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How to darken Birmingham Pen Co. Southern Portal...


rkesey
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Hello, all. I don't have much experience mixing inks and don't want to ruin a new bottle, so I thought I'd reach out. 

 

I bought a bottle of Birmingham Pen Co.'s Southern Portal, which looked to be a really nice terra-cotta. Out of my pens on my paper it's almost a salmon color, lighter and pinker than I'd hoped. I'd like to darken it a bit (ideally to a proper terra-cotta, but if it goes a little darker, that's fine.) Is it as straightforward as adding a bit of one of their black or black-adjacent inks? I've got Violet Starling and Waterfront Dusk. I've also got a proper black from Lamy. Or should I be thinking of adding a dark brown instead? I've got PR Chocolat, Diamine Macassar, Edelstein Smoky Quartz...

 

Many thanks in advance to anyone who chimes in... 

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I had the same issue, the ink color being significantly different from the swatch on the website.  Having a bottle of Birmingham Weathered Brick, I mixed some of each successfully to make a color darker than the Southern Portal, although not precisely the color in the swatch.  

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4 hours ago, Carrau said:

I had the same issue, the ink color being significantly different from the swatch on the website.  Having a bottle of Birmingham Weathered Brick, I mixed some of each successfully to make a color darker than the Southern Portal, although not precisely the color in the swatch.  

 

It's gotten to the point where I don't want to purchase from BPC anymore because of this. The online swatches for their red, purple, and pink colors are so drastically different from the muddled salmon-browns I've received. The greens and blues from BPC have been more accurate to the swatch online, but... I don't know. It makes me sad, because I love supporting BPC and their small team... 😔

 🐌 💌 📬 Snail mail enthusiast & ink swatching fiend. Trade inks with me here🎨🌈🖋️

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I have about a dozen of their inks, some from their old formulations, and some from their new. I’ve only had two that seemed different, one was the Southern Portal, and the other was Celestial Blue from the old lineup:  it wasn’t as saturated as I expected.  All the other inks I’ve received, including older Waterfront Dusk, were what I saw on their swatches. (YMMV). I enjoy their inks, as they have interesting colors, they’re well behaved, and many have fairly good water resistance even though this is not an advertised property for any but their new Everlasting inks.  Birmingham inks wouldn’t be the first inks I bought that weren’t exactly the same as swatches shown on websites, and I understand there are many variables that affect how an ink appears.  Certainly this is why many try samples first, and although Birmingham used to sell these, they no longer offer them.  On the other hand, their inks are mostly so inexpensive compared with many others, that I don’t really need them to sample, although it would be helpful.  
 

When I received the Southern Portal, I thought it was a mislabeled bottle of Salt Water Taffy.  I contacted them with some photos of swatches of my own, and they quickly confirmed my ink was Southern Portal, and, to their credit, they kindly offered to send me a bottle of any ink of my choice as a replacement.  Since it wasn’t an error on their part, I thanked them and declined, as I felt I had chosen the ink and it was a risk I took every time I ordered an ink from any vendor (I’m not saying everyone would have this view, bit it’s my ethic).  I mention it only to demonstrate their willingness to provide good service.  I’m happy to have small companies like theirs and Edison Pens in this business, and I, for one, look forward to their offerings, and gladly support them.

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1 hour ago, Percy said:

 

It's gotten to the point where I don't want to purchase from BPC anymore because of this. The online swatches for their red, purple, and pink colors are so drastically different from the muddled salmon-browns I've received. The greens and blues from BPC have been more accurate to the swatch online, but... I don't know. It makes me sad, because I love supporting BPC and their small team... 😔

Hi, Percy!

 

First things first, thanks again for the samples. I filled a demonstrator with the AR Twilight, and it's still coming in a little light--more dusky rose than the sort of Syrah color I'd anticipated. It may darken a bit, though, as it fills the feed. It actually reminds me of a sort of dusky rose/grape I made mixing Lamy red (which I find unusable on its own) and a little Lamy black...

 

I will say, the one blue-green I've tried so far from them, Boiler Steam, is spectacular. Vivid and saturated and beautiful and, so far, well behaved. 

 

Well, I'll try adding a little black or brown to Southern Portal and we'll see where it gets us. 

