Tag: ink

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.

Ink Review: Robert Oster Signature Khaki

Robert Oster Khaki

I am reviewing another in my heaping pile of Robert Oster Signature Inks. This time its the Khaki which I was surprised to discover was actually a bit more green than what I tend to associate with khaki but it may be a misinterpretation of Yanks vs. Aussies sort-of thing. Oster Khaki ($16 per 50ml plastic bottle) is a color I associate with the perfect cocktail olive — or at least the dark briny juice that one finds cocktail olives floating in. I couldn’t write with this ink without wanting to put on one of those fabulous Thin Man movies and fill a shaker with several ounces of the finest gin and copious amounts of crushed ice. Asta, darling, time for your walksies!

Robert Oster Khaki writing sample

All sloppy drunken jokes aside, the shading and color on this ink is quite delightful. It walks a perfect balance (at least for me) between a yellowy green and deep woodsy green. It’s dark enough to be legible but green enough to be green with enough yellow to be MY KIND of green. Sometimes, in order to get greens dark enough, inks get too black, too blue or too well, not green anymore. And I don’t always want a bright candy color (I know that might be hard to believe).

Robert Oster Khaki Swab Comparison

Here’s my comparison swatches. These are the greens that were closest in hue to Oster Khaki. The closest is Bung Box 88 Green Tea and you’ll be delighted to hear that Oster Khaki is considerably less expensive and (IMHO) a better color. Diamine Safari and Montblanc Daniel DeFoe are both much more saturated colors in comparison.

So, there you have it. If I were to make a list of my favorite green inks, this one would be pretty close to the top of the list. And I am super picky about the perfect shade of green. If I were to have my own “signature” green, this might just be it.

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.

Ink Review: Robert Oster Fire & Ice

Robert Oster Fire & Ice

I could not wait to get my hands on Robert Oster Signature Fire & Ice ink ($16). It was sold out on Vanness Pens as soon as it was available so I had to wait a couple weeks to get a bottle of my own. It was totally worth the wait. This is one of the Oster inks with a lot of sheen so if that’s something you like in your inks, this is definitely a color to consider.

Robert Oster Fire & Ice Ink Swab

Fire & Ice is a blue ink that leans to the dark turquoise (ice) side with a red/magenta sheen, hence the “fire”.

Robert Oster Fire & Ice Writing Sample

The Oster inks still comes in the tall, slender 50ml plastic bottles, for better or worse, depending on your perspective. Its the only sticking point I have with their inks. I don’t mind the plastic part, since the inks ship all the way from Australia, I appreciate the overall weight reduction of the plastic and the dark material of the plastic. I even don’t mind the slender shape for storage but I know I’m going to get to a point with every single one of my Oster inks where I’m going to need to transfer them to other containers in order to get the inks out of the bottle. I’ll be buying lots of empty glass bottles from Vanness to store my inks for sure.

Robert Oster Fire & Ice Ink Swab comparison

I hope the swatch comparison above helps show where Fire & Ice falls in the “blue and sheen-y” ink category — at least in my ink collection. I also included all the other bluish Robert Oster inks. Callifolio Omi Osun is very close in color but does not have the sheen. Oster’s Aqua, Torquay and Blue Denim all sheen as well but are different colors of blue. Torquay is much more turquoise, Blue Denim is a darker blue and Aqua looks more teal comparatively. Sailor Yama Dori and Pilot Iroshizuku Ku Jaku both have sheen but are closer in color to Oster Aqua than Fire & Ice. And finally, I included Private Reserve Daphne Blue and Akkerman Treves-Turquoise which both sheen a bit but are much lighter, brighter cool blues.

So… if you collect blue inks, sheening inks or turquoise inks with the same wild abandon that I do, you’ll not want to wait a second to order a bottle of Fire & Ice. It’s pretty magical and mesmerizing to write with. But if this kind of inky trickery is not your cup of tea, then you’ve been sufficiently warned. Oster makes many other ink colors that are beautiful colors that I’ll be reviewing soon that may be more to your taste.

Ink Review: Robert Oster Blue Denim

Robert Oster Blue Denim

By popular request, I finally have a review of Robert Oster Blue Denim. It is one of the many shades of the new Robert Oster Signature Inks that I have and it is a great, shading, sheening color. There is a distinct red halo with this ink, even in finer nibs.It’s one of the first things you’ll notice along with the vibrant deep blue color. It’s definitely a cool blue, despite the red sheen. What a conundrum of a color! A cool color with a warm sheen!

Robert Oster Blue Denim Swatch

I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll say it here, the only downside with the Oster inks, if you perceive it that way, is the bottle. It’s a plastic bottle. The bottle is tall and narrow which will require a syringe to access inks after a certain point and could be prone to tipping if you are not careful. You may want to decant the inks into a different container if you fill your pens directly from the bottle. However, the bottles are plastic which means they are unlikely to break in shipping and are recyclable which, in another way, is a plus. Also, the bottles are dark so they protect the inks from light so the colors are unlikely to shift due to exposure to light. So, there’s that.

Robert Oster Blue Denim Writing Sample

In my writing sample, I used my trusty Esterbrook nib holder and my favorite #2442 fine stub nib which showed more turquoise coloring. I also have the Blue Denim ink in my Karas Kustoms Bar Stock Fountain K EF and the ink looks much darker with the red sheen far more evident. You can see a writing sample in my recent writing samples of the Ferme à Paris Planner writing tests.

Robert Oster Blue Denim Ink Comparison

Compared to some of the other Oster inks in my cupboard, Blue Denim is probably the closest to a “blue black”. Blue Denim is probably most comparable, color-wise to Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo and Noodler’s Navy — at least of the colors I have on hand. But clearly, there are differences. So see? You really do need another blue ink!

Oster Blue Denim in 50ml bottles is available from Anderson Pens and Vanness Pens.

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