Ink review: water-resistance of blue, blue/black and black inks

Ink review: water-resistance of blue, blue/black and black inks

Last weekend I assembled some inks, a dip pen, and a large bowl of water. My goal was to test the water resistance of the blue, black, and blue/black inks I own at this moment. I certainly admit that this experiment has little relevance. After all, I don’t make a habit of soaking my journals in a fishbowl. And I use a multitude of ink colors, so if I did soak it, the result would probably be interesting, but definitely unreadable. But performing the experiment was fun, and if the results are useful to someone, that’s a nice bonus.

With a regular dip pen (Hiro Leonardt No. 41) I wrote a sentence on standard 60 grams office paper, for each ink to be tested. After the ink dried for an hour, I soaked the paper for 10 minutes. I let the paper dry completely and put the results under the scanner (in that order).

Results for blue inks

I tested the following blue inks:

  • Quink royal blue
  • Sheaffer Skrip blue
  • Penman Sapphire
  • Hema blue

Hema blue is a no-name blue ink, from the Hema store (Netherlands), that is only available in cartridges. I don’t know who manufactures this ink, but the color reminds me of Pelikan Blue. My PaperMate fountain pen with a fine nib was filled with this ink, so I used this pen for the “Hema”.  The other inks were applied with the dip pen.

None of the blue inks were very water-resistant acralic color. In fact, all of them washed away almost completely. The Skrip blue totally disappeared from the page. The other three left a very light blue shade. None of them were readable anymore.

Results for blue/black inks

I tested the following blue/black inks:

  • Sheaffer Skrip blue/black
  • Montblanc blue/black
  • Quink blue/black
  • Lamy blue/black

Most of the samples were still readable after a 10 minutes soaking. However, Quink blue/black lost a lot of its color. Only a blueish residue was left on the paper. Surprisingly the Montblanc blue/black performed excellently. I have heard terrible things about Montblanc inks, so I fully expected that it would fail this test. But it was the only ink that kept a really dark color. Skrip black lost its blue, leaving a grey line behind. But the result was still very readable, and the ink did not leave a hue on the paper. The Lamy blue/black was really disappointing. It only left a very light blue line behind, making the writing hardly readable anymore.

Results for black inks

Finally, I put the black inks out:

  • Cross black
  • Penman Ebony
  • Quink black

While the writing samples were still readable, all inks washed away somewhat. What surprised me was that the blue/black inks performed much better than the blacks. Of the blacks, Quink finished as of last. After soaking, only a blue line remained. The Penman and Cross did not give in to each other. Each one remained dark but also spread a bit.


Most blue/black and black inks that I tested had a reasonable water resistance at least. Overall, the blue/black inks performed better than the blacks (I had expected it the other way around). The winner is Montblanc blue/black, followed by Skrip blue/black. The real losers are the blue inks. None of them had any water resistance at all.

Of course, water resistance is only one, relatively unimportant, quality of fountain pen inks. Most important for me are the flow characteristics and the color. Since most of my writing consists of notes taking, ink permanence is not a real issue. Using a spot of ink that tends to fade over the years might even be an advantage for letter writing. After all, I write snails, not my memories.

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What is the shelf life of ink?

Rumor says that you should rotate your fountain pen ink every 6 months to 1 year. This is another urban legend and is completely false. As long as the bottle stays tightly capped when not in use, the ink inside can remain usable for a very long time. Months at least. Probably years. The only enemy to stored ink is evaporation, and a tightly capped glass bottle prevents that.

Some heavily pigmented inks may look a bit muddy after a time on the shelf. Gently mix the pigment back into the ink by swirling it around in the bottle while the bottle is capped. Don’t shake it about… it isn’t necessary.

And, Greg Clark (author of “Fountain Pen Inks – A Sampler”) adds, “I would suggest adding (avoiding ñ ed.) sunlight. Don’t store bottles of ink for a long time in bright light or for any time on a sunny window ledge. The dyes fade – badly in some cases, like with turquoise inks.”

If the ink seems a bit thick, use an eyedropper and add a drop of plain water to the ink. Swish it about, then fill a pen with it and try it. If it seems ok, you’ve fixed your problem. It really is that simple.