choosing the right ink - our guide
Q&A

Q&A: Guide to choosing the right ink

A guide to choosing the right ink

So you have maybe decided to buy some new ink, but where do you start? With so much choice, it is hard to know where to turn. Are all inks essentially the same? What do you get for paying more? And what about all those technical terms?

Choosing the right ink can be a daunting process and so this article aims to make the process a lot easier by breaking it down into the various elements that will affect your choice, and to give you a guide on how to go about choosing the right ink.

a guide to choosing the right ink

The Basics

We will start by looking at the basics of making a decision. These are four factors that should easily rule in or out some inks and help give a basic pointer to guide you.

Colour

At the time of writing we have 338 colours available to choose from, and this is spread across 18 choices of inks, not allowing for variations in the bottle size. 300+ colours is overwhelming, especially when you consider that the Diamine ink range has something like 27 blue inks alone.

However, colour is an important factor in choosing your ink, maybe the most important alongside price. For some people this may mean just wanting a basic blue or black ink. For others it means having a specific colour – Enzo Ferrari famously used to sign his name in his signature colour. And no, it wasn’t red – he was a purple ink man.

For others, it will extend down to matching an ink to something specific – to your notebook maybe. Others might place importance on matching the colour shade precisely as no two shades are the same. It really comes down to how specific a shade of colour you are looking for. This may mean you have to search around various different inks to find your perfect colour.

Price

The other obvious influence on your choice of ink is likely to be cost. With some bottles costing under £7 and some costing over £30, there’s a big difference in price. The question is what do you get if you pay more? Is it a straightforward case of the higher the price, the better the ink? Er…no.

With quality brands like Diamine and Herbin costing well under £10, it clearly doesn’t follow that more expensive = better. We only sell good quality inks and so the advice on price would be to choose an ink that suits your budget. We will go on to look at other reasons why you might consider spending more on a bottle of ink later.

We previously looked at the relative costs of different inks, and with inks being sold in various sized bottles you might want to consider this as well. There is little doubt that Diamine ink is the best value, all things considered.

Size

Size is less of an issue, but it’s worth a mention. Bottled ink tends to be around 50ml per bottle. Some inks have bigger bottles – Diamine is a whopping 80ml, KWZ is a hearty 60ml – whilst others might be a more modest 30ml.

A big bottle is going to be better value and will last a good while – an 80ml bottle of ink will fill the TWSBI Eco fountain pen about 40 times over! A big bottle of say 50ml+ is perfect when you know you’ll want to use the ink frequently, or it’s your favourite ink.

Herbin do small 10ml taster bottles which are a great way to test out colours without feeling like you’re wasting ink and even this will last you a while. The point being, size might not be so important in deciding since even a smaller bottle will last a long time.

We did look at the relative costs of different inks vs cartridges before – click here to see more

Purpose

The last of the so-called basic decision makers will be the purpose you intend to use the ink for. Some inks are more suited for specific jobs. You might want a calligraphy ink (which has properties more suited to calligraphy writing), or you might require an ink for archival purposes. You might need a waterproof ink, like Blackstone Barrister ink.

Another element to consider is drying time – if you need an ink that dries quickly then you might consider an ink like Herbin. The alternative is a wetter ink like KWZ, and you might find this proves very impractical if you need to wait ages for an ink to dry.

Your paper choice will also impact upon this – some papers are better for inks to dry quickly if time is an issue. Look at papers from:

choosing the right ink - how much does bottle size matter?
Bottles range from 10ml to 80ml
waterproof ink
Blackstone waterproof Barrister ink

Beyond The Basics

Now this is where the choice of ink becomes really interesting. It is also where you move from choosing an ink for more more functional reasons, and find yourself taking greater pleasure from the act of writing and using ink itself.

At the heart if this lies three key elements you can get from an ink – the Three S’s. Some inks will display none, some or all of these elements and discovering them is part of the pleasure. Their presence, or lack of, doesn’t makes an ink better or worse, it simply helps give an ink its true character.