 

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14 minutes ago, Carrau said:

I have about a dozen of their inks, some from their old formulations, and some from their new. I’ve only had two that seemed different, one was the Southern Portal, and the other was Celestial Blue from the old lineup:  it wasn’t as saturated as I expected.  All the other inks I’ve received, including older Waterfront Dusk, were what I saw on their swatches. (YMMV). I enjoy their inks, as they have interesting colors, they’re well behaved, and many have fairly good water resistance even though this is not an advertised property for any but their new Everlasting inks.  Birmingham inks wouldn’t be the first inks I bought that weren’t exactly the same as swatches shown on websites, and I understand there are many variables that affect how an ink appears.  Certainly this is why many try samples first, and although Birmingham used to sell these, they no longer offer them.  On the other hand, their inks are mostly so inexpensive compared with many others, that I don’t really need them to sample, although it would be helpful.  
 

When I received the Southern Portal, I thought it was a mislabeled bottle of Salt Water Taffy.  I contacted them with some photos of swatches of my own, and they quickly confirmed my ink was Southern Portal, and, to their credit, they kindly offered to send me a bottle of any ink of my choice as a replacement.  Since it wasn’t an error on their part, I thanked them and declined, as I felt I had chosen the ink and it was a risk I took every time I ordered an ink from any vendor (I’m not saying everyone would have this view, bit it’s my ethic).  I mention it only to demonstrate their willingness to provide good service.  I’m happy to have small companies like theirs and Edison Pens in this business, and I, for one, look forward to their offerings, and gladly support them.

I had the same wonderful customer service experience just now, Carrau--Nick responding right away to my email, with the same offer to send another bottle (which I declined for the same reasons you state.) I guess at this price point I feel well-served if I love one out of four (Boiler Steam, wow) and like two of the three others. And I'll mess around a bit to see if I can't get Southern Portal to shape up.

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I looked at their website recently and they had a bunch of completely new inks, and they didn't seem to have the Pittsburgh themed names any more.  The previous time was a while back, and the swab they had for Waterfront Dusk was a lot more red violet than my bottle of it from when hey still had the B&M store.

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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19 minutes ago, inkstainedruth said:

I looked at their website recently and they had a bunch of completely new inks, and they didn't seem to have the Pittsburgh themed names any more.  The previous time was a while back, and the swab they had for Waterfront Dusk was a lot more red violet than my bottle of it from when hey still had the B&M store.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

That's interesting! My impression was that they'd moved away and were now moving back again--though the Pittsburgh parts are often in smaller type above the name-name.

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Birmingham Pens had moved into a commercial office/industrial park in the next county (but still "Pittsburgh area" -- it's about a half hour or so from Downtown in non-rush hour traffic because it's mostly highway driving; from where I live, just outside the city limits, it's about 20 minutes to that part of Cranberry Township).  I actually tried to find the place a couple of weeks ago, but didn't see a sign out where Google Maps showed them being (so they might have been on a higher floor, or be just a drop box/mailing address the way they were back when they were xfountainpens.com, with the actual warehouse in a different location (it also didn't help that I sort of swung over that way at night, coming back from somewhere else).  Google Maps gives the current address, but all the photos seem to be of the old B&M store in Shadyside.

I was going to stick my nose in Weldins (the old stationery store in Downtown Pittsburgh) a week or two ago when I had to take the bus and then the T to my allergist's office but then discovered -- after I got Downtown -- that Weldins was temporarily closed.  I had wanted to see if Weldins (which -- even in their new location in the Gulf Tower, which sadly is a fraction of the size of their old place on Wood Street -- still has an actual "pen counter") carried any of the Birmingham inks.

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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1 hour ago, inkstainedruth said:

Birmingham Pens had moved into a commercial office/industrial park in the next county (but still "Pittsburgh area" -- it's about a half hour or so from Downtown in non-rush hour traffic because it's mostly highway driving; from where I live, just outside the city limits, it's about 20 minutes to that part of Cranberry Township).  I actually tried to find the place a couple of weeks ago, but didn't see a sign out where Google Maps showed them being (so they might have been on a higher floor, or be just a drop box/mailing address the way they were back when they were xfountainpens.com, with the actual warehouse in a different location (it also didn't help that I sort of swung over that way at night, coming back from somewhere else).  Google Maps gives the current address, but all the photos seem to be of the old B&M store in Shadyside.

