I’ve got the Blues… Blue inks in my collection

Blue inks used to remind me of school work; a really watery, wishy-washy, slushy, “I stand for nothing” kind of blue splashed across every exercise book of every lesson. I think I’d tarnished all blue inks with this association, so over the last year or so, I decided to give blue another chance. I’m showing you five of my blues today, and sharing a few similar inks to invest in next.

My thought process about blue inks had always been along the lines of “why”? Why, after years of having to use blue ink would you stick with it, and not splash out on all the shades and colours of the rainbow? In that spirit my ink collection mainly consisted of greens, oranges, pinks and purples. I don’t find very light colours practical, so investment in yellow ink has been limited, red is my least favourite colour, and I use a lot of India ink for brush lettering so I get my fill of black. Blues were the gap! Surely, I thought, there must be more to blue.

My selection of fountain pens inked up with blues: Pilot Metropolitan M nib, vintage Parker 45, Kaweco Skyline F nib, Pilot Kaweco M nib, Kaweco Classic Sport F nib
My selection of fountain pens inked up with blues: Pilot Metropolitan M nib, vintage Parker 45, Kaweco Skyline F nib, Pilot Kaweco M nib, Kaweco Classic Sport F nib

I’m pleased to say I believe there is! On picking a selection of blue inks over the year, I have come to appreciate the sheer variety of blues on offer. They cover everything from the professional to the pale to the vivid and the subtle.

The Bright Blue: J Herbin – Bleu Pervenche

This is the brightest blue I’ve used, and my favourite. “Bleu pervenche” means periwinkle blue in French, but for me the name is slightly off. I imagine periwinkle blue to have a touch of purple or lilac to it, whereas this ink reminds of a turquoise sea on a really sunny day.

Like really cool water that you drop a stone into and watch it sink. It has a lovely variation with some strokes lighter than others, which adds a bit of movement to your words as you write them, but overall I see this ink as a pure blue rather than sharing shades any other colour, as most of my other blue inks do. It has a beautiful contrast on paper and writes with a wet flow. I primarily use this ink for journalling and it’s gorgeous to look back on.

Bleu Pervenche in my Hobonichi Techo using a Kaweco Classic Sport F nib
Bleu Pervenche written using a Kaweco Classic Sport M nib in a Baron Fig Explorer edition – I have found this combination of ink and paper a winner

I have a feeling I’m going to put this ink away for winter though. It’s a bit cliche that a bright blue is confined to the desk for winter but I really like writing with the seasons! Autumn is here so I’d like to pair my Kaweco Classic Sport mocha edition with an orange ink next. I will definitely return to bleu pervenche though, and will definitely invest in more J Herbin inks as it has performed beautifully.

Other bright blues: Diamine Mediterranean Blue, Pelikan 4001 Turquoise, Monteverde Turquoise, Diamine Aqua Blue

The Dark Sea Blue: Diamine – Sargasso Sea

Wanting to delve into the world of darker blues, I bought a bottle of Diamine Sargasso Sea. I originally inked up my TWSBI 580 AL EF nib (which is a very fine extra fine) and got going. I remember thinking it was a little boring at first, until I noticed an incredible red metallic sheen to it which can be seen up close, even with the extra fine nib. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it, and it’s gorgeous.

Diamine Sargasso Sea in my Hobonichi Techo earlier this year, written using a TWSBI 580 AL

Diamine Sargasso Sea is a very adaptable ink. It looks professional but the sheen keeps an ink fan amused, and every time I see it I feel like it looks slightly different. Sometimes I notice indigo tones to it, and it’s a very saturated ink compared to the other blues I’ve been using. The saturation manages to give brightness to a dark blue ink somehow, which I think really comes through in the swatch below. Looking back on notebooks and through my Hobonichi, I really took this ink to heart and used it almost constantly for about a month. It’s in my vintage Parker 45 pen at the moment which has a broad nib which allows for an appreciation of the depth of colour, although you have to be careful to use it on really high quality paper only because of the bleedthrough and feathering. It didn’t work well at all with my Baron Fig Explorer notebook which I have flooded with ink recently as it’s one of the only pocket notebooks I have which works well with fountain pens.

This swatch isn't the best demonstration of the red sheen. There's a great example on Ed Jelley's review here.
Look how saturated it is! This swatch isn’t the best demonstration of the red sheen though. There’s a great example on Ed Jelley’s review here.

