Product Review: Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book (by Tina not Ana!)

Review by Tina Koyama

Like many fountain pen aficionados, I have way more ink than I’ll ever use in this lifetime (but don’t worry, I have several more planned to take care of my stationery and art supply stash). I’ve been keeping a log book of sorts to track all the colors. The problem with using a notebook is that I had initially assigned one page per color family, so when I filled a page (it happened way more quickly than I’d anticipated!), the rest had to be put on a different page out of sequence. Do it all over again? Argh.

When Ana offered me a Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book, I knew it was an ideal opportunity to put my inks in order and log them in a more functional system – this time in the Col-o-ring book’s loose-leaf format. I know a compact ring-bound card system idea isn’t new, but it certainly is the best format for comparing colors easily (like paint chips at the hardware store). It means I’ll never run out of space within a color category, and if I eventually decide Iroshizuku Yama-budo is really closer to pink than to purple, it’s easily moved. Much better than a bound book! I also simply love the way the pages (2-by-4 inches with nicely rounded corners) look when fanned out.

A major improvement over my previous system is the paper. Unlike most fountain pen writers, I also use my inks for drawing. One of my favorite techniques using water-soluble fountain pen ink is to wash the line lightly with water for shading, so it’s important to me to see how the washed ink looks. The fountain pen-friendly notebook I had been using isn’t sized for water media, so I had to make separate wash samples in a sketchbook. The Col-o-ring book’s 100-pound paper is heavy enough to withstand a light wash. In addition, the surface sizing keeps the ink from sinking into the paper, which allows water-soluble inks to wash nicely and sheening inks to show their stuff beautifully. (The paper reminds me of Stillman & Birn’s Alpha sketchbook paper in both texture and sizing.)

With a subtle tooth (seen most easily in my sample of Viarco Artgraf water-soluble graphite pencil), the paper’s texture surprised me a bit, since it’s intended for fountain pens and dip nibs, which usually do better on smooth paper. But I made all my ink samples with a flexy Zebra G dip pen, and it had no problem with the tooth.

In fact, I started thinking that the tooth on the paper would be nice for pencils, too – but why stop at pencils? After finishing the inks, I kept right on going and sampled all my favorite water-soluble media – colored pencils, graphite pencils, brush pens, markers – just to see how they’d do. They sampled beautifully, and I gave them all my usual swipe with a waterbrush to test the wash. From now on, the Col-o-ring Book will be my handy go-to sampler when I want to see how any water-soluble medium will behave.

The book contains 100 pages, which is plenty for my bottled ink collection (I’m leaving my ginormous ink sample collection for one of those future lifetimes I referred to).

Although I wrote all the ink titles with a fine dip pen, I know that inks can look entirely different when used with other nibs, especially the fatter nibs that I favor. So whenever I ink up a fountain pen, I write a sample on the reverse side of the card as a reminder of how it looks.

Ok, now that the review is done, here’s the pop quiz: How many of you get how to pronounce Col-o-ring? I’m sure you all do. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t get it until I heard Ana and Brad talk about it on the Pen Addict podcast. Dang – that’s the kind of product name I wish I’d come up with!


tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by The Well-Appointed Desk for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Editor’s Note: Tina was in no way coerced into saying nice things about this product by the editor. I’m glad she liked it though.

Written by

Leave a Reply