At this point it worth mentioning the paper. Inks don’t exist in isolation and since it is likely you will be using them on paper, then your choice of paper is very important. The same iink will perform differently on different papers. See below for more notes on this.

Sheen

So what is sheen? This is when the ink dries with with a shiny finish to it. Most ink when dry will be flat and have no ‘surface’ to it. Sheen is when the ink has an edge that catches in the light. Discovering this when using an ink is part of the pleasure, but as a guide you will find a good sheen to inks like:

If you want to get the best out of the sheen an ink has then we recommend using Tomoe River paper, which just lets the ink show off its best qualities.

Shading

Shading is where an ink dries with some variation in depth. So rather than leaving a single solid colour, the ink will be more saturated in colour in one area than another. Is that a good thing? Well that depends on what you like and want from your ink, but it is another area that you can discover more about an ink and how it performs in subtle ways to create something richer and more rewarding.

Inks that are good for shading include:

Shimmer

Some might argue that this comes under sheen, but it is something quite specific. Shimmer inks have a metallic sparkle to them. Literally. They have small particles in the ink which you can see in the bottle., and which will settle and need agitating before using. The result is an ink that sparkles on the page. The result can be quite varied but when it works it can be magical.

There have been a whole host of new shimmer inks released in recent years, so there is a good choice, but you might want to look at these for some good results:

Sheen on Kyoto Nurebairo ink
Sheen on Kyoto Nurebairo ink
Shading on Herbin Vert Olive ink
Shading on Herbin Vert Olive ink
ink shimmer
Shimmer on Diamine Arctic Blue ink

What Else Can Inks Offer?

Is there anything else to an ink outside the basics and how it appears on paper? Well, arguably no. Choosing an ink based on those values will likely last you a lifetime after all. But there are other factors to consider, and these may help guide you in your choice of ink.

Limited Editions

Some inks release special or limited editions, and these can be in high demand. For some ink manufacturers this has become an annual event, and most notable amongst the limited edition inks are the Herbin Anniversary inks (this might now have become the Herbin 1798 range as of 2017) and the annual Edelstein Ink of the Year from Pelikan.

Lamy have also started to produce limited edition T52 inks to coincide with the annual launch of the limited edition Safari and Al-Star fountain pens. These tend to be very limited in supply.

Cult Inks

Some inks acquire an almost cult-like status. Sometimes there is an obvious reason for it, other times it seems to defy reason. But no matter, if an ink has been given this lofty status then it is popular above all other colours in that range.

Example inks here would be KWZ Honey, Herbin 1670 Emerald de Chivor and Robert Oster Fire and Ice.

edelstein ink of the year
Edelstein Aquamarine limited edition ink
robert oster fire and ice
Robert Oster Fire & Ice ink

Extras & Exotic Imports

Some inks are worth buying because they come beautifully packaged (I’m looking at you, Kyoto ink) or have extras in the box (Colorverse ink is a perfect example here).

In other cases it is simply that the inks have that exotic something – imports from afar that you are unlikely to stumble across in your local WH Smith or inks with a story to tell. Iroshizuku and Kyoto inks come from Japan, Robert Oster and Blackstone inks are from Australia. KWZ inks are made by a husband-&-wife team in Poland. Feeling closer to the story can make you appreciate the ink in a different way.

The Kyoto inks are also just beautiful objects in their own right, from the box to the bottle. Does this affect the ink? The obvious answer is no, but then again you can gain extra enjoyment from something more than just purely functional, and an ink like this is very desirable!

Complexity

Last but not least is the fact that inks are complex substance. It is no coincidence that KWZ ink is made by two chemists, or that we have worked with chemist-come-bloggers on ink reviews. The process of making an ink requires a lot of input, and not just in terms of colour choice, packaging and marketing.

