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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?

De Atramentis Archive Ink Black Fountain Pen Ink Review ...

Ink Properties

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

De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Tonal value comparison. From top to bottom: DA Archive Ink, Platinum Carbon, Noodler's Black, Noodler's Heart of Darkness, J. Herbin Perle Noire, Aurora Black.
Tonal value comparison on regular paper. From top to bottom: DA Archive Ink, Platinum Carbon, Noodler’s Black, Noodler’s Heart of Darkness, J. Herbin Perle Noire, Aurora Black.
De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Tonal value comparison on Rhodia. From top to bottom: DA Archive Ink, Platinum Carbon, Noodler's Black, Noodler's Heart of Darkness, J. Herbin Perle Noire, Aurora Black.
Tonal value comparison on Rhodia. From top to bottom: DA Archive Ink, Platinum Carbon, Noodler’s Black, Noodler’s Heart of Darkness, J. Herbin Perle Noire, Aurora Black.

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.

Flow

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

De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Water test, water dripped on the swatch on 3 spots (regular paper). No change.
Water test, water dripped on the swatch on 3 spots (regular paper). No change.
De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Water test, wet finger smeared on 2 places (regular paper). Little smear.
Water test, wet finger smeared on 2 places (regular paper). Little smear.
De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Water test, water dripped on the swatch on 3 spots (Rhodia paper). No change.
Water test, water dripped on the swatch on 3 spots (Rhodia paper). No change.
De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Water test, wet finger smeared on 2 places (Rhodia paper). Little smear.
Water test, wet finger smeared on 2 places (Rhodia paper). Little smear.

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

De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Archive Ink on Watercolor paper, bottom half submerged in water for 15 minutes. No change.
Archive Ink on Watercolor paper, bottom half submerged in water for 15 minutes. No change.
De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review J. Herbin Perle Noire (non-permanent ink) on watercolor paper, bottom half submerged in water for 15 minutes for comparison.
J. Herbin Perle Noire (non-permanent ink) on watercolor paper, bottom half submerged in water for 15 minutes for comparison.

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.

Behavior

De Atramentis Archive Ink Black Fountain Pen Ink Review

Drying Times

De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Dry times with a fine nibbed pen on a regular paper.
Dry times with a fine-nibbed pen on a regular paper.
De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review
Dry times with a broad-nibbed pen on a regular paper.

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.

De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Dry times on Rhodia paper.
Dry times on Rhodia paper.

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.

Dry Smear

De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Smear after drying on regular paper.
Smear after drying with a fine-nibbed pen on regular paper.
De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Smear after drying with a broad-nibbed pen on regular paper.
Smear after drying with a broad-nibbed pen on regular paper.
De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Smear after drying with a fine-nibbed pen on Rhodia paper.
Smear after drying with a fine-nibbed pen on Rhodia paper.
De Atramentis Archive Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Smear after drying with a fine-nibbed pen on Rhodia paper.
Smear after drying with a broad-nibbed pen on Rhodia paper.

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.

Feathering, Spread

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 Ink Black Fountain Pen Ink Review Price Comparison
Price Comparison, from left to right: Platinum Carbon Ink (60 ml), Noodler’s Black (103 ml), DA Archive Ink (35 ml), Noodler’s Heart of Darkness (128 ml), Aurora Black (non-permanent 45 ml), J. Herbin Perle Noire (non-permanent 30ml)

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.

De Atramentis Archive Ink Black Fountain Pen Ink Review ...

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.

-Daniel

Pros

+ 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

+ permanence

+ waterproof on both cellulose and watercolor paper

+ dries quickly on regular paper

Cons

– price

– 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

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11 Comments

  1. Hubert Weisenau May 24, 2017 at 20:18

    Great review.
    I have a question. I have always used Platinum Carbon ink in Platinum #3776 pen, in my opinion they work together well, especially in watercolor. Since I bought Lamy 2000 for everyday outdoor drawing, do you think the Lamy 2000 would work with De Atramentis Archive well ?

    Reply
    1. Daniel Novotny May 25, 2017 at 10:03

      Hi Hubert and thanks.
      Yes, I think it would work well with your 2000. The ink flows very well and there’s no reason to expect it clogging the pen if you can flush it with water once in a while. Since you use Platinum Carbon I am sure that’s nothing new to you. It is true though that Lamy 2000 is much more difficult to clean than the 3776. That’s something to consider. If that concerns you maybe you could try Document ink from De Atramentis, which too is permanent but not pigment based and so it’s not as difficult to clean. Noodler’s Heart of Darkness also is a very good dye based permanent black.
      In either of these cases I’m sure you’ll be satisfied. Lamy 2000 can take a beating and can be cleaned well if you’re comfortable with disassembling it.
      -Daniel

      Reply
      1. Hubert Weisenau May 26, 2017 at 01:16

        Hi Daniel. Thank you for your answer.
        I’ve noticed that there is a big issue between Lamy feeds and Noodlers bulletproof ink. This ink can erode the plastic of the feed system in Lamy, I dont known about Lamy 2000 so I’m very careful to use noodlers in Lamy 2000. And yes Platinum Carbon in Platinum pens works well because of slip&seal cap. I have left and forgotten one of my pens full of Platinum Carbon for about a month. When I had opened the pen, ink flew immediately! It was amazing, no issue no clogging! And yes cleaning was very easy. I have also made fude mod in my Noodlers Ahab with a stub nib using your instruction and it works outstandingly (I’ve changed curvature and angle to fit my individual preferences and I was careful to spend a lot of time polishing with a micro-mesh) Thank you for this brillant idea.
        So I use Noodlers ink in Noodlers pen, Platinum ink in Platinum pen and I’ll try De Atramentis in Lamy 2000 which I consider a good pen, with quick deploy, no skipping and able to hold large amount of ink.
        Hubert

        Reply
        1. Daniel Novotny May 26, 2017 at 09:09

          Hi Hubert.

