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J. Herbin - Vert Olive (Perle Des Encres)



namrehsnoom

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J.Herbin - Vert Olive
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. The subject of this review is "Vert Olive" - a lovely looking yellow-green, but with an annoying Jekyll&Hyde character as will soon become clear. On first impression, I liked the colour a lot: a beautiful yellow-green that is excellent for personal journaling. One thing I quickly noticed though: this ink is not made for my usual Lamy Safari test pens. In the dry Safari pen, the ink is too unsaturated and pale, and feels very dry. Not usable at all. For this review I therefore switch to wet Pelikan pens that do the ink much more justice. Pelikan = Dr. Jekyll, Safari = Mr. Hyde - avoid dry pens with this ink! With the wet Pelikan pens the ink looks quite gorgeous even with an F-nib - not an ink for the workplace, but one to enjoy for personal journaling.
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Vert Olive has a fairly broad colour span, ranging from a wispy almost yellow colour to a fairly green olive when heavily saturated. This translates to a strong shading ink, but one with pleasant and aesthetic shading without too much contrast between the light and darker parts. I really like what I see here.
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On the smudge test - rubbing text with a moist Q-tip cotton swab - the ink behaved fairly well. There is a lot of yellow smearing, but the text itself remains perfectly legible. From the bottom part of the chromatography you can see that a grey residue remains. This is confirmed in my water tests: this ink can survice contact with water. The yellow-green colour partially disappears, but a grey ghost of your writing remains on the paper, still clearly readable without too much effort. Not exactly water-resistant, but still not bad at all.
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When doing writing samples on different paper types, the Jekyll & Hyde character of the ink comes into play. Vert Olive shows noticeable feathering on a number of papers in my test set. Cheap paper is the obvious candidate, but even some of my high-quality papers show some feathering with this ink. There are also a fair number of papers where the ink exhibits significant show-through and even some bleed-through. Again: a mix of low- and high quality papers. Quite unpredictable! Fortunately for me, my daily journaling paper works quite well with this ink: it looks really good in my Paperblanks journal, with good saturation, no feathering and no see-through. Lucky me!
Vert Olive is a very slow-drying ink though, and takes ages to dry on most non-absorbent paper - often upwards from 30 seconds with my M-nibbed Pelikan pen. 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 Pelikan M-nib fountain pen
  • The name of the paper used, written with a Pelikan B-nib
  • A small text sample, written with an M-nibbed Pelikan
  • The origin of the quote, written with a Parker Sonnet with M-nib
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Pelikan)

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The Parker Sonnet worked really well with this ink. It produces a slightly more saturated line than my Pelikan pens. It darkens up the ink a bit, making it even more lovely to the eye. But the truth remains: Vert Olive works really well with some paper, but can be a pain in the butt if you make the wrong paper choice : feathering, see-through, bleed-through. Wonderful when it works, frustrating when it shows its dark side.
Writing with different nib sizes
The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. At the top I show you some writing samples with my Lamy Safari test pens. Here the ink looks too pale and unsaturated, failing to impress me. The bottom part shows the ink in my wet Pelikan pens, allowing the ink to come to life and show its potential in all its glory. Vert Olive is a beauty, but only when combined with a wet-writing pen, and when used on the right type of paper.
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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 - traveler
With each review, I try to create an interesting drawing using only the ink I'm reviewing. This is often quite challenging, but it has the advantage of showing the ink's colour range in a more artistic setting. I enjoy doing these little drawings immensely - it's quite a fun extension of the ink hobby. Yellow-leaning inks often look amazing in drawings, and Vert Olive is no exception. The ink looks truly gorgeous in painted scenes.
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For this inkxperiment, I used HP photo paper to bring out the best of Vert Olive. I first created the block-patterned background using lightly applied ink. Next I painted in the traveler with a brush, using multiple layers of pure ink. I then drew in the passport stamp with an M-nibbed fountain pen. The resulting picture looks really nice, and shows off the beauty of Vert Olive. Definitely a superb drawing ink!
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Inspiration for this drawing comes from a photo of a small statue photographed in backlight with light streaming through a coloured curtain. I was intrigued by this background, and tried to create a similar effect in my drawing. For this I used a piece of old anti-slip material (the stuff you put beneath your carpet), that I put on top of the HP photo paper. Next I painted over the material with a brush, creating the checkered background pattern. I then used a fine brush to paint in the traveler silhouette with pure Vert Olive. The picture is completed by drawing in the passport stamp as a symbol for traveling. I quite like the end result that illustrates what can be achieved with Vert Olive as a drawing ink.
Conclusion
J. Herbin Vert Olive is a gorgeous yellow-green, that looks amazing when combined with wet pens and with the right type of paper. But it can also be very frustrating with dry pens, and be incompatible with quite a number of paper types (feathering, see-through & bleed-through). Drying times a very long (often over 30 seconds) making it an ink that's only useful for personal journaling, when you're not in a hurry and enjoy the slow pace of putting your thoughts on paper. Personally, I love the ink when it shows it's Jekyll side, but am totally frustrated with it when Mr. Hyde appears. You're warned! Choose your pen & paper wisely, or suffer the consequences ;-)
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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Excellent review.... You might be interested to know that R & K Alt Goldgrun is the darker version of Vert Olive...

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namrehsnoom

I love this colour. One of my favourite J. Herbin. I seem to remember it being quite wet though. Need to revisit it soon...

 

Oh... it’s definitely a wet ink, as indicated by the long drying times. But for some reason it doesn’t work well with my Lamy Safari pens. Especially with EF/F/M nibs, the writing feels very scratchy. Not sure why this happens, but not a pleasant writing experience, and the line comes out way to unsaturated. But in wet pens... great ink!

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Oh... it’s definitely a wet ink, as indicated by the long drying times. But for some reason it doesn’t work well with my Lamy Safari pens. Especially with EF/F/M nibs, the writing feels very scratchy. Not sure why this happens, but not a pleasant writing experience, and the line comes out way to unsaturated. But in wet pens... great ink!

This is sort of how Poussiere de Lune was for me - slightly wet flow, but poor lubrication. Lubrication is not always synonymous with "wet", apparently. My Lamy EF and F nibs are rather dry, which would explain the behavior to me.

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When there are areas of bright and light ink, is it due to the ink or nib?

You mean darker and lighter? If so, it's called shading, and the answer is yes. That is, it's due to the ink, the nib, the paper, your writing pressure, your writing style, and the size of your letters. Here's a quote from myself over on reddit, explaining my conclusions about shading (a phenomenon I love):

 

Important things to know about shading:

  1. The trio is crucial - paper, ink, and nib (especially the wetness / dryness of the nib). For example, oddly, I find shading doesn't happen as well on Clairefontaine as on Rhodia. Tomoe River is the best at showing it, of course.
  2. Shading shows up far better in print than in cursive/script. This is because shading is, essentially, the extra ink left when the nib lifts off the paper backfilling the previously written stroke part of the way (how far it goes depends on the wetness of the nib and ink). In cursive, the nib doesn't leave the paper as often, so there's less opportunity for this to happen. It still happens, when the pen slows enough, or pauses, but not as much.
  3. The size of your letters will matter - if you write 2mm letters with a Japanese EF and I take that pen and write 4mm letters, shading will be more obvious in mine, because the extra ink will likely fill your entire stroke, but not mine. (This is theory, but I believe it sound.)
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