Diamine Earl Grey Review

Ever since I saw the first reviews of Diamine Earl Grey I have been fascinated by this ink, and only partly because I love, love, love tea. The colour seemed to have shading properties and tonal depths that were similar to the much coveted yet hard to obtain Sailor Studio 123. I had vowed to cut down on my ink purchases, but as I broke down and bought some Diamine Blue (i.e. Christmas) inks, I had to add a small bottle of Diamine Earl Grey to the cart.

Parker Vacumatic Major with an medium italic nib on a Rhodia No. 16 pad.

This ink is sheer magic. It is very legible (unlike many lighter grey inks), it shades like mad, and even on Rhodia paper you can see a bit of its tonal depth.

Shading on every single letter.

On Tomoe River paper the depth of its hidden tones really comes to light:

Drawn with the Parker Vacumatic and a W&N Series 7 #2 sable brush.

There’s blue, even slight hints of turquoise, green, yellow, shades of pink, and in the dark recesses hints of warm brown. It’s like the greys I often create on my watercolour palette: a mix of reds, greens and blues, with a dash of brown. The result is a rich, “living” grey that surprises you every time.

I’ll probably skip the Sailor 123 Studio Ink because the price plus shipping plus customs will make it painfully expensive. Now that I have Diamine Earl Grey I don’t feel like I’ve missed out.

Diamine Earl Grey Review

Parker Quink Blue Black Ink Review

Parker Quink Blue Black is far from a new ink on the market: it’s been produced and in use for decades. So why bother to write a review about it now?now

Because Covid-19 happened, and it’s turned shipping and shopping into a challenge, and so I have found myself seriously contemplating a “desert island” kind of question:

If the only ink you can buy is ink commonly found in brick and mortar shops, which ink should you buy?

The obvious answer for me is anything Waterman, but specifically Waterman Blue Black, now renamed to “Waterman Mysterious Blue”. But Parker Quink Blue Black is just as readily available, and just as cheaply priced (more or less), and also a workhorse, utilitarian ink that packs a few surprises. So why is it not my go to ink? I’ll get to that near the end, I promise.

Two swabs of the same ink: how are they so different?

I took two swabs and writing samples of the Parker Quink Blue Black, mainly because I thought that the first swab didn’t show off the correct colour of the ink. The left hand writing sample was done with a dip pen, and the swab was done with a brush. The right side was done with Henry Simpole’s Jasmin pen and a Conway Stewart medium nib, with the swab being done with a q-tip. The right hand sample is truer to the colour of the ink, although you can get a more teal/turquoise colour out of the ink in certain nibs (as is true with Waterman Mysterious Blue). This changeability is part of the charm of blue-black inks.

It’s also worth noting that Parker Quink Blue Black both shades and has a red sheen, so it’s far from a bog standard, boring ink. Here’s an ink that can be fun at the same time as it makes you look serious.

Comparison swabs.

Waterman Mysterious Blue leans a bit more into the teal/turquoise side of things, but it doesn’t sheen as much as Parker Quink Blue Black. Here’s the ink on Paperblanks paper (I snagged a fountain pen friendly Paperblanks a few years back and have been using it to test inks ever since):

You can see the shading particularly in my swirls.

There’s a red sheen even on the Paperblanks paper, in every spot where the ink pooled (so the bottom half of these letters for instance):

If you can’t see the red sheen, look at the sample below.

And here it is on Tomoe River paper, showing off shading and sheen. The photo came out a shade lighter than in reality, but that was the only way that I could show some of that sheen off.

Parker Quink Blue Black is neither waterproof or water resistant, just like Waterman Mysterious Blue. Yet it takes a bit more time and effort to clean the Parker ink out of pens than the Waterman’s (my gold standard for easy cleaning ink). It’s vintage pen safe, and an excellent staple ink, available practically everywhere that sells stationery or art supplies. In times where shipping prices have skyrocketed and many places no longer offer shipping to all destinations, it’s good to know that there are still good, cheap and widely available ink options out there.

Stay safe and stay as much as possible at home.

Parker Quink Blue Black Ink Review

PenBBS 456 Smog RM and Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun

I ordered the PenBBS 456 Vacuum Filling Smog 54 RM at the same time I ordered the PenBBS 500, because I was intrigued by the filling system, and I wanted a PenBBS 500 with the Smog design but there weren’t any available. I was expecting to like the PenBBS 500 more because from the pictures it seems to have a more classic design, but the PenBBS 456 is the perfect example of how pen pictures often misleading.

The 456 is a much sleeker pen than its chubby 500 counterpart. There’s also significantly less hardware on the 456, which makes it both lighter and better looking. Massive chrome details on fountain pens just seem to cheaper their look in my eyes. If the cap band had been about half the size then the 456’s design would be better, but as it is it’s not a pen that I’d be ashamed to carry, and it looks more expensive than it actually is.

The steel nib on this is a medium, and it writes at about a 0.7mm line, as described. The nib design itself is elegant and clever, with a calligraphy “M” designating its width. The nib itself is smooth with some feedback, and has little or no give.

