Sailor is one of the three Japanese giants of fountain pen industry. The other two are Platinum and Pilot. While they all make excellent pens, they also make amazing ink. Sailor in particular makes wonderful seasonal editions and I believe is the largest ink producer in Japan, supplying shops around Japan with variety of custom, specialty inks. For the rest of the world they periodically release special/seasonal editions of their “Jentle” line. Jentle inks are definitely one of the most loved inks by the community. And rightly so. The properties are almost always exceptional and the inks are a joy to use. They also make a “Nano” series, from which I reviewed their blue black ink Sei-Boku just last week.
Rikyu-Cha is one of 8 seasonal edition inks released in 2016. The color immediately caught my eye. I liked it so much, in fact, that I ordered two bottles. It was worth it. Not only because I got a good deal but also because it is one of the more interesting inks that I’ve used.
A list of properties and my experience with using the ink extensively 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.
I’ve read that the name Rikyu-Cha supposedly describes the color of used tea leaves in Japanese. I’m not sure if that’s correct but I have to say, it is pretty accurate. The hue ranges from a dark, rich, warm brown to a cooler and lighter valued yellow-brown.
The ink exhibits some red sheen but only when applied very thickly and is unlikely to show in regular writing, even when using a wet pen.
The ink shades quite a bit. The value shift ranges from middle value to dark middle value to dark in very wet areas. This shows well in writing too.
Bottle Design and Functionality
As I said in my previous review of Sailor Sei-Boku, I really like the esthetics of the Sailor bottles. They are minimalist and very well done. They have the distinct Japanese style of design. However, despite its pleasing design, the bottle fails in functionality. Filling a pen with somewhat larger a nib is very difficult, if not impossible. The bottle contains a little plastic cone insert that should assist with filling pens when the ink level in the bottle drops. It really does very little, unless you fill a pen with a #5 nib or smaller. Even that may not be an easy task. I deal with this by transferring the ink into different bottle, usually Montblanc or Pilot (Iroshizuku).
Using the Ink
The ink is very good. I love the performance, the hue and the shading properties. It doesn’t excessively feather or bleed on any paper really. It’s not the best behaving ink in the world but it’s very well balanced. The color is very subtle and that’s what I really like about it.
I currently use the ink in my sketchbook, shown on the picture above. This is a Winsor & Newton sketchbook with a somewhat absorbent (when compared to FP-friendly paper) heavyweight 170 g acid free paper. I love the way the ink behaves on this paper. It’s very smooth, well lubricated. It’s not excessively wet but really smooth. The paper is quite heavy so there is hardly any bleed, unless the pen leaks or puts down very heavy pool of ink when the ink accumulates in the feed.
On paper such as Rhodia, Clairfontaine or other FP-friendly paper the ink behaves very well and I can only praise Sailor for how well balanced it is. On office paper you can get some bleedthrough but that’s to be expected. Majority of fountain pen inks do bleed on absorbent papers.
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 present in the ink in very reasonable concentration. Sailor inks never feel too watery and weak. In my experience they always manage to struck a balance between too concentrated and too weak.
The hue exhibits low chroma. It is a very muted color as is typical of browns.
Hue and Value
Rikyu-Cha is one of the more complex inks. The ink color is warm in absolute sense but it is a cool brown, relatively speaking, when compared to other browns. Interestingly enough, there is a hue shift from wet to dry. The ink is clearly a green when wet but dries to a cool brown. The shift is extremely pronounced, I have not used any other ink with such range of hue shift. Another very interesting aspect of the ink is that the dry hue depends on the paper on which it is used.
The value ranges from middle to dark middle. The ink shades nicely.
Overall Flow Properties and Behavior
The ink flows really well, 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. Cheap office paper, however, can produce bleeding, depending on the wetness of the pen used.
Water Resistance and Permanence
The water resistance aspect of the ink is very interesting. It is made of several dye components. Upon contact with water all except the blue component washes off. The permanent blue dye component is left behind, clearly preserving your writing.
Drying Times and Dry Smear
Drying times are very good. The ink dries quickly and doesn’t smear after drying, which is very important to me because I use very wet pens.
The ink sheens slightly. It only does so in very thick applications, which are unlikely to occur when you’re using the ink in a regular pen. The sheen color is red.
The smell of Sailor inks cannot be omitted. This one too has the particular Sailor smell. I really enjoy it despite the fact that it’s most probably caused by stabilizers and other chemical additives.
There is a hue shift from wet to dry. The ink is clearly a green when wet but dries to a cool brown. The shift is extremely pronounced, I have not used any other ink with such range of hue shift. Another very interesting aspect of the ink is that the dry hue depends on the paper on which it is used.
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:
- Sailor Jentle Doyou: A dark sepia color, Doyou is another wonderful ink from Sailor’s seasonal Jentle line.
- Pilot Iroshizuku yama-guri: Similar in hue, though more green, Yama-guri is an ink by Pilot. This is a well behaved ink from Iroshizuku line.
- Diamine Macasser: A warm brown ink by Diamine. It doesn’t share too many similarities with Rikyu-Cha but is still a well behaved brown ink. It is a true dark brown.
- Noodler’s Ink Rome Burning: An exceptional offering from Noodler’s Ink, I added it to this list because similarly to Rikyu-Cha, it too offers partial water resistance. However, Rome Burning does so by design and intent thought. One of my absolute favorite inks. Review coming soon.
- Diamine Raw Sienna: An intersting ink by Diamine, ligther in value and much warmer in color.