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Jacques Herbin - Bleu austral


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Jacques Herbin – Bleu austral


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.



Like so many others, the company jumped on the premium product bandwagon, and started to release more high-end inks under the Jacques Herbin “Les encres essentielles” label. Nicer boxes, nicer packaging, much higher price (18,50 EUR versus the 7,50 EUR for the J. Herbin inks from the “La perle des encres” series). Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist and decided to test these new inks – are they really better than the standard J. Herbin inks?


In this review, the spotlight is on Bleu austral, a strong blue leaning teal. The colour is really nicely done, and looks great on paper. The ink itself is wet-flowing and heavily saturated – in broad nibs it can even turn into a gusher. In my opinion, this is more of an ink for finer nibs and/or dry pens. Technically, the ink disappointed: it has a tendency to feather on more absorbent paper (even the one of high quality). You really need hard-surface paper for acceptable writing performance. 



Bleu austral is a heavy shader, and this in all nib sizes. Shading is never harsh and always looks aesthetically pleasing, due to the fairly small contrast range between light and darker parts. With wet pens, the ink really tends to oversaturate, which pushes away the shading. I therefore recommend using Bleu austral in combination with drier pens and/or fine nibs. To illustrate the ink’s colour span, I did a swab on 52 gsm Tomoe River paper where I really saturated portions of the paper with ink. This clearly demonstrates the ink’s dynamic range.



On the smudge test – rubbing text with a moist Q-tip cotton swab – there was lots of smearing. The text itself remains very readable though. Water resistance is fairly low. There remains a greyish residue of the text on the page, that is still easily readable, but most of the colour disappears. This is clearly visible in the chromatography: the blue colour dissipates with the water, leaving only a grey residue behind. Not what I would call a water-resistant ink. 



Drying times for this Jacques Herbin ink vary with the type of paper, ranging from less than 5 seconds on absorbent paper to 10-20 seconds on hard-surfaced paper (all with my Lamy Safari M-nib test pen). With the absorbent paper, I see quite some feathering – even on higher quality paper. You also get a fair amount of see-through and bleed-through. This ink is definitely picky in the type of paper it prefers. 


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 Lamy Safari
  • The source of the quote, written with an Edison Collier with 1.1 stub
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari)

Bleu austral looks equally good on white and more creamy paper. For my personal taste, it is way too saturated though – I definitely prefer a softer look in my inks. 







Since scans alone don’t tell the complete story, I’ve added some photos of the same writing samples to give you another view on the ink.





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 Edison Collier with a 1.1 stub. With the wet pen or with broad nibs in dry pens,  the ink leaves an overly saturated line, and loses much of the shading. I personally prefer this ink in combination with a dry pen (M-nib or below) – it simply looks nicer: a blue-heavy teal with subtle shading. The wetter the pen, the darker and more one-dimensional the ink becomes.



Related inks
To allow for a good comparison with related inks, I employ my 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. As you can see, there is quite some competition in this colour segment. Personally, I would rather avoid the technical issues of this Jacques Herbin ink, and go for one of the other options. 



Inkxperiment – river goddess
As a personal challenge, I try to create interesting drawings using only the ink I’m reviewing. With these monochromatic pieces, I get to explore all the colour-range nuances that are present in the ink. This is my favourite part of the review: experimenting with the ink, and trying to be creative… pure quality time!


We recently had some severe flooding in our part of Europe. Rivers, that are normally leisurely meandering in a peaceful landscape, turned into wild and angry monsters that threatened lives and property on their shores. In ancient times, such behaviour was usually attributed to the whimsical mood of the river goddess. Wild waters were a sure sign that the goddess was displeased with her people. I tried to capture this idea in the inkxperiment, that shows the goddess against the background of a wild and choppy river. 



For this drawing I used an A4 piece of HP photo paper, which is my favourite medium for doing inkxperiments. The photo paper really brings out the best from the ink. I first created the river background with the wood flotsam. I used painter tape to cover up the flotsam part, and used a cut-out piece of kitchen towel to paint in the choppy river. For this I sprinkled different water/ink ratios on top of the kitchen towel, which then pressed through to the underlying photo paper. I then used a piece of cardboard and pure Bleu austral to paint in the flotsam. Next, I painted in the river goddess with a fine brush, and used a small triangular potato cut-out to stamp in the different triangles. I finally used my B-nibbed Safari pen to add some finishing touches. The resulting piece gives you an idea of what can be achieved with Bleu austral in a more artistic setting.



Jacques Herbin Bleu austral is a nice blue-leaning teal. The ink is very saturated though, and – in my opinion – too much so in wet pens or with broad nibs. The ink also has technical shortcomings, and doesn’t cooperate with more absorbent paper. For a premium product, I had higher expectations.  In my opinion, this ink is not really worth the premium price: there are lots of other inks to choose from in this colour spectrum. 

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



Backside of writing samples on different paper types







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  • lapis


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Stunning review of yours, as always, really.... It's not at all my favourite colour but... whoa... maybe my favourite teal. It has a certain "deepness" in it, just like a male mallard duck's head and shoulders

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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Thank you.  As always a joy to see and read.  Big thumbs up for the addition of photos; very helpful.

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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Wonderful review! Thank you as always - these are such a treat.


Bleu Austral was an ink I chased for a little while - for some reason it's not available in the UK, and it looked like it was a bit special. I think I was hoping for something in the same vein as Vert Atlantide, without the shimmer.


Huge disappointment when I finally got it. It's rare for me to really not like a Herbin ink but this is one of them. Too saturated, too 'heavy', too badly-behaved and just not right for my fat or flexible nibs. I'll stick to my nice thin Callifolios (inter alia) in the same colour family.


I'm glad I only got a small bottle, which I will doubtless water down and use for drawing, because the colour's still pretty and that chroma just reinforces that.


I must just add that the latest inkxperiment is another triumph - these just keep getting better!



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3 hours ago, namrehsnoom said:

Jacques Herbin – Bleu austral


For my personal taste, it is way too saturated though – I definitely prefer a softer look in my inks. 

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For some reason I can't add my own comments to that quote, even on the edit page... anyway...


Great review, thanks! And I found that comment interesting- I'm the complete opposite. Many Sailor inks seem to lean to the softer side, for example, and that frustrates me to the point where I will evaporate water off to make them more saturated.

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Thanks for another thoroughly enjoyable review!  I like the color, but already have too many similar colors in full bottles, so I won't be going for this one.  But mostly, I enjoyed your Rorschach insect and inky art! :D

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I truly look forward to your reviews. Each time, I learn something. Thank you so much 🙏

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Thanks for another very complete review. I like the color, but I don't really want such a long drying time. 

"One can not waste time worrying about small minds . . . If we were normal, we'd still be using free ball point pens." —Bo Bo Olson


"I already own more ink than a rational person can use in a lifetime." —Waski_the_Squirrel


I'm still trying to figure out how to list all my pens down here.

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Interesting that it looks more blue or more green, depending on the paper.  I'm now wonder how the color compares to MB Leo Tolstoy (which I'm now sorry I didn't buy a backup bottle of, in spite of the price).

I may have to see about getting a sample of this at some point.  Thanks for the review.  And, well, not (at least the Herbin inks are less expensive than some brands....

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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