Ink Test

When I write about inks, I tend to focus on their blackness, consistency, and flow. Of course, there is a more fundamental concern: will the ink work on the paper that you want to use? There is nothing more frustrating than starting a new ink drawing, only to see the lines feather and bleed. Even inks that you rely on don’t work well on all types of paper.

So I decided to do a little test. I took all the black drawing inks I have and tried them out on four different types of paper. Obviously, I could go on forever with different types of paper, but I think the ones I have here will give you a fairly representative sample.

Papers used:

  • Canson Pro Layout Marker Paper; 18 lb., 70 g.
  • Pentalic Paper for Pens; 110 lb., 178 g.
  • Rhodia No. 18, white; 21.3 lb., 80 g.
  • Tru Red Printer Paper, 20 lb.

Inks used:

  • Deleter Black 4
  • Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star
  • Herbin Encre de Calligraphie
  • Holbein Super Opaque Black Acrylic Ink
  • Noodler’s X-Feather
  • Speedball Super Black
  • Tachikawa Jet Black
  • Yasutomo Sumi Ink
  • Yasutomo Ultra Black

Also, all the inks are supposed to be waterproof, so I went over them with a water brush that I have filled with a light ink wash just to make sure. So don’t think I went over them with clear water; I wanted the brush stroke to show up in the image. You can tell if the ink bled into the brushstroke if there is extra ink in the wash. None really did, by the way, except one.

So, let’s take a look…

Canson Marker Paper

This is one of my favorite papers, and one I use regularly. It is very thin, which can be a problem because it can wrinkle when there is a lot of ink on it. However, that thinness makes it easier to transfer rough pencils from another piece of paper, which I do all the time with my comics work.

Anyway, as you can see, almost all the inks work really well on this paper. The Herbin dries the grayest, while the Holbein dries the blackest. Keep in mind that the Holbein is the only acrylic ink here. The Tachikawa also dries very black. However, I noticed that the Noodler’s X-Feather seemed not to be completely waterproof on this paper. Even after it was dried, some of the ink mixed with the water brush stroke. This didn’t happen with the Noodler’s on the next two papers, so it’s odd.

Pentalic Paper for Pens

Pentalic Paper for Pens is a nice smooth paper that is thick like bristol board. I’ve used it for a lot of my comics work over the years.

You can see here some feathering start to happen. Both the Herbin and the Noodler’s didn’t like this paper. Also, there was a strange resist around some of the inks when I went over them with the water brush. This is most noticeable with the Tachikawa. You can see a white space between the ink line and the wash. Something in the ink must have reacted with the paper to create this resist. So maybe the Pentalic is not such a good paper for ink washes.

Rhodia No. 18

Rhodia paper is thin and smooth and often used for writing. The paper in the image is the common orange block of white paper you can find. For me, the block of cream paper with “Depuis 1934” on the cover is better, a lot like traditional vellum. But that kind is not as commonly found in stores.

As with the Pentalic, we have some feathering here from the Herbin and the Noodler’s. The Yasutomo Sumi also dried a little grayer than it did on the other papers.

Tru Red Printer Paper

This is the kind of paper that you can find at Staples. I don’t usually draw on stuff like this now, but I did as a kid all the time.

We have the most feathering here, which isn’t a surprise. In addition to the normal offenders– the Herbin and the Noodler’s– the Yasutomo Sumi feathered and the Speedball Super Black did a bit, also. Again, the Noodler’s couldn’t stay waterproof in this paper. Look at the black box where I went over it with the water brush.

Concluding Thoughts

Deleter 4. It did well on all the papers. This is the newest ink for me and I am liking it. As I said in my post, it’s not different enough (or cheap enough) to make it my regular ink of choice. Still, it’s a really nice ink. It flows well and is very black.

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star. I was surprised that the the Black Star did so well. I had it in my head that it dried a bit gray, but it looks fine in all these examples. So maybe I’ve judged in too harshly. Or maybe since it’s an older bottle a bit of the water has evaporated from it and the ink is slightly thicker. Still, it’s a pretty watery ink and I just don’t like the feel of it as much as I do the feel of other inks.

Herbin Encre de Calligraphie. I bought this ink on a whim awhile ago and it seemed fine when I used it in my notebook. I thought it would hold up better than it did here. It feathered on every paper except the Canson.

Holbein Super Black. Again, this is only acrylic ink on the list. As you can see, it dries nice and black and holds up really well. As I’ve mentioned before, the ink is a bit thicker than I like and you have to be very careful about cleaning your tools thoroughly after using it.

Noodler’s X-Feather. I bought this ink because I thought it would be bomb-proof. Ironically, it has feathered on almost every single paper that I’ve tried it on. It is laughably misnamed.

Speedball Super Black. As I’ve said many times, this is an old favorite. Other inks may perform better in certain areas, dry blacker and feather less. Still, Super Black is really good and what I love about it, which you can’t capture in a photo, is how easily it lays down on the page. I just love the feel of it as I draw. And the feel of pen and ink is a large component of why I do it.

Tachikawa Jet Black. This is an exceptional ink. Not only is this second to the Holbein in its blackness, it allows for the thinnest lines of any of the inks. All the samples were done with the same nib on the same day and consistently the Tachikawa allowed for thinner lines that any other ink I tried. It’s drawbacks, as I’ve mentioned, are its slow drying time and thickness. Also, it’s a bit pricey and I’ve only seen it at Jet Pens.

Yasutomo Sumi. I’ve had this bottle of Yasutomo Sumi forever. The Sumi was my go-to ink if I needed something that wouldn’t feather. So I was surprised to see it feather so bad on the Tru Red paper. The Sumi is a thicker ink and that’s why I never used it regularly.

Yasutomo Ultra Black. This is the best Yasutomo drawing ink that I have tried. As you can see, it is very black and allows for fine lines. Like all Yasutomo inks, it’s a bit too thick for my tastes.

At the end of the day, there weren’t too many surprises here and I think Speedball Super Black will remain my main ink, with certain projects done with Tachikawa Jet Black. The Deleter 4 is also a really nice ink and if you don’t mind acrylic inks, the Holbein Super Opaque Black is great.


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