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TACCIA Ukiyo-e Utamaro aomurasaki


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TACCIA Ukiyo-e Utamaro aomurasaki


TACCIA is a Japanese stationery company, that - as far as I know - is now part of the Nakabayashi group. They offer high-quality fountain pens, inks, pen-rolls, notebooks, etc. More specifically, TACCIA produce a line of inks, inspired by the unique look of Ukiyo-e paintings from Japan’s Edo period (17th century). Ukiyo-e prints are woodblock prints where the work of an artist is carved into wood by woodworkers, and pressed onto paper by printers. This allows the production of multiple prints of an artwork with some different colours as well. 


In this review, I take a closer look at aomurasaki, a blue-purple-grey that is inspired by the work of the Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806). Utamaro was a highly regarded designer of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and paintings. He is best known for his “large-headed pictures of beautiful women” of the 1790’s. The woodblock painting “Geigi”, part of a series of five Ukiyo-e prints known as Five Shades of Ink in the Northern Quarterwas created in 1794-95. Aomurasaki  is modeled after the purple-grey colour in the geisha’s kimono robe. 



Aomurasaki is a well-saturated blue-purple, that can look almost grey in writing. The ink looks soft, muted, understated but full of depth… a complex and sophisticated ink that reflects the geisha’s elegance. Not a vibrant ink, but one that is soft & easy on the eye, well suited for long writing sessions. The ink has good flow, and works well with all nib sizes, even the few EF-nibs I have. My first impression: a great-looking ink with lots of character. Makes me think of Mariko-sana from the James Clavell Shogun book – distinguished and elegant, but with emotions whirling below the surface. I like aomurasaki a lot.



To show you the impact of saturation on the ink’s look and feel on paper, I made some scribbles where I really saturated portions of a strip of 52 gsm Tomoe River paper with this TACCIA ink. This gives you a good idea of what the ink is capable of in terms of colour range. Aomurasaki has a narrow dynamic range, going from a medium-light to a much darker purple-grey. The contrast between these light and dark parts is fairly low, which translates to soft and elegant shading. Shading happens in all nib sizes, with just a hint using the EF-nib, but really present with M-nibs and above. The shading is never too fierce, but always remains unobtrusive – it just gives that desirable extra oomph to your writing, without being in your face. I like the aesthetics of the result on paper… nicely executed.



The ink’s chromatography shows aomurasaki’s complex mix of dyes… I see grey, rose-purple, light-blue, and hints of other colours. Thanks to the mastery of TACCIA’s ink makers Hiroshi Ishiguro and Hanse Matsumoto, these dyes combine to the beautiful blue-purple-grey colour of aomurasaki. The bottom part of the chroma shows that the grey dye remains firmly attached to the paper, while the colour dissipates with water. The water test confirms this. I wouldn’t call aomurasaki a water-proof ink, but it can survive accidents, and what remains on the paper is still readable. That’s a plus for using this ink at the office.



I’ve tested the ink on a wide variety of paper – from crappy Moleskine to high-end Tomoe River. Starting with this review, I’ve added a few new papers :

  • Nakabayashi Prime notebook paper (75 gsm)
  • Miquelrius 1839 recycled notebook paper (80 gsm)
  • Yamamoto Bank Paper Takasago Premium (87.9 gsm)


On every small band 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 an M-nib Lamy Safari
  • The name of the paper used, written with a B-nib Lamy Safari
  • A small text sample, written with an F-nib Yard-o-Led
  • Source of the quote, with an Esterbrook journaler nib
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari)


Aomurasaki looks really good on both white and creamy paper. It does prefer better quality paper, showing a tiny bit of feathering and some bleed-through on the lower quality papers in my test-set. Due to the saturated nature of the ink, there is also some see-through on multiple papers. Drying times with the M-nib Lamy Safari are in the 5 to 10 second range. 