Other dark sea blues: Noodler’s Baystate Blue, Diamine Majestic Blue, Diamine Sapphire Blue

The Grown Up Blue: Iroshizuku – Shin-kai

It’s really difficult to pin down why this ink is so attractive. Shin-kai is a grown up’s ink. It’s a dark blue, but appears as a blue-grey to me. This is the only ink of the bunch that I feel writes differently to how it dries; I think it takes on a much greyer hue when dry compared to a more navy line while wet.

Not the greatest swatch but I wanted to try and keep it light to show the blue-greyness of the ink

Shin-kai has really grown on me. The shade is beautiful and muted, dependable and thoughtful. It didn’t have immediate appeal, because I think I expected a more saturated colour similar to other Iroshizuku inks I’ve tried, and it’s the dry colour that is really lovely. It’s a great pairing with the Pilot Metropolitan M nib and I really like making notes with it like in the picture below. Now that I’ve tried shin-kai, I think I will continue to use it regularly.

Shin-kai in action planning out my stops at the London Design Festival
Shin-kai in action using a Pilot Metropolitan M nib and a Baron Fig Explorer edition planning out my stops at the London Design Festival

Other blue-grey blues: Diamine Prussian Blue, Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo, De Atramentis Fog Grey

The Basic Blue: Iroshizuku – Asa-gao

This is probably my least favourite of the blue inks I’ve tried so far, because it reminds me most closely of the dreaded school blue.

I think the reason I disapprove of “school blue” so much is because it doesn’t remind me of anything. When I first started using Asa-gao, I had this same impression, I couldn’t immediately think of anything, and if anything I was reminded more of a purple than a blue. I expect blues to evoke water, the sky, coolness, reflections. “Asa Gao” means “morning glory” which sort of helps me to visualise this ink, like the first blue of the sky when the sun is rising. I find it quite a cutesy blue, a slightly sweetened version of a natural blue. I don’t think anyone could take offence to asa-gao, and I like it, but I don’t love it. For that reason I’d continue to pair this ink with a fine-nib fountain pen.

Asa-gao in a Baron Fig Explorer edition, written using a Pilot Kakuno M nib
Asa-gao in a Baron Fig Explorer edition, written using a Pilot Kakuno M nib

Other basic blues: Diamine China Blue, Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa, J Herbin Eclat de Saphir

The Debatable Blue: Diamine – Teal

Treading the line between blue, grey and green, Diamine Teal is a marmite kind of ink, I think. You either love it or you hate it. Luckily I love it and to my eye, I primarily make out a blue, but you may disagree.

This ink reminds me of a dark, rainy day or of a dark metal. I have a feeling some people may find it a little dull, but I like it because it’s different to any other ink shade I’ve got. It’s not quite blue, not quite black, not quite grey, not quite green. It fulfils a little category all of its own.

Close up of Diamine Teal written using a Kaweco Skyline F nib in a Baron Fig Explorer notebook
Close up of Diamine Teal written using a Kaweco Skyline F nib in a Baron Fig Explorer notebook

I love this combination of ink and pen, the contrast between the dark hue of the ink and bubbly mint pen is great, and I’ve pretty much always have this ink and pen combination on the go. In fact, I’ve only ever used one other ink in my Kaweco Skyline since I bought it (that was Diamine Claret if you’re interested!). I just really like having this ink in my toolbox when my other fountain pens are inked up with other colours.

Other debatable blue-black blues: Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite, Lamy Blue-Black, Caran d’Ache Magnetic Blue, Diamine Denim

So as you can see, blues have earned their spot in my toolbox. It’s been great getting to know blue inks a little better as it’s given me the chance to use some of my fountain pens more often and more consistently, as I spend a lot of time using pencils these days. I haven’t particularly disliked any of them, and some I’ve genuinely grown to love. Diamine inks are really enjoyable to use and are incredibly affordable, my 30ml bottle of Sargasso Sea set me back a few pounds. J Herbin too is surprisingly affordable, particularly given how beautifully it is presented in its proud little tin. Pilot Iroshizukus are rather more expensive at around £30 a bottle, but I was lucky enough to get a mini set of three while I was in the US which cost around $33 for three. Most importantly, I’m definitely going to carry on trying out blue inks, so it’s been a successful experiment!

Are you a true blue? What’s your favourite hue of blue – turquoise or teal? Starry sky or seaside?

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