Noodler’s Ink is notorious for making inks that represent beliefs and opinions, political or otherwise, of Noodler’s Ink founder Nathan Tardif. That’s why there’s a lot of controversy around the brand. Some love it, some tolerate it and then there are those who straight out boycott it. Be it as it may, it cannot be omitted that the brand is also known for their passion to offer products of exceptional value. Both their inks and pens are very affordable for the value they offer. As if that was not enough, Noodler’s Ink experiments and innovates, pushes the boundaries of what an ink, or a pen, can be. Nathan Tardif brought us the first affordable piston filler in a modern pen. He brought us the first steel flex nib. He brought us the eternal inks that cannot be removed even with a laser. Or he reverse-engineered and recreated vintage inks from a bygone era, ones that we would otherwise never be able to see, let alone use.
Their ink line is very extensive. The ink variety is exceptional, not only in color, but also in behavior. I appreciate that Nathan Tardif operates more like a craftsman, a person, not a faceless business. Regardless of anyone’s own political views, it cannot be denied that what he does is nothing short of exceptional. He brings variety, fun and spirit into the fountain pen world. If you’re interested in learning more about Noodler’s Ink you can visit their website or YouTube channel.
A list of properties and my experience with using the ink 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.
The maruman Word Cards are usually pretty durable. I have not seen many inks that are able to feather on the card. Well, Rome Burning certainly can. It is a very aggressive ink. It penetrates the paper fibers at an alarming rate. However, the cool factor is so strong that in this case I really don’t mind.
There is no sheen to the ink. The value is light middle to middle with no apparent shading abilities. The hue is a muted cool yellow-brown. You could colloquially also call it a gold color, though it is not a true “gold” hue.
Bottle Design and Functionality
Noodler’s bottles are as original as their inks. The label on this bottle is very cool and features quotes by Caesar, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Benjamin Franklin. However, it is not merely a decoration. There’s a message once again but I’ll let you to interpret it for yourself.
As to the volume, the bottle contains 3 oz, which is little short of 90 ml. The price is amazing if you’re in the US where the company is operating. I’m in the EU, so importing the ink can get pretty pricey. It can also by purchased from the UK’s retailer Pure Pens (no affiliation), but their prices obviously include their own import cost. So for a non-US fan of Noodler’s Ink there is no easy solution for acquiring their inks. This was the main reason why I stopped buying their ink.
As to the esthetics of the bottle, it’s really nothing special. It is practical and very functional but not anything to write home about. Noodler’s Ink insists on providing the best value they can, which includes a practical but affordable packaging. The label makes things better but even the quality of the print leaves a little to be desired. That being said, I enjoy it as is and don’t mind the packaging. High-end glossy print is definitely not what the brand is about.
Using the Ink
The ink is pretty fun. Using it for writing may not be the most convenient thing in the world as it really does bleed through pretty much everything. The combination that could be somewhat viable is a pen with a finer nib and a coated paper. Even on a very good paper I have experienced bleed through, but then again, my pens are generally very wet.
My primary choice is using the ink for drawing. Drawing with it is fun, even though the ink is fairly flat. Even in my Winsor & Newton sketchbook with a heavyweight 170 g acid free paper the ink bleeds through. That surprised me, I must admit.
You may wonder what is the upside of using the ink after hearing that it pretty much behaves awfully on any paper, bleeds through everything and is very flat and aggressive.
There are two amazing, if novelty, features to the ink. First is a wet-to-dry hue shift. The shift is quite dramatic but since the ink is so aggressive, it is quite quick. The ink is a warm brown when wet, quickly turning into the final cool yellow-brown.
Second is the reaction of the ink to water. The ink is designed specifically so that upon contact with water certain components dissolve, leaving behind only a violet permanent dye. As is stated on the label, this is an “aqua shading ink of flames burning Rome’s purple” and “excess liquidity will reveal the Patrician color.” Pretty cool that today still are people who make things to prove a point while running a business, to give form to a thought or to share an opinion. Noodler’s inks are not devoid of opinion, stripped of personality of the maker. Nathan Tardif is a true craftsman, not a strict businessman and for that he deserves respect.
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 ink is not too concentrated. It is my experience that Noodler’s Inks are often too concentrated for their own good. I appreciate the aim of creating a vibrant inks full of joy, but when it conflicts with performance, I’m not a fan. Rome Burning, fortunately, doesn’t suffer from being overly concentrated, hence no dry smear occurs. The ink does not feel weak at all, however.
As to chroma, the ink is pretty muted. It is obviously an intent and part of character of the ink.
Hue and Value
Cool yellow-brown hue, colloquially called a gold color. From the label inscription though, perhaps the intent was to make it a brass color. The value is light middle to middle. The ink doesn’t shade, it is a very flat ink. Interestingly enough though, the ink can be layered pretty successfully, the resulting value ranging from light middle to a pronounced dark middle value. A third layer will give you a fairly dark valued dark. However, as the ink behaves very aggressively, three layers will bleed through the page completely.
Overall Flow Properties and Behavior
One of the wettest inks I have ever used. This is my test ink for pens that are too dry to be enjoyable. The ink is actually a pretty well lubricated as well. It doesn’t feel dry at all. I would expect the ink to lack lubrication, judging by the behavior, but I’m happy to say it is not the case.
The ink is very absorbent, aggressively penetrating the paper fibers. It bleeds through and feathers easily on most any paper. Finer nibs do well though. I use very wet pens and so this is to be expected.
Water Resistance and Permanence
This is one of the coolest ink as far as water resistance goes. The ink is designed specifically so that upon contact with water, certain components dissolve, leaving behind only violet dyes. As is stated on the label, this is an “aqua shading ink of flames burning Rome’s purple” and “excess liquidity will reveal the Patrician color.”
See the video above for a demonstration.
Drying Times and Dry Smear
The ink dries very quickly. As I mentioned several times, it is very aggressive upon contact with paper and penetrates the paper fibers quite quickly. The redeeming quality of the ink is that it doesn’t smear once dry. Many Noodler’s Inks smear when they’re supposedly dry. This is due to high concentration of dye components.
There is no sheen and no shading to the ink. Still, if can be layered for an extended value range and the water resistance can be creatively utilized, if that’s your thing.
There’s a pronounced hue shift from wet to dry. The shift is quite dramatic but since the ink is so aggressive, it is quite quick. The ink is a warm brown when wet, quickly turning into the final cool yellow-brown.
The ink has a peculiar smell to it. It is quite pronounced. Clearly chemical in character, it doesn’t bother me but it can be observed not only from a bottle but in the pen as well. It reminds me a little of the Baystate smell.
Despite its partial water resistance the ink is fairly easy to clean from pens 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 Rikyu-Cha: The ink is wonderful. Joy to use, balanced properties and good behavior. The ink is well lubricated and similarly to Rome Burning, it does behave similarly upon contact with water, leaving behind a green-blue permanent residue.
- Sailor Jentle Doyou: A wonderful 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 the respected 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.
- Diamine Raw Sienna: An intersting ink by Diamine, ligther in value and much warmer in color.