Friday, October 14, 2011

On Review: 12 Red Inks

Can you guess how many red inks are here?

I know I did not reveal the answer as soon as I have promised, but did you make a guess? Did you get it right? If your guess is 12, then you got it! There is a dozen red inks in this doodle and in this huge red ink review. Twelve! Some of them are inks I have reviewed here before, but most are new.

I remember that the first time I did a combined ink review was for my first set of J. Herbin inks – Bleu Pervenche and Rouge Opera. That was ages ago, and recently, I felt like doing one again. This time though, I got more than two, as my ink stash have grown quite a bit. And I love red inks, as much as I love brown and dark blue inks. So here are the 12 red inks in my current collection.

The 12 inks here are J. Herbin Rouge OperaDiamine Poppy Red, Red Dragon, Syrah, and Oxblood; Parker Quink Red; De Atramentis Fuschia; Herbin 1670 Anniversary ink; Camel Scarlet Red; Styl' Honoré Cocktail ink Rouge Amaryllis; and Mont Blanc Bordeaux.

A group pic of all 12 inks.

 And all of them again in swatches on Clairefontaine's Graf It Sketch 90g white paper.  

Parker Quink Permanent Red has a pale red hue that appears more like pink when used with fine nibbed pens. This ink looks better on pens with wider nibs such as the stub on the Parker Jotter I used here. It has very minimal shading, not saturated, and flows well. However, it is not colorfast, and fades after some time.

Camel Scarlet Red is brighter and redder than Quink Red, but still leans on the pinkish side. On fine nibs, it appears more as bright pink than red, as it is on the writing sample above, written using a Pelikano Junior with a fine nib. On wider nibs, however, it looks better, brighter, and redder. Camel Scarlet Red is a saturated ink, but shows very minimal shading. It dries fast, though. 

Diamine Poppy Red is a bright, vibrant, 'orangey' red. Like most Diamine inks I’ve used and reviewed, this red ink is highly saturated, but has surprisingly excellent flow and is quick drying. I have tried it on several pens with different nibs - including a Waterman Phileas with a wet medium nib - and the results are the same – it has no shading at all. It is very flat, like Diamine Orange, but that's just fine. If I ever need a red ink for editing and correcting, I’ll choose Diamine Poppy Red anytime.

I’ve read almost everything that has been said and written about this ink, and it’s still one of my favorites. Never mind that J. Herbin’s 1670 Anniversary ink is way, way too saturated and slow drying. Never mind that it stained the converter of my Waterman Hemisphere. Never mind that it gives any pen filled with it with an ugly and horrible nib creep and dried yucky caked ink on the nib and feed. Never mind. Rouge Hematite, the correct name of this J. Herbin ink, is, and will always be a favorite. Its unique color of bright orange and earthy blood red with tiny gold specks is just wonderful. The gold specks give it the most amazing, and most unique shading.

Rouge Amaryllis is among the very limited, highly coveted Styl’ Honoré Encre Cocktail Ink series. This ink has a lovely dark red color with strong hints of purple that makes it look almost like burgundy. It has excellent shading, especially in wide-nibbed pens such as the wet medium Parker 45 I used in this review. Rouge Amaryllis has medium saturation which ensured excellent flow and good drying time. The cocktail ink series were sold in a fountain pen boutique named Styl’ Honoré in Paris, made by the store owner Patrick Arabian. The cocktail inks have been described as the ‘best ink’ ever, but Patrick Arabian has stopped making them.

Mont Blanc’s Bordeaux ink has the typical red wine color, but it’s not as dark as I want it to be. Still, it’s a unique red color with hints of purple, though not enough purple is present to darken it a bit more. Most inks are not colorfast, and Mont Blanc Bordeaux is sadly one of them. It easily fades after drying and fades even more after some time. It is not as saturated as my bottle of Mont Blanc Black, but it has excellent flow and dries fast even when used on a wet medium Parker Rialto.

Fuchsia is a coveted color for me. It reminds me of little girls’ dresses and the long silk ribbons in their hair. De Atramentis Fuchsia has a vivid, strong, and deep reddish-purple color that looks lush and rich at the same time. It’s the perfect companion to my first run limited edition pink Lamy Safari with a smooth medium nib. This ink is very saturated and thus, takes a lot of time to dry, but it has excellent shading and a consistent flow.

Herbin’s Rouge Opéra is among my first two inks from Exaclair. It was magical to finally get a taste of a non-Parker, non-blue, non-black ink for the first time. I was instantly drawn to Rouge Opéra’s dusky rose color, and the shy hints of purple is just perfect to give it a unique and balanced red-purple hue. Like most of J. Herbin inks, Rouge Opéra has excellent flow because of its medium saturation. On the Pelikan M205’s super wet medium nib, it’s like turning on a tap as soon as the nib touches paper, but it dries fast on most paper types. The most unique thing about this ink? It smells nice.

