Review of Some Waterproof Black Inks

Those of us who use inks in our journals need to know which ones will be waterproof for use with watercolors, or dissolve with a brush for ink and wash techniques. This post will examine some of the black inks that I like to use with watercolors, which claim to be waterproof. That's actually a relative term, because much depends on the amount of ink applied, as well as the sizing of the paper it's applied to. I'll be discussing:

  • Noodler's Bulletproof Black in a Noodler's Flex pen
  • Platinum Carbon Black in a Platinum Preppy 03 (fine)
  • Noodler's Lexington Gray in a Lamy Safari F
  • Uniball Vision Black

These are all fountain pen inks, except for the Uniball Vision. That's a rollerball pen available in most office supply stores. I'm including it here because there are times when it's just not convenient to travel with fountain pens, and that's been my main waterproof pen in those instances.

Although Lexington Gray is not quite as dark as black, I often prefer it to black when working with watercolor. Black can be a bit overpowering at times, and the Lexington Gray takes the edge off. Because I use it so much, I wanted to include it in the tests.

Like with the browns, I tested the inks on three different papers, to take the sizing variations into account.

The samples above were done on an Ampad Quad Ruled book. You can click to enlarge the image. I dried all the samples with a hair dryer, then ran a clean waterbrush over them several times. They all sat tight. Good news! Then I went to sized paper.

The swatches above were done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon book made specifically for ink, then dried with a hair dryer, and washed over on the right sides with a clean waterbrush. Pens write like a dream on this surface, and the sizing lets the ink sit up on top of the page in the most beautiful way! But that same sizing enabled the Noodler's Bulletproof Black to move around a lot more than the other black inks shown.

Above are the same four inks, this time in a Stillman & Birn Alpha book. Results are about the same as with their Epsilon book, which isn't surprising as it's probably a similar sizing process.

Each ink definitely has its own character, and how waterproof it proves to be is just one of the factors when selecting an ink.

Noodler's Bulletproof Black was the darkest of the fountain pen blacks in this test. It also runs extremely well in my pens, never clogging and rarely even needing any kind of "jump start" after sitting for long periods of time. It continues to be my favorite of the true black inks.

Platinum Carbon Black was the most waterproof of the two true black fountain pen inks. That is my choice for use with watercolor if I want a true black ink, and plan to use it on paper that would cause the Noodlers to run. But it does clog up some of my pens. I've found it works well in the Platinum Preppy I used on this test, needing just an occasional nudge to get it going again, but it didn't perform well in my Noodler's Flex pen over time. I had to switch that pen over to the Noodler's Bulletproof Black, and it works great with the other ink. So, if you use this ink, you'll have to be a bit particular about which pen it resides in.

Noodler's Lexington Gray is almost dark enough to pass for black, and often that's exactly what I want. At times when black would be overly contrasty, heavy, or draw too much attention to itself, the Lexington Gray is the perfect solution. It has great waterproofing characteristics and good flow in all of my pens. I love it to bits! In fact, if I had to choose only one fountain pen ink to own, I think this would be it. I get lots of use out of this ink for all purposes from check writing to journal writing to ink and watercolor.

The Uniball Vision Black rollerball pen was not only the darkest of them all, but the most waterproof as well. Before I started using fountain pens, this was all I used. I bought them by the case and they went everywhere with me. I still take them along on trips when I need to fly somewhere, and keep one in the bottom of my purse, where I don't have to worry about leakage. So, why not just use that? Well, you fountain pen aficionados will totally understand.....It's a tactile thing. I just love the flow of the ink out of a fountain pen nib, the variations in the line with the speed, and the varieties of italic nibs or flex nibs that make writing or drawing with fountain pens so very enjoyable.

So, which one to choose? I say get them all! I use all of them all the time, and I'd rather not give any of them up. Each one has pluses and minuses, and each fulfills a need in my sketching kit. My main sketching bag has about 15 pens in it with various inks. These four are always in there, and often in more than one pen!


  1. Anonymous5:16 PM

    Thanks for the informative review. I didn't know the uniball vision was so waterproof. I will definitely buy one now. The platinum carbon ink works fairly well in a rotring using their converter.

  2. Jamie, thank you soooooo much for this post! I was getting so frustrated trying to find a waterproof black to sketch with and then watercolor. I appreciate your knowledge and sharing. Can't wait to try your recommendations.

  3. Tracey and Joanne, I'm so glad you both have found this helpful. :)

  4. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

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  5. Felcy, what additional information/details would interest you?


  6. Very informative! I think I'm going to have to add Lexington Grey to my collection.

  7. this blog is very informative for me....its a great work from ur side....thanks and congrats...
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