I was going to stick my nose in Weldins (the old stationery store in Downtown Pittsburgh) a week or two ago when I had to take the bus and then the T to my allergist's office but then discovered -- after I got Downtown -- that Weldins was temporarily closed.  I had wanted to see if Weldins (which -- even in their new location in the Gulf Tower, which sadly is a fraction of the size of their old place on Wood Street -- still has an actual "pen counter") carried any of the Birmingham inks.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

Oh, sorry, I didn't mean moved away literally, but moved away (I thought, maybe wrongly) from Pittsburg names for inks, and then back toward doing so. But I'm glad to know the geography as well!

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Don't have that ink but in general a very wet pen can make any ink look more saturated and dark; for instance Fuyu Gaki comes out as a light pinkish orange with an FK Artus (41), while it comes out like a dark red with a vintage (possbly medium) Waterman W5; that pen also seems to evaporate a little, which makes the ink darker. A Parker Vacumatic does a similar trick, as does a modern Muji whose nib I made wetter on purpose.

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

 

B. Russell

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14 hours ago, senzen said:

Don't have that ink but in general a very wet pen can make any ink look more saturated and dark; for instance Fuyu Gaki comes out as a light pinkish orange with an FK Artus (41), while it comes out like a dark red with a vintage (possbly medium) Waterman W5; that pen also seems to evaporate a little, which makes the ink darker. A Parker Vacumatic does a similar trick, as does a modern Muji whose nib I made wetter on purpose.

That's a great tip, senzen, thank you! I've got it coming out a fairly wet stub, and adding black a few drops at a time to the bottle seems to have us heading in the right direction.

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7 hours ago, rkesey said:

That's a great tip, sezsen, thank you! I've got it coming out a fairly wet stub, and adding black a few drops at a time to the bottle seems to have us heading in the right direction.

I’d be interested to see your modified version when you’ve reached a satisfactory shade.

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On 2/8/2021 at 2:29 PM, rkesey said:

Hi, Percy!

 

First things first, thanks again for the samples. I filled a demonstrator with the AR Twilight, and it's still coming in a little light--more dusky rose than the sort of Syrah color I'd anticipated. It may darken a bit, though, as it fills the feed. It actually reminds me of a sort of dusky rose/grape I made mixing Lamy red (which I find unusable on its own) and a little Lamy black...

 

I will say, the one blue-green I've tried so far from them, Boiler Steam, is spectacular. Vivid and saturated and beautiful and, so far, well behaved. 

 

Well, I'll try adding a little black or brown to Southern Portal and we'll see where it gets us. 

 

 

Whoops - missed this! Glad you enjoyed the samples. I agree that the blues and greens from BPC are great - in fact, the blues and greens I have from them (PP Fountain Turquoise, Celestial Blue, Green Weenie, Parrot, and Icterine) are some of my favorite shades. The discrepancy of in-person vs. swatched color has occurred for me in the reds and pinks. :( But now at least I know I can order blues and greens from BPC with confidence! 

 

On 2/8/2021 at 2:31 PM, rkesey said:

I had the same wonderful customer service experience just now, Carrau--Nick responding right away to my email, with the same offer to send another bottle (which I declined for the same reasons you state.) I guess at this price point I feel well-served if I love one out of four (Boiler Steam, wow) and like two of the three others. And I'll mess around a bit to see if I can't get Southern Portal to shape up.

 

Echoing this - I, too, had the same great customer service experience! Nick is awesome. I sent an email to the help address listed in their packaging materials after my bottle of AR Twilight looked completely different than the swatch online. Like Carrau I thought I had received a mislabeled bottle, but was assured that was not the case and that I was in fact looking at a properly labeled bottle of Twilight.

 

But this begs the question... if this same issue is happening to multiple people, shouldn't BPC be looking into finding a way to take more accurate photos of their inks? Clearly something is amiss, either with overexposed shots, overly saturated shots... something. We can't be the only ones who have reached out in confusion over this, can we? 

 

I want to emphasize though I mean no hate at all to BPC and their team - what they're doing is so wonderful and I love to see small businesses thrive and flourish! But there's something to be addressed here, no? :( 

 🐌 💌 📬 Snail mail enthusiast & ink swatching fiend. Trade inks with me here🎨🌈🖋️

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3 hours ago, Carrau said:

I’d be interested to see your modified version when you’ve reached a satisfactory shade.

