Tag: ink

Ink Review: Montblanc UNICEF Turquoise

There are a couple of brands of ink recently that I’ve developed a terrible case of FOMO about and a oddly, Montblanc is one of them. Generally speaking, I am not a big Montblanc pen fan in general because they are too expensive and fussy for me in regards to modern pens and the well for vintage pens is too deep and pricey to get into. But the inks… that’s a well shallow enough for me to play in and many of the colors are lovely and the themes are interesting – historical figures, music, literature and charitable organizations. It’s almost altruistic. So, after a dive into the new Lucky Orange, Golden Yellow and Miles Davis Jazz Blue which I will review soon, I was equally tempted by the UNICEF Turquoise ink.

It’s a limited edition color but it comes in a bottle twice the size as the regular limited edition colors – a healthy 60ml quantity rather than the 30ml but the price tag also reflects the larger size, $39 for the bottle. However, as its a UNICEF charitable project for literacy, part of the cost is a donation to UNICEF. The ink comes in a box decorated with letters from alphabets from around the world that coordinates with the Montblanc UNICEF pen as well. (I forgot to take photos of the box but Anderson Pens has images of the box on their site if you’re curious)

I love turquoise inks in general but I was absolutely tickled to discover that the UNICEF turquoise shades and SHEENS like crazy. It’s a beautiful color and made me absolutely giddy. It was well worth the price which as far as I was concerned was my “show ink” since I made poor Lisa Anderson schlep it to Chicago for me. The price of the UNICEF Turquoise is the equivalent of a bottle of Bungbox and I haven’t bought a bottle of that in over a year so I feel like I’m being pretty well-behaved – all things considered.

In my water test, the ink is definitely not water resistant but it will make for some interesting washes if I decide to play with it for drawing. UNICEF Turquoise has such wonderful Caribbean Seas tones!

As you can see, I clearly had lots of other turquoise inks to compare UNICEF Turquoise to in my collection. I threw Robert Oster Fire & Ice in because I knew folks would ask how similar it was. Fire & Ice is definitely more green. Akkerman Treves-Turquoise is probably the closest with Pilot Iroshizuku Ama-Iro bringing up a close second. Waterman Inspired Blue was very similar in hue without quite as much sheening.

Go buy a beautiful ink and support a charity and then know that you can get a regularly stocked color later that is a darn close replacement. See, we’ve got you covered! And when all is said and done, you’ll have a big beautiful Montblanc glass bottle you can fill with your favorite ink once you’ve used up all your UNICEF Turquoise which you’ll do quickly because you saw Leigh Reyes’ photo this week too, right? Don’t hoard your inks because they don’t keep forever!


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Ink Review: KWZ Chicago Blue

KWZ Chicago Blue (60ml, $15)  is an ink color exclusively created for the Chicago Pen Show 2017 but luckily for you, it did not sell out completely. There are still a few bottles left for sale through Vanness Pens. So, even if you weren’t able to make it to the show, you can still feel like you were a part of the event.

The bottle features a watercolor portrait of the skyline and the tagline “exclusively for Chicago Pen Show 2017” so its definitely a collector’s bottle. For those familiar with KWZ ink, it has the signature aroma of lightly menthol-honey that I’ve grown to love when you open the bottle.

Whether you are inclined to associate the color blue with the Chicago Blues music, the Chicago PD (I think more of their black leather jackets there), the color your lips turn on the average February morning (this color may be right on the money there) or the stripes on the city flag (which are actually pale sky blue) – this blue color is the bluest of the blues. It’s practically pure indigo.

We did a few accidental chromographs in Chicago to discover that there was not a hint of red or purple or black in this blue. It’s blue through and through.

Chicago Blue is so dense and dark that it doesn’t shade nor does it have any sheen but its a very rich blue.

I had a tough time finding any other blues quite as vivid. The closest was Noodler’s Ottoman Azure. It was the only color even in the ballpark. I included some vivid blues just to show exactly how deep these blues are without being blue-blacks.