I purposefully filled this pen only about a third of the way up once I realized what a massive ink capacity it has. The filling mechanism is somewhat elaborate, like all vacuum fillers, but it works, and unlike the end-cap on the PenBBS 500, the PenBBS 456’s end-cap doesn’t twist off unintentionally.

The smog material is really beautiful, and it’s a way to get some of that Visconti vacuum-filler, London Fog feel without breaking the bank. This pen proves that you don’t have to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars to have a nice pen that you enjoy writing with.

Some more closeups on the overly large cap band (if only it had ended on the line below the “Shanghai”) and the lovely smog material. You can also see the filling mechanism clearly:

The material looks even better when the pen is filled up with ink, but I just wasn’t willing to dump out so much ink, and I knew that I would be forced to do that if I topped the pen up:

Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu Syogun was one of the first Pilot Iroshizuku inks that I splurged on. It shades beautifully, and is a lovely cool (i.e. bluish) grey that is utterly not waterproof, and so can be “stretched” and reworked as you can see in the small sketch that I did:

This was drawn on Tomoe River paper, but you’ll see shading on Rhodia and Clairefontaine paper as well. Of all the grey inks I own, this one is still my favourite. It’s dark enough to be readable (and appropriate for office use), and offers a lot of interest and drawing potential with its shading.

Like all pens that aren’t cartridge converters, cleaning this pen out will take a bit of effort, and vacuum filling pens are more difficult to clean out than piston fillers or lever fillers (only button fillers are worse IMHO). It just means that you’ll need to have patience when filling and cleaning this pen out, and that you probably shouldn’t put shimmering inks or inks that are difficult to clean out (or stain the pen body) in a pen like this. Then again, the pen costs $32, so if worst comes to worst, you haven’t ruined an expensive pen.

I wish that PenBBS would pick a naming convention that is easier to remember than the one it is currently using. But other than that and the not great cap band, for double the price the PenBBS would still be a great buy.

PenBBS 456 Smog RM and Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 25

Diamine Inkvent Calendar is an advent calendar with a tiny (7ml) bottle of ink behind 24 windows, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th window. All the inks are limited edition, and only available through this calendar. You can read more about the calendar here.

It’s the final day of the Diamine Inkvent calendar, and there’s a full 30ml bottle of ink behind today’s door. I guessed that today’s ink will probably be a shimmer and sheen ink, perhaps in the same shade of blue of the calendar. Then again, from the ink name there was a chance that it would be a green or a red, which I find less useful.

Turns out that my first guess was right. Day 25’s ink is Diamine Happy Holidays, and it’s a sheen and shimmer rich royal blue, just like the Inkvent calendar. The blue they chose is beautiful, dark but not so dark that it becomes black. It shades well, even though it’s saturated, and has a red sheen and light blue glitter in it.

 

You can see the shading. Where the ink pools there’s sheen, and if you shake the ink well before use (including in the pen) you’ll see a good amount of shimmer. I filled a TWSBI Go 1.1 stub with this ink and on Tomoe river paper this ink shines.

You can see the sheen and shimmer best when you tilt the paper slightly.

Even on Rhodia paper you can see the shimmer and sheen:

Diamine Happy Holidays is a lovely ink, and I’m glad that I now have a 30ml bottle of it. Is it the most unique colour in the calendar? No, it’s pretty close to the other four dark blues. However, looking over all of the other colours in the calendar, I don’t think that they could have selected a better ink for the last day.

I loved almost all of the inks in the Diamine Inkvent calendar (apart from Diamine Triple Chocolate). The calendar itself is a beautiful and well designed objects, the tiny bottles were charming (some of the labels had minor flaking problems, but who cares), and the sheer amount of unique inks produced for this is astounding. I know that Diamine said that these inks were made only for the calendar, but I would be glad to see some of them re-issued in larger bottles. If Diamine issue another calendar next year I will definitely buy it, probably even if it has the exact same ink colours. The Diamine Inkvent calendar is one of the best stationery products of the year, and certainly one of the most entertaining ones.

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 25

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 24

Diamine Inkvent Calendar is an advent calendar with a tiny (7ml) bottle of ink behind 24 windows, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th window. All the inks are limited edition, and only available through this calendar. You can read more about the calendar here.

It’s day 24 on the Diamine Inkvent calendar, which means that it’s Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Day 24’s ink is Diamine Purple Bow, a “standard” dark purple. After dip testing this ink I filled a Pilot Metropolitan (medium nib) with it just to make sure that what I was seeing wasn’t a result of the dip test. It wasn’t. This ink has a lot of sheen, and should have been labeled a “sheen” ink.

Diamine Purple Bow is a deeply saturated, very dark purple ink that’s almost black. The magic is when you tilt the page and look at the sheen:

The golden sheen is especially visable on Tomer river paper, but it’s also noticable on Rhodia paper. I have no idea why Diamine Purple Bow wasn’t labeled as a sheen ink but it should have been. As it is, it’s an interesting ink that is dark enough to pass as a standard black on a cursory glance.

