Getting a new pen a couple of years ago started me looking
for The Perfect Black Ink. I've collected black because I
like it, and because my employer requires it. Collecting inks
is also a lot cheaper than collecting pens! Recently, Ken
Lopez joined this endeavor by shipping me five bottles of
hard-to-find brands of black ink.
collection stands at 16 brands, and I haven't found The
Perfect One yet. Actually, there are different Perfect Ones
for different pens, papers, and moods. The intensities,
tones, flows, and lubricating properties all vary widely
between brands, and they interact differently with different
pens and papers. So, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).
are several excellent black inks that I find myself using
frequently: Aurora, Conway Stewart, DuPont, Lamy, Namiki,
Pelikan/Cross, and Platinum. A few other inks are good,
but have characteristics that I don't care for, including
Herbin, Parker Quink, Shaeffer Skrip, and Waterman. Then
there are a few really crummy ones whose manufacturers need
to start over, including Montegrappa, Mont Blanc, Osmiroid,
and (surprisingly) Private Reserve.
those ritual caveats and disclaimers, herewith my impressions
of sixteen black inks:
The most intensely black, with a neutral color. Copious
flow, so that it almost feels as though one is leaving a
ridge of ink on the paper. Moderate spreading, but no feathering.
Works wonderfully in my driest pen, and I haven't dared
put it in my wettest! Excellent water resistance (some ink
washes off, but dark, clearly legible writing is left behind).
The tall, thin bottle with its narrow opening may be good
for traveling, but unless you're steady enough to join the
Bomb Squad you'll have ink all over your pen and fingers
every time you refill. Also available in proprietary cartridges,
which also fit Parker pens.
Stewart Aromatherapy Black: I have no idea why "Aromatherapy"
is on the bottle, because I can detect no odor at all. Maybe
it's supposed to be a neutral base for aromatic additives.
That's fine, because this is great ink as it is: an intense
neutral black color with excellent flow, even in my most
finicky pen (just shy of Aurora in both characteristics).
The water resistance is almost as good as Aurora's, too.
It outperforms Aurora in having no spreading (so my e's
look like e's), and no feathering or soaking through. Another
similarity to Aurora is that it dries slowly. The surface
tension of this ink seems high, so that it sometimes "hangs
up" in the top of a convertor and causes skipping,
but I have had no problems in my piston-fill Pelikans. The
small, squat bottle is going to be a pain once the ink is
one-third gone, and those with Pelikan M1000s might have
trouble immersing the nib even with a full bottle.
Nice intense neutral black color and very good flow, both
similar to Pelikan's. It has the best water resistance of
the whole bunch, leaving a distinct black line behind. It
smells like those "tempra" paints we used in elementary
school. Elegant-looking squat bottle could use a filling
This stuff doesn't merely flow, it pours from the nib! The
lubrication is excellent, so that the nib glides across
almost any paper. In my "driest" pen (a Pelikan
400, surprisingly) the flow is moderate. The ink has a considerable
tendency to spread, on a par with Quink or Skrip, and it
shares Skrip's tendency to feather and soak through on cheap
paper. It is a moderately intense, neutral black color.
Excellent water resistance. Small, squat bottle will make
it hard to fill a pen with a large nib once the ink is more
than a third gone. Overall, very similar to Skrip and a
lot more expensive. I am told that this is a new formulation
with a new label, and that the old version was better.
Well-saturated, as intensely black as Aurora or Pelikan,
and neutral in tone. The flow is good, but not quite as
generous as Pelikan's, and not nearly as heavy as Aurora's
or Waterman's. No spreading or feathering. Fair water resistance,
leaving fuzzy greenish writing behind. The bottle is outstanding:
The glass part is shaped like a mushroom, with the stem
permitting the filling of large-nibbed pens even when the
ink is running low. A plastic housing surrounds the "stem"
of the mushroom to keep the bottle from tipping, and it
houses a roll of plastic-backed absorbent paper for wiping
the end of the pen and the nib. Neat!
Blanc: Moderately black, with a "warm" (slightly
reddish or brownish) tone. Sparse flow and poor lubrication.
Little spreading. No water resistance at all, so that it
disappears without a trace when wetted. On some papers,
it fades to a brown over several months or a few years.
Great bottle, third behind Lamy and Skrip in intelligent
and useful design. Pity the ink inside is so bad. Also available
in international cartridges.
Intensity is on the weak side of moderate, and the tint
is olive-green. Sparse flow, poor lubrication, and only
slightly better water resistance than Mont Blanc. In fact,
this ink is just like Mont Blanc, with a sickly green tinge.
I have heard that this is a new formulation, and that the
old recipe was much better, which is a shame.
Only fair saturation, just a notch more intense than Waterman.
Rather sparse flow-well less than Pelikan/Cross, but better
than MontBlanc. The color is neutral, and water resistance
is good. No spreading or feathering. Striking octagonal
bottle carries over the shape of Omas pens, but offers nothing
clever to help filling.
Weak brownish color. Poor flow. Little spreading. Poor water
resistance. Cheap, and you get what you pay for. In bottles
or international cartridges.
Excellent flow, on a par with Pelikan, though it spreads
slightly more than Pelikan, and has a greater tendency to
soak through. It has a neutral black color that is similar
to Quink in intensity but is more neutral in tone. Very
good water resistance. The oblate, round bottle is a thing
of beauty, and a clever internal plastic well makes filling
easy as the ink level descends.
Quink: Moderately black, with a "cool" (blue-grey)
tint. Moderate flow. Moderate spreading. Good water resistance.
I'm tempted to try mixing it with Aurora, as they are both
acidic according to Greg Clark's book. Also available in
proprietary cartridges, which (I think) also fit Aurora
Intensely black, almost as intense as Conway Stewart and
Aurora. Very good flow. Little spreading. Good water resistance
(lots of ink washes off but legible black characters are
left behind). This has become my standard ink, for its combination
of properties rather than any one trait. Also available
in short international cartridges (Pelikan label) and proprietary
Cross cartridges (which only fit Cross pens).
Slightly deeper black than Namiki, but not as deep as Pelikan;
nice neutral tone. Very good flow, with good lubrication.
Spreads slightly on the page but has little tendency to
soak through. Very good water resistance. Comes in a 30
ml bottle with a tiny little opening, but at least the bottle
isn't tall and thin like Aurora.
Reserve Velvet Black: Moderate intensity, with a marked
"warm" (reddish-brownish) tone. Flow is fair,
as is lubrication. This stuff reminds me of Mont Blanc,
though its flow and lubrication are slightly better and
water resistance is much better. The wide-mouth bottle is
easy to use, but if your pen has a large nib it will be
hard to fill after the ink is half gone (if PR and Aurora
would just get their bottle designers together...). PR generally
has intensely colored inks, so this wimpish stuff surprised
Skrip: Moderately black, with a neutral tone. Good flow,
but severe spreading-it feathers whenever slight defects
are encountered in good paper, and bleeds right through
many lesser papers. The spreading and feathering are a problem
even with a "dry" pen. Excellent water resistance.
Comes in a very intelligent bottle with a small well along
the rim. This ink would be a winner if not for the spreading
and bleeding. Also available in proprietary cartridges which
only fit Shaeffer pens.
Weak, blue-grey color; only appealing if the resulting
variation in intensity as the pen speeds up and slows down
appeals to you. Excellent flow, almost as luxuriant as Aurora,
with little spreading. Very good water resistance. This
ink feels so good it would be my first choice if only it
were more intensely black. Also available in long international