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J. Herbin - Vert Empire (Perle Des Encres)


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J.Herbin - Vert Empire


La Société Herbin, Maître Cirier à Paris, was established in 1670. This makes J. Herbin probably the oldest name among European ink makers. Today, Herbin produces a range of beautiful fountain pen and calligraphy inks, writing instruments, gift sets and accessories. Herbin inks are made in France, and the finishing touches on the bottles are still done by hand in Paris.



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Recently, I've been looking into Herbin's "La Perle des Encres" series. I've had my eye on "Vert Empire" for some time now, and decided it's time for a review of this ink. Vert Empire is a terrific grey-green ink, that's right up my alley. Muted, subdued, greyish... yummy! The ink's colour has to be seen to be fully appreciated - the scans in this review don't do it full justice. This ink has the cunning ability to change character with the available lighting: sometimes showing off a more yellow-green hue (under artificial light), and at other times appearing almost as a pure grey. The scans in this review capture reasonably well the way the ink appears in normal daylight.


This is an ink that immediately appealed to me. A tranquil colour, full of character, and with heavy grey undertones that give the ink a vintage vibe. The ink looks beautiful on all paper types, with good contrast even with finer nibs. Shading is very present even in finer nibs, but remains aesthetically elegant. I really like the looks of this ink - a prime candidate for my top three of 2019.



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The ink has quite satisfactory lubrication, even in drier pens like my Lamy Safari. With my wetter Pelikan pens the ink is very well saturated, and writes like a dream. Vert Empire also has a broad colour span. To illustrate this, I did a swab on Tomoe River paper where I really saturated portions of the paper with ink. This beautifully illustrates the ink's wide colour range. This J. Herbin ink moves effortlessly from a very light grey-green to a very dark, almost black green.



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On the smudge test - rubbing text with a moist Q-tip cotton swab - the ink behaved perfectly with almost no smearing. Water resistance is a bit disappointing though. The ink loses all colour, but still leaves behind a perfectly readable light-grey ghost image of your writing. Not great, but your writings will be recoverable. This is also apparent from the lower part of the chromatography, which shows that the grey components of the ink remain on the paper. This is an ink that might still be at home in the workplace.



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Vert Empire is also a fast-drying ink - with typical drying times in the 5-10 second range with my Lamy Safari (M-nib). I was surprised at this, because it totally feels like a really wet ink. As such, this ink might also be suitable for lefties.

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 an M-nib
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib)

Vert Empire looks really nice on both white and more yellowish papers. On low-quality paper (yes that's you, Moleskine) it exhibits a small amount of feathering, but all-in-all not too bad. With Moleskine paper, there is significant show-through and a bit of bleed-through - not unexpected for this fountain-pen unfriendly paper.



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Writing with different nib sizes

The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. All samples were written with a Lamy Safari, which is typically a dry pen. I also added a visiting pen - a wet Pelikan M120 with an M-nib. Here the ink leaves a very saturated line. As you can see, Vert Empire manages to look really nice in all nib sizes, with great contrast and elegant shading. Nice.



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Related inks

To allow for a good comparison with related inks, I employ a nine-grid format, with the currently reviewed ink at the center. Each grid cell shows the name of the ink, a saturation sample, a 1-2-3 swab and a water resistance test - all in a very compact format.



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Inkxperiment - Mining Tower

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. For this drawing I used 300 gsm rough watercolour paper. For my topic, I went back to the industrial heritage of my home town (Genk, Belgium), where the last coal-mine shut down in 1988. The mining tower is now the centerpiece of a lively cultural complex. I started off with heavily water-diluted ink to paint in the background. I then used mildly diluted Vert Empire to draw the mining tower and foreground. Final highlights were added with a broad-nibbed fountain pen filled with Vert Empire. The end result gives you a good idea of the colour span that Vert Empire is capable of.