Parker’s Penman ink series has long been discontinued due to complaints that it tends to clog and eventually destroy pens. What a shame. Penman Ruby is one of the few unique red ink colors I’ve seen, and for that, I’ll try to forget its flaws. At times, it looks like reddish brown, but sometimes, it appears like burgundy. Both unique beautiful colors, and the shading is just excellent. But it is a very saturated ink and writes dry on a medium Parker 25. I have not experienced any issues regarding its flow, but the dryness makes writing uncomfortable for me. Then again, at times when I'm in the mood for a different red, I’ll pop a cart of Penman Ruby onto one of my Parker pens. Pronto.

Diamine launched Syrah, together with Red Dragon, Oxblood and seven other colors in 2010. Syrah's color was derived from Binder Burgundy, the famous ink color that Richard Binder developed on his own by mixing specific parts of Sheaffer Red and Waterman Violet. News said that Binder worked with Diamine to make a color that will exactly match his mixture, and that became Syrah. 

Syrah and the two other reds are absolute favorites in my ink stash. Who wouldn't be attracted to Syrah -- to its wonderful deep red/burgundy ink color? The blue, purple, and red combination is perfectly attained in this mixture to produce an excellent burgundy that does not come strong as red or purple. (Yes, somewhere there's blue in this ink.) It dries a beautiful burgundy, (which is how I hoped Mont Blanc's Bordeaux would turn out to be when it dries) and shows beautiful shading, especially in wide nibs such as the medium nib on my TWSBI 530. It’s a very saturated ink too, and not fast drying (but it dries). For more details about this beautiful ink, watch out for the full review which I am soon to finish. 

Diamine Red Dragon is a deep, dark red ink color that has similar qualities as Herbin's Rouge Hematite. The 'orangey' red and earthy tones make a red-blood color. Like Syrah, Red Dragon is a highly saturated ink, which is perhaps the reason why it has minimal shading only. It has excellent flow, and thankfully writes wet and  smooth on the fine nib of my Pilot Non-Self Filling pen. Yet again, like Syrah, Red Dragon takes longer time to dry, especially on high quality papers such as Clairefontaine and Daycraft.

Diamine Oxblood is one of the few available inks in the market today to resemble the true color of fresh blood. It is a lovely deep dark red - darker than Red Dragon - with more brown in it. Oxblood is another highly saturated ink from Diamine with minimal but beautiful shading. On my Pelikan M205's medium nib, it does not show a lot, but on the 1.1 Lamy Joy nib, the shading is simply awesome! Oxblood, despite its high level of saturation has excellent flow. It just takes a while to dry, though.

I've been lucky enough to have all these 12 red beautiful inks. I'm drawn to the darker ones and my obvious absolute favorites are Herbin's Rouge Opéra and Rouge Hematite; and Diamine's wonderful triumvirate of Syrah, Red Dragon and Oxblood. I always have these beautiful inks in my rotation.

I love group shots! Here are the 12 pens I used for the review. Most of them are regulars, I just added the rest. For a glimpse of how the inks behaved in different pens, here they are:
  • Parker Jotter (stub, courtesy of Pentageli) with Parker Super Quink Permanent Red;
  • Pelikan Pelikano Junior (fine) with Camel Scarlet Red;
  • Waterman Phileas (medium) with Diamine Poppy Red;
  • Waterman Hemisphere (medium) with J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary ink;
  • Parker 45 (medium) with Styl' Honoré Rouge Amaryllis;
  • Parker Rialto (medium) with Mont Blanc Bordeaux;
  • Lamy Safari (medium) with De Atramentis Fuchsia;
  • Pelikan M205 (medium) with J. Herbin Rouge Opéra;
  • Parker 25 (medium) with Parker Penman Ruby;
  • TWSBI 530 (medium) with Diamine Syrah;
  • Pilot NSF FP (medium) with Diamine Red Dragon; and
  • Pelikan M205 (medium) with Diamine Oxblood

Lastly, I just want to acknowledge the kind friends who gave me the inks in this huge review. Diamine Poppy Red, Syrah, Red Dragon, and Oxblood are all from Diamine of UK, sent by Phil Davies; J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary ink and Rouge Opéra are from Exaclair's VP for Marketing Karen Doherty; Styl' Honoré Rouge Amaryllis is from fellow FPN-P member Carl S. Cunanan, and De Atramentis Fuchsia is from my best buddy in the western hemisphere, Tom Overfield. The rest of the 12 are mine.


  1. I see that you like red inks, too. Here is my blog post from several months ago on the same subject.

  2. Great sampler! Thanks also for putting up individual pix of the colors, they make selection easier :)

  3. Wow! What an omnibus review. Great work. :D

  4. Terrific overview.

    Many thanks in helping me to decide what to buy and rid myself in this colour family.

  5. Have you tried Monaco Red? (Diamine) A favourite here - somewhere between the brown-ish red of Oxblood, and a "true" red, i think.