Noodler's Eternal Inks Lightfast Testing Preliminary Report

Brian Goulet of the Goulet Pen Company contacted me regarding some lightfastness testing I've been doing on a number of inks. So far I've tested 39 fountain pen inks. (If you haven't seen those results, you can click here and then keep scrolling down to see them all.) Whether or not lightfastness is an important issue is a decision you need to make for yourself, and your particular applications. Having the information available is always a good thing, and it gives us one more factor to consider when choosing an ink for a specific job.

In the interest of providing information to his customers, Brian suggested a collaborative venture to test all of the Noodler's Eternal inks, and have those results available on Inknouveau. Although some of my previous testing did include some of these inks, having them all done together at the same time, and available both there on Brian's site, and here on my blog, will be a good resource for those times when some UV resistance is important. The line of Noodler's Eternal Inks that we are testing includes the following:
  • Noodler's Bad Black Moccasin
  • Noodler's Black
  • Noodler's Blackerase Waterase
  • Noodler's El Lawrence
  • Noodler's Heart of Darkness
  • Noodler's Polar Black
  • Noodler's X-Feather
  • Noodler's Lexington Gray
  • Noodler's Whiteness of the Whale
  • Noodler's Blue Ghost
  • Noodler's Bad Belted Kingfisher
  • Noodler's Bad Blue Heron
  • Noodler's Luxury Blue
  • Noodler's Periwinkle
  • Noodler's Polar Blue
  • Noodler's Bad Green Gator
  • Noodler's Hunter Green
  • Noodler's Polar Green
  • Noodler's Dostoyevsky
  • Noodler's Year of the Golden Pig
  • Noodler's Empire Red
  • Noodler's Fox
  • Noodler's Rachmaninoff
  • Noodler's Socrates
  • Noodler's Tchaikovsky
  • Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng
  • Noodler's La Reine Mauve
  • Noodler's Mata Hari's Cordial
  • Noodler's Pasternak
  • Noodler's #41 Brown (2012)
  • Noodler's Polar Brown
  • Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia

I selected a Stillman & Birn Alpha 7x10" Wirebound book as my paper to do the tests. It's nicely sized, acid free, archival, heavy weight, doesn't have too much tooth, and is a clean bright white. Brian sent the 32 ink samples to me, and I got busy making swabs, crosshatches and washes to test in my studio window.

The ink samples were sorted by color group according to where Brian placed them in the Goulet Swab Shop, then by alphabetical order within that group. The swabs were done with Q-tips --- twice across on the top swab, and once across on the lower swab. All writing was done with a glass dip pen (including the crosshatched sections), which was washed and dried between samples. Artists who use fountain pens are often interested in knowing how much an ink's lines will wash with a water-filled brush after the ink is dry, so I washed a portion of the crosshatched sections with a wet brush. That also spread the ink thinner, providing additional information as the UV light interacts with the ink. Here are the prepared pages. You can click on any image for a larger, clearer version:

Black, Gray, White, Clear (Blue Ghost):

(My apologies for some ghosting on a couple of these images, due to the next page showing through a bit. I didn't realize that was happening until I was adjusting the images, and it's not too relevant at this stage in the process.)


Greens, Turquoise, Yellow:

Red, Pink, Magenta:


The pages were then cut down the centers vertically, so that the name of the ink and half of each swatch is on each side. The right sides of the pages were placed in my south-facing studio window. The left sides will remain in the closed, wirebound book, where they will be in total darkness. Here they are, all set to go:

Most fountain pen inks are more fugitive than you'd think. That may not matter if whatever you write will not be exposed to UV light in its application, but it is certainly a reason to keep all of your inks stored in darkness.  Even colors in artists' paints that fade very quickly, like genuine alizarin crimson, take many times longer to show signs of change than fountain pen inks. Some inks start fading in just a matter of days. Others take six months or more.

I actually did this almost a month ago, so I will be posting preliminary results in about a week. That will give you an idea of which inks fade the fastest. I can tell you that a lot of them already have changed. So, stay tuned, especially if your favorite ink is on that list!


  1. Jamie, this is an amazing undertaking. I'm appreciating your diligence in organization, and once again your pretty photographs are introducing me to inks I would have likely never chosen. Very nice job, and I can't wait for your results. =)

  2. THis is SO useful, Jamie, thank you. I'm still frustrated that I can't seem to find a brown that won't smear with watercolor over it. I've been playing with #41 and Beaver brown today, and my results are pretty much like yours. The #1 becomes more water-resistant if I can leave it alone for an hour, though!

  3. Hi Jamie .... I look forward to your results. I have tested several inks in the past -- not nearly as many as you! When I test I cover half of each test with something that totally blocks the light out. It really helps me see the shift.

    I found some gel pens and some ball point pens fade so much I can't even read a word!

  4. Hi Elva! That's a good way to do it also. I need to save window space to let some light in, so only the exposed portions of the pages are going in windows. When I need to compare them with the control samples, they will line up right next to each other exactly, and I'll be able to photograph them together. Since I do so many, being able to have them all in a book like this helps keep my naturally disorganized state at bay! That's a great idea to test the gel pens and ballpoints too. Do you know if the Uniballs fade? I should test that. Maybe I'll add a few of them to my next round, which will be going up soon. Thanks for stopping in and commenting!

  5. I appreciate all of the legwork you're doing on these UV tests, Jamie! I'm eager to see how they all turn out : )

  6. Thanks, Brian! Hope you Goulets are all feeling better now. If you'd like, I can do a verbal reveal Wednesday night and let folks know which ones are showing signs of changing already.


  7. Thanks for doing these lightfastness tests for all of us Jamie! The results have been fascinating and really make a point about being careful with the colors you're using for writing, sketching, or whatever. Noodler's Lexington Gray is a particular favorite of mine and now I know that I need to be careful with it. Fortunately, I also use Noodler's Bulletproof Black and can feel much better about it's lightfastness. :-) I may have missed it but have you or are you planning to do a test of Platinum Carbon Black? I would love to know how that one would do in the light. Cheers! Sara

  8. I'm looking forward to the final results. I have full confidence that standard black and Heart of Darkness will fair excellently. What I'm most looking forward to is how Bad Blue Heron, Bad Belted Kingfisher and La Rein Mauve hold up. Those are three of my favorite inks.

    Donnie (whose name isn't showing up on his Google account for some odd reason)