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Lightfastness Test - Black


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Result for

  1. Black inks (this post)
  2. Blue inks
  3. Red / brown inks
  4. Violet / green inks


Between 2014 and 2015, I conducted (semi-scientific) lightfastness test on various fountain pen inks in my possession. The paper I used to put these inks on is Arches Watercolour Hot Press, a professional art paper of archival quality. I  prepared two identical samples written at the same time: one was kept in an archival-safe art portfolio in the shade (indoor), the other was covered with an archival-safe transparent polyester cover (Brodart Econo-Fold Book Jacket Cover, 1.5-mil) that does not block UV light (I had tested it) and exposed under direct sunlight during the daytime.






The test took place between September to November 2014 and June to October in 2015 in Montreal, Canada, where the climate is classified as warm-summer humid continental climate with hot and humid summer time. The sky condition ranges generally from sunny to mostly cloudy; I don't take the samples out when it's entirely cloudy. The UV index ranges mostly between 3 and 8, but the at some hours it can be under 3. Everyday I noted down such various weather data as temperature range, humidex, humidity, dew point, wind, pressure, UV, sunrise/sunset, together with the number of hours of exposure. At the beginning I even tried to estimate cloud cover percentage using astronomical forecast, but I soon realised that my calculation was far from being accurate and helpful.  


I photographed the tested samples together with the orignal regularly, always using the same camera setting and nearly identical lighting setup. Here is the result for fountain pen black inks:


(1) Between 0-100 hours of exposure



(2) Between 0-400 hours of exposure



As comparison, I also tested at the same time other type of black inks (typically pigment-based) used in traditional calligraphy and drawing. The result stops at 180 hours because the tested sample was blown away or eaten by the dog (I don't remember exactly ...), but you can get an idea of how lightfast fountain pen black ink is compared with calligraphy ink.


(3) Calligraphy inks, 0-180 hours of exposure



Again, as comparison, I am sharing the results for other types of writing instruments, with unknown ink properties:


(4) Ballpoint pens, 0-400 hours of exposure



(5) Fineliner, 0-400 hours of exposure



(6) Kuretake Zig Calligraphy pens, 0-200 hours of exposure



(7) Kuretake Zig Clean Colour brush pens, 0-200 hours of exposure



I hope my test give you a rough idea of how each ink performs compared with another. Note that this is an extreme condition, as most people don't expose their writings under direct sunlight. The effect of fading and colour shifting in my test should be stronger than in the normal situation where writings are kept indoor with light to moderate exposure to light. 

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Wow. Amazing job :thumbup:

While I can see the visual results, it would be easier if you said, which one fared better. 

By Noodler's Eternal black do you mean, Noodler's Black?

Some of the Higgins look darker after exposure, though not the eternal...


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3 hours ago, yazeh said:

By Noodler's Eternal black do you mean, Noodler's Black?


Yes, what I meant by Noodler's Eternal Black is Noodler's Black. I remember when I purchased this ink some 10 years ago, it was advertised as the only eternal black ink so somehow the word 'eternal' just sticks with this ink in my mind. Sorry for the confusion! The catfish on my bottle looks slightly different than the one on Noodler's webpage though.





3 hours ago, yazeh said:

While I can see the visual results, it would be easier if you said, which one fared better.


Sorry, I am a visual artist :)

Generally speaking, pigment-based inks are more lightfast than dye-based inks, but using them also requires more frequent pen maintenance. Of the inks I have tested, Lamy Black and Platinum Black are on the worst side: after 400 hours of exposure, the fine strokes made with these inks become nearly invisible. Private Reserve Velvet Black is not too bad for a dye-based ink, but still didn't perform as well as Platinum Carbon Black, Noodler's Black and Noodler's Polar Black which remain quite consistant throughout the whole stretch of the test.


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Thanks for taking the time and answering my questions. 

So, in this case Platinum Carbon black had better lightfastness than Polar Black/ Black?


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I wouldn't say Platinum Carbon Black is more lightfast than Noodler's Black / Polar Black. The 3 inks resist to fading very well. Platinum Carbon Black is a 'thicker' kind of ink; that may give you the impression that it's blacker.


I kind of wonder whether Noodler's eternal / bulletproof inks are pigmented or not. It's been a while since I last used them, but I remember them being easier to clean than Platinum Carbon Black.


By the way, I just notice that you are also located in Montreal. If you want to examine the ink samples yourself, I can show them to you in person.

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Thanks for the offer. But I trust you on that. 

Good to know that Noodler's eternal inks hold up. Noodler's inks are cellulose reactive inks.....

You might want to try Koh I Door's document inks. They are certified, though, the top layer of ink, will wash away... 

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