I do find KWZ inks to be viscous, not runny or watery (what other people might describe as “wet” inks). I’d say similar in consistency to Diamine inks rather than DeAtramentis if that helps to give you some sense of the feeling. I’m not a chemist so I don’t know if that consistency will work better for some pens over others but I do find that it makes KWZ inks denser and less luminous. The colors are rich but don’t shade as often as thinner inks do.

I used my Esterbrook #2442 nib in a Shwan Newton holder so I had to dip midway through my writing which resulted in some color differences. I suspect the variations reflect the differences between a medium/broad nib and a EF/F nib. I tested on Rhodia Uni-Blanc paper using 7mm guide sheets. The titles were done with Silver Black Velvet #6 Round Brush. Swatches were done using the Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book, of course.

Ink Review: Montegrappa Violet

I’ve been blogging about pens and ink for seven years and this is the first time I’ve tried a Montegrappa ink. Its safe to say, “Its about time!” So, my first bottle is the Montegrappa Violet (50ml $20).

Bottle rating? A+. Those Italians know a thing or two about making things look fabulous. The faceted glass bottle is elegant and classic and the matching facted top with gold coin logo is bellissima! The grippy gear at the bottom makes it possible to open and close the bottle even if your fingers are wet. Engineering points too!

I had fun using Montegrappa Violet as a watercolor. I was able to pull some of the pink out around the edges and get to see exactly how vivid and rich this ink is. Montegrappa Violet is a very saturated ink. In some ways it almost looks indigo its so rich.

In writing, especially with a flex nib, the color is so deep that there is not a lot of shading but it does give a good rich color that is very vibrant. If you are looking for a vibrant color for a fine nib, I think this would be a great option. It flows beautifully. And once dry, it does not move much so while its not a permanent or iron gall ink, it will survive an errant raindrop or drip from your beverage.

I realized that I didn’t have a lot of royal purples in my ink arsenal. Montegrappa Violet and Waterman Tender Purple are pretty similar but Tender Purple has a distinct green/gold sheen. All the other purples and violets in my collection were more reddish and purple and less violet.

While Montegrappa’s inks aren’t a titillating as the hot, sheening inks coming out of Australia or one of the FOMO colors from an itty bitty Japanese stationery shop, these colors are likely to be around for a long time and provide stable quality for a company that prides itself on heritage and craftsmanship.

There are seven other colors in the Montegrappa ink line to provide a good assortment of classic colors in classic bottles guaranteed to Montegrappa’s exacting standards.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Kenro Industries for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ink Review: Robert Oster Berry D’arche

Robert Oster Berry D’Arche ($16 per 50 ml bottle) is hard color to color to describe. It’s not quite a burgundy, not really purple but its not a brown either. And if you think describing it was a challenge, photographing it was even more difficult.

Looking at the swatch card next to other colors of similar hue is probably the best way to get a ballpark of the color in perspective. Scabiosa is definitely more purply and Syrah more red. Berry D’arche is definitely more of a muted, less vibrant color than some of the other colors shown. I began to think of Berry D’arche as a sophisticated color– appropriate for work but still a little different.

I still couldn’t get away from describing it as a two-color name… red-black, purple-brown, burgundy-grape? I would drive Myke Hurley to drink an entire bottle of Merlot with my two-color names! (If you listened to Episode 252 of The Pen Addict podcast, you’ll know he was not keen on the use of two-color names for things so I’m not helping myself here.) But some colors are just in that hazy, in-between space and what can you do?

Technically, this ink color does shade but there is not much sheening, if any, that I can spot.

The fact that its one of those is-it or isn’t-it colors makes it hard to recommend. Are you looking for a color that isn’t quite burgundy or purple or red or brown or maroon or black? Then this is for you.


Ink Miser Inkwells

I’d been looking for a solution to getting to the bottom of those many bottles of Robert Oster Signature inks I’ve been acquiring lately. I’d considered purchasing some empty bottles from Vanness as one option but that’s a lot of bottles and I might do that for a few of my favorites like the Fire & Ice which I seem to be using on a regular basis. But I do like how compact the Oster bottles are to store so for most of the bottles, I think I will probably leave them as they are because I had the idea to try out the Ink Miser Inkwells. I thought maybe the intra-bottle inkwell ($5) might work but as you can see from the photo below, the intra-bottle design is too wide to fit into the Oster bottles. The standard Ink Miser freestanding design ($6) works just fine though.

