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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shading Inks Testing, Reviews, and Selections

When I recently did this sketch and discovered the joys of Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses ink, I decided that I need to find more inks that give me that kind of variety in both color and value, otherwise known as inks with "shading". I started to revisit samples I'd acquired previously when I wasn't looking for that particular characteristic, and ordered a bunch of new samples to try too. I started testing them with three different dip pens: a glass pen, a Speedball B-5 nib, and a Brause 2mm italic calligraphy nib. I also drew a crosshatched section on each sample with each nib, and once dry, went back and brushed it with a water-filled brush to see how much the ink would (or wouldn't) wash, the color of the wash, and if it would leave enough of the lines behind to hold onto my drawing in sketches. I should have included Black Swan in Australian Roses in the tests just so I'd have the samples to show, but since I already had a bottle of it and already knew I loved it, I didn't have to prove that one to myself!

The fourteen inks tested here are:
  • Noodler's Golden Brown
  • Noodler's Apache Sunset
  • Private Reserve Orange Crush
  • Private Reserve Shoreline Gold
  • Noodler's Habanero
  • Noodler's Cayenne
  • Noodler's Antietum
  • Caran d'Ache Sunset
  • Private Reserve Blue Suede
  • Private Reserve Naples Blue
  • Private Reserve Tropical Blue
  • Private Reserve Sepia
  • Private Reserve Copper Burst
  • Rohrer & Klingner Alt Goldgrun (misspelled in my test --- sorry!)
These tests were done in a 5.5x8.5" Stillman & Birn Alpha Hardbound sketchbook. It is an archival, acid-free paper, 100 lb (150 gsm), internally sized and surface sized, with a vellum surface. I selected that paper because it is one I use often for my art journals, so it was most important for me to know how the inks would perform on that particular paper. You might get completely different results with different paper, different pens, and even a different amount of pressure or speed in your writing. In other words, your mileage may vary!

I tried to get the color as good as I could in the images, but there was so much color and light bouncing around the white pages and light filters that I could never even get both sides of the page to light up the same way. So, my apologies for my poor photography skills, but I still think you can get a pretty good idea of what these look like. Each image can be clicked to enlarge it.




I have to say that I was thrilled with almost all of these. A couple of notes from these samples:
  • Noodler's Golden Brown and Private Reserve Sepia are both great inks with wonderful shading. They are not exactly the same, but they are certainly in the same color family. You probably will want to choose between the two of them. Golden Brown is more yellow, and Sepia is a yellowish raw sienna color (sort of like Winsor Newton Raw Sienna, if you're familiar with it).
  • Private Reserve Copper Burst did not shade for me. However, it is such a fabulous color that I plan to get a bottle to use with watercolor. Most browns veer to yellow, orange or red when dissolved with a wet brush. This one does not. It holds its color, which is neutral enough to be of great use to me. Also, in writing with it, it has a lovely shimmer. Bonus!
  • Noodler's Antietum was another ink that didn't provide much shading, but is such an interesting and highly saturated color that I think there is a bottle of it in my future.
  • Rohrer and Klingner Alt Goldgrun seemed to shade well in these very wet dip pens, so it was one of the samples I inked up in a fountain pen. But in an 0.5 Preppy, the result was highly disappointing, and much too light to be useful to me for drawing purposes. So, I am still looking for a good green with shading....

I inked up a vintage Eversharp Symphony piston-fill Flex pen with a Fine nib with the Noodler's Golden Brown, and one with a Broad nib with the Private Reserve Suede Blue, and quickly dashed off a couple of pages of quotes to see how they'd look with these pens. Surprisingly, the Golden Brown didn't shade in that particular pen. (You'll have to click this one to get a sharper image if you want to see it better.)



I inked up a bunch of pens with these and other favorites from the samples, to see how they'd perform in various fountain pens. The ones I felt worthy of putting into fountain pens were:
  • Noodler's Apache Sunset
  • Noodler's Cayenne
  • Caran d'Ache Sunset
  • Noodler's Golden Brown
  • Private Reserve Sepia
  • Private Reserve Naples Blue
  • Iroshizuki Kon-Peki (not shown in the test samples above)
  • Private Reserve Tropical Blue
  • Noodler's Black Swan n Australian Roses (not shown in samples above)
  • Private Reserve Blue Suede
If you click the images below, they will enlarge so that you can read about my impressions and what pens I used. (In posting these photos, I can see that the image below isn't as clear as I thought it would be, so I will type out the handwritten text when I get back later today or tonight, to make it easier to read.)








Special mention should go to two wonderful shading inks that I did not put into fountain pens only because there was so much similarity in this color range. They are
  • Private Reserve Orange Crush and 
  • Noodler's Habanero.
They are both highly saturated inks with orange-yellow-red components that wash well and provide a lot of value and color variation.

I hope this write-up was helpful to those of you who share my current quest for inks that provide shading. I'll be doing some lightfastness testing of these inks too, and will have some preliminary results to share in another month or so. Hopefully there will also be some artwork to post with these new inks!

10 comments:

  1. This is an excellent review, Jamie! Thank you very much for putting the time into this! I love how you used different nib sizes to bring out the ink properties in each, and the side-by-side comparison is very helpful. You've completely sold me on PR Blue Suede!

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  2. Jamie, your tests on inks that are waterproof and useful for watercolor are very helpful. I am also interested in Noodler inks that are watersoluble and work well in strictly pen and ink washes, shading beautifully. Do you know which Noodler inks in black, dark gray, and dark brown work this way?

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  3. Excellent, thorough, and most importantly --> useful! I like the looks of that PR Blue Suede. Would you characterize this as a "teal"? Do you have vials of either or both Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku and Syo-ro? If so, how does Blue Suede compare to these? I suspect Syo-ro might be slightly greener.

    Again, thank you for a VERY valuable test report. XXXOOOOO

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  4. Kiwi and Papa, the Noodler's inks don't happen to be among my favorites for brown and black ink and wash purposes. I seem to prefer Noodler's for other colors. For ink and wash with Noodler's colors, my favorites so far in the "more muted" category have been Sequoia, Purple Wampum, Nightshade, Zhivago and Midnight Blue.

    The term "shading" as it relates to fountain pen inks doesn't refer to how it behaves in wash form; rather, it refers to the amount of variation in color and value within the ink line when used full strength. An ink with great shading characteristics may or may not wash, and one that washes really well may or may not shade!

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  5. Jan, you are so welcome! No, I haven't test driven either of those Iroshizuku inks. Yes, I'd definitely call this a "teal" ink. It is very highly saturated, so I'd suspect that in a slightly diluted form, it could mimic one of those Iroshizuku inks at a fraction of the price. ;)

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  6. Well done! I'm always a little amazed that some inks will shade with certain nibs but are monolithic with others. My current favorite shading ink is Noodler's Army in my TWSBI 540. The same ink in a Lamy is simply green. I'm going to try Antietem in a flex nib to see if it shades with that instrument.

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  7. Countrydirt, thanks so much for recommending the Noodler's Army. I will get a sample of it with my next order. It does look a bit like my 1:1 Noodler's Sequoia:water dilution ---sort of an olive green color. I am definitely looking for a green ink that shades, preferably one with less red in it than an olive color, since I already have Sequoia. Let me know how the Antietum fares in the flex nib! (It might shade more in dilution too...I should try that!)

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  9. This is yet another great posting that somehow I missed, or I would have gone straight to Noodler's Golden Brown instead if fishing around for a substitute for the (to me) balky, problematic Private Reserve Sepia. Thank you for this, for your ongoing UV project, and the wonderful artwork that I look forward to each morning!

    Jim

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