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Conclusion

J. Herbin Vert Empire is a truly great ink, that pleasantly surprised me on all fronts: georgeous grey-leaning green colour, beautiful shading, good saturation - and all this even in finer nibs. Even better, the ink is relatively fast-drying and works well with all paper types. Combine all this, and you've got a winner. This ink went straight to my top three for 2019 ! I heartily recommend it.


Technical test results on Rhodia N° 16 notepad paper, written with Lamy Safari, M-nib


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Backside of writing samples on different paper types


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This is a great ink color, very subtle and delicate. Just between green and gray.

Very nice review and drawings :-)

 

Cheers

 

Michael

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Another terrific review!

 

I have a set of Vert Empire cartridges but the ink is too light for me to really enjoy. That said, I'm constantly amazed at what creative people can do with ink that I don't find interesting.

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Another one of your excellent reviews!

Especially your 3 x 3 comparisons :)

 

Seems Vert Empire formulation was changing, so it is right time for a sample (with the hope it will be from the same batch as you showed).

 

This more-gray-than-green looks soo good!

LETTER EXCHANGE PARTICIPANT

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Thank you! I appreciate your time and effort! I don't use Vert Empire anymore but it was my first and the all time favourite green ink.

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Hmm. I thought I had all the murky greens that I desired . . . You make this look gorgeous. Immediately vintage. :wub:

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I don't think it changed, or did it?

I still have two bottles from the year of the original release. Mine looks just slightly darker, more towards a dark green and just a a bit more intense compared to Papier Plume Streetcar Green.

 

 

@Tas: what about Kyo-No-Oto Urahairo and Sailor Studio 162 ? ;)

 

Cheers

 

Michael

Edited by Michael R.
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Great review. This was one of my earliest inks when I got into this, but it also took a while to find its match, a Le Man 100, even though I have to resort to a bit of cellophane to get the best of it, consistently, in other pens it comes out dark.

 

fpn_1556744358__vert_empire_man_100.jpg

 

On Strathmore Calligraphy paper.

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

 

B. Russell

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I love this ink when it's that smokey green-grey colour. Unfortunately I put my cartridge in a fine, wet writer, and it comes out nearly black (a bit like the picture above) for me. Lesson learned, put this one in the M and up sized nibs for that smokey effect!

sig2.jpgsig1.jpg



Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men always have a choice - if not whether, then how they endure.


- Lois McMaster Bujold

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I think this was the first green ink I ever bought that I really liked, a soft shade with a little shading on absorbent paper, and with a relatively fast drive time. And it's got more water resistance than I would have given credit for (especially being an Herbin ink).

The only problem I have with it is that it tends to fade. I remember it going down on the page in my ink journal (volume 1) a lot greener than it looks now.

I didn't know the ink was reformulated. Wondering now how my batch compares to a more recent version (mine is probably from about five or six years ago).

Thanks for the review. I should put this ink back into rotation, since it's probably safe for some of my vintage pens that are harder to flush....

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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Such a great review, as always! Thank you!

 

The jury is still out for me with this ink. I've used it in a Pelikan with a Fine nib, and it's just a bit too pale for what I hoped to see. Needs a vintage pen, probably, for my liking. I want to see more shading to very dark rather than a watery faded kind of look. Just a bit more impact.

“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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"As you can see, Vert Empire manages to look really nice in all nib sizes, with great contrast and elegant shading"

 

I hate to disagree with such a serious and detailed review(er) but I must, with this statement in the review. Vert Empire absolutely does not produce legible-enough lines with my Pilot 74EF, F and Platinum EF, SF pens. In these pens, the ink turns out very very pale and without all the shading and contrast you mentioned in your review.

 

I really admire and appreciate your reviews and I am going to try out some of the pen-paper combinations you mentioned.

 

I have a bottle of this ink and I have great trouble finding the correct pens for it to put down a legible line. But I love the colour.

 

thank you for taking the trouble to show us different pens and papers with this ink in your very comprehensive review.