I’ve also added a few photos to give you another view on the ink. Scanned images and photos often capture different aspects of the ink’s colour & contrast. That’s why I present them both. In this case, the photos capture aomurasaki’s colour best – the scans of the writing samples are little bit too blue.





Writing with different nib sizes
The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. The EF-nib already shows a hint of shading. But it is with the M-nib and above that the ink’s soft & elegant shading really comes into play. At first sight, the shading is not really evident, but it is there – low-key and unobtrusive - simply adding character to your writing without being in-your-face. Very nicely done, in my opinion. The ink looks beautiful and well-saturated in the fine nibs (F and EF). This is a plus when using aomurasaki at the office, where premium quality paper is not typically present. By using a finer nib, you avoid excessive feathering and see-through/bleed-through on the lower quality copy paper.




Related inks
To compare aomurasiki’s muted blue-purple-grey 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. Kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara looks fairly similar, although with a touch more blue. Aomurasaki sits somewhere between Soft Snow of Ohara and Rober Oster Purple Rock. Diamine Vivaldi – another purple-grey – definitely leans more heavily towards grey. 





Inkxperiment – quantum tree
With every review, I try to create an interesting drawing using only the ink I’m working on. Limiting myself to one ink allows me to showcase its colour-range nuances. It’s often quite a challenge, but always great fun. Inspiration for this drawing comes from an introductory Elementary Physics online-course I recently followed – trying to keep up-to-date with advances in cosmology and quantum mechanics. You just have to love science… from elementary particles like quarks and leptons, we get atoms, that combine to molecules, that come together in cells and that lead to the amazing large-scale structures we see in nature. Like the majestic oak, and ultimately ourselves. It’s just amazing that simple physical processes can lead to such complex emergent behaviour. I tried to capture my love of science in this quantum tree picture. 





I started with a piece of A4 HP photo paper, on which I painted the background with different water-ink ratios (using cotton pads). I then used different-sized jars as stamps to draw the circles (using bleach, that reacts quite strongly with aomurasaki). I filled an old and disused Kaweco Sport with bleach, and used that to draw the circuit-board lines, and the binary writing, finishing the painting. The drawing shows really well what can be achieved using aomurasaki for artistic purposes. In my opinion – a beautiful ink to draw & paint with!




TACCIA Ukiyo-e Utamaro aomurasaki is a great ink. Period. I love the understated nature of its blue-purple-grey colour, the elegance of its shading, and its overall writing properties. And on top of that, it’s also a superb drawing ink. Try it... I am sure you'll like it.


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



Back-side of writing samples on different paper types







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Ahhh. As ever, a fantastic review - these are always such a treat to see, and once more, this is not a disappointment.


You've managed to make an ink I would almost certainly have overlooked seem really very desirable - and  that's quite apart from the beautiful packaging.


I don't think I need both this and Soft Snow at the same time, but the little bit of water resistance make it very appealing as a replacement when that one runs out.

Thank you :)

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8 minutes ago, mizgeorge said:

Ahhh. As ever, a fantastic review - these are always such a treat to see, and once more, this is not a disappointment.


You've managed to make an ink I would almost certainly have overlooked seem really very desirable - and  that's quite apart from the beautiful packaging.


I don't think I need both this and Soft Snow at the same time, but the little bit of water resistance make it very appealing as a replacement when that one runs out.

Thank you :)

Hear hear

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5 hours ago, lapis said:

Ditto No. 3


And now # 4. Beautiful review of a beautiful ink that will now go onto my want list. 


I love the comparisons, not only for the ink under review, but also for the other inks. I think I get a better feel for each ink as I see it juxtaposed with others, especially when a particular ink card appears in multiple reviews. 

"Most people enjoy the sight of their own handwriting as they enjoy the smell of their own farts." - W. H. Auden

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Ditto No. 5, I just thought it was another purple..

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Thank you for this lovely review of an ink that would certainly be on my list if I didn't already have both Robert Oster Purple Rock and Kyo-Iro Soft Snow of Ohara.

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