Ink Overview: Cross Inks

Cross Inks are one of the classic “staple inks” that are often recommended. Over the years, the “archival” attributes of the ink have often mistakenly been assumed to also be waterproof. “Archival” simply means that the inks have been formulated to resist fading over time and have a pH level that is neutral and acid-free. This should make the inks safe for vintage and modern pens. Cross inks are available in six standard colors: Black, Blue, Blue-Black, Red, Green and Violet. Each color is available in a 2-ounce bottle ($15) or in cartridges ($7 per pack) to fit Cross pens.

Of the six inks in the line-up, the Violet, Red, Blue and Blue-Black all have some sheen to them on Col-o-ring paper. I think the sheen in the Violet is so strong that it is likely to show-up on most high-quality fountain pen friendly paper, certainly on Tomoe River and such.

Cross Blue Comparison

I’ll start my overview with the Blue. It’s the most similar to other inks, in terms of color. It’s a true blue — a bog stock, vivid blue. Sheaffer, Waterman, Pilot, Lamy… they all have their version and I’m sure there’s more.

I have to wonder if there’s a base powdered pigment of bright blue that all the major pen manufacturers use straight of the pot?

Yep? French Ultramarine Blue straight out of the pot. Thanks, Blick for the image. If you want to try to make your own, this Sennelier Artist Pigment and the Make Ink Book could be just the thing. (Note: As mentioned in the comments below inks are made with dyes not pigments! You can make watercolor with pigments. Sorry. I clearly did not have enough coffee when I wrote this. But you see my point about the color being French Ultramarine?)

Cross Blue Comparison

So, I don’t have much to say about the blue. It’s bright, out-of-the-tube blue with some sheen. It’s archival so it’s not supposed to fade and it’s reasonably priced in a good-sized bottle. But there’s also other options in this category. Do they fade? I don’t know. I’m not a chemist so I can’t guarantee the pH of other inks.

Cross Violet Comparison

The Cross Violet had massive sheen on Col-o-ring paper. The sheen blew me away. Cross Violet is a little more on the red side than Waterman Purple.

Cross Violet Comparison

The photo above puts the two red purples side-by-side (Taccia Murasaki Purple and Cross Violet) and then the two bluer purples side-by-side (Montegrappa Violet and Waterman Purple) then the Sailor Jentle Fuji Musume which has shading and granulations of both reddish purple and bluish purple but no sheen.

Cross Blue Black Comparison

Amazingly, Cross Blue Black is a unique shade of deep blue. Diamine Eclipse and Sailor Shikiori Shimoyo are close but not quite the same hue. There’s a bit more brilliance to the Cross Blue Black plus that lovely sheen. I included the Parker and Sheaffer Blue-Black as some of the other classic inks even though the hues are not similar at all.

Cross Blue Black Comparison

Cross Red Comparison

Okay, these reds are really this bright. Cross Red is really bright. When I started to match it to other reds, it became clear that Cross Red is more fluorescent than I initially thought.

Cross Red Comparison

Cross Red has a good deal of sheen and if you need to edit papers, no one will miss the marks with this red ink. Dang!

Cross Green Comparison

Cross Green is a bright shading “kelly green.” Surprisingly, I didn’t have a ton of comparison colors in my stash. Green is also a difficult color to make archival. I have not tested it to see if it keeps from fading but I will definitely do a test with this ink soon and see how it does.

Cross Green Comparison

Cross Black Comparison

Now… for the Cross Black. Like Cross Blue, this is another ink that, other than the claim of being archival, makes the Cross Black stand out from all the other black inks on the market. And, as I’ve said before, Platinum Carbon Black is still my favorite, go-to black ink because it’s waterproof. I once sacrificed a Lamy Safari by letting Platinum Carbon Black dry in the pen to see if I could clean it out afterwards. It clean out with water six months later, no problem.

Cross Black Comparison

That said, if I want black ink for a vintage pen Sheaffer, Waterman or Cross would all be a good option.

So, if you are looking to stock your ink cabinet or shelf and haven’t tried Cross inks yet, I would recommend Cross Violet or Blue Black first, then the crazy bright Red. If you like green, Cross Green is a vivid option too. The Blue and Black are one of many options.

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4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Ink for fountain pens is made with dye, not pigment. (A handful of carefully engineered exceptions notwithstanding.)

    Please don’t put pigments in your pen: you will almost certainly clog it up!

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