          I have a hard time believing that Noodler’s ink erodes the plastic on the Lamy feeds. This is the first time I hear about it. Have you had it happened to you personally? I have used my Lamy Vista with Noodler’s Black for years, literally years, and never had any issues. I still use the pen today and there is definitely no damage to the feed. If it happened to you then I’m sorry for doubting you but I think that’s just another of the nasty myths surrounding the brand. What is real, or so I hear, is that some inks, though again not exclusively by Noodler’s, may be dangerous to latex sacs. Some vintage inks such as Sheaffer or Parker may be too aggressive as well. Not speaking from my own experience though, never had any damage caused to my vintage pen by any ink. As for Lamy 2000, I know someone who’s been using it with Noodler’s Black for years without any issues. If it makes you uncomfortable though you definitely shouldn’t use it in the pen. Why would you? It’s a very nice pen after all and it should be a joyous occasion to use it.

          Thanks for emailing me the pics of your Fude mod. That is awesome. I’m very glad my idea worked for you so well! Also I’m glad to see you’re enjoying Noodler’s pens too. Ebonite feeds can take pretty much anything and it makes sense to use some of the more controversial inks in their pens.

          The 3776’s cap is great. I don’t own one myself but I hear it really works. Maybe one day I’ll get one with something more exotic on it like Music or C nib. I am worried about the flow though. I enjoy very wet pens and people tell me Platinums are rather dry.

          -Daniel

          Reply
          1. Hubert Weisenau May 29, 2017 at 18:21

            The problem with Noodlers and Lamy is something I have read about in the net and I wonder if it was not a scam.
            I have never had a bad experience with Noodlers ink. I have a lot of it, in my opinion this is a great ink and I’m gonna be defending good name of this brand. Personally I am very careful to use a pen with a brand of ink recommended by the pen producer.
            I never use expensive pen with cheap ink, but it is me. As to Platinum, I have double broad, it is my workhorse, and it is very wet.
            I’m glad I have found your webpage. You write about many things that are practical and explain them very well especially when it comes to the technical details.
            Hubert

            Reply
            1. Daniel Novotny May 29, 2017 at 20:22

              Hi Hubert and thanks for getting back to me.

              I’m glad to hear your experience with Noodler’s has always been a good one. I looked at the blog post that you directed me to and there is no documentation of the problems allegedly caused by Noodler’s inks. If I make a statement like that I make sure I do an extensive testing to the best of my ability. Noodler’s is for their unconventional practice getting a lot of criticism or is simply used as a buffer for frustration and ignorance. That being said I keep an open mind but unless some kind of proof is provided, I stick with enjoying my Noodler’s inks in any and all of my pens. That’s me personally though. Certainly using Lamy inks in Lamy pens, or Platinum inks in Platinum pens, etc. is the safest option and you definitely can’t go wrong there.

              I’m really interested in trying out the 3776 with C nib and I’m happy to hear it’s so wet. I am now more tempted to get it than ever.

              Thanks again for the reply and the kind words.
              -Daniel

              Reply
  2. Łukasz Przywóski April 7, 2017 at 09:09

    Stunning review and the close-ups are amazing 🙂

    Reply
    1. Daniel Novotny April 7, 2017 at 10:25

      Thanks again. I didn’t even realize I had this review on my new site. I have revamped my format completely. I will be doing a re-review as I still have a few mils of this ink left.

      Reply
  3. Randall Imai February 8, 2016 at 19:03

    This is a very nice comparative description of the inks. I am interested in opacity, but less interested in permanence because most of my work is very informal and scanning takes care of the archiving, such as it is. I have always been hesitant to use permanent inks simply because I thought they might clog the pen irreparably (my only experience with them is india ink–which clogs anything). I am a latter day fountain pen junkie.

    One more thing: a lot of my pens always manage to stain my fingers…. how much of a problem is that with permanent inks?

    Reply
    1. Daniel Novotny February 8, 2016 at 22:43

      Ah, the infamous India ink! That is a wonderful black ink indeed but utterly unsuitable for fountain pens. All these permanent inks I mention are completely safe for fountain pens, indeed are labeled as fountain pen inks! I wouldn’t put anything else in my pens. I will be reviewing both Noodler’s Heart of Darkness and Platinum Carbon in the near future, which are both safe permanent black inks.

      As far as opacity goes, I found Noodler’s Ink to have most opaque black inks as they are highly concentrated. The standard Noodler’s Black as well as the mentioned Heart of Darkness are both very dark and deep blacks. This though causes more smear after drying which I mention in the review but if total “blackness” is what you’re looking for, it may very well be worth it.

      As for staining of the fingers, I do too occasionally have my hands stained with ink but don’t find much difference between permanent and non-permanent varieties. Some are milder than other but generally I find they wash off quite quickly, though a few really do stick around! That’s my experience.

      I’m glad to hear about your interest in fountain pens and appreciate having you visiting my blog Randall.

      -Daniel

      Reply

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