Ink Review: Jacques Herbin Essential Inks

Back in 2018, J. Herbin released a new line of inks and other stationery items under a Jacques Herbin branding. At the time, the line was exclusive to Le Bon Marche/ Boisnard (Paris), Itoya (Tokyo), and Milligram (Australia). Recently, it was brought to my attention that the inks are now being sold at a variety of additional US and international retailers. I decided the increased accessibility warranted a revisiting of the line.

Back during the original release my parents coincidently also happened to be visiting Paris. When I realized they were a few blocks from Boisnard, I dropped a not-so-subtle hint about my Christmas list and Santa was kind enough to travel over to the shop to pick up several of the inks. To this day, they remain some of my all-time favorite Christmas gifts.

Overall, the line includes ten inks: Vert amazone (green), Gris de houle (grey), Noir abyssal (black), Bleu de Minuit (blue/black), Bleu austral (blue), Violet boreal (purple), Rouge d’Orient (red), Terre d’ombre (brown), Orange soleil (orange), and Ambre de baltique (yellow). Those ten inks are divided across two miniature ink sets (Solaris and Luna), and the one I own (Solaris) includes the green, black, purple, red, and orange. I also received a bottle of the blue/black.

The full-size bottles are 50mL squares that are nearly identical to the J. Herbin 1798 inks, minus the wax seals on the front of the bottles and wax-covered caps. The opening of the bottles are wide enough to easily fill any pen in my collection, and one of my favorite details is the glass embossing on the bottom of each bottle.

My parents had never picked out an ink before choosing these, but they made an excellent choice in picking the full-size bottle with Bleu de minuit. To be fair to the other colors, I’m naturally biased to blue/black. But to be fair to Bleu de minuit, it has some fierce completion in my personal ink collection and still somehow manages to get used on a regular basis nearly two years later. The color is a rich, deep blue that straddles the line between blue and blue/black. Depending on the nib you are using it can produce both shading and sheen. The sheen is right at the level that produces a “halo effect” around each letter in print writing- and while I enjoy super-sheening inks as much as anyone- this type of sheen is some of my favorite in actual practical day-to-day writing.

The Solaris miniature set of inks includes five other essential colors, and overall I really like how this set is packaged and executed. When the new line was released, it was targeting a more premium market and I think that direction shows in nearly every aspect of the “look” of these inks. The price is also premium, but not totally out of range for other “premium” inks we have seen in recent years. At the current price I was able to find at the writing of this post, the price per mL of the miniature set (75mL for $67.20) is similar to the Sailor studio ink line (20mL for $18). Beyond the “premium” branding, the size (15 mL each) and shape of the bottles make them a particularly useful sampler set.

The orange ink is nearly empty, but I was still able to piston-fill a TWSBI earlier this week in preparation for this review. Any bottle that allows for piston-filling even with the last few mL of an ink is a major win in my book.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve found myself reaching for the purple and the orange most often from the set. The orange is yellow-based and very bright even in finer nibs. The purple is an interesting shade- almost dusty, but still maintaining a vivid color and exhibiting significant shading even in writing. FYI: The writing samples below are a decent representation of the colors but the photo does not accurately display the sheen of the bleu de minuit and noir abyssal.

I reach less often for the black and the red, but to no fault of their own. The red is a rich, classic red that leans towards a darker red or maroon. Inking it up this week reminded me what a great color it is. The black is a dark, saturated black and even has some sheen to it which gives it some interesting character on the paper. Both colors are really good, but probably tend to get edged out by similar or competing colors in my collection that have become my fall-backs in those color categories (looking at you Platinum Carbon Black). Out of the entire set, the green is the only ink that I don’t personally prefer. There is nothing “wrong” with the color. It is saturated and behaves well, but is just a little too “classic green” without much character for my personal tastes. (I tend to prefer darker greens with brown undertones.) It also seems to write a little drier than the other colors on the page in my experience this week, but I need to re-ink it in a different nib to re-test this theory.

I’m on vacation this week for the first time in 2020, and before we left for a socially-distanced quiet (rainy) get-away by a lake, I decided to ink-up the entire line in their closest matching TWSBI. Perfect travel companions.

Back in 2018, Santa also surprised me with a J. Herbin glass pen along with my inks, and I noticed that Goldspot is carrying these glass nib pens in a variety of colors alongside the Jacques Herbin inks. I use this glass nib pen on a regular basis on many of my ink swatches to showcase the ink properties in a thinner line.

The miniature ink sets- Solaris and Luna, full-size bottles, and ink cartridges (!), are all available at a variety of retailers including Goldspot. I may have to re-stock my orange soleil and even track down the Luna miniature ink set- for the sake of science of course.


DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were purchased with my own funds or gifted to me under the Christmas tree. Please see the About page for more details.

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3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thanks for this review – I was wondering about these inks. You have given me enough detail and information to be able to make a decision about acquiring these. Beautiful photos, too. Good job!

  2. I have just starting using Herbin inks and really like them. Bleu d’Ocean (without shaking the bottle) is a superb shade of blue. I wish I could get that colour without the glitter.

    Thanks for this superb review. It is very helpful and there are at least two colours here I want to try. Cheers.

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