Iroshizuku is a premium line of inks from Japanese pen giant Pilot. Their inks have a distinctive set of characteristics that make them very well received by the fountain pen community. They are generally not the most concentrated inks, which means the dye component is not present in the solution in too great a quantity. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but generally speaking these inks are somewhat paler and not overpowering.
A list of properties and my experience with using the ink thoroughly can be found at the end of this post.
The ink cards I use are made by “maruman” and are actually called Word Cards. They use watercolor paper but unfortunately they don’t specify the content of cotton nor the weight of the paper. Nor they state whether the paper is acid free or not. It is, however, good for visual demonstration of the characteristics of the ink. Unfortunately, I believe the Word Cards are no longer made but there are other methods of making these samples, and so I don’t see it as a tremendous loss. Cutting one’s own cards from the best quality watercolor paper may be far better option, even if not as convenient.
As you can see from the images, the ink doesn’t demonstrate any sheening properties. It is very light, definitely a light-middle value. The hue leans heavily towards red. However it’s quite interesting and fun to use because grey is just a little more interesting than black.
Bottle Design and Functionality
As you can see on the image above, the bottle now contains a green ink, specifically Sailor Jentle Rikyu-Cha. At the time of writing this review I have already went through the whole bottle. The Iroshizuku bottles hold 50 ml of ink. That’s an average volume but you still pay a good dollar per milliliter. It’s safe to say that this is not a budget or economy ink. At €37 you know you pay for more than just ink.
The bottle definitely factors into the price. It’s a well made glass bottle. The glass is thick and the bottle has a very substantial weight. The cap is plastic but doesn’t feel cheap, rather reminds me of those Bakelite caps of old, although it seems to actually be just regular plastic. There’s a little “scarf” around the neck of the bottle, which serves no function but does add a visual appeal. The packaging is definitely done very well and in accord to Japanese sense of esthetics.
As for the practicality of the bottle, that aspect was well thought-out too. The bottle is rather wide but it’s also very tall so filling is easy even if the ink level drops. Furthermore there’s a little triangular indent in the thick glass base that helps you get your nib further down and fill from the bottle despite very low ink levels.
Using the Ink
I had had the ink with me on my trip to Italy last year and I really enjoyed working with it. I used it in my Jinhao X750 with a Jinhao Fude nib and I had a blast. I filled my entire sketchbook. You can watch me browse through the sketchbook in the video below in case you’re interested.
I also wrote with the ink on Rhodia and Clairfontaine and other types of paper as well. On regular office paper it also behaves very well. The ink is really a joy to use, but my preference was to use it for drawing. It was just a touch too light for regular writing. I loved using the ink for sketching especially, because the light value of the ink allowed me to put two or three layers of the ink on top of each other. This provided me with not only two values of white and light-middle but also a dark-middle value which is very useful for sketching.
List of Properties and Behavior
Following are listed my subjective findings and conclusions observed during the time I used the ink.
Concentration and Chroma
The concentration parameter describes what is usually referred to in fountain pen community as “saturation”. However, the correct term describing the ratio of pigment/dye to vehicle is called pigment load, or concentration. The pureness, or “brightness” of a color is called chroma.
The dye component is found in the ink in relatively low concentration. My conclusion, therefore, is that the ink would not be suitable for dilution.
As to chroma, it is a grey hue, so there’s not really much to say about its chroma.
Hue and Value
Warm grey of light-middle value. It is very transparent and so it can be layered, in which case you can get a range of two or three values. Useful for sketching. As you can see from the images of my sketchbook, this indeed proved very useful.
Overall Flow Properties and Behavior
The ink flows really nicely, the wetness and lubrication are good and I never had any issues with the performance. The ink is not aggressive. It doesn’t bleed through or feather and I found it very easy to use on any paper.
Water Resistance and Permanence
The ink does pretty well as regards to water resistance. It is, however, definitely not a permanent ink. Water can get some it off the page, but only partially. In reality really not a lot of it comes off so there clearly is a water resistant component in the ink.
Drying Times and Dry Smear
Drying times are very good. It dries quickly and doesn’t smear after drying which is very important for me because I use very wet pens.
The ink doesn’t sheen at all. It is relatively flat but some shading can be obtained by a optimal configuration of pen and paper.
Despite its partial water resistance the ink is very easy to clean from the pen and doesn’t stick to the material.
Some Comparable Inks
There are some comparable inks out there among which I can list the following:
- J. Herbin Cacao du Brésil: similar lighter valued ink which leans towards cool brown. Similarly well behaved and pleasant to use. Review coming soon.
- Diamine Grey: cool hue of grey, this ink is light-middle to middle value and I find it somewhat dry. It is true, however, that further thorough testing is necessary.
- Montblanc Meisterstück 90 Years Anniversary Permanent Grey: not an easily obtainable ink anymore, this is very nice dark-middle valued grey that is also permanent.
- Noodler’s Lexington Gray: very pleasant ink though much more aggressive than kiri-same. Permanent.
- Parker Quink Black: a black of lighter value, could be considered dark-value grey. Very good ink, I like it and have been using it for years. Not permanent, however.