Ink Overview: Waterman Inks

Waterman Ink Overview

After the enthusiastic reception of last week’s overview of the classic ink brand Sheaffer, it seemed appropriate to continue the series and follow it up with a Desk favorite, Waterman. Waterman has been making pens since 1883 and probably started making ink about the same time.

Waterman Ink Bottles

I can’t find specific details but the current bottle design has been used since the 1920s and 30s with slight variations. The faceted gemstone look of the bottle allows the bottle to be tipped onto its side to make it easier to get ink out as the ink levels begin to get lower. It’s one of my favorite ink bottles.

Waterman Ink Swatches

Waterman offers just eight colors in its ink line up. Of those eight colors, the names have changed over time but the colors have remained fairly consistent both in range and hue. The swatches shown above may show earlier names (i.e. Havana Brown which is now called Absolute Brown) but the ink colors are the same. I got into fountain pens just as Waterman was changing the ink names so I have had bottles with new and older names. The ink colors did not change. Waterman just updated the label designs and the names.

Honestly, I think they should have hired someone from a nail polish company to give these lovely colors poppier names. Maybe Tender Purple should be called “Did You Do It on Purple?” and Inspired Blue could be “Pen Life Aquatic”? Okay… maybe these names need work but they are certainly more worthy of these pretty colors than “Harmonious Green” which is the lamest name ever.

Waterman Ink Sheen

When you see how much these inks sheen, is it fair to give them such humdrum names? I don’t think so. Six out of the eight colors in the line sheen. Tender Purple, Inspired Blue, Harmonious Green and Serenity Blue are the most likely to sheen. Depending on your paper, Audacious Red and Mysterious Blue will sheen too.

When you add the that fact that these inks are safe for vintage fountain pens and the prices per bottle is very reasonable ($11.30 per 50ml bottle) and what’s not to love?

Okay, I’ll give you more reasons…

Waterman Harmonious Green comparison

Let’s compare each Waterman ink color with other similar inks. I’ll start with a color I initially didn’t like but have grown to love. It’s Waterman Harmonious Green. Again, I was thrown by the name. It’s not GREEN as I expected it to be and when I put it next to other similar swatches, it becomes clear that Harmonious Green is actually more of an aqua or a teal green than an actual Kelly or grass green. I think if the color had been named Jade Green or Jadeite it would probably be much more popular. Harmonious Green is quite similar to similarly-priced Kaweco Paradise Blue and the more expensive Pelikan Edelstein Jade. Pilot Iroshizuku Shin Ryoku, De Atramentis Petrol and Kobe #47 are all slightly more green but just by a tiny bit. So, I think Waterman (in my mind) Jadeite Green is in very good company.

Waterman Audacious Red comparison

Waterman Audacious Red shows some sheen which is similar the limited edition Franklin-Christoph ’19. The sheen in Audacious Red is not quite as pronounced and a little darker but the hue is quite similar. Seeing as how the Franklin-Christoph ’19 ink is harder to acquire than a pen show in 2020 (too soon for this joke?), Audacious Red is a good option. I included a swatch of Pelikan Edelstein Garnet which is slightly more orange and Diamine Matador and Red Dragon which are both slightly darker reds and Robert Oster Red Candy which is almost as dark as Red Dragon but not quite.

Waterman Serenity Blue comparison

Waterman Serenity Blue (again, the name is not fitting for the beauty of the color) is very similar to both Lamy Blue and Pilot Blue. These three inks, while simple in name are classic, workhorse ink colors. They are less saturated than the three inks shown on the right: Monteverde Sapphire, Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-Gao and Monteverde 2018 DC Supershow Blue. Asa-Gao is the closest to Serenity Blue while the two Monteverde inks are deeper and darker.

Waterman Inspired Blue comparison

We’ve had several debates as to whether Waterman Obsession Blue and Inspired Blue are the same color. I’m inclined to believe they are but just bottled with different labels. There are only slight differences in the swatches I have from my bottle (labelled Obsession Blue) and the swatches I have from my sample vial (labelled Inspired Blue) that can be chalked up to the amount of ink I put on the paper as much as to the color of the ink. That said, the comparison inks for Waterman’s turquoise ink are very similar to the inks I pulled for Sheaffer last week, including Sheaffer Turquoise.

