Hi everyone and welcome back!
I already reviewed a couple of permanent black inks here on my blog. The first, a staple for many fountain pen users and artists alike, Noodler’s Ink ‘Bulletproof’ Black is one of the most popular inks of today and is a great choice for a permanent black. The other, De Atramentis Document Ink Black is a close “relative” of the ink I review today and it does performs very well. Both of these have their upsides and downsides. But what they have in common is not only color and permanence but also the way they bound with paper.
The ink for today, even though it too is black and permanent, differs quite a bit from either of the mentioned. Both of the previous inks are dye-based unlike the pigment-based DA Archive Ink. The difference is in the way the ink bounds with paper. While the dye penetrates the surface of the paper, chemically reacting with the fibers to establish permanence by “staining” the paper, DA Archive ink contains pigment particles that sit on the surface of the paper as a paint would, bounding to the paper physically, coating the surface. The latter method is considered the more permanent of the two. But does it make any difference in practice? How does it perform overall? And how does it stack up against the two previous inks?
The properties of the ink are going to be demonstrated on two different types of paper. Usually fountain pen folks are very particular about the kind of paper they use for writing with fountain pens. And for a good reason as nibs respond better to higher quality, smoother surface and many of the inks are often not suitable for low quality paper which absorbs ink too much causing bleed through and spread. For this reason I included examples on Rhodia UNI 80g paper, a good high quality paper everybody in the fountain pen universe knows well. For artists, the choice of paper is usually not so strict, as we seek paper which responds either best to watercolor washes or we prefer a particular size and format of the notebook. Paper finish and texture is not necessarily the first consideration. Furthermore, artist sketchbooks are not made with fountain pens in mind at all. Therefore it’s my practice to test the inks I review on low quality paper which I also use for my regular drawings. This paper is called Artist Standard 80g. It’s a regular paper supplied in A4 loose sheets. It’s made in Slovakia so I expect you won’t be familiar with this particular paper but it’s of similar quality as a regular office paper, something you wouldn’t necessarily choose when using fountain pens. I will be referring to it as “regular paper” in my review.
Color and Tonal Value
The ink is fairly neutral in color, if not slightly on a warm side. I like that. I very much dislike cool black inks, or watercolor paints for that matter (no Payne’s Gray for me!). This ink reminds me of my favorite watercolor black, Ivory Black.
The ink is quite low in tonal value but it isn’t the darkest black I’ve seen. It’s very similar to DA Document Black. Unfortunately I am out of Document Black so can’t show side by side comparison. It’s very close though. Both Noodler’s Black and Noodler’s Heart of Darkness are quite a bit darker, with H. O. D. being a true deep black. Platinum Carbon Black is on the other hand still lighter than DA Archive Black. For comparison I also included two regular black inks that, although not permanent, are quite well known to most fountain pen users.
From the examples above, you can clearly see that the ink is fairly absorbent. The ink is much lighter on regular paper than it is on Rhodia. Since Rhodia is coated/sized to a certain degree, it won’t absorb the ink as much, keeping most of the pigment on the surface.
The ink is very wet in my Ebonite drawing pen with broad nib and adjusted feed, but not out of control. It is not necessarily one of the most wet and freely flowing inks but it does flow very reliably. I haven’t had any issues with the flow and it feels smooth as well. Not overly so but smooth enough to be quite pleasant to write with. Lubrication seems to be well balanced.
Clogging, Staining and Cleaning
It’s a permanent ink and so it may be a little harder to clean out from the pen. But good soak in water will be sufficient enough for cleaning the pen once in a while. I usually refill the pen when it runs out of ink without cleaning or flushing with water. I only clean the pen once in a couple months. The ink never causes any flow issues in the feed by drying out. I use my pen daily though but still, no build-up is forming on my nib nor feed and the ink performs reliably. I would even go so far as to say that for a pigmented permanent black it’s an especially safe ink.
There is a chance of nib creep with the ink for those who dislike it.
Waterproofness on Cellulose Paper
DA Archive ink is a waterproof ink. Both the drip and smear tests clearly demonstrate this. It won’t lift at all. Smear with a wet finger does leave a slight trace but nothing to be concerned about.
When I compare these results to those of DA Document Black it shows no difference. Both inks are very permanent as far as water resistance goes and there is no practical benefit of pigment formula over dye-based one that I can see in this regard.
