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Ink Shoot-Out : J.herbin Vert De Gris Vs Callifolio Olifants


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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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  • minddance


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You did it again! Thanks for such a wonderful comparison!! Especially these two inks themselves are stunningly similar yet cunningly different. As you say, in regard to their non-optical physical subtleties. The rate of spread and/or bulging out at the edges of the migration on paper are very interesting. We really need to envisage each ink's flow through different nibs on different papers, and you certainly managed to whip that out!!!.

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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Excellent comparison, as always :)

Vert de Gris goes on the shopping list.

I am curious to see how it compares with R&K Verdigris.


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dan in montreal

Very nice review in an original format. I have been using Herbin Vert de gris for a while and really like it. The Artisan Pastellier ink also seems nice, but I find it too blue. Still, it seems interesting in its own right.


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Highly informative, as always, and fun to read! I think I prefer Vert de Gris in hue and more gentle shading behavior (as well as water resistance).

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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Thanks for this great comparison. I'm always looking for interesting inks to use in a couple of pens that have very wet nibs, and the Olifants may be a good candidate.

Rationalizing pen and ink purchases since 1967.

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Thanks for the informative and entertaining review. Neither ink is for me, because I'm not a fan of the color (so my wallet thanks you as well... :D)

I do think it's interesting how similar the colors look on my screen even though the chromatography is so radically different.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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Wonderful review! It is always a pleasure to read them! I personally think I am partial to the shade in Oliphants just a bit more. Also, Oliphants is less expensive than Vert de Gris which is a consideration.

"Today will be gone in less than 24 hours. When it is gone, it is gone. Be wise, but enjoy! - anonymous today




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I love these shoot outs! Thank you!

Fountain pens are my preferred COLOR DELIVERY SYSTEM (in part because crayons melt in Las Vegas).

Want to get a special letter / gift from me, then create a Ghostly Avatar

Ink comparisons: The Great PPS Comparison 366 Inks in 2016

Check out inks sorted by color: Blue Purple Brown Red Green Dark Green Orange Black Pinks Yellows Blue-Blacks Grey/Gray UVInks Turquoise/Teal MURKY

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  • 3 weeks later...

thank you very much indeed for the detailed comparison. I ended up with a bottle of Herbin vert di Gris - and enjoying it. May I add that it works for me, in a Platinum 3776 EF nib which h is a dry Japanese extra fine:)

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  • 3 weeks later...


This slipped under my radar.
EXCELLENT shoot out :wub:

I have both inks, a bottle of VDG and a large sample of Oliphants - I adore them both. Subtle differences, true.
I plan on always having a bottle of VDG in the drawer AND I intend to buy a bottle of Oliphants when the sample runs dry. Praise indeed from me.

Thank you namrehsnoom.

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