Look at Iron Gall inks for a clear demonstration of how complex an ink can be – these very traditional inks require sensitive handling in your pen as they can damage it in some cases. As the name suggests, it is made with iron elements and this helps it bond with the paper to form a more permanent mark. More interestingly it is chemistry in the making when you write with it as it changes colour and darkens.

Some inks really are just a complex mixture and discovering inks can leave you somewhere between a writer and a chemist at times.

Colorverse inks packaging
Colorverse inks have extras in the box
KWZ Iron Gall inks
KWZ Iron Gall inks

In Conclusion

To summarise, the most powerful influence on your decision of choosing the right ink will be price. A quality ink like Diamine or Herbin comes in at under £7 and will let you choose from well over 130 colours. But once you start to find more pleasure in using inks so you will likely seek out other more expensive inks for the unique properties they can demonstrate. Whether that is the unusual colour, how it performs when used or just a desire to seek out ever new creations will depend on where you ink odessey takes you! In short, start somewhere that feels right, and let you enjoyment lead you.

Blackstone Uluru Red
Blackstone Uluru Red
Diamine Apple Glory
Diamine Apple Glory
Lamy Dark Lilac
Lamy Dark Lilac
Edelstein Mandarin
Edelstein Mandarin
our man in parliament
Stories

What People Do All Day – Our Man In Parliament

our man in parliament - stationery reviews on the inside

Stationery reviews from inside the house

This post was written by Richard

Inspired perhaps by Richard Scarry’s “What do people do all day?” and the adventures of Farmer Alfalfa, Stiches the Tailor and Grocer Cat, our good friends at Bureau asked me to write a short piece about what I do all day. I can only imagine that this is the beginning of a soon to be much anticipated occasional blogpost about the goings-on—stationery related or otherwise—of the cast of thousands who call themselves Bureau’s happy customers.

My remit, such as it was, was to paint a brief but fascinating picture of my working day and to talk a little about where stationery fits into that. So…what do I do all day? Well, I work in Parliament. There are many, many things to enjoy about working there—the staff, the riverside location, the history—but, oddly, the thing I enjoy the most is the tourists. Sure, getting through the door in the morning can feel like facing off against the New England Patriots, but it’s buzzy and people are enjoying themselves just being there. Which is nice.

And what do I do once I actually get into the building? Well, all that talking, all that arguing, all that shouting you see on television—and all that sensible discussion you probably don’t see on television— gets written down somewhere. By someone. And that someone is me and my colleagues. We sit in on debates. We make sure all that talking gets recorded. And we make sure it all gets written up and checked. Throughout it all, we come and go quietly, trying not to draw attention to ourselves. In fact, one chairwoman even joked we were a bit like MI5—“only better.” High praise indeed. Perhaps it could be our motto.

lamy aion fountain pen

Finally, I said this blog was about stationery, and so it is. I do a lot of writing at work, and I use a lot of stationery. Mostly, I use a Lamy Aion fountain pen with a beautiful turquoise Pilot Iroshizuku ink and an extra fine nib. Partly, I like the Aion’s unusual brushed black aluminium finish; partly, I like its impressive bulk. Oddly, though, the Aion’s not a heavy pen; quite the opposite. Its aluminium body makes it surprisingly light and easy to hold. And it’s well balanced, so it rests comfortably in my hand. The ink flow is great, too, which is really important, because I do a lot of writing under pressure.

pilot iroshizuku ama iro turquoise ink
Iroshiuzuku Ama-Iro ink
viking rollo a4 dot grid pad
Viking Rollo Dot-Grid Pad

I also use a Viking Rollo dotpad. The whole design shows an incredible attention to detail. The cover is beautifully minimal, the dots are subtle and unobtrusive, and sheets are really easy to detach. Most important of all, however, the paper is incredibly smooth.  Combined with the Aion and the Iroshizuku ink, it makes for a really lovely writing experience.