Waterproofness on Watercolor Paper
On watercolor paper too the ink shows the highest level of waterproofness. Tested sample had been left to dry overnight and then soaked for 15 minutes in water without any change whatsoever. Certainly a good choice for line and wash watercolor.
For comparison I included second test card with non-permanent ink by J. Herbin “Perle Noire”, which clearly demonstrates how water affects regular ink under water.
On regular paper the ink dries fairly fast. Even with the broad nib it dries somewhere around 10 seconds. This is a good thing as it won’t leave the work vulnerable to smear for long.
As soon as we move over to the Rhodia paper though, the ink starts to show its dark side. With fine nib it takes around 25 seconds to completely dry and more than a whole minute (my estimate is around 70 – 80 seconds) to dry. Granted, the pen I use for drawing is specifically adjusted to be extra wet but still, the dry times are long even when this is taken into consideration.
In the world of permanent black fountain pen inks, smear-proof inks are hard to find. One such ink is DA Document Black. Unfortunately, Archive Ink doesn’t share the same smear-free properties. However, the smear is nowhere near as bad as let’s say Noodler’s Black, mostly due to lower saturation. It is still present though, but it’s very much manageable and with drier pens, finer nibs and more absorbent types of paper it’s virtually non-existent. Applied thickly and on paper with coating it does smear substantially. The examples above show this partially as it is difficult to capture the nuance of value changes with a scanner. To interpret, on regular paper there is almost no smear and it’s only minor on Rhodia. Very acceptable performance.
The ink does feather and spread but it’s mild. I find the spread to be a bit higher than I prefer but fortunately the feathering is quite low. On a higher quality paper which is not as absorbent the ink doesn’t spread nor feather and really performs excellently. It is one of the more aggressive inks as far as spread goes and so may not be the best choice for flex writing unless used on a very good quality paper.
Show & Bleed Through
The ink does show and bleed through a little bit but much less than I expected. It’s actually very well behaved in this respect, though when used with a wet pen and broad nib on regular paper the ink bleeds through, rendering the other side of the paper mostly unusable.
Comparison, Price and Final Thoughts
De Atramentis Archive Black is a good all around ink. I like it and I like using it. There is nothing spectacular about it but it doesn’t really annoy in any respect. What counts is its permanence, pretty good behavior and in EU, availability. The price is extreme though when compared to a number of similar permanent blacks. Take for example the imported exclusive Japanese Platinum Carbon ink which is much more cost effective when compared to De Atramentis. A bottle costs €19 in EU and $20 in the US for 60 ml. A bottle of 35 ml De Atramentis ink goes for €16.50 in Europe or $20 in the US. Another example would be a 100 ml bottle of Noodler’s Black, which goes for around €18 in Europe or $12.50 in the US. That being said, I seldom focus solely on the price, I am always willing to pay extra for quality. But all those inks I mention are high quality permanent inks. Why is De Atramentis that much more expensive eludes me.
As far as side by side comparison with De Atramentis Document Black the ink doesn’t really differ all that much. It behaves similarly and the properties as far as a regular user is concerned are virtually the same. Yes, it is “Archive” ink so should be extremely permanent but I doubt I’m ever likely to require the extra benefit over the permanence of Document ink, which as far as I’m concerned is just as permanent.
Without a doubt De Atramentis Archive Ink is a good ink. But despite it doing well in all situations and not having any major drawbacks I would be reluctant to recommend it. If you’d like to try De Atramentis ink I would be inclined to recommend Document Black instead which provides unique value in form of smear-free performance, which I find is quite rare in the world of waterproof, permanent, black inks. Though I personally won’t be purchasing more of Archive nor Document ink any time soon as the price just doesn’t make sense to me. I’d rather stick with something more affordable while still not compromising quality. There are options out there. Archive Ink Black is an exclusive ink for an exclusive price, but to me personally, with no truly exclusive benefits.
If you enjoyed this review or have any questions open a discussion in the comment section below and I’ll be happy to join you.
+ flows really well
+ doesn’t clog and it’s relatively easy to clean from a pen
+ in my experience it’s very safe for a pigmented black
+ waterproof on both cellulose and watercolor paper
+ dries quickly on regular paper
– not the darkest black on regular paper (if that’s an issue)
– long dry times on coated paper
– spreads quite a bit on regular paper
– does smear after drying a little bit