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Rohrer & Klingner Isatis Tinctoria (2021 LE)


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Rohrer and Klingner Isatis Tinctoria (2021 Limited Edition)



Rohrer and Klinger – founded in 1892 in Leipzig, Germany – is a company that is mainly focusing on inks for all purposes, including fountain pen inks. Like every self-respecting company these days, they have started the tradition of releasing a limited edition ink every year. In 2021, they introduced this splendid Isatis Tinctoria, a dusty blue with purple undertones. The ink comes in a 50 ml bottle presented in a stylish box.



Isatis Tinctoria is already quasi impossible to find, and has reached “unobtainium” status. Fellow member @JulieParadise was so kind to provide me with a generous sample of this ink, with the request to compare it to kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara (resulting in an ink shoot-out). Afterwards, enough of the sample was left for a complete review of this wonderful ink. Thank you Julie for providing this opportunity.

This Limited Edition R&K ink is a soft dusty blue with definite purple undertones. A really elegant & beautiful ink that totally fits my tastes. According to Wikipedia, Isatis Tinctoria (also called dyer’s woad) is a flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae. Since ancient times, woad was an important source of blue dye and was cultivated throughout Europe. Rohrer & Klingner definitely succeeded in translating this inspiration into a fantastic ink colour. 



The chromatography shows a mix of blue, purple and grey. The dusty looks of the ink are clearly present. This combination of dyes translates to a soft and muted grey-blue with purple undertones.  Definitely not a vibrant colour! But nevertheless an elegant ink – soft, quiet, shy. Part of my education comes from the 5-year old in the family, so I’m fluent in Frozen… for Isatis Tinctoria, think Anna, not Elsa.



Isatis Tinctoria looks best in broader nibs, where it shows some really nice shading. But it can handle the complete nib range with ease – even with the EF nib, you already get hints of shading.

To show you the impact of saturation on the ink’s look & feel on paper, I made some scribbles where I really saturated portions of a piece of 52 gsm Tomoe River paper with ink. This gives you a good idea of what the ink is capable of in terms of colour range. Isatis Tinctoria has a fairly narrow colour span, with limited contrast between light and darker parts. This translates to soft shading, that is very present but remains delicate and aesthetically very pleasing. The shading on this ink is really well executed!



Technically, the ink felt a bit dry-writing in my Lamy Safari test pens, especially with the finer nibs.  Not so much an issue of wetness, but more of lubrication. With the finer nibs, you definitely feel more feedback from the paper while writing. With broader nibs, lubrication improves, and the ink starts writing much more fluently. 
In the writing samples below, I added a new paper to my test-set: Clairefontaine Smart Print Paper 60 gsm – a very fine fountain pen-friendly paper (Tomoe River-like in weight, but not as smooth but with some feedback while writing). 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 an M-nib Safari fountain pen
  • The name of the paper used, written with B-nib Lamy Safari
  • A small text sample, written with the M-nib Lamy Safari
  • Source of the quote, with an Edison Collier 1.1 stub
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper, with the M-nib Lamy Safari






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, both scan and photo capture the ink’s colour well.





Isatis Tinctoria looks good on all types of paper, both white and more creamy ones. I personally prefer it on pure white paper, where its soft and delicate character is best presented. The ink prefers high-quality paper. On lower quality papers (Moleskine, printing paper) you can see a tiny bit of feathering, and you also get some see-through and bleed-through. 

Writing with different nib sizes
The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. Isatis Tinctoria writes a well-saturated line in all nib sizes, notwithstanding its softness. The saturation sample already showed the limited contrast range of the ink. As a result, this R&K ink manages to look really consistent in colour across the complete nib range, both in wet and dry pens. Personally, I like this ink best in the broader nibs, where the soft shading is a bit more prominent.



Related inks
To show off 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. Isatis Tinctoria has a quite unique colour. It sits somewhere between kyo-no-oto keshimurasaki (which is greyer) and kyo-iro Soft Snow of Ohara (which is more purple). 



Inkxperiment – neuromancer
As a personal challenge, I try to create interesting drawings using only the ink I’m reviewing. I find this to be a fun extension of the hobby, and these single-ink drawings often present a real challenge. It also gives you an idea of what the ink is capable of in a more artistic setting.


Inspiration for this inkxperiment comes from the book “Neuromancer” by William Gibson. This book from 1984 is considered one of the earliest and best-known works in the cyberpunk genre. In the book you are presented with a drab and dystopian physical world, with the characters spending most of their time in the matrix of cyberspace. The whole book is written in adrenaline-high turbo-language – a quote: “He’d operated on an almost permanent adrenaline high, a byproduct of youth and proficiency, jacking into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix.”



I started with an A5 sheet of 300 gsm watercolour paper, and used heavily water-diluted Isatis Tinctoria to paint in the light-blue background. The data towers in the matrix were coloured with a felt-tip pen, dipped in pure ink. The code in the matrix flows from the data towers, and was written with a 1.1 stub Edison Collier. Gravity has no place in the matrix – so the people living in it can assume any position. The reality in the upper-left corner was drawn with a fine brush and Q-tips. The main character is ready to leave reality, and dive into the vortex of cyberspace. The end-result gives you an idea of what can be achieved with Isatis Tinctoria as a drawing ink.

With this 2021 Limited Edition, Rohrer and Klingner delivered a beautiful soft & muted blue with purple undertones, that is already reaching “unobtainium” status. If you thrive on vibrant inks, this one will not be for you. But if you enjoy dusty and toned-down inks, then Isatis Tinctoria is sure to please you. In my opinion, it sits among the great ones in this category. If you can still get hold of a bottle, don’t hesitate and buy it immediately. You will not be disappointed!


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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Beautiful and elegant as usual. I like how you soften the cyberpunk mode with such a soft blue instead of garnish green and yellows, which the represent normally.... :thumbup:

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Ah. Happiness on a Sunday afternoon :)


Thank you so much @namrehsnoom for another awesome review.


This has to be one of one of my favourite inks of this year. I've had a pen permanently inked with this since it came out, though I guess I'm now going to have to be a bit meaner with it as I underestimated how quickly it would disappear. 


Can I also say how much I liked this inkxperiment - these just keep getting better and better. I've not had the chance to do much drawing with Isatis, and I definitely need to now - I particularly like how pretty it is in its watered down state.

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Thank you @namrehsnoom for this entertaining, inspiring review. I enjoy your written review and your drawing!


Rohrer & Klingner did a good job in simulating the original woad-indigo colour of Isatis tinctoria. Despite not being among my favourite fountain pen ink colours, I use it occasionally for drawing.

One life!

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