So, there you have it: my day. Perhaps less energetic than Farmer Alfalfa’s, but petty fun all the same—and with better stationery.

Grey Inks Comparisons
Review

10 shades of grey ink

Grey Inks Comparisons

Introduction

Grey is a colour that we haven’t really explored before. This post (and the next one to come) really is a sequel to Diamine Earl Grey ink which seems to be a trend setter. A lot of our friends asked for a side-by-side comparison, I looked around for more grey ink and found 10 in our sampling station 🙂 These 10 inks are all grey, but as you will see, they are not the same. We haven’t done this layout before, so please drop us a line in comments with your feedback. Do you have/use grey ink at all, if so which is your favourite? Inks were tested on Rhodia dot paper with a glass pen. You can zoom in on photos for the details too. Enjoy!

Diamine – Grey

This is probably the first grey ink that comes to mind… Subtle, shades well, very universal. Can’t go wrong with this one. Diamine inks come in 80ml bottles and are fantastic value for money.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Diamine - Grey

Diamine – Graphite

Dark grey with green components which are very apparent in this ink. It’s almost black, colour is mossy and perfectly legible. Available in 80ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Diamine - Graphite

J Herbin 1670 – Stormy Grey

It’s difficult not to take sides here, but this ink is the one that started a revolution of Shimmer – I love it 🙂 Base colour grey shades beautifully and it’s complimented with gold particles. Inked permanently in my Lamy 2000 <3 Available in 50ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : J Herbin 1670 - Stormy Grey

J Herbin – Gris Nuage

One of the paler colours from the bunch. Warm grey with purple undertones and decent shading. Fantastic grey ink for painting/colouring with water brush. Available in 30ml bottles, 10ml bottles and cartridge form.

Grey Inks Comparisons : J Herbin - Gris Nuage

Diamine – Earl Grey

We wrote a short story about this ink here. Fantastic rich colour with strong purple tint and delicate shading. Available soon.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Diamine - Earl Grey

KWZ – Grey Lux

Satin smooth ink to write with. This is one of the darkest grey inks. Very complex, satudated and made out of many dyes, almost black when dry. Absolute joy to use. Available in 60ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : KWZ - Grey Lux

Diamine – Sparkling Shadows

First generation of Diamine’s Shimmering inks. Grey with gold specs. Available in 50ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Diamine - Sparkling Shadows

Diamine – Moon Dust

Jo’s number one ink 🙂 Pencil-like colour with silver shimmer. Fantastic name too. Second generation of Diamine Shimmer inks. Available in 50ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Diamine - Moon Dust

Iroshizuku – Kiri Same

Light grey ink with expressive shading. This ink flows well as you can imagine all Iroshizuku inks do. Available in 50ml bottles.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Iroshizuku - Kiri Same

Kaweco – Smokey Grey

Colder grey ink with green undertones and quick dry times. Shading is visible and the smoke in the name represents the colour well. It comes in both 30ml bottle and cartridge version.

Grey Inks Comparisons : Kaweco - Smokey Grey
the price of ink
Q&A

Q&A: Is Bottled Ink Cheaper Than Cartridges?

The Price Of Ink

the price of ink

It is a question often asked – is bottled ink cheaper than cartridges? Is it more economical to buy ink in bottles or go for the simplicity of cartridges? And if it is cheaper, how much cheaper is bottled ink? Well I decided there was only one way of resolving this problem – find out how much ink costs pound for milliliter. And with the results in we have a clear winner and sort of an answer to the question.

Is bottled ink cheaper than cartridge ink?

