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Noodler's Zhivago



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namrehsnoom

Noodler’s Zhivago

 

Noodler’s was established in 2004, and is probably the smallest ink company in the world. Nathan Tardiff’s mission is to provide us affordable fountain pen inks with a decent colour selection. Most of his Noodler’s inks are bullet proof – meaning fraud proof and waterproof. The focus of this review is on Zhivago, a saturated green-black with a faded look.

 

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Zhivago comes in the typical no-nonsense Noodler’s packaging: a simple 3 oz bottle, filled to the brim. The ink is advertised as bullet proof. I personally don’t care about the fraud proof aspects, but appreciate the strong water resistance when using this ink in my EDC pens. As always with this type of ink, pen hygiene is important: regular cleaning of your pen can help avoid nasty surprises.

 

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The ink’s colour is a nicely saturated dark green-black. Almost black in fine nibs, but more of a murky green-black when used in broader nibs or dry pens. I personally like the washed-out look of this ink, especially when used in a dry Lamy Safari with a B / 1.1 nib. With this combination, the ink looks gorgeous.  Zhivago is perfect for the workplace: a serious looking colour, and almost 100% waterproof. And the green undertone makes it look more interesting than a standard black ink.
 

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The ink itself writes a very saturated line with good lubrication in my Lamy Safari test pens. The dark colour and strong saturation make it an outstanding ink for EF/F nibs. Shading is almost absent in finer nibs, but with broader nibs the ink gains some depth, and becomes less one-dimensional. 


The ink has a fairly limited dynamic range, without much contrast between light and dark areas. To illustrate this, I did a swab where I really saturated portions of the Tomoe River paper with ink, pooling it on. With the right pen/nib combination, you can coax some great-looking soft shading from this ink. I personally love Zhivago’s looks when used in a Lamy Safari with 1.1 calligraphy nib. 

 

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On the smudge test – rubbing text with a moist Q-tip cotton swab – there is quite some smearing, but the text itself remains crisp and clear. Water resistance is near-perfect. A bit of the green disappears, but all text remains undisturbed on the paper. Even with longer exposures to water (30 seconds under running tap water), the ink remains firmly attached to the paper. A waterproof ink indeed! 


The chromatography confirms this: the dyes remain firmly attached to the paper in the bottom part. You can also see that the coloured dyes in the mix are most likely to detach from the paper.

 

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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 Lamy Safari M-nib fountain pen
  • The name of the paper used, written with a Lamy Safari B-nib
  • A small text sample, written with the M-nib
  • The source of the quote, written with a TWSBI Micarta v2 with F-nib
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari)

Zhivago looks equally good on white and more creamy paper. It is a near-perfect writing ink: across my test set of paper types, I noticed no feathering, and very minimal bleed-through or show-through. The Moleskine paper forms the litmus test: no visible feathering, and even on this horrible paper there is only a tiny amount of bleed-through. Excellent technical behaviour! Drying times are around the 10 second range with the Lamy Safari M-nib.


This Noodler’s ink not only looks good, it can also handle any paper you use. This includes typical copy paper you find at the office. As such, I can really recommend this ink for use in an EDC pen. I’ve used Zhivago in my Kaweco Liliput with F nib for the past month, and found the ink perfect for use at the office.


At the end of the review, I also show the back-side of the different paper types, in the same order. 

 

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Since scans alone are not always enough to give you a complete picture of the ink, I also provide you with a few photos for an alternative look at Noodler’s Zhivago. In this case, I think the scans capture best the way the ink looks in real life.

 

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Writing with different nib sizes
The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. Zhivago manages to look good in all nib sizes from EF up to the 1.9 calligraphy nibs. The ink writes a very saturated line, and as such works great in even the finest nibs. Shading is not the ink’s forte – you need dry pens with broad nibs to coax some shading from Zhivago. For my EDC pens, I don’t care too much about shading. For work settings, I appreciate Zhivago’s waterproof aspects, and the off-black faded green looks. 

 

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Related inks
To compare Zhivago 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. I have a number of green-blacks in my collection, and they all look different. Zhivago is the only one though that shows true water resistance.

 

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Inkxperiment – Ghostwalker
With every review I try to do a single-ink drawing that shows what the ink is capable of in a more artistic setting. The most fun part of every ink review: I really enjoy brainstorming the drawing’s setting, and the experimentation with different techniques. I’m constantly amazed at the broad range of hues/tones that one can coax from a single ink. Almost unbelievable.

 

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For this inkxperiment I used an A4-sized piece of HP photo paper. I taped out the tree trunks, and sponged in the background using a dish-washing sponge and heavily water-diluted Zhivago. For the sun, I used more concentrated ink applied in a circular pattern. Once dry, I removed the tape, and painted in the tree trunks with a piece of cardboard and pure Zhivago. I finally used a brush with pure Zhivago to add the figure of the ghostwalker. I was fairly surprised by the amount of green buried within the almost black looking Zhivago. Hadn’t expected this!

