Sailor hardly needs any introduction. Their pens are known to be one of the most reliable and consistent writers. Their inks too are very highly regarded. They’re one of the smoothest, most interesting inks out there. Besides their standard line, they release periodically a seasonal, limited edition line of inks. Often an ink from the seasonal line becomes an instant hit in the community and everyone nostalgically remembers it as “the” ink when it’s gone for good. Except these limited edition inks, Sailor makes a fairly great selection of inks specifically designed for some of the Japanese pen stores. These usually never make it outside Japan though. Still, their worldwide offerings are plentiful and there’s lots of variety to choose from.
The ink for today is part of their seasonal limited edition of 2016. The hue is on the cool side. It’s ranging somewhere between blue-green and green-blue, which is definitely not my favorite color. Still, I don’t have any inks in this range and so I decided to give it a try.
The Maruman cards on which the above sample is showcased are no longer available. I have a small stash of them and I’m glad I do. They take ink very well and show shading and sheen well. They were also quite affordable. There is a new product on the market as of writing this review that intends to fill the void left by Maruman’s decision to discontinue the Word cards but the price is far from fair. At least in Europe I could get 3 to 4 Maruman packs for the price of a single one of the new product. Once my supplies are gone I’m going to cut my own cards most certainly and perhaps make a little tutorial to demonstrate the process.
Anyway, back to the ink. As seen on the sample, this ink sheens! It is undoubtedly one of the most sheening inks I’ve ever used, excluding the sparkling inks with particles in them. The sheen is red to red-violet which contrasts with the cool blue-green very nicely. There seems to be a great potential for shading as well as seen from the tonal value ranging from light middle to middle to dark middle value.
Bottle Design and Functionality
The ink is bottled in the standard Sailor bottle. It contains 50 ml of ink and has a little insert cone that is supposed to help with filling pens when the ink level drops. While this is a good idea, the bottle is just too short to fill from it with modern pens even when the bottle is still full of ink. And this is unfortunate, because the inks are excellent but the bottle gets in the way of enjoying the ink fully. The little insert cone is a neat idea as I said but it’s still just too short to accommodate any of the larger nibs.
The ink is priced fairly reasonably when purchased from Japan directly but the EU pricing is a bit higher. I know I would be hesitant to use Sailor inks if I only had to buy them here, though occasional bottle is not that terrible. There are still more expensive inks, of course, as this ink comes at 0.36 Eur per milliliter (18 Eur per bottle).
Using the Ink
This page in my sketchbook shows the true color of the ink when used on a more absorbent paper. There is hardly any sheen because the paper is not coated. The color reminds me of Phthalo Turquoise watercolor paint. Not one I care for as I mentioned but one I didn’t have. On a page where there is less absorbency the ink color and tonality ranges quite a bit so it’s not a flat green-blue as seen here.
The behavior on paper like Rhodia, Clairfontaine, Oxford, etc., is flawless. There’s some sheen on those types of paper but surprisingly very little. Usually it’s only in the places where the ink pools up very heavily and even there you have to look for it. If I were to put it into my vintage Swan, which is an absolute gusher, I would get sheen most certainly. The issue arising then though is the dry smear that the ink exhibits. It’s not terrible in regular, even slightly wetter pen, but I can image it be a serious issue when using vintage flex pen.
Higher quality office paper takes the ink very well too but depending on where you live your office paper may not.
Overall, the ink is a satisfying performer, though I find the flow a bit hesitant. It can become dry and skippy and re-saturation of the feed may be necessary from time to time. It actually reminds me of the Nano ink by Sailor that I reviewed a little while back, Sei-Boku. I would describe the feel on the paper as sticky. This I observed is a trend with Sailor inks, they are more lubricated than they’re wet. They flow well usually but I find them to be much drier than I first thought. Most of them flow excellently though.
On the example above you can see the ink on an Oxford Optik paper, which is similar to Rhodia. It is a very durable paper and doesn’t feather or bleed with virtually any ink. The example shows that shading is fairly pronounced, though remember that the C nib on my #3776 is quite wet and very broad, so it naturally exaggerates this quality. Where I think this ink really shines is a cream colored paper, such as that in my Leuchtturm 1917 notebook. I really love the color there and it does perform slightly better there.
List of Properties and Behavior
Yama-Dori is fairly concentrated ink with a good dye load. In regular writing this causes no issues. When applied very wet, or with a very gushy pen, the ink may exhibit some dry smear.