Bottled ink - Price per ml

Diamine 8p per ml
Lamy T52 19p per ml
Diamine Shimmer 20p per ml
KWZ 22p per ml
Lamy T51 22p per ml
Blackstone 23p per ml
Herbin D 23p per ml
KWZ Iron Gall 28p per ml
Herbin Scented 30p per ml
Herbin 1670 Anniversary 30p per ml
Robert Oster 30p per ml
Edelstein 34p per ml
Herbin Mini 38p per ml
Kaweco 40p per ml
Herbin 1798 Les Encres 42p per ml
Blackstone Barrier 47p per ml
Kyoto 50p per ml
Colorverse 56p per ml
Pilot Iroshizuku 64p per ml

Cartridges - Price per ml

Lamy T10 Cartridges 20p per ml
Monteverde Cartridges 24p per ml
Kaweco Cartridges 32p per ml
Herbin Cartridges 55p per ml

Well, the simple answer is yes – bottled ink is cheaper than cartridges. However it is surprising how little there was in it, in some cases not at all. Take Lamy ink – at 20p per ml in T10 cartridge form it isn’t that much more expensive than bottled T52 ink which comes in at 15p per ml. And Kaweco ink cartridges actually came in cheaper than their bottled ink. But if you want real value then of course a bottle of Diamine ink will see you through for a long time with an 80ml bottle costing just 8p per ml.

To be clear, these results were based on our retail prices as of 1 May 2017, across all bottled and cartridge inks in our range. For cartridge ink there was a small problem because no one seems to quote the volume of a cartridge, but general consensus seems to suggest that a small cartridge (e.g. Kaweco or Herbin) is 0.9ml and a larger cartridge like the Lamy T10 is 1.5ml so I based all calculations on those volumes.

winter stationery
Ideas

Winter Stationery

anatomy of winter stationery

Anatomy of a winter stationery scene

As we clear up after Storm Doris and the newspapers are full of winter weather bombs, it’s time to squeeze in a quick winter stationery blast from the colder recesses of our warehouse. Inspired by the obvious lead item – the Field Notes Black Ice edition was create with winter in mind – I assembled a collection of wintery themed stationery. Enjoy them all before the first green shoots arrive, spirng is upon us and everything goes green and yellow.

From Nordic Blue notebooks to Stormy Grey ink it might seem that there is a lot of winter stationery to choose from. In fact it proved very hard to find anything suitably themed around the idea of winter, especially if you try and avoid Christmas!

With help from Monica I did get there but it maybe says a lot about our aspirations that colours and products are notably leaning towards more hopeful seasons. Spring and summer obviously encourage positive thoughts and so people make and name their products and we duly buy them. Winter turns us off. That’s my theory anyway – here’s what I found in the meantime:

handwriting
Views

28 days later

Handwriting course week 4

Handwriting practice with two Palomino pencils. 602 on the left and Pearl on the right. I will need to sharpen them again :)
Handwriting practice with two Palomino pencils. 602 on the left and Pearl on the right. I will need to sharpen them again 🙂

Drills and letter practice continues…first Rhodia A4 pad is finished – that’s 80 sheets of paper. WoW!

Fourth lesson was similar to third one. We did go over more drills and letters. When I think about it, the only ones left out are letters v, w, x, z. And capitals… I am very frustrated because of letters e and f :/ It would be a lot easier to write them with loops. E is square, pointy and weird. F doesn’t look so bad, but connecting is impossible. Writing word fun is not fun at all.

Nevertheless, have to keep writing and using Angular Italic style just about everywhere 😉

Fragile in Italic style going out with Bureau mail
Fragile in Italic style going out with Bureau mail

I had a little test-go at italic nibs again. Turns out, that I really have no idea how to hold the pen. In order to get the line variation it needs to be under strict 45 degree angle. One day…I will return to my Lamy2000, but it will take a lot of practice to get the grip. This picture shows how Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo’s metallic sheen (small “lion”) and J Herbin Vert Olive’s shading. Both amazing 🙂 Honestly, using all these different pens and inks does help!