 

p.s. my bottle is from 2years ago and possibly produced even earlier. I wonder if Herbin has quietly reformulated its inks to make them all more legible than before.

Edited by minddance
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"As you can see, Vert Empire manages to look really nice in all nib sizes, with great contrast and elegant shading"

 

I hate to disagree with such a serious and detailed review(er) but I must, with this statement in the review. Vert Empire absolutely does not produce legible-enough lines with my Pilot 74EF, F and Platinum EF, SF pens. In these pens, the ink turns out very very pale and without all the shading and contrast you mentioned in your review.

 

I really admire and appreciate your reviews and I am going to try out some of the pen-paper combinations you mentioned.

 

I have a bottle of this ink and I have great trouble finding the correct pens for it to put down a legible line. But I love the colour.

 

thank you for taking the trouble to show us different pens and papers with this ink in your very comprehensive review.

 

p.s. my bottle is from 2years ago and possibly produced even earlier. I wonder if Herbin has quietly reformulated its inks to make them all more legible than before.

 

My bottle is very new, and I don't think it's the case. You really do need a relatively wet line for a darker and more saturated look. It's not saturated enough for me with a Pelikan Fine gold nib (in M101N), which writes more like a western Medium. It's legible but still faded looking.

“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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My bottle is very new, and I don't think it's the case. You really do need a relatively wet line for a darker and more saturated look. It's not saturated enough for me with a Pelikan Fine gold nib (in M101N), which writes more like a western Medium. It's legible but still faded looking.

I understand your point, because in my Pelikan m1000f, it still looks faded unless I use absorbent papers and write real slowly and/or apply pressure while writing.

 

some of my misaligned nibs, ironically, produce a more saturated and legible line.

 

for the line to turn out more solid (which I prefer), I reckon the pen would have to be dip-pen-wet, and always freshly dipped at that. or, in my experience, misaligned tines.

 

But does one buy Herbin for solid line?

Edited by minddance
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I'd just like to add that it's not necessarily a bad thing that this ink has the appearance of watercolor on paper--it's a certain aesthetic I respect and believe it has a place in the world of fountain pen inks. This ink has a lot of fans, and I'll continue getting to know it with other pens. Just a personal preference toward some higher contract on paper. I don't mind pale inks if they, for example, have a dark outline without a great deal of effort (without requiring a super wet pen or dip pen).

“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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I am a fan of this ink AND the reviewer.

 

my bottle is going to run out (I used most of this bottle testing and not actual writing) and I will most certainly get another bottle.

 

I suspect adding the tiniest smear of black ink would probably shut my mouth, but I am not going to do that.

Edited by minddance
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Very comprehensive review; many thanks. Yet another ink to consider, especially with broader nibs.

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Lots of useful content in the comments! Thank you all for that - really helpful.

This is most certainly an ink with a faded look (good for me, because I'm a fan of such inks).

 

And the ink's colour seems to depend a lot on the particular pen/nib/paper combo that is used. With my own pens with F/M nibs, I get the faded grey-green colour shown... so lucky me! My guess is that some hunting for the right combo is in order to get the result you want.

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@Tas: what about Kyo-No-Oto Urahairo and Sailor Studio 162 ? ;)

 

Cheers

 

Michael

 

Don't you start now.You're in enough trouble as it is with your latest reviews making me swoon all over inks I never thought of . . . :wacko: :rolleyes: :)

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Great review, thank you! I always turn to you when I want to see how a colour looks on Midori MD paper.

 

The ink, however, is not my cup of tea. I've used up a whole sample, and while it was interesting in some situations, I'm just not patient enough to wait for those situations to show up while I sit there disliking what is coming out of my nib. I expected it to be much less muted than it is, a green with truly imperial comportment. To me, it hovers somewhere above inks that I really don't care for, but below inks that I like but have a complicated relationship with.

 

 

Dominique

Snail Mail


(fluent in SK, CZ, DE, EN


currently learning EO, JP, NL)

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