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Robert Oster 1980 - Grey Seas


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Robert Oster 1980 - Grey Seas


Robert Oster is an Australian ink maker that is well-known for its unique range of colours. With this mini-series he gives us a conglomeration of colours inspired by the anything goes world of the 1980s. The inks include muted pastel-type colours along with some eye-popping disco-style hues. Definitely an interesting series.


The centerpiece of this review is Grey Seas, a toned-down grey-blue with definite purple undertones. This pastel-style dusty blue certainly fits my taste - the colour is simply beautiful. The ink provides good contrast with the paper, even in finer nibs. Like many Robert Oster inks, this one feels rather dry and definitely needs a wet pen or broader nib to gain decent lubrication.


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. Grey Seas goes from a faint purple-blue at the light end of the spectrum, up to a much darker grey-blue at the most saturated part. The purple undertones are strongly present, especially in the swab. The broad tonal range indicates that this is a strong shading ink. For my personal taste, shading is even a bit too strong and harsh, with too much contrast between the light and darker parts of the text.


Like most Robert Oster inks, Grey Seas has zero water resistance. Short exposures to water completely obliterate the text, leaving next to nothing on the page. This is also apparent from the lower part of the chromatography. The chroma clearly shows the purple & cerulean-blue components of the ink. You can also see that the dyes migrate away with water, and that only some faint light-purple smudges remain on the paper.


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 M-nib Lamy Safari fountain pen

  • The name of the paper used, written with a B-nib Lamy Safari

  • A small text sample, written with an M-nib Lamy Safari

  • Origin of the quote, written with a wet Parker Sonnet with M-nib

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

With the writing samples, Grey Seas exhibits some technical shortcomings. The ink seems to be prone to a small amount of feathering. This typically happens on the lower quality printing paper, but I also noticed a small amount of feathering on some high quality paper, like OCM vellum paper. Drying times are in the 5 to 10 second range with my M-nib Lamy Safari. Contrast with the paper is excellent and easy on the eyes. I don't like the way Grey Seas interacts with more yellowish paper - it just doesn't look good. In my opinion, this is an ink to use with pure white paper.





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-writing Parker Sonnet with M-nib. As you can see, Grey Seas has no problem with even the finest nibs, exhibiting some shading even with the EF-nib. This ink is a really heavy shader. For my tastes shading is even a bit too pronounced - I prefer more subtle shading myself.


Related inks

To compare Grey Seas 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 – waiting for the princess

With every review, I try to create an interesting drawing using only the ink I'm working on. Limiting myself to one ink allows me to showcase its colour-range nuances. It's often quite a challenge, but always great fun. Inspiration for this inkxperiment comes from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "The Frog Prince". I started off with a piece of 300 gsm rough watercolour paper, on which I painted the background using water-diluted ink. Next I used some Q-tips dipped in 1:2 diluted Grey Seas to stamp in the trees and paint in the castle. I then used a Q-tip with a bit of ink to darken up the foreground. For the frog prince I used my Lamy Safari pens and pure Grey Seas. Finally I used a Q-tip with heavily water-diluted ink to add some texture to the path leading up to the castle. The resulting drawing is only so-so, but it does give you an idea of what can be achieved with Grey Seas as a drawing ink.



Robert Oster 1980 Grey Seas gives you a beautiful muted grey-blue colour with strong purple undertones. Unfortunately this ink has some shortcomings, the most serious of which is its tendency to feather on a number of papers. Grey Seas also needs pure-white paper - it doesn't look good on more yellowish paper. This is an ink you need to combine with the right pen and paper - if you do so, you are rewarded with a really good-looking muted grey-blue. But make the wrong choice, and you will probably be disappointed.

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


Back-side of writing samples on different paper types





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Great review as usual....

Ironically, I find the feathering on Crown Mill Paper quite nice. It brings out some character.....

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Ditto... great review as always!

Especially your comparisons. A bluish grey for sure... but also a sea's own tinge of green....

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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Interesting ink. Seems to be surprisingly legible, even with its pale color (I suspect that the lack of saturation may be the reason you don't like it on cream or yellow paper -- it's showing the paper color through, and making the ink itself more teal-looking).

Thanks for the review. And, well, maybe not.... I'd like to see a side by side with something like Lamy Blue (which I'm not a fan of) or Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa (which I am, and which doesn't get enough love around here: it tends to get overshadowed by its showier brethren Kon-peki and, to some extent, Asa-gao).

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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  • 4 months later...

Your reviews really are spectacular!

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

Create a Ghostly Avatar and I'll send you a letter. Check out some Ink comparisons: The Great PPS Comparison 

Don't know where to start?  Look at the Inky Topics O'day.  Then, see 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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Since posting to this thread, I got a sample of Grey Seas, and absolutely love it. Really need to get a full bottle of it now.

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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