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TACCIA Ukiyo-e Utamaro ume murasaki


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TACCIA Ukiyo-e Utamaro ume murasaki


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, the star of the show is ume murasaki, a brown-purple-rose ink with an intriguing personality. The ink’s colour is inspired by the tones appearing in woodprint paintings from the Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro. The ink’s inspiration comes from a 1795 portrait of Okita, a waitress who worked at the Naniwaya teahouse near the Asakusa temple in Edo. Okita was one of the most famous beauties in Edo, and was frequently depicted by Utamaro. 



Ume murasaki has a beautiful brown-rose colour. The ink shows some intriguing tricks too – it’s a real chameleon, that can look totally different depending on pen-nib-paper combination and depending on the light source. I love it when inks show this type of complexity in their make-up! Ume murasaki translates to “plum purple” – myself I mostly see a brown-leaning old-rose that just looks lovely on pure white paper. This TACCIA ink writes fairly saturated – with a wet pen you get a fairly brown-leaning colour without much shading (due to the heavily saturated line). Use ume murasaki with a dry pen though, and it opens up in all its exquisite beauty: seducing old-rose tones, strong but not too contrast-rich shading that looks simply wonderful. As you might guess, this ink is totally to my liking and surely one of the most intriguing inks in the TACCIA Ukiyo-e series.

The ink comes in a 40 ml bottle, that is packaged in a beautiful box showing the corresponding Ukiyo-e painting. Lovely packaging for an excellent ink.



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 strip 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. Ume murasaki has a medium dynamic range, without too much contrast between the light and darker parts. This translates to soft but prominent shading, but only when using a dry pen. With wet pens, the increased saturation drowns out most of the shading.

The ink is a real chameleon, whose colour is devilishly difficult to capture. Under my scanner it even looks purple! Below – from top to bottom: a photo taken in daylight, the purple scanner image, and a much more brown-leaning photo taken under artificial light. And yes… that’s all the same ink! This TACCIA ume murasaki looks best in daylight, so for this review I will show photos instead of scans.






The ink’s chromatography shows a truly diverse mix of dyes, with rose, green, yellow and blue tones appearing. This already hints at the inherent complexity of ume murasaki. The result is a unique type of colour, that expresses itself with some real personality on the paper. TACCIA’s ink makers definitely show their craftsmanship with this creation. As can be seen from the bottom of the chromatography, this is not a water resistant ink, and as such not really suited for use at the office. Anyway… due to the purple scanning colour, this is not exactly an ink for use in a business setting.



I’ve tested the ink on a wide variety of paper – from crappy Moleskine to high-end Tomoe River. 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 the M-nib Safari
  • Source of the quote, written with an Esterbrook Estie with 1.1. stub
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari)

Ume murasaki looks good on all types of paper, but it really excels when combined with pure white paper, where the lovely old-rose colour really comes to the front. The ink can handle all types of paper, with only the tiniest amount of feathering on crappy paper (like Moleskine, or cheap copy paper). With the low-quality paper also comes a fair amount of see-through and a tiny bit of bleed-through. You really need to combine this ink with drier pens – that brown old-rose colour with its lovely shading is really something to see! With wet pens, the increased saturation causes loss of depth, and shifts the ink to more brown-leaning tones. Drying times are surprisingly short for a wet-writing ink, and are around 10 seconds for most types of paper (with the M-nib Safari).







Writing with different nib sizes
The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. The EF-nib already shows the shading that the ink is capable of. Depending on the nib's wetness, you get more earth-brown tones, but always a good-looking result. Shading truly is a feast for the eyes – it is not too heavy, but still prominently present, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing look.



Related inks
To compare ume murasaki 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. The ink is different from other earth-toned ones in my collection. The closest I have is Super 5 Australia Red, but that one cannot match ume murasaki’s complexity.



Inkxperiment – Let’s TOK about it
With every review, I try to create an interesting drawing using only the ink I am reviewing. These small one-ink pieces are an excellent way to show the colour-range nuances that are hidden within the ink. And I totally enjoy the fun couple of hours these inkxperiments provide me.

Inspiration for this inkxperiment comes from a children’s book I have been reading together with the 6 year old in the family. She’s just learning to read, and one of the first stories are about chickens (“kip” in Dutch – one of the first words they learned at school). This got me browsing on Pinterest, and I came across some more-or-less abstract chicken pics, that even I can manage. Et voilà … an inkxperiment is born.



For this drawing, I started with a piece of A4 HP photo paper. I first drew the background, using some cotton pads and water-diluted ink. Next I drew the chicken shapes, using pure ume murasaki. I then used water-diluted bleach and applied it with cotton Q-tips to the chicken forms. The bleach reacts really well with ume murasaki, bringing out some nice purple tones. I finally used a piece of cardboard dipped in pure ink to draw the floor of the chicken farm. The final picture gives you an impression of what can be achieved with this TACCIA ink in a more artistic setting. Not bad at all… ume murasaki works really well when used as a drawing ink.



Inkxpired – computational art
I love experimenting with pen/ink/paper, and have added another layer as part of the hobby. I’m exploring computational art, inspired by the ink drawings I do during ink reviews. Another fun offshoot of the hobby… and all that starting with a few drops of dye-coloured water on paper.


For this computational derivation, I first abstracted the scene a bit, and then used negative colour filters for different parts of the drawing. I’m fairly pleased with the result I got.



TACCIA Ukiyo-e Utamaro ume murasaki is a real chameleon that can look totally different depending on context. It looks at its best when used in the right setting (i.e. dry pens, white paper, daylight) – in that case you are rewarded with an exquisite brown old-rose colour and some great-looking shading. Also a great drawing ink, with tons of character. An ink with unexpected complexity, that has a lot going for it. I loved using it. In my opinion, this is an ink that really deserves your attention.

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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Stunning ink! (That your review is, too, is superfluous to add...) I couldn't have put it better, it is a real chameleon. I've often thought over the last years that the best thing we can ever say about an ink is that we don't even know how to describe its colour. E.g. is it rose, purple, or brown???

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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  • 5 weeks later...

Great review. I started using this shade some 2 years ago & have bought 3 bottles.  This shade resembles the color of some spices & nuts found in India.  Indian shawls too have this type of hue.    A  selective mix of tea & milk  also gives this type of shade.  Right now it is in a Sailor K.O.P., B nib. 

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I have no idea how I missed this - it must have been while I was MIA. 


Fantastic review - almost enough to make me an ink that's very much outside my normal preferences. 

Thank you @namrehsnoom as always for a real treat!

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Beautiful! Intriguing indeed, but not in my palette.  I've been eyeballing Benitsuchi for some time now, trying to convince myself I need another brick red.

Add lightness and simplicate.


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