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Tag Kyoto - Kyo-No-Oto - Keshimurasaki


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TAG Kyoto – kyo-no-oto – keshimurasaki

TAG is a stationary shop in Kyoto (Japan) that produces some interesting soft watercolour-style inks. With the kyo-no-oto series they produce a line of inks that replicates traditional Japanese dye colours. According to available online info, the manufacturing process of the kyo-no-oto inks follows traditional dying techniques dating back to the Heian era between the years 794 and 1185. The inks come in 40 ml bottles, packaged in luxurious thick paper with a texture that feels like heavy watercolour paper.


In this review I take a closer look at keshimurasaki. This ink is supposedly inspired by the formal kimono dresses during the Heian era, when Kyoto was the capital of Japan. 'Keshi' means 'off' and 'murasaki' means 'purple' - this quite accurately describes the blue-purple-grey colour of this ink. This definitely is my type of ink: an unsaturated soft pastel-type colour, shadowy and smoky, with an elegant complexity.

A word of warning though: be aware that this is a very dry ink, that is not meant to be used with dry pens. My traditional Lamy Safari test pens were totally not OK with this ink. Very dry feeling, scratchy writing, really undersaturated. This is easily solved by using a wet pen - with my wet-writing Pelikan pens, keshimurasaki transforms into a real beauty.


For this review I use Pelikan pens with F, M and B nib sizes. With these pens, the ink lays down an elegant grey line, with blue-purple undertones. You also get really sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing shading. And with a wet pen, the ink writes much more smoothly. It's still a bit dry, but that's easily forgotten when you see the beautiful result of your writing.


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 the Tomoe River paper with ink. This gives you a good idea of what the ink is capable of in terms of colour range. As you can see, keshimurasaki has a broad colour range. This ink moves from a very undersaturated smoky blue-purple-grey, darkening significantly as more layers are added. Nice!


The ink's chromatography shows a wonderfully complex mix of muted pastel-like dyes. The resulting mix is definitely a grey, leaning to the blue or the purple depending on variables like light, paper, ... keshimurasaki is an ink with character! The bottom part of the chroma seems to indicate that there is some measure of water-resistance, but alas... in practice the ink shows zero tolerance for water (both with still and running water). On the other hand, keshimurasaki has no problem with smudging - the text shows little to no smearing when rubbed with a most Q-tip cotton swab.


I've tested the ink on a wide variety of paper - from crappy Moleskine to high-end Tomoe River. On every small band 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 F-nib Pelikan M800
  • The name of the paper used, written with an M-nib Pelikan M400
  • A small text sample, written with the F-nib Pelikan M800
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the F-nib Pelikan)

Keshimurasaki behaves well on my test papers, with no visible feathering. The only exception is the horrible Moleskine paper - here the ink suffers from lots of feathering, see-through and bleed-through. Drying times vary and are mostly in the 10-15 second range (with the F-nib Pelikan). With the wet Pelikans keshimurasaki looks great: a muted grey, with hints of blue-purple, and with elegant shading. A real joy!





Writing with different nib sizes

The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. The top lines were written with my typical Safari test pens. This is just to illustrate that keshimurasaki is not a great companion for dry pens. The rest of the writing sample shows the ink with some wet-writing Pelikan pens with F-M-B nib sizes. With the wet pens, the ink looks well-saturated, shows good contrast and some nice shading. It's still a touch dry, but this does not detract from the writing experience.


Related inks

To compare keshimurasaki 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.


Inkxperiment – For Dulcinea !

With every review, I try to create an interesting drawing using only the ink I'm working on. Such a one-ink drawing is excellent for showing the different colour-range nuances of the ink. These drawings are always my favourite part of the ink review: often challenging, but always great fun. For this drawing inspiration comes from the Miguel de Cervantes novel I'm currently reading. I started with a sheet of 300 gsm rough watercolour paper. With a simple Q-tip I painted in the background. I then added the man from La Mancha and the wind-mill with the fountain pen. With the Q-tip I added more and more ink to different parts of the drawing, resulting in the darker areas. I really enjoyed keshimurasaki - its broad tonal ranges makes it an excellent ink to draw with.



TAG kyo-no-oto keshimurasaki probably is not for everyone. You really need wet pens to reach the ink's potential. But then you are rewarded with a sophisticated grey with blue-purple undertones. A muted and shadowy colour that looks totally beautiful on the page. This is my type of colour, and I really enjoyed it !

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


Back-side of writing samples on different paper types





From Idea to Drawing


The idea for this inkxperiment comes from the Don Quichote novel I'm currently reading. Not unexpectedly, the iconic fight with the wind-mill is a totally logical choice for this drawing's topic. I'm really bad at doing realistic drawings, so I naturally tend to a naïve and child-like style ;-) I started with some rough ideas, and a simple sketch of the composition I wanted to achieve. Next I used a sheet of 300 gsm rough watercolour paper, and painted in the background with a Q-tip cotton-swab, lightly dipped in the bottle of keshimurasaki. The rough paper allows for some nice-looking textures. I then sketched in the drawing's subjects with my fountain pen. Once satisfied with the composition, I accentuated the drawing's outline, and added multiple layers of ink with the Q-tip. I finished the piece by adding the sun in the sky, and some trees on the horizon. The toolset for this inkxperiment was really simple: some Q-tips, a fountain pen and the bottle of ink. The resulting drawing shows quite well the tonal range that can be obtained with this beautiful grey ink from the kyo-no-oto series.

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This is a great review! Thank you so much for doing it.


I really like the color of this ink. It does remind me of the subtle yet elegant kimonos of the past. It is a shame that it is so dry. It looks like it would be a nice sketching ink.

"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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Thanks for the review. I've been curious about some of the other Tag Kyoto inks, as well. This looks like a very nice color, but it does seem to be better out of a broader nib. The dryness might not be a problem if I were to put it in something like the TWSBI 580-ALR with the 1.1 stub nib. Not thrilled with the lack of water resistance, but I do have inks that are, so that's not really an issue.

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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Thank you. I always look forward to your reviews.


I love TAG Kyoto Soft Snow of Ohara, another muted ink that looks bluer or purpler depending on the paper. And it isn't dry at all. I just finished a fill of Soft Snow in a Pilot Metropolitan M.

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Excellent and fascinating review as always. IYAM, you're really good at doing realistic drawings, because you tend to reflect a natural and at the same time mature, contemplative style. BTW, as I saw your flowers up top here, the first ink I thought of was fuyu syogun, so the ink in this review has to be good!

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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Thank you for a lovely and comprehensive review as always. I'm so impressed with someone that tests an ink in multiple pens with multiple papers. An incredible amount of work. I'm lucky to review an ink using one pen on a couple papers.


I have a few of the Kyoto TAG inks and I like them. This however is an ink I can pass on as I have never been a fan of unsaturated inks, nor of gray inks. I'm glad you are enjoying it however.

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:wub: Thank you as always!

“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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What an interesting, complex ink -- very appealing!


And I very much enjoy your reviews -- thank you for doing them!


etherX in To Miasto

Fleekair <--French accent.

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I just took slower, closer look at the ink on all the different papers. Liking the quotations! Also, makes the ink more tempting, seeing how it behaves on so many different papers.


etherX in To Miasto

Fleekair <--French accent.

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You do such great reviews! 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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