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Ink Shoot-Out : Robert Oster Purple Rock Vs Kyo-Iro Soft Snow Of Ohara

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Ink Shoot-Out : Robert Oster Purple Rock vs kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara

I recently did a review of kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara, and noticed that Robert Oster Purple Rock has a similar colour in writing. Both inks are really nice soft & elegant grey-blurples that look great on paper. 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 our champions engage in a formidable battle to determine who is the winner. Today's fighters are Tai Chi masters that excel in elegant moves to bring down their opponents. In the left corner, from Australia, the well-known master Robert Oster Purple Rock. In the right corner, from the city of Kyoto in Japan, comes the relatively unknown fighter Soft Snow of Ohara. Both champions take their places in the ring under a thunderous applause from the crowd. The gong signals the start of the first round. Let the fight begin and may the best ink win…

Round 1 – First Impressions


The fighters start circling each other, showing soft & elegant moves and countermoves. Some exploratory attacks & feints to seek out weaknesses in their opponent's defences. Both champions make a great first impression. These inks are greyed-down blue-purples, with a faded look that is both tranquil and elegant. They are well-saturated, even in finer nibs, and provide excellent contrast with the paper. Shading is just perfect, without too much contrast between light and darker parts, which adds to the aesthetics of the inks. Both are worthy champions, but there are some differences:

  • Soft Snow of Ohara is more of a muted indigo-violet, while the Robert Oster ink has more of a purple look. This is most obvious in swabs, but also in writing when both inks are put side-by-side.

  • Purple Rock is definitely the drier ink. It writes with sub-par lubrication in my Lamy Safari test pen. Soft Snow of Ohara seems a very wet ink in comparison.

Both inks make a great first impression. Personally I find the grey-blue-violet of Soft Snow of Ohara a more pleasing colour. Both inks look great though. Worthy opponents that showed their skill during this round. A pity that the Robert Oster ink made a false move at the start... its dryness is not something that you will easily forget. A minor failure, but enough to grant this round to the Japanese ink from the TAG Kyoto stable.


The chromatography clearly shows that the kyo-iro ink has more blue in its composition, whereas the Robert Oster ink is built from a more purple base. From the bottom part of the chroma you can already see that not much ink remains when water is added.

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. The Robert Oster ink is really dry, and feels very scratchy when writing. But this is not reflected on the page - the ink still lays down a well-saturated crisp line with the EF nib. With broader nibs, the dryness disappears and both inks glide fluently across the paper.

Both inks are excellent shaders, even with the finer nibs. It's not often that you encounter inks that manage to exhibit shading in an EF nib. Both Purple Rock and Soft Snow of Ohara can pull off this nifty feat. The shading remains aesthetically pleasing as you move to broader nibs. Due to the low contrast in the saturation range of these inks, there is no harsh difference between light and darker parts. Shading thus remains soft and elevates the elegance of your writing. Really well executed!

For this round, the focus is on writing, and here both inks look equally well on the page. As such this round ends in a draw - not because the champions were weak... not at all. They both entertained the public showing off excellent punches and counter-punches, executed with great style. The crowd is loving it!

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 ?

Both inks can handle both white and more yellow papers with ease, looking good on both types of paper. The kyo-iro looks the more beautiful of the two - to me it seems to have more depth to it, and the grey-violet looks a bit more pleasing to the eye. Purple Rock shows a definite weakness on the Tomoe River paper. Look closely at the scribbles below the text, and you'll notice that the ink has lost its purple character, and even takes on a bit of a green undertone. There is something in the composition of Purple Rock that can clash with chemicals in the paper. Below is a much more extreme example on Moleskine paper: here all the purple in Purple Rock is lost and replaced by a sickly green undertone.


When the chemistry doesn't undermine Purple Rock's looks, both inks look great, although I prefer the bluer tones of Soft Snow of Ohara. But when the chemistry goes wrong, Purple Rock completely caves, and loses all of its appeal. Gone is the elegance and beauty... the champion now becomes a stumbling wreck. The crowd hasn't failed to notice this, and neither has the judge. The advantage in this round goes to the kyo-iro ink. A deserved win!

Round 4 – Ink Properties


Being dry and scratchy, you'd expect Purple Rock to be a fast-drying ink. But that is not the case. On the Rhodia paper it took over 15 seconds to dry (using a Lamy Safari with M-nib). And although Soft Snow of Ohara feels much wetter, it is still a fast-drying ink at around 5-10 seconds. The Japanese champion scores a solid hit on its opponent in this area.

Both inks smudge when rubbed with a moist Q-tip cotton swab, but the text itself remains crisp and clear. The smudging is a bit more pronounced with Purple Rock. Neither ink shows any water resistance. Drip water on your writing, and all that is left is an unreadable mess. Here both inks are weak, and neither of them can impress the public.

For this round, neither ink did much to impress the crowd. But at the start of the round, the Japanese ink managed a surprise attack that really hurt its opponent. Soft Snow of Ohara is surprisingly fast-drying for a wet-feeling ink. Not exactly a knock-out, but a definite win on points. The stadium roars its approval for the TAG Kyoto champion.

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 most when doing some fun stuff like doodling and drawing. The drawing was done on HP photo paper, that typically brings out the best from inks.

Both inks do well, and allow for some nice effects. They both have a fairly medium colour span, that results in subtle colour differences between areas of lower and higher saturation. The contrast is never harsh, which translates to a soft-toned image that looks pleasing to the eye. I really enjoyed using them.

In the picture, I used different water/ink ratios to draw in the background. The trees were drawn in with my fountain pen and pure ink. I also used the fountain pen to add some texture to the mountainside. Both champions show their best moves: lightning-fast strikes and intercepts, an elegant dance of warriors. The stadium shakes with the applause of the crowd. What a fight!

Both inks work superbly as drawing inks. It's really a question of personal preference: do you prefer the more purple tones of the Robert Oster ink, or the bluer violet of Soft Snow of Ohara? Myself, I liked Purple Rock just a tiny bit more. It's easier to bring out some of its undertones: if you look closely, you can see some red in the mountainside, and a subtle hint of green in the air. But objectively speaking, both champions did equally well, and showed off their immense potential. As such, this round ends with a draw.

The Verdict

Both inks are muted, soft & elegant beauties, that work well on both pure white and more yellow paper. They are sell-saturated, and look great in all nib-sizes. These inks even show shading in EF-nibs! Purple Rock has a big weakness though: with some paper types, the chemistry clashes and the ink is reduced to an ugly green-grey mess. If you can avoid these circumstances, Purple Rock definitely is a beautiful writing ink, although a dry & scratchy one. Counting the points, the outcome is obvious: Soft Snow of Ohara is clearly the winner of this exciting fight!

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Thank you for this fun comparison. I love Soft Snow of Ohara and have been disappointed by Purple Rock, for the reasons you mention, but I am impressed by how Purple Rock looks in your drawing.

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Terrific comparison, as usual. Your efforts are much appreciated, aesthetically and practically.

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Outstanding comparison!


Your comment about Purple Rock's reaction with paper is very true. I purchased a sample of the ink, and used it on several different papers and noticed that sickly green overcast on several papers. I thought that I had been sent the wrong ink. It was terrible.


But I love your sketches. And I really like the way Purple Rock shades into pale blues and picks. It adds great character.


I haven't tried Soft Snow of Ohara, but it is definitely on my list.

Edited by 5Cavaliers

"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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