Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lightfastness Results

Note: Too see all of my lightfastness tests to date, click here.

You may recall that I started a series of Lightfastness Tests back in early March. Samples were taped to the windows in my southern exposure studio on March 10. It is now exactly one month later, and I took them down and photographed the results of one month's exposure through double pane window glass. Given that it's taken even the most fugitive oil paints six months to show signs of change when I've tested oil paints, I was quite suprised that after only 30 days, nearly all of these ink samples had faded or shifted (some more than others). Below are some larger images of the test results. You can click on these to see them even bigger:

You can click all of the images here to get large views of the samples and form your own opinions. The biggest surprise for me was the Baystate Blue. Out of the 13 inks I tested in this round, I consider that and the Diamine Red Dragon to be the Biggest Losers. After checking at the two week mark, I figured the Baystate Blue would just lose the intensity of the color, but even the more muted blue left behind is starting to fade. The Kung Te-Cheng was the clear winner in the Lightfastness category.

Some of the inks are presenting only the slightest shift in color at this point, or slight fading. Inks that I feel are holding up pretty well include:
Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng (the winner!)
J. Herbin Rouge Hematite (huge surprise that it's holding up this well, but it is lightening slightly)
Noodler's Nightshade (turning a bit more red)
Noodler's Sequoia (graying slightly)
Noodler's Navy (fading just a hair)

Some colors are exhibiting strong shifts in color, or fading in only certain components of their mix.
Noodler's Kiowa Pecan is losing the red coponent and becoming more yellow
Noodler's Walnut is also losing red and becoming more yellowish brown
Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia is losing the bluer elements, and the ink is shifting to red/pink.
Private Reserve Avocado is fading
Private Reserve Velvet Black is shifting color
Private Reserve Chocolat is losing a little intensity

Enlarge the images above and form your own conclusions. I'll probably photograph them again at the three month mark. If you'd like to see what this looked like before I put it in the window, here is a link to my previous post.

I have about 20--25 more ink samples to put up in the window today, so stay tuned for results on different inks in another month.


  1. I'm not familiar with Noodler's inks, but in my past experience most inks have proven not to be lightfast. There are some brands rated as lightfast--some are acrylic inks and not suitable for fountain pens. The lightfastness tests I did over 30 years ago with Pelikan inks showed most of them to fade, some very quickly.

  2. I used to make my own inks using watercolor pigments. I wonder if those pigments are more lightfast. If that is so.... then, that may be the way to go. I don't remember the exact recipe but it involved gum arabic and formaldehyde. I have several inks that have been hung for years (decades actually) without any visible fading but must confess that they are all sepia tones and the color may have changed. Might be a good experiment?

  3. Nita, it's true that most are not lightfast, but it's good to know which ones are. They are not subjected to the ASTM lightfastness ratings, so this is about the only way to find out. I don't have to worry about the work I do with fountain pens in my sketchbook, as those will not be exposed to light for long periods of time. In terms of using inks for fine art and hanging a piece on the wall, I'm eager to know if some of them will be okay. I'd rather find out through testing than find out through the destruction/disappearance of a pen and ink drawing that's framed and sold.

  4. Rannd, without having a sample set aside in a dark place simultaneously, it's hard to gauge whether or not something has faded. I have six or seven different browns going up for testing with this next batch of inks, so those results might be of interest to you. I'll check in on them in a month and will post images. Yes, watercolors do better, as pigments generally fare better than dyes when it comes to light reactions. Plus, most of our pigments have been tested, so we can pretty much know up front what's going to happen with a particular pigment in a given binder.

  5. Very interesting. Be warned though, fountain pen folks tend to be very scientific and detailed about their inks, so you may be opening up Pandora's box here! ;) Personally, I'm not very surprised to see that most any fountain pen ink isn't very lightfast, especially with such intense exposure like you've done here. I always recommend storing ink in a drawer, closet, or at a minimum in the boxes the ink come in (except Sheaffer, which uses clear boxes!), as the inks will change color in sunlight even in the bottle. Just about all fountain pen inks are dye based, not pigment, so fading is to be expected in direct sunlight. Some do fare better than others, though, of course. You should try the Noodler's Eternal series and Warden's series of inks, these were all designed to be UV resistant! I'm encouraged to see how well KTC held up. BSB is a bit of a surprise, but not entirely.

    You mentioned in your previous post that you used Strathmore 500 paper, I wonder if this had an effect on the inks. Is this the stuff you used:

    This is not a typical paper you'd use for fountain pen inks, at least in writing. 100% cotton paper is preferred by some, but is not the most common use with fountain pen ink. Typically, fountain penners are using pulp-based papers. I wonder what effect, positive or negative, this had on the inks in a lightfast test. I did a quick search on the paper and it does appear to be pH-neutral, which is good. But it says in the product description "Not recommended for traditional watercolor techniques". If I am looking at the right paper which is what you used here, I'm wondering if the heavy coating on the paper could be affecting the ink's ability to absorb into the paper, making the fading more dramatic?

    I'm getting into an area of science that is really going to expose my ignorance, so please correct me if I'm wrong on any of this. These types of lightfastness conversations go on all the time at the Fountain Pen Network with folks who are chemists and scientists for a living, and most of the conversation goes over my head! In any case, I appreciate your efforts here, and I look forward to the conversation that develops around your testing.

  6. Brian, many thanks for your input. The 500 Series Strathmore Bristol is not a good choice because it's not sized. That's why it's not recommended for watercolors. It actually would have been better to choose a sized paper that would have kept the ink sitting on top, rather than sinking into the paper. If anything, the ink is being somewhat protected by the paper in this case. For my next batch of tests, I switched to a slightly lower grade paper, but one that has better sizing to keep the samples more on the surface. (Strathmore 400 series watercolor paper)

    That's very interesting what you said about keeping the bottles of ink out of direct sunlight. I never even thought about that. I will be moving my ink stash tomorrow!

    Thank you again for your input, and if you hear about any other lightfast fountain pen inks, please let me know!

  7. Thanks for the input on the paper. Watercolor paper is sort of a different breed than what fountain pen folks are used to. It's amazing the different types of paper out there! I don't believe that the paper you used here has affected your lightfast results, I was just looking to better understand the paper. I think now I do!

    Yes, definitely move your stash! You want your inks to stay true to color over a long period of time. All of the fountain pen ink bottles I've ever seen (with the exception of Private Reserve Invincible Black and Invincible Aqua Blue) have clear glass in their bottles, so there's nothing protecting the ink from UV rays in the glass itself.

  8. Jamie,
    Dye based ink will fade.
    All goauche or watercolor with dyes are fugative
    Pigmented inks do not fade
    I presume the Noodler's Bulletproof are pigmented, and i use them in my fountain pens
    The trouble is finding pigmented inks for fountain pens.
    I use Daler FW pigmented with dip pens

  9. Brian, just this weekend I test drove a new sketchbook designed for pen and ink. It is amazing. I will email you about it; maybe you could start to carry it.

    Neeman, as always, thanks for your help. I use the Noodler's Bulletproof Black and Brown (#41), but didn't test them in this first round. However, they're going into the window today along with 25 others for Round 2.

  10. Thank you for posting this test. I love doing washed pen drawings in my sketchbooks. I too would love to be able to identify a washable ink that will last. Diluted India inks in a water brush don't really give the same effect. Anyways, thank you!