lion
If you are subscribed to our weekly email, then you probably know that we are now stocking and selling Palomino pencils. I am so chuffed to have this pencil, you can’t even imagine 😉 There are now more and more of practice sheets done with it. I took Pearl to the class and I had to retrieve it several times from my peeps who simply couldn’t put it down. Of course, I had to ask my tutor if it’s OK to write with pencil rather than with pen, and yey! She has approved Palomino. The…truth…is…that…I…would…ditch…my…fountain…pen…for…this…pencil :O

To shine some light on Palomino items…there are 3 different pencils (602, Pearl, Palomino), spare erasers and sharpeners. Sharpener is an absolute must because these pencils go down quickly. 602 pencil is the firmest one, meant for writing. Pearl is softer pencil, meant for both writing and drawing. Palomino is the the softest one meant for sketching. My favourite is the Pearl. Yes, I am a shallow person who shops by the looks. I just love how soft it is, doing flicks is super enjoyable 🙂 As you can see on the top picture, the difference between 602 and Pearl is barely visible, but Pearl feels softer and glides across the page like a silver surfer.

Best advice: keep your pens close, pencils even closer 🙂

Neat trick: Use tracing paper 🙂 If you find a style that you like, see if you can copy it or trace it.

Shopping list:
Palomino Pearl Pencil
Palomino KUM sharpener
Rhodia A4 lined
Triomphe Pad A4

We won’t have a class next week due to half term holidays, so I have decided to catch up with my letter writing. Put all that practice on nice letter writing Triomphe paper 🙂 Keep in touch!

Mishka (^_~)

Click here to read the next chapter of my Handwriting course

Stories

From Pukka to Rhodia

Rhodia: Why good stationery matters

A recent story involving a customer has had a nice outcome, and I thought I would share it as it says something about good quality stationery such as a Rhodia notepad. Inara bought a Lamy Nexx M fountain pen last year, in May. She wrote to me just before Christmas saying the pen wasn’t writing very well. I knew I was possibly out of my depth so I gave it to Mishka who took it off to Pen Hospital. After a thorough clean out she declared the pen fit for purpose and it was duly sent out.

So imagine my disappointment when Inara got back in touch a few weeks later saying it still wasn’t writing properly. She said it didn’t flow, losing ink mid-stroke. A disappointed customer and an equally unhappy feeling for me as it felt like there was something wrong with the pen we had sold. She sent the photo below to show the problem.

madiha_pukka

Again, I took this one to Mishka who immediately diagnosed the problem in three ways:

1 – The pen was being used too firmly when writing, creating the tramline effect. If you apply too much pressure it simply forces the ink out unevenly and so causes the tramlines. To prove it Mishka demonstrated how it happens and as if by magic…it’s true. In Mishka’s own words, a good fountain pen should simply glide across the paper without the need to apply pressure. So step one was to tactfully ask Inara to adjust her writing style to apply a bit less pressure.

2 – What paper was being used? It’s an obvious one, but the quality of the paper makes a difference. Or so I hoped – was it all a bit of a myth? I enquired and Inara informed me she used a work-issued Pukka pad. The horror – of all the brands! There was at least some relief that it wasn’t a good name like Rhodia. In fact, why not send her a Rhodia pad? I duly picked an A5 Rhodia R pad (in sapphire blue) and sent it off. Fingers crossed, it would actually make a difference.

3 – The final piece of this jigsaw was the ink. To be fair I think Inara was using Lamy’w own ink, but a good quality ink does help and so Mishka felt compelled to send some really good quality ink. She loaded up a Lamy Z24 converter with (her own) Pilot Iroshizuku Kosomusu ink and sent it off with the pad.

A few days later Instagram popped up with pad and ink – it had arrived, and the following day Inara told me how beautifully the pen was writing on the new pad, and the adjusted pressure was also making a difference. See below for proof. Her next step is to petition the powers that be to stock Rhodia pads rather than Pukka. Good luck, although it might be a tough one to pull off.

madiha_rhodiaR

So the moral of this story is that good quality stationery really does make a difference – invest in a good pen, some quality paper and the best ink you can afford, and see the results flow.