Sheaffer Ink Overview: Turquoise ink comparison swatches

Just for giggles, here’s the photo from the Sheaffer ink overview from last week. The colors I picked were: Sheaffer Turquoise, J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche, Lamy Pacific Blue, Franklin-Christoph Spanish Blue, Monteverde Caribbean Blue. Yep. All the same swatches.

Waterman Intense Black comparison

While we are rehashing how similar some of the Waterman inks are to Sheaffer, I’ll go through the black ink swatches too. Waterman Intense Black is a solid performing water soluble black ink. This week I divided the black ink comparison with three cool/neutral blacks on the left and three slightly warmer blacks on the right. The cool/neutral blacks are from top to bottom on the left: Monteverde Coal Noir, Sheaffer Black and Platinum Carbon Black (being the only waterproof black included). On the right, from top to bottom: Lamy Crystal Obsidian, Waterman Instense Black and Kaweco Pearl Black. Both Waterman and Sheaffer Black are safe for vintage pens so my advice is to pick one and buy a bottle because everyone needs a bottle of black ink. If you are brave enough to own a waterproof black, then definitely add a bottle of Platinum Carbon Black to your shopping list. That should round out your black ink needs quite handily. If you want to experiment with other blacks, the world is your black pearl oyster. There are so many options to choose from!

Waterman Absolute Brown comparison

Waterman Absolute Brown (shown above as Havana Brown) is a warm, reddish brown. The closest ink comparison I could find was J. Herbin Terre de Feu though it is slightly more orange. Lamy Crystal Topaz is similar in hue but the sheen throws off the appearance of the color on some papers. Absolute Brown shades but does not sheen.

Waterman Serenity Blue ink comparisons

I was surprised how difficult it was to find a good ink match to Waterman Mysterious Blue. Truly mysterious, wouldn’t you agree? It is an ink color that is slightly darker than the brilliant blue of Sailor Sky High but not as dark as Parker Quink Blue-Black or Colorverse 03 Saturn V. It’s definitely not a blue-black ink and much more of a true blue, maybe a bright, clean denim blue?

Waterman Tender Purple comparison

Tender Purple has a similar color and hue as Lamy Crystal Azurite but not quite as much sheen as Azurite. Coloverse 53 Hayabusa is similar in hue but with considerably less sheen. The only other inks I could find that were similar to Tender Purple are shown on the right and are more purple in color than the actual VIOLET color that Tender Purple actually is. I don’t want to get all “Well, ACTUALLY…” but knowing color is kind of my job. Tender Purple is violet, not purple. and Callifolio Violet is purple. These people are killing me with their poorly inaccurate naming. Either be ridiculously charming and clever or extremely accurate, please.

Waterman Ink Bottles

All-in-all, Waterman is my favorite classic ink. I love the gemstone shaped bottles. I recommend Inspired Blue and Tender Purple often at pen shows to folks looking for a “fun color” for their vintage pens but I don’t think Serenity Blue or Inspired Blue should be overlooked either for their striking colors. And Harmonious Green, despite its name is the Jadeite you’re been looking for. Intense Black and Absolute Brown really do round out an ink collection if you don’t already have a good black and brown in your collection. I know we all get blinders on looking for the newest, hottest, fanciest new ink colors but these classics have stayed classic for a reason.


DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by Vanness Pen Shop for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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19 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’ve been using Waterman Ink since I started using fountain pens. When I got my first bottles there was no online and I got them in a store. I have several bottles with the old names, which I like better than the new names. Great for my vintage fountain pens, well behaved, nice looking and easy to clean out of pens in general. I may get newer inks but I’ll always have Waterman inks on hand. And you’re right about the bottles. So clever in their design. Thanks for you review.

  2. Now I see that the green (Jadeite!) needs to be added to my collection. The bottles are wonderful, but they are great to have around in cartridges as well. Thank you for this lovely review. But what about Radiant Pink?

      1. Waterman Radiant Pink! I have cartridges. (Hmm…. Googling suggests that it only comes in cartridges, not bottles, which I hadn’t known. It’s quite nice though!)

  3. I love the blues that Waterman offers, but when I tested them, the results I got showed them to be very acid inks. Therefore I don’t use them as they might damage my pens and paper with long-term use.

