I was really into Holbein Special Black drawing ink. It was smooth, black, and created nice thin lines. But then I was out and the local store I was buying it from didn’t have it. I looked on-line and couldn’t find it anywhere either. Yet what I did discover was that Holbein made an acrylic ink. I had somehow formed the opinion that India inks were better and that acrylic inks were harder on drawing tools, but I didn’t have any actual experience and I had really liked the Holbein Special Black. So I decided to try Holbein’s Super Opaque Acrylic Ink out.
At first, I really liked the ink. It was dark and fine, just like Holbein’s Special Black. Then I started to notice an issue. I have the habit of pouring my ink into a a pewter ink well that I have. When I am done for the day, I screw on the cap to keep the ink from drying overnight. What I noticed is that when I would come back the next day the acrylic ink would be watery and gray. Lines would bleed and the ink would dry a bit faded. This was frustrating. So I would pour the ink back into the original container, shake it up, then pour a new a new batch into my ink well. And it was fine again. Black and sharp.
So by reflecting on this and with a bit of internet research I realized what was going on. Acrylic ink settles. The pigment is heavier than the rest of the liquid it is with, so over time it sinks to the bottom of the ink well. In practical terms, this means that I can’t leave the ink in the ink well overnight. I need to get a fresh supply each time I sit down to draw. This isn’t a big deal, but it helps to have figured it out.
So I’m not sure yet how I feel about acrylic ink. This is the only issue I have had with it so far. Otherwise it has performed really well and works on almost any paper, which is one of the main drawbacks of Speedball Super Black (my former favorite ink). That said, I’ve read that acrylic ink doesn’t hold up as well in the long run and that it can bleed if it gets wet. Seeing that I scan my work pretty soon after I create it, these issues probably won’t be a problem for me. Still, I want to wait and see before I wholeheartedly endorse acrylic ink.
For years, Speedball Super Black has been my favorite ink. I’ve just loved the way it flows, yet it has a tendency to bleed on certain papers. So every once in awhile I try another ink, like Yasutomo Ultra Black. But nothing flows as well as Super Black. Or so I thought.
I just moved recently and so have been trying out the local art stores. At one little store (Imagine Art Supplies) they had Holbein Special Black. So I decided to buy it and give it a try. I was immediately impressed. The ink has a similar flow to Super Black, but it allows a finer line. It’s less watery, which I think makes for the finer line but also allows it to remain crisp on more types of paper. But it’s not viscous like the Yasutomo inks tend to be. And Special Black is, unsurprisingly, very black. It is now my new favorite ink. (Of course I have a whole pint of Speedball Super Black to still get through…)
Another cool thing about the ink is its container. It comes encased in a plastic egg which twists apart. The top can be used as an inkwell or a reservoir for water. The bottom has a raised square section that fits into the bottom of the ink bottle and so makes it so that the bottle doesn’t move when you dip your pen into it. I love great design and this one is nice. Still, I prefer to use my own ink well. One, because I like it. And two, the opening to the Special Black bottle is quite narrow and so I end up getting ink on my nib holder of I dip directly into the bottle.
Holbein Special Black is not as easy to find as other inks, but there is this thing called “the internet” and maybe you can find someone who has a bottle for you. Again, I highly recommend this ink.
And here’s another recommendation by someone who creates comics, but a brush user. (though I disagree with him about Ph. Martin’s Black Star- too watery for me).