammonia or bleach).
For the most part (the exceptions being the non-true-blacks like Diamine Eclipse, Noodler's Zhivago and ACBB), the actual writing samples of each of them were very, very similar to one another. The swabs at the corners highlight differences in color-tone and shading that disappeared when words were written. Even holding the checkered test patterns right next to each other under pretty good lighting, the differences between them are quite subtle.
The biggest differences were in the amount of feathering. X-feather obviously got top marks in that category, but Aurora Black was a very, very close second. HoD and Borealis both looked "blacker" to my eye, but they both feathered quite a bit, and I wonder how much that plays into their "blackness."
Anyway, I hope my obsessiveness is somewhat helpful, and my long-ass write-up not too tedious. If I've missed something, please let me know.
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Wow, I can't imagine the amount of work you've put into this. Thank you!!!

Haha, thanks! As I mentioned, I did most of these in one weekend. It was about 3 and 1/2 hours or so of writing, cleaning, and filling. Plus letting them dry overnight, which took no time but a bit of counter space. :)

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Thank you for this summation of basic Black. An incredible amount of work but much appreciated.

This thread is going to be a touchstone for black ink aficionados.

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Fantastic work; thank you for doing this!

 

Your comparison chart reinforces my love for Noodler's Black. It isn't the blackest, but it's the most problem-free (doesn't feather, doesn't leave residue in my pens that need extra cleaning, doesn't budge when confronted by water).

 

I have tried most of the black inks listed and many that aren't, and I just keep using Noodler's Black.

_________________

etherX in To Miasto

Fleekair <--French accent.

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Great work that I appreciate a lot, contrary to blacks that I just can't appreciate :)

 

Coming from you, that means a lot. I know I'm not alone in considering you the master of ink comparison around these parts. And I don't get excited about black ink either--while I was looking for the perfect black, I realized that I rarely would use it--so while I know which one I'd buy (Platinum Carbon), I still haven't bought it :)

 

Thank you for this summation of basic Black. An incredible amount of work but much appreciated.

This thread is going to be a touchstone for black ink aficionados.

 

Thank you! I am glad to hear it's useful to someone other than myself :)

 

Fantastic work; thank you for doing this!

 

Your comparison chart reinforces my love for Noodler's Black. It isn't the blackest, but it's the most problem-free (doesn't feather, doesn't leave residue in my pens that need extra cleaning, doesn't budge when confronted by water).

 

I have tried most of the black inks listed and many that aren't, and I just keep using Noodler's Black.

 

Thank you for the compliment! There are so many black inks out there, and yet it's such a simple thing. I think Noodler's does a great job at a great price; it's ubiquitous; and feature complete.

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Amazing job! Your work is sure to become a commonly referenced test on here. Thanks for using the same pen for all of the inks, too.

 

It's interesting to see how different Noodler's Black is in the swab tests at the bottom. For instance, X-Feather sort of behaves like the pigment inks, putting down quite a uniform tone but with discrete chunks of colour missing from the crosses, while the regular Black has more of a fading effect that you would expect from a dye-based ink. It is sometimes thought that X-Feather is just the regular Black but with less water and more of other ingredients to increase cohesion, but maybe there are bigger differences. Also, some people say that the regular Black has a big tendency to become visibly less saturated if the bottle is not shaken before filling, so maybe that's something to consider as well.

 

As an owner of X-Feather, it is kind of sad to see the colour run in the water droplet test when the regular Black didn't budge. Based on the issues I've had with X-Feather (mainly dry smudging), I had deduced that Platinum Carbon Black would be the best for a second try. It's reassuring that a person with your experience agrees.

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Thanks! I'm glad it's useful.

 

X-feather was certainly still totally legible after the water drops; I think you're right that there are a few extra ingredients in X-feather, and that those ingredients aren't as waterproof as the base black. So the underlying black stays put in water, but there is some smearing of the other ingredients.

 

If waterproofness and smearing are your primary concerns, then I'd definitely go with Platinum Carbon or Sailor Kiwa-guro. Just maybe not in a demonstrator :)

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Nice comparison! I am a black ink fan -- regular user of Noodlers Black, Old Manhattan Black (to me, these two are interchangeable), Pelikan, Waterman, and Aurora, and agree completely with your comparison. Waterman doesn't stand up in "blackness" to the others, but it's so well behaved and a great index ink in pens I've just restored. Almost all of my pens are vintage, so I stay away from pigmented ink and don't even use the Noodlers in those.

 

thanks!

 

Tim

Tim

 timsvintagepens.com and @timsvintagepens

 

 

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Thank you!