  4. Too soon! Too soon! I’m just happy I was able to hang with the cool kids at the 2020 Arkansas Pen Show. I picked up Audacious Red last week to go matchy-matchy with Platinum’s Carnelian. Great review on a line of completely underappreciated inks. Thanks, Ana!

    1. Eric, you are one of the cool kids. I’m glad I got to hang out with you. Hopefully, we can do it again soon.

      1. Ahh, thanks, Ana! Same here – looking forward to seeing pen friends again someday. I am seriously considering going to Dallas for Dromgoole’s “not the Dallas Pen Show” pen show.

  5. I couldn’t agree more that these are classic inks for a reason! The very first bottle of ink I bought, way back in 1990-something, was Waterman Havana Brown. It sparked in me a love for brown inks that I carry to this day. The only other Waterman ink I have is what used to be Florida Blue — looking at your swatches I think this is now Serenity Blue? It’s a bit hard to tell as I don’t have any swatches of mine on hand and the bottle itself is in my desk drawer at work where I never go anymore. 🙁

    The Obsession Blue reminds me of Rohrer & Klingner’s Blu Mare, a truly lovely turquoise.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. You’ve inspired me to revisit these old friends soon. I may need to stage a rescue mission to my office.

  6. What a wonderful review! I see now that my modest collection of bottled inks is seriously lacking some classic inks. I can’t rush out and buy every bottle that I might want (spouse already protests the number of bottles on hand), so would like to start with a single bottle of ink from each of these makers: Sheaffer, Parker, Kaweco, and Waterman. What to choose? I already have in mind a bottle of Kaweco Ruby Red because it’s a gorgeous color that’s a perfect match for my Kaweco AL Sport Deep Red fountain pen (using Kaweco cartridges at the moment). I’m eager to hear what others suggest as THE color to best represent the other three ink brands. I do like a good blue-black, and tend to leans towards greens and teals while avoiding autumnal colors except for the brief time when it is actually autumn. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

    BTW, I quite like the name Harmonious Green, but Jadeite is even better.

      1. Mark, thanks for the suggestions. I acquired Waterman Mysterious Blue and Parker Blue-Black after I first posed my question and am enjoying both very much. Sheaffer Red is next!

  7. I’m a bit late to the party but I found this article quite helpful. I have been using only Diamine inks for many years, but have come to realize that I tend not to like all the obscure colours I’ve collected–that the mainstream and in my opinion well-developed colours of Waterman are fine for my purposes. So this past week I bought bottles of H-Green and T-Purple. I’ll probably add most of the other colours, though I can’t look away from that Edelstein Smoky Quartz.

    Just a quick note about your comments about ‘tender people’ not being purple. My bottle calls it “Violet Tendresse”, so it is probably someone in the English speaking world that got it wrong. And my writing sample looks much less blue than your sample. In fact it is probably closest to the less saturated part of the Taccia swatch.

  8. This is a great article! I’m just getting into this, mostly thought I just wanted the fountain pen with the fude nib for my drawing, to try something different. But then a Jinhao x750 was on a very good sale and knew I needed pens to just write with…but probably one with a fine nib. But I would really love to find affordable ink in fun colors that is waterproof. I write a lot of cards and letter so I don’t want the outside of the envelope to smear. Plus, if I chose to draw with it somewhere I’d like to be able to add watercolor. I absolutely love that “green”…because I’m looking for a sort of signature color of the blue/green variety. I’ve thought of mixing my own with 2 waterproof colors, but, it gets expensive quickly and i know not all mix well :/ so I was looking for some already done. But I’m assuming none of these are waterproof? Although, if I wanted to do just like a monochrome drawing, I could use this gorgeous green and use my watercolor brushes to spread it out a bit in some places…that would beautiful with that color. But I’d also like some that don’t spread. Any 8deas would be great. It frustrating because Amazon really messed up on a gift return of mine, so they gave me a $5 “promo” gift, the only bummer is it will only be applied to something that is sold by and shipped by Amazon, and the noodlers ink i was thinking of all come from 3rd party vendors. So thats how I found this ink as its sold by and shipped by Amazon. So, we’ll see 🙂
    But, I love the color comparisons, helps a lot to see the colors right next to each other!!

  9. Ho can I tell the age of an in bottle, i found 1 in a field, no label on it just the name on bottom, and some numbers, so dont even know what colour it was.
    Many thanks Mike

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