Will do! I don't have much in the way of lighting gear, but I'll try to show at least one shot of before/after.

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Okay, I'm starting to get a sense of why the site pictures are as they are--my pictures, too, came out looking much darker than my eye reads them on the page! Apologies for terrible pictures, bad handwriting, etc. All pictures are out of a Kokuyo Systemic A6 notebook (V92B). The pen is a Visconti Desert Falls with a 1.3mm stub. The photos are:

SP = the original Southern Portal, which, again, is much lighter and pinker in person--maybe the yellow lampshade darkened it?

SP + 35 VS = a nearly full 60ml bottle of Southern Portal darkened with 35 drops of Violet Starling

SP - ART + 10 - SP + 35 = This one shows the original Southern Portal at the top, and the Souther Portal plus 35 drops of Violet Starling at the bottom, separated by the 5 ml sample of Allegheny River Twilight Percy sent me darkened with 10 drops of Violet Starling.

 

Hope that isn't too confusing! And again: all samples are lighter in real life!

 

 

SP.jpg

SP + 35 VS.jpg

SP - ART + 10 - SP + 35.jpg

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The SP+VS does look more like the swatch of Southern Portal on the website. I don’t have any of the VS, but I have some other dark inks from BP that I may experiment with.  Thanks for the pictures.

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19 minutes ago, Carrau said:

The SP+VS does look more like the swatch of Southern Portal on the website. I don’t have any of the VS, but I have some other dark inks from BP that I may experiment with.  Thanks for the pictures.

You bet! I used just VS because it's the darkest BPC ink I have--a proper black would have done the work quicker, probably, and dealt better with the pink. I was tempted to use Lamy black, or R&K Verdigris (I have a feeling the green would have grayed out the pink nicely) but didn't want to risk a weird reaction mixing different companies' inks like that. The hazards of being an amateur...

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3 hours ago, Percy said:

 

Whoops - missed this! Glad you enjoyed the samples. I agree that the blues and greens from BPC are great - in fact, the blues and greens I have from them (PP Fountain Turquoise, Celestial Blue, Green Weenie, Parrot, and Icterine) are some of my favorite shades. The discrepancy of in-person vs. swatched color has occurred for me in the reds and pinks. :( But now at least I know I can order blues and greens from BPC with confidence! 

 

 

Echoing this - I, too, had the same great customer service experience! Nick is awesome. I sent an email to the help address listed in their packaging materials after my bottle of AR Twilight looked completely different than the swatch online. Like Carrau I thought I had received a mislabeled bottle, but was assured that was not the case and that I was in fact looking at a properly labeled bottle of Twilight.

 

But this begs the question... if this same issue is happening to multiple people, shouldn't BPC be looking into finding a way to take more accurate photos of their inks? Clearly something is amiss, either with overexposed shots, overly saturated shots... something. We can't be the only ones who have reached out in confusion over this, can we? 

 

I want to emphasize though I mean no hate at all to BPC and their team - what they're doing is so wonderful and I love to see small businesses thrive and flourish! But there's something to be addressed here, no? :( 

Yes, I think it's a fair question to ask, certainly. As you might see from my samples of Southern Portal plus + Violet Starling below, my photos, too, came out quite a bit darker than my eye reads them - but at least they show the difference with and without Violet Starling added. 

 

As long as I'm here, here are two pics of the 5 ml Canterbury Raisin sample you sent me, with 12 drops of Violet Starling (why not) added. Thanks again for all these samples to play with. I found the original to look a bit like a pleasant, sort of slightly washed-out Iroshizuku yama-budo, and it darkened nicely, I think. (Yet again the pics read darker than real life, though I used a whiter, more direct light source this time.) The final result is closer to grape than I usually use, but I quite like it. The samples are on HP Premium Choice 32 lb Laserjet (the old formula--I've got a quarter of a ream left...), out of a new pen that just got here today, an Italix Churchman's Prescriptor with, allegedly, a Broad Cursive Stub, but it's so wide I think it's more likely to be the Extra Broad--it's almost 1.7mm to my eye, or even a little wider.

 

 

 

CR + 12 VS a.jpg

CR + 12 VS b.jpg

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