Ink Love: All the Inks Fit to Print

No, that’s not a typo. This morning I thought I’d share with you all the inks I bought at the San Francisco Pen Show. After four pen shows in as many months, I finally lost all control and bought ALL THE INKS! Well, not all the inks but I did buy a lot.

Since I spend the better part of almost every show selling ink, I get a chance to see all the inks people are buying. I can often get ink crazy or ink overload by the end of the weekend. And sometimes by Sunday, the colors I want are all sold out.

But in San Francisco, I not only got many of the colors I wanted but was also able to get some new, never-before-seen inks from PenBBS from China.

I bought the PenBBs inks ($16) at the very last minute, literally as we were packing up the Vanness Pens “inkvan” so I selected my colors off a sheet of paper and what I could find in the already packed crate. I chose three colors: No. 178 Rose Quartz, No. 220 Watermelon Red and No. 224 Tolstoy.

The boxes are orange with quotes printed on them. Inside, the bottles are hexagonal with different graphics printed on the labels. This makes them considerably more unique and easier to identify.

Of the three bottles, a couple had really unusual embossing on the cap. This was my favorite.

The No. 220 Watermelon Red is super bright and vivid pinky red. It’s more red than Kosumosu or Sakura Mori but not as orangey as KWZ Grapefruit. I was worried it was a bit too similar to the considerably more expensive bottle of Bungbox Lycoris Red I had purchased earlier in the day but as you’ll see further down, there is enough difference in the color that I feel like its okay to have both bottles. And while there is definitely some shading in Watermelon Red, Lycoris Red has major sheen so that was totally worth the money. I haven’t put it into a pen yet but I’m definitely looking forward to it.

No. 224 Tolstoy turned out to be a total win. I put it into my Peyton Street resin slim bamboo fountain pen and have been using it for over a week. Every time someone tries it, they say, “Oooo, what is this ink?” Every. time. It writes a good deal lighter in the fine italic than it appears in the swatch but it shades beautifully and then gets lovely light olive-y spots in the writing. Quite lovely.

I was hoping that the Rose Quartz might be a good match for my new Carolina Pen Company pen but when I swatched it, the color ended up being lighter when wet and dries darker– almost like a sunbleached, terracotta color.  I don’t have any other color like it in my ink library. Tonally, Black Swan in English Roses was the only thing even close. Everything else was either too red or too pink.

I purchased five other bottles of ink: Robert Oster Viola ($17), Kobe #43 Fresh Green ($30), Kobe #48 Marchais Blue ($30), Bungbox Lycoris Red ($37) and Kyo-Iro #5 Cherry Blossom of Keage ($28).

I don’t know if anyone remembers my adventure last year in trying to find the perfect shade of lavender purple but I think Viola by Robert Oster might be it. It’s a little bit deeper than Australian Opal Mauve which I freakin’ love and a bit more purply. Viola still maintains lots of shading though so its feels textural and interesting. I put it next to a couple other complex tonal purples for comparison. There is definitely more color detail in Viola!

I also got a bottle of Kobe #43 which is loosely translated to include “fresh green” in the name. It definitely has a happy yellow green aspect to the color that I’ve been looking for for years. It’s edging into “signature Well-Appointed Desk” territory!

The other bottle of Kobe  purchased was the #48 Marchais Blue which is unlike any blue I had really. The closest comparable color I had is the Kaweco Paradise Blue which I really like and its quite a bit darker and greener. I added a swatch that was bluer (Lamy Pacific Blue/Turquoise) and one that was darker Oster Fire & Ice just for reference because I really didn’t have anything else close. Most turquoise colors are more like the Lamy Turquoise/Pacific or darker like Fire & Ice. This Marchais Blue is the coelacanth of ink colors.

Oh, Bungbox Lycoris Red! You out sheen Sailor Irori Red!

So, here’s a little Col-o-ring secret fact. When we were testing papers, Irori was THE ink I used to verify that the papers we tested would show sheen. I tested other inks but I always tested Irori and if the gold sheen didn’t show, the paper didn’t make the cut.

But Bungbox Lycoris Red is a brighter red with MORE gold sheen than Sailor Irori and that’s saying something. Initially, I thought Lycoris Red was going to be more pinky red but it actually ends up being a vivid red. I think the gold sheen helps to temper it. I have a pal who swears by J. Herbin Rouge Opera as the perfect true red ink, however, I find the J. Herbin inks to be a little watery and ill-tempered in some situations. Bungbox, being Sailor inks, are well-behaved particularly in finer-nibbed pens and so I’m inclined to argue for the premium price. Plus, gold sheen out the wazoo!

The last ink I bought was my first from the Kyoto TAG series. I bought the Kyo-Iro #5 Cherry Blossom of Keage.

Photo from the official Kyo-iro product page.

I am too enthusiastic about the packaging for pens and I seldom make much about the packaging for inks beyond it’s usefulness but the Kyoto TAG packaging is so quintessentially Japanese its hard not to appreciate it. The boxes are stunning white heavyweight paperboard with printed spatters of ink and debossed lettering. Inside the design on the small, squat bottles in simple and understated. Besides a single bottle of Akkerman and some vintage ink bottles, this is the only bottle that will live on my desk. It might usurp the Akkerman bottle.

Colorwise, Kyo-Iro #5 is a bit deeper than Robert Oster Cherry Blossom in my swatch but I think it will work out to my benefit because, in writing, the RO Cherry Blossom is a bit too light.

I bought this ink with plans to use it in my new Carolina Pen Company pen.  It might not be a perfect match to the pen and maybe it doesn’t need to be. I didn’t find the PenBBS ink until after I had purchased this ink and I still think this will be a better pairing. But who knows? I think it’s a beautiful color and it will definitely get used.

So, is there anything you go crazy for at pen shows? For Dallas, I’m looking forward to checking out Retro51 table, Dromgoole’s and hopefully partaking in some delicious snacks from the Dallas area. I hope the horrible weather doesn’t keep people away as I’m so looking forward to seeing everyone from last year and new folks this year.


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5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Well considering that I’ve never been to a pen show I’m not sure what would make me crazy. If shopping on line is any indication then inks most certainly and notebooks if they are available. Although I suspect I already have a notebook problem with several in the queue waiting their turn.

  2. Great to hear PenBBS is making some waves Stateside at last; it is rather difficult to get anyone to send them direct from China. They all seem rather well considered, seldom feather or bleed and their shimmer inks are also quite fun! (Hyacinth Blue and June Pearl in particular are a couple of my favourites)

    I also recommend picking up some BookPensCom ink if you can get your hands on it. Both are Chinese brands I’ve been quite enamoured with of late.

  3. As a rose gold aficionado, I’m totally in love with your Carolina Pen Company pen and the PenBBS Rose Quartz ink. I found the ink on Vanness. However, I looked on the Carolina Pen Company website, and they don’t have any fountain pens listed under “fountain pens.” You got that one at the show, right? How can I get one like it? I even love the stub nib. Help! I’m in full-blown pen-lust mode!

    1. You might be able to email and request a custom pen similar to mine if you contact Carolina Pen Co. directly. It is a beautiful pen!

  4. Thanks for the review! I recently got the PenBBS Rose Quartz and at first I thought I had a bad bottle; I wasn’t expecting the odd/unique beige tone in it. Maybe I’ll try it again.

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