 

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Conclusion
Noodler’s Zhivago is the perfect office ink: well saturated, can handle crappy paper with ease, is totally waterproof. And it looks great too! I like the washed out faded green undertones that are present in what appears to be a black ink at first glance. Highly recommended for use in an EDC pen.


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! Nicely done, and comprehensive. Zhivago is one of my favorites for office use. I like the grid layout comparison with similar inks. Thanks!

Favorite pen/ink pairings: Edison Brockton w/EF 14K gold nib and Noodler's 54th Massachusetts; Visconti Pinanfarina w/EF chromium conical nib and Noodler's El Lawrence; Sheaffer Legacy w/18k extra fine inlaid nib and Noodler's Black; Sheaffer PFM III fine w/14k inlaid nib and Noodler's Black; Lamy 2000 EF with Noodler's 54th Massachusetts; Franklin Christoph 65 Stablis w/steel Masuyama fine cursive italic and DeAtramentis Document Blue; Pilot Decimo w/18k fine nib and Pilot Blue Black; Franklin Christoph 45 w/steel Masuyama fine cursive italic and Noodler's Zhivago; Edison Brockton EF and Noodler's El Lawrence; TWSBI ECO EF with Noodler's Bad Green Gator.

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 I was anticipating your review and how your Inkxperiment  would look like (what an ink nerd! ;)) and I was not disappointed. :thumbup:

I love greens that whisper, murmur ever so gently....

 

Thank you :)

 

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Thanks for the excellent and informative review.

 

Here's a general question: I've had very bad luck with Noodler's in vintage pens (with rubber ink sacks). The reviewer mentioned "good ink hygegine". Is this a covert warning that, absent thorough flushing after every use the ink will gum up modern piston filler pens? Any experience with this particular ink in rubber ink sacks?

 

Thanks in advance!

KAC

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namrehsnoom
2 hours ago, KAC said:

Thanks for the excellent and informative review.

 

Here's a general question: I've had very bad luck with Noodler's in vintage pens (with rubber ink sacks). The reviewer mentioned "good ink hygegine". Is this a covert warning that, absent thorough flushing after every use the ink will gum up modern piston filler pens? Any experience with this particular ink in rubber ink sacks?

 

Thanks in advance!

KAC

Well... this reflects my personal stance on waterproof inks. The way I see it, since you clean your pen by rinsing it with water (i.e. you rely on the ink to be water-soluble), a waterproof ink should always be handled with care. I never keep such inks more than a week or so in my pens, and clean the pen after every use. I also never use them in my more expensive pens. I typically use waterproof inks in my cartridge/convertor Lamy Safari pens or my Kaweco EDC pens. Probably being over-careful, but better safe than sorry...

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mizgeorge

Beautiful review - thank you as always - and it looks gorgeous. 

 

It's almost enough to make me want to buy a Noodlers ink again, even if only to use with a dip pen.

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Excellent review in general, as yours always are, but I especially love the way you keep on endorsing its everyday usefulness alongside its own special style. 

 

 

 

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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white_lotus

Zhivago is one Noodler's ink, along with El Lawrence, that I've wanted to get but never have. Thank you for the excellent review as always. I still may not actually acquire a bottle as I already have plenty of ink, but it's goo to know that this would be an ink I'd like, and with permanent qualities as an extra bonus.

 

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Intensity

Wow, this is one beautiful ink and its presentation.  I am particularly impressed with the Inksperiment drawing.  Such a wide range of hues, from near black and some gray to vivid olive-y green.  I will  definitely try a sample of this ink.

“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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On 3/6/2021 at 5:26 AM, namrehsnoom said:

A4-sized piece of HP photo paper

I have a question not related to the ink - hope you don't mind.  I think I have a little bit of printer-photo paper, but I have a boatload of glossy inkjet brochure paper, and I'm wondering if you think this would do interesting things like your photo paper.

 

(I feel like reading your reviews is - for me - kinda like all those hours I spent watching Bob Ross.  Eventually I started to believe, and had watched so many that the instructions were irrevocably embedded in my brain, so that eventually, I gave it a shot.  I figure one of these days I'm going to try an inksperiment, and I'm wondering whether to start with the more precious photo paper I have, or start out on the brochure paper and save the photo paper until I've had some practice - but if the brochure paper won't do it, then it would just frustrate me.)

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On 3/6/2021 at 10:38 AM, namrehsnoom said:

Well... this reflects my personal stance on waterproof inks. The way I see it, since you clean your pen by rinsing it with water (i.e. you rely on the ink to be water-soluble), a waterproof ink should always be handled with care. I never keep such inks more than a week or so in my pens, and clean the pen after every use. I also never use them in my more expensive pens. I typically use waterproof inks in my cartridge/convertor Lamy Safari pens or my Kaweco EDC pens. Probably being over-careful, but better safe than sorry...

