Sunday, November 23, 2014

Comparison of Three Waterproof Inks

11/23/14 DeAtramentis Document Brown ink, Van Gogh watercolors, Stillman
and Birn Beta sketchbook
For the past couple of years, I’ve been using Platinum Carbon Black exclusively when I’ve needed a waterproof fountain pen ink. Not only does it dry almost immediately and become waterproof in a matter of seconds, it has never clogged any of my Lamy, Pilot or Sailor pens.

Before finding it, I had tried a few Noodler’s inks that were supposed to be waterproof and even “bulletproof” (waterproof as well as bleachproof). In addition to their varying degrees of so-called waterproofness (I wasn’t very concerned about chlorine!), my main issue was that they seemed to clog my pens. Annoyed and frustrated, I got rid of all those inks and swore never to use Noodler’s again. And once I found Platinum Carbon, I had no need to look further.

At one point I wanted a little color variety, so I tried a waterproof blue (Sailor Sei-Boku Blue-Black), but it is a little too bright a blue to use with watercolors (this Gingerbread Village sketch is an example). I also wanted a waterproof brown, and since Platinum behaves so well for me, Platinum Carbon Sepia seemed like a natural choice. Unlike black, however, sepia is too pale and reddish for my taste (this sketch of Santa is an example). After those brief distractions, I stuck with black, and for the most part I’ve been happy.

Lately, though, especially in the fall when I was sketching so many trees, I started wanting a waterproof brown again. All that red, orange and yellow foliage seemed to demand a warmer ink color than black. Noodler’s #41 Brown is a popular choice among sketchers, so despite my skepticism about Noodler’s, I gave it a try when Peggy offered me a sample.

A few things about it made it less than ideal: The color is a bit cooler than I like in a brown, and it’s not quite as waterproof as Platinum Carbon. In my timed test, Noodler’s #41 washed a bit even after 20 minutes of drying time, while Platinum was completely waterproof after 60 seconds (see below). And dangit if it didn’t clog my trusty Sailor, which no ink has ever clogged! (That’s it! No more Noodler’s for me. Ever!)

It might be difficult to see in this scan, but DeAtramentis Document Brown was
completely waterproof after only 30 seconds. Noodler's 41 wasn't completely
waterproof even after 20 minutes. (Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook)
Then I started reading that Liz Steel was raving about DeAtramentis Document Brown. Its waterproofness seemed to satisfy her, and she liked the color (which looked good to me, too, in her scans). I went out to to order a sample. (Inksamplepalooza is still going on – all ink samples are 20% off through Nov. 30! If you’ve been wanting to try some new inks, now is the time.)

Immediately, I liked the color – a rich, strong, warm brown. I tested it with Noodler’s #41 against Platinum Carbon Black, and its drying time was just as fast as Platinum, if not faster – it was completely waterproof after 30 seconds. I’ve had it in my pen for only a couple of days, so it’s too soon to tell whether it has a tendency to clog (stay tuned). But as of today, it looks like a winner.

Edited 12/15/14: My idle-time test on DeAtramentis Document Brown is complete; check out the results.


  1. I've never had problems with Noodler's inks clogging my pens but they're sure not waterproof, at least as defined by those of us wanting to put watercolors over them :-)

    The new DeAtramentis inks are really opening the possibilities for pen and wash sketching. Did you see Jane Blundell's 'mix' post on the entire line of inks? Good stuff that:

    Cheers --- Larry

    1. Wow, thanks for letting me know about Jane's blog, Larry! What a wealth of info!

  2. I'll be interested in seeing if you have any problems with this ink clogging the pens. I don't try as many inks as you do for sure, but I have used the Noodlers Lexington Gray for quite a few years and have never had problems with it. It isn't as bold as a black but I like to use it. Sometimes I think it is just easier to use disposable pens. lol

  3. Dang, you got a bottle??!! It's been out of stock for weeks and still is. Thanks for the review. I'll order a bottle and not bother with a sample once it is back in stock.

  4. So far I have not had any problems with either Lex Grey or Brown #41 clogging either of my TWSBi Minis. Those are the only inks I have used so far. Do you suppose it could have anything to do with your humid climate? (I am in Pennsylvania.)

    1. Arlene, I don't know how humidity affects ink and pens, but I am mainly comparing Noodler's with Platinum Carbon Black, which has never clogged any of my pens. Stay tuned for my idle-time test of DeAtramentis Document! Leaving a pen filled with ink but not used is the true test for clogging!

    2. OK, now I get it. My Brown #41 has been in constant use. The Lex Grey had one period of 7 weeks because I didn't want to take my Mini to Europe last fall. No problem when I came back. The TWSBI Minis seem to seal up very well. I just got a Noodler Creaper as my first flex nib, and since it is a much cheaper pen it doesn't have that good solid sealing feel when you screw the cap on. I will certainly stay tuned for your
      DeAtrementis tests. Liz and Jane have piqued my interest (and everybody else's) in them!


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