I decant a bit of the ink from the Oster bottle into the Ink Miser and fill a pen, then return the remainder back into the bottle and rinse the Ink Miser clean. Easy peasy.

I do have some Noodler’s Ink bottles in which I can use the intra-bottle Ink Miser so it won’t go to waste.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

My Favorite Inks for 2016

When thinking about my favorite inks for 2016, I couldn’t narrow it down to just one color or even 10. But I had ranges of colors that ended up being my favorites this year. Some were colors that I discovered this year and some were new lines that were introduced this year and some are long held favorites I just can’t shake. Robert Oster, the new Sailor Jentle Four Seasons line, the J. Herbin 1670 colors are all worth noting. Lamy Dark Lilac was a big hit this year as well. Sheening inks were on the rise in 2016, while shimmering inks seemed to be too high maintenance for many fountain pen users and may not be as popular in 2017. That’s my prediction.

Pink ink became a big winner among pen enthusiasts of all persuasions. Boutique inks have become popular with brands like KWZ, Robert Oster, Papier Plume, and many others becoming the must haves. Boutique inks are the craft brews of the pen world.

The Blues:


Of course, I had to mention the coveted J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor even though technically it was released in 2015. I used the heck out of it in 2016. In the same boat is my beloved DeAtramentis Pigeon Blue, the only ink that I’ve purchased a second bottle. It’s my “house ink”.  It’s just this smoky teal blue that I like. Everyone has to find their house ink. This one is mine. My close second is Kaweco Paradise Blue which is a slightly greener teal blue-green with a bit of a red sheen. So pretty and a very reasonably priced ink. Good stable, everyday ink. Then there’s Robert Oster knocking my socks off with Marine, Torquay, Fire & Ice and Aqua. All amazing teal and turquoise blues with sheen. Fab!


Callifolio is another brand I got to know well this year and Omi Osun, Oliphants  and Equinoxe 5 are all inks I use regularly. Oliphants is the “Pigeon Blue” I keep at work. Its a bit more saturated. Equinoxe 5 is a good blue black, a bit more saturated than Bungbox 4B. Robert Oster Blue Sea can sheen almost magenta and Bookbinders Snake Ink Blue Coral has a similar sheen but is a bit lighter in color.

*There’s one more blue that accidentally escaped down into the Grey and Purples. It’s Bungbox 4B (or Blue Black). It’s not necessarily a new color this year but it was new-to-me this year. It’s a deep navy blue-black with a bit of a red sheen. You can read my full review here. If you’re going to buy a very expensive bottle of Bungbox, this is a pretty good one.

The Pinks, Reds and Oranges:

inks-2016-pinks, reds and oranges

Sailor Jentle Irori blows my mind with the gold sheen on my swatch. I don’t see it as much in writing but the edges of the letters do darken a bit so wow! Lots of people have been happy about the Kin-Mokusei being a lovely orange and Papier Plume’s Sazerac is a wonderful orange with just a hint of amber making feel grown-up and not candy-colored. The Kobe inks were crazy popular at the DC Pen Show and I was happy to snag two bottles: #12 and #41, both unusual pink colors to add to my Callifolio Andrinople and Papier Plume Garden District Azalea. I am now a well-rounded connoisseur of pink inks.

And I love the Sailor Jentle Sakura-Mori. Its such a smoky petal pink (the swatch above looks a bit more saturated than it really is, sadly, since most were looking accurate today).

The Greys and Purples (and a renegade):

inks-2016-greys and purples

I love grey inks and was happy to find two new grey inks this year: Sailor Jentle Chu-Shu which is a grey-purple and Bookbinders Snake Ink Ground Rattler which is a perfect neutral grey.

