During the winter months when I spend most of my sketching time in coffee shops, museums and other indoor venues, I tend to use less watercolor and reach instead for water-soluble inks to make monochromatic sketches. So it was almost exactly a year ago that I set out to try a variety of ink samples from GouletPens.com to determine my favorites in black, brown and blue – one waterproof and one water-soluble ink in each color. For waterproof inks, my main criteria were for the ink not to smear with the application of water after the ink dried, and to dry within a few minutes. For water-soluble inks, I was looking for rich line color with bold, complex washes (maybe I should become a wine critic). I ended up choosing eight:
Private Reserve Velvet Black
|Private Reserve Velvet Black|
Since then, I have continued to try out other inks as they have come to my attention or when I’m in the mood for something new. (I’ve even experimented with mixing my own.) With the gazillions of inks available, I keep my mind open, willing to change my go-to ink choices if I find one I like better. But time after time, I go back to trusty favorites. Eventually, I eliminated a few from my favorites list for various reasons, and now I have the list down to a solid, reliable five:
|Diamine Chocolate Brown|
Regarding the waterproof inks, I realized that if I was adding watercolor to a sketch, I wanted the line ink to be as neutral as possible, so I stopped using Sailor Sei-Boku Blue Black fairly quickly. I like using a waterproof brown sometimes, but Platinum Sepia lacks umph – neither warm nor bold. (What a shame that Platinum doesn’t make a brown that’s the equivalent to its Carbon Black.) So Platinum Carbon Black is still my waterproof ink of choice and has no challengers as far as I can see (don’t even mention Noodler’s, which made it onto my Bottom 10 list).
Diamine Twilight is a beautiful dark blue – but its wash can be too bright. I found myself reaching more often for Diamine Eclipse, which was on my preliminary list but didn’t make the final cut previously. Its more neutral blue/black hue and gorgeous, complex wash eventually worked its way onto my favorites list and pushed Twilight off.
Although I loved the solid, rich black that Private Reserve Ultra Black offers, it turned out to have bad habits: it clogs my pen quickly, and it has a sparkly sheen even after it’s dry. I stopped using it after several months of annoyance.
|Diamine Grey applied with a waterbrush|
to make the shadows.
Diamine Grey is still on my list, but in a new form. As a drawing line, it has a beautiful, cool-gray hue, but its wash is too pale to suit me. So several months ago, I filled a waterbrush with full-strength Diamine Grey and use it for shading. It’s transparent like watercolor, so if I want darker shading, I just brush on more.
The others that have stayed on my list all along – Diamine Chocolate Brown and Private Reserve Velvet Black – are my ever-reliable inks that still have no contenders. In fact, I hadn’t used Velvet Black for a few months, and when I went back to it, I wondered why I ever stopped. (Although just lately I’m wondering if it was because it has the same clogging issue that Private Reserve Ultra Black has. . . either that, or it’s time to give my pens a thorough cleaning.)
|Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi|
On the second tier – the inks I occasionally reach for when I want a change – are the afore-mentioned Diamine Twilight and Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi. The latter makes a lovely warm gray line that flows beautifully – but with a wimpy wash. I love the hue so much that I keep using it, but as soon as I put water to it, I’m left wanting. (Maybe I should use it only for writing in my journal.)
Speaking of flow, by now I have a huge collection (probably more than a hundred) of Goulet ink samples, and if I can make a blanket statement about any of the brands, I’d say that Diamine flows the most consistently and never gives me problems like clogging or taking too long to dry for this lefty.
I think of myself as fairly fickle about art materials, so I’m a little surprised to find that I’ve been as faithful as I have to several inks for more than a year. We’ll see what I say a year from now.