 

And, I completely agree; if I had some vintage pens that I couldn't easily disassemble or were made of some fragile materials, I wouldn't put the pigmented ones near them. I'm definitely more of a modern pen guy, but if I ever find a vintage pen that I love, I'll keep it to Pelikan and Waterman for sure.

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Thank you so much for posting this!!! Your tests are so methodical, and so easy to interpret. I am just getting started using fountain pens again (used a cartridge pen in Junior High - but that was a whlle back) and the numbers of different inks available can be overwhelming. As I venture away from the blue-black I'm using now, I will refer back to this page. Probably start with Aurora black.

 

Thanks again,

 

Paul

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Thank you so much for posting this!!! Your tests are so methodical, and so easy to interpret. I am just getting started using fountain pens again (used a cartridge pen in Junior High - but that was a whlle back) and the numbers of different inks available can be overwhelming. As I venture away from the blue-black I'm using now, I will refer back to this page. Probably start with Aurora black.

 

Thanks again,

 

Paul

Oh, man, thank you for those kind words! I am glad this is useful to others.

There are a ridiculous number of inks out there; it is a bit overwhelming for me, too (there's too many reds! I want to test them all...)

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Excellent comparison.

I only use MB and Aurora black and rarely at that.

I am trying some Pilot-Namiki black ink cartridges in my Pilot pens. I bought them at reduced price because the little box they came in was stained by an ink spill.

All are nice inks. Now I know about the Noodler's products.

 

Are you ready to tackle blue? Just Kidding.

 

Regards,

Be Happy, work at it. Namaste

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Excellent comparison.

I only use MB and Aurora black and rarely at that.

I am trying some Pilot-Namiki black ink cartridges in my Pilot pens. I bought them at reduced price because the little box they came in was stained by an ink spill.

All are nice inks. Now I know about the Noodler's products.

 

Are you ready to tackle blue? Just Kidding.

 

Regards,

 

Thank you! And actually, blues will probably be my next post. I'm waiting for a few vials to come in (a Parker Penman Sapphire sample and a few others) and then I'll get them scanned and post the whole lot of them.

 

Lovely work. Thank you. REALLY helpful comparison (especially to a black ink lover).

 

:)

 

Thanks! I'm glad it didn't disappoint :)

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Absolutely great work. Thank you. I can see a side-by-side comparison between Kiwa-Guro and Platinum Carbon Black, I don't have Kiwa-Guro, but based on your test, I didn't need to brake myself to get it. Platinum Carbon Black will do in the future, besides that have J. Herbin Perle Noire and Caran d'Ache Carbon (Colors of Earth series).

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  • 2 weeks later...

INCREDIBLE resource!! Thank you so much. There's so much here that I know I will take time to pore over it.

 

Editing to add (instead of starting a separate post in short order):

 

OK, I already have something more to say. Hehe. I think it is fascinating to see the results of the water test, as there is a range of colours there. Noodler's Bulletproof Black and PCB seemed to hold up well on that one.

 

You've introduced me to some I didn't know about. Sailor looks nice on the page, it wasn't on my watchlist.

 

Thanks for the comprehensive test.

Edited by in the flow
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Absolutely great work. Thank you. I can see a side-by-side comparison between Kiwa-Guro and Platinum Carbon Black, I don't have Kiwa-Guro, but based on your test, I didn't need to brake myself to get it. Platinum Carbon Black will do in the future, besides that have J. Herbin Perle Noire and Caran d'Ache Carbon (Colors of Earth series).

In my experience, you would be unable to distinguish the PCB from the KG, and those two were the absolute leaders in terms of darkness and waterproofness. Glad it's helpful :)

 

INCREDIBLE resource!! Thank you so much. There's so much here that I know I will take time to pore over it.

 

Editing to add (instead of starting a separate post in short order):

 

OK, I already have something more to say. Hehe. I think it is fascinating to see the results of the water test, as there is a range of colours there. Noodler's Bulletproof Black and PCB seemed to hold up well on that one.

 

You've introduced me to some I didn't know about. Sailor looks nice on the page, it wasn't on my watchlist.

 

Thanks for the comprehensive test.

Thank you! I'm glad to have been helpful :) Noodler's BB, Platinum CB, and Sailor KG were definitely the most waterproof; Noodler's HOD was the next closest, but those first three were absolutely indifferent to water in my short tests.

 

Excellent and many thanks!!

 

And good to see you started the list with the best there is!!

Haha, thank you! And you're noticing the alphabetical advantage accomplished by naming your company with the first letter :)

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