Thanks for that! I am highly circumspect regarding non-water soluble inks in vintage pens and I'm cautious about them in modern piston fillers, too. At this point, as much as I like the color and the characteristics so nicely shown in this review, I'll pass on the purchase.

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PithyProlix

Very nice review and ink. Thanks!

 

For those that have both Zhivago and El Lawrence which do you prefer and why? I see that they are both bullet proof, forge resistant, and water resistant - El Lawrence adds archival and fluorescence. 

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namrehsnoom
12 hours ago, LizEF said:

I have a question not related to the ink - hope you don't mind.  I think I have a little bit of printer-photo paper, but I have a boatload of glossy inkjet brochure paper, and I'm wondering if you think this would do interesting things like your photo paper.

 

(I feel like reading your reviews is - for me - kinda like all those hours I spent watching Bob Ross.  Eventually I started to believe, and had watched so many that the instructions were irrevocably embedded in my brain, so that eventually, I gave it a shot.  I figure one of these days I'm going to try an inksperiment, and I'm wondering whether to start with the more precious photo paper I have, or start out on the brochure paper and save the photo paper until I've had some practice - but if the brochure paper won't do it, then it would just frustrate me.)

I did a quick check with glossy 100gsm inkjet paper... disappointing! For backgrounds, I often use heavily water-diluted ink that I spread generously on the surface, and that produces interesting textures while drying. The glossy inkjet paper I tried can't handle this. It starts to curl up, resulting in a wavy non-flat surface that quickly becomes unusable. If you start with that, you'll get frustrated for sure 😉 
What works best is heavy 300gsm watercolour paper or the photo paper (which has a kind of plasticky upper layer that doesn't let liquids through). I mostly use the 10x15cm photo paper ... works great. And also ideal to make e.g. birthday cards that have a personal touch. 

Also a good idea to start with some simple drawings - you know: draw something that's guaranteed to work, just to build some appetite. E.g. the lion-flowers I did for the Moonlight of Higashiyama review are very easy to draw, and are great for birthday cards.

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1 hour ago, namrehsnoom said:

I did a quick check with glossy 100gsm inkjet paper... disappointing! For backgrounds, I often use heavily water-diluted ink that I spread generously on the surface, and that produces interesting textures while drying. The glossy inkjet paper I tried can't handle this. It starts to curl up, resulting in a wavy non-flat surface that quickly becomes unusable. If you start with that, you'll get frustrated for sure 😉 

Thank you for saving me time and frustration! :)

 

1 hour ago, namrehsnoom said:

What works best is heavy 300gsm watercolour paper or the photo paper (which has a kind of plasticky upper layer that doesn't let liquids through). I mostly use the 10x15cm photo paper ... works great. And also ideal to make e.g. birthday cards that have a personal touch. 

Also a good idea to start with some simple drawings - you know: draw something that's guaranteed to work, just to build some appetite. E.g. the lion-flowers I did for the Moonlight of Higashiyama review are very easy to draw, and are great for birthday cards.

 

My heaviest watercolor paper is only 140lb, one type that's 100% cotton, another that doesn't mention cotton, so I assume it has none.  I'll just sacrifice a sheet of photo paper to the cause right from the start! :D  I suppose my next steps are to pick an ink, figure out a simple drawing, and find a suitable sponge.  I think I only have the ones with big holes and a very dense foam from inside a Dobie.  Your sponge looks different from both - in between the two as far as density and texture.  Of course, I can always experiment with different sponges as I expect they'll do different "patterns".

 

:)  Thank you again!  The bit I bolded ought to be obvious, but is something I might forget in my desire to "make art"!   I shall ponder what to draw.

 

[Much Later....] Score!    I thought I only had a pack of 10 glossy 4x6 photo paper sheets, but I have a box of 20 8.5x11 matte sheets, too!!!  Now that they're found (I appear to have an obscene amount of paper), I'll put them on the table with all the watercolor stuff so it's all ready when I am. 😊

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7 minutes ago, LizEF said:

My heaviest watercolor paper is only 140lb

Silly me!  That is 300gsm.  :doh::rolleyes:

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Love the review thanks for them, always great to read and see.

 

The inkxperiment reminds me of a game I used to play with bamboo forest, looks great.

 

I was looking for a ink shade like this one so helps a lot. Its funny though, 2 green-black inks I liked including this one are hardest to get here:lol:

 

Thanks again for them.

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HobbitLife

Thanks for the wonderfully thorough review! I found it interesting that you had such quick dry times however—on Tomoe River Zhivago often takes close to a minute to dry for me! (used in an EF Lamy 200 and EF Safari). Have others had this experience, or is the 15 second dry time typical?

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