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 24

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 23

Diamine Inkvent Calendar is an advent calendar with a tiny (7ml) bottle of ink behind 24 windows, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th window. All the inks are limited edition, and only available through this calendar. You can read more about the calendar here.

It’s day 23 on the Diamine Inkvent calendar, and I love both the snowman and the inkwell snow-globe on today’s door.

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Day 23’s ink is Diamine Roasted Chestnut, a standard sienna brown with a good amount of shading. It’s more reddish than the yellow ochre leaning Diamine Gingerbread and pretty close to Diamine Nutcracker, but a tad lighter and less red.

I love the shading and the colour of this ink, but I wish that Diamine had called it Chestnuts Roasted 🙂

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 23

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 22

Diamine Inkvent Calendar is an advent calendar with a tiny (7ml) bottle of ink behind 24 windows, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th window. All the inks are limited edition, and only available through this calendar. You can read more about the calendar here.

Only 3 days left to the Diamine Inkvent calendar, and after yesterday’s wonderful Fire Embers I can’t wait to see what’s behind door 22.

Day 22 is Diamine Solstice a black ink with green shimmer. This is a charming combination, as the basic black ink is deep and saturated, and the green shimmer makes it come to life.

This looks like a fairly normal black, but tilt the page a bit and…

Party time! Subtle yet satisfying.

Here it is on Clairefontaine paper:

I love the combination, and I hope that Diamine will offer Solstice as part of their regular lineup.

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 22

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 21

Diamine Inkvent Calendar is an advent calendar with a tiny (7ml) bottle of ink behind 24 windows, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th window. All the inks are limited edition, and only available through this calendar. You can read more about the calendar here.

It’s day 21 in the Diamine Inkvent calendar and we’re down to the final five. Today’s door didn’t look promising but…

…day 21’s ink is not a blue, or a red, or a green! It’s Diamine Fire Embers, the orange I’ve been waiting for for the past 20 days, and one of the best and most practical oranges I’ve ever seen. How dare you call it “standard”, Diamine? This ink is exceptional!

Diamine Fire Embers is a dark, reddish orange that glows on the page, and dries dark enough to make it practical (i.e. readable). There’s a significant amount of shading while the ink is still wet, but it tones down a bit as the ink dries.

There’s still a good amount of shading to be had here.

On the Tomoe river paper above the shading is much more pronounced than on the Clairefontaine paper below, but that’s to be expected.

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Less shading, even when viewed at an angle.

Diamine Fire Embers is one of the better inks in the calendar in my opinion, and I’m not even a fan of orange ink. It’s so cheerful and vibrant, it’s bound to make you smile as you use it, whether for letter writing or for cards.

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 21

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 20

Diamine Inkvent Calendar is an advent calendar with a tiny (7ml) bottle of ink behind 24 windows, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th window. All the inks are limited edition, and only available through this calendar. You can read more about the calendar here.

It’s day 20 in the Diamine Inkvent calendar, and there are only 5 days left. No wonder the 20 is underscored.

Day 20’s ink is Diamine Midnight Hour, a dark, indigo ink with sheen. Wait, blue with a sheen? Haven’t we been here before? Yes we have. Take a look for yourself:

Diamine Midnight Hour

This is Diamine Midnight Hour. It’s a very saturated dark blue/indigo ink with a reddish-purple sheen.

There’s sheen, but not oodles of it.

If the sheen looks familiar it’s because it’s the same sheen you saw on day 15’s Diamine Festive Cheer. Diamine Festive Cheer is practically Diamine Midnight Hour only a shade lighter:

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Diamine Festive Cheer

Then again, Diamine Festive Cheer is day 4’s Diamine Polar Glow with a tad less red in the base ink and a tad more red in the sheen.

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Diamine Polar Glow

There’s bound to be some degree of similarity between inks, considering Diamine had to create 25 unique inks for this calendar, and three similar royal blues are more useful than three similar yellows (and better behaving in pens), so I’m not complaining. It’s just an interesting little game to see just how close they came to creating three bottles of the same ink with different names (I’m looking at you Lamy). If you place these samples side by side you can tell them apart, but if you’d be buying ink in a store you’d probably end up picking just one bottle and not all three. My personal favourite is Diamine Polar Glow, followed by Diamine Festive Cheer, with Diamine Midnight Hour last.

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 20

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 19

Diamine Inkvent Calendar is an advent calendar with a tiny (7ml) bottle of ink behind 24 windows, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th window. All the inks are limited edition, and only available through this calendar. You can read more about the calendar here.

It’s day 19, and we have a nice nib ornament, and a 19 that fooled me at first that it was a 12.

Day 19’s ink is Diamine Gingerbread, a standard ink that offers a nice amount of shading and is a welcome break from the red/green/blue streak. It’s a warm raw sienna colour that really evokes gingerbread.

Diamine Gingerbread is not the flashiest of inks, but it’s a nice, warm, honey brown colour that will really work well with cream coloured paper or cards. It’s also a colour that I’ll probably end up using for sketching, since it’s relatively close to raw sienna, already a staple in my watercolour palette.

Diamine Inkvent Calendar Day 19