In regards to purples, Sailor Jentle Four Seasons introduced a vivd purple violet Fuji-Musume that satisfies any bright purple urges I might have had. And Lamy’s Dark Lilac is a good deep  usable purple-black with a gold sheen. Dark Lilac satisfied on all fronts, it was finally a dark-enough-to-be-usable ink from Lamy’s limited edition line, it sheens and its actually a nice color. Win-win-win!

*The details about Bungbox 4B is above in the Blues section.

The Green, Golds and Browns:

inks-2016-golds and greens

And finally, while not everyone was as thrilled with J. Herbin’s Caroube de Chypre, I really liked it. It was hot chocolate with gold sprinkles. How can that be a bad thing? Callifolio’s Huere D’Orée is the warm wheat gold ink that made a good substitute for a lot of people who decided that KWZ Honey wasn’t for them. I really prefer it. Once again, the new Sailor Jentle Four Seasons inks hit on all fronts… I love the Waka-Uguisu green AND the Rikyu-Cha brown too. Finally, as mentioned in my reviews, Robert Oster’s Khaki and Papier Plume’s Streetcar Green are both new favorites for me this year too.

Before you think every new ink I try is my new favorite, here are a few inks I tried that I wanted to like but didn’t: KWZ Grey Plum, Bungbox Ink of the Witch, Bungbox Tears of a Clown, KWZ Green Gold 2, and Lamy Charged Green. Keeping in mind, I play with color for a living so generally speaking I do like most colors but I like some more than others.


Ink Review: KWZ Honey (New & Old Formula)

KWZ Honey (old and new formula)

I finally had a chance to test both KWZ Honey (the original formula) and the newly formulated (less odiferous) version ($13 for 60ml bottle) and thought I’d write up a side-by-side comparison. The new formula of KWZ Honey hit the US in the fall with little fanfare and mixed opinions. This gave me a bit of time to play with both versions and let me simmer down in my feelings one way or another. The reason the formula was altered stemmed from the distinct smell in the original formula of Honey. It has a distinct astringent scent from the preservative used to keep the ink from molding or getting funky. It reminds me of menthol. The new version has very little scent, more of a traditional inky smell. Some people feel that the change in the preservative also altered the color and translucency. So, let’s see if you agree.

The original formula of KWZ Honey was purchased in cases this summer. I know this for a fact because I helped sell a lot of it behind the Vanness Pens table in Chicago and DC specifically. By the time we got to Dallas though, the new formula had be introduced. We really hadn’t had much chance to compare the two versions prior to Dallas other than a few quick swabs and the sniff test. So this is the first chance I’ve had to publicly share my comparisons.

KWZ Honey (old and new formula) swab comparison

Above are the swabs of both versions. The  original formula swab is in the center and I did that when I first received my bottle of Honey several months ago. The swabs right and left were done on the same day, with the same brush and dried for exactly the same amount of time to be as close in comparison as possible and as unlikely to have any fading or other changes as possible. And those were done last week.

KWZ Honey (old and new formula) writing sample

These are writing samples left and right with the same brush for the headers (my Silver round brush #6) and the same Esterbrook fountain pen nib for the writing samples done at the same time for color comparisons. In side-by-side comparisons, I was initially going to be all “oh, you can definitely tell a difference” but in the end, I really can’t tell a noticeable difference between the two versions other than the distinct lack of smelling like Vick’s Vap-o-Rub when using the new formula.

Honey shades from a nice golden color to a rich chocolate brown. There’s great range to the color.

KWZ Honey (old and new formula) swab comparison

I’ve include comparison swatches of some other warm golden browns, including Callifolio Heure D’orée which is a seriously underappreciated ink. I’ll be doing a more detailed review of it soon. Other browns don’t  shade with as wide as range as Honey.  Akkerman #22 Hopjesbrown is a much more reddish brown and Iroshizuku Ino-Ho and KWZ Green Gold 2 are both much more yellow-green but are closest in value.

So, if you had wanted to buy KWZ Honey but were not buying it because you only wanted “the one, true original formula” you are doing yourself a disservice. The new formula is just as lovely as the original with 95% less Vap-o-Rub scent.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Vanness Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.