I cannot comment on dilution as I haven’t tested it with this particular ink but it seems to me the ink would be possible to dilute slightly.
Hue and Tonal Value
Depending on the paper, the hue of the ink may slightly change. On a more absorbent paper, as in the sketchbook above, the ink tends to lean towards blue but on a coated paper like Clairfontaine, Oxford or Rhodia, the ink leans towards green.
Tonal value depends on the wetness of the pen but I observed variation from light middle value in very dry places, to dark middle value in the places where the ink pooled up.
Overall Flow Properties and Behavior
The ink is actually fairly dry! I am beginning to see this to be a trend of Sailor inks. They tend to be more lubricated but they are not very wet. It borders on unpleasant for me but it is still very satisfactory for everyday use. The flow actually reminds me of their Nano ink Sei-Boku. It feels what I would describe as almost sticky. I’ve had to re-saturate the feed at one point because the pen wouldn’t flow. This was in my #3776 Century with the Slip&Seal cap. I find paper also influence the way this ink works in a pen. It is a little bit more finicky than I like.
The ink may cause some problems on low quality paper but then again, which fountain pen ink doesn’t? It is a water based ink after all so the very absorbent papers will have trouble containing the line. That being said, it is not too bad. I think in a fine or extra-fine nib the ink is usable in most situations.
Water Resistance and Permanence
Unlike Rikyu-Cha, Yama-Dori does not do as well upon contact with water. The blue and green dyes, I find, always stain heavily. And so even if there’s a little bit of the ink left, the green and blue dyes that dissolve stain the paper so it’s hard to read what’s left. It is still possible but I would not call this an especially water resistant ink.
Drying Times and Dry Smear
Yama-Dori has a pretty high dye load, so it’s understandable that the dry times aren’t particularly quick but they’re very reasonable.
Due to high dye load the ink is prone to minor dry smear. In wet applications or simply a wet writer the ink can smear. Where the ink pools up, the blue dye seems to be overloaded and can be smeared. It is not severe though and it really doesn’t bother me much. Can’t use the ink in my vintage pens very comfortably though.
The ink exhibits a heavy red sheen on the heavy cardboard paper of the Word cards. This contrasts with the cool green-blue excellently and produces a very nice effect. Sheen is, as always, most prominent on coated paper or paper that doesn’t absorb the ink too readily. In the sketchbook example you can see that there’s almost no sheen despite the heavy application. Surprisingly I found a very small amount of sheen even on coated paper in everyday use.
There is a slight hue shift to the ink. It is a bit bluer when wet, drying to blue-green hue.
This is regular non-permanent ink and so the maintenance should not be an issue. However, it is fairly concentrated and is composed of blue and green dyes, which are a notorious stainers, and so it can take a minute to clean your pen.
Some Comparable Inks
There are some comparable inks out there among which I can list the following:
- Sailor Nano Sei-Boku Blue Black: An ink that I’ve reviewed already on my blog. This ink has an altogether different composition as it is a pigmented ink. Interestingly enough, the flow properties of Yama-Dori are very reminiscent of the Sei-Boku ink. They both feel a little bit sticky on the paper and don’t flow too well.
- Diamine Majestic Blue: A very sheeny ink as well, Diamine Majestic Blue is a very nice ink. It is much more blue, though still slightly on the cool side. Surprisingly though, on the card the ink looks very warm but that may just be the heavy red sheen. This ink suffers from massive dry smear though. It seems to be too concentrated for its own good.
- Noodler’s Ink Bad Blue Heron: A wonderful permanent ink from the “Warden” series. Indestructible ink that is dye based as far as I’m aware. Still not that close in hue. Fairly well behaved considering the permanent properties. Very free flowing and would choose this one over Yama-Dori any day of the week.
- Noodler’s Ink Blad Green Gator: Not a well behaved ink, Noodler’s GG is also a “Warden” ink. Much more green. Showing for hue comparison.
- Graf von Faber Castell Deep Sea Green: An interesting ink from Graf von F-C, Deep Sea Green sits on the edge of blue-green vs. green-blue. Interesting ink that shades well but it’s much lighter in tone than Yama-Dori.
The ink surprised me. Positively because of its sheen and shading, but also negatively because of the flow issues it produces. I thought Sailor inks were really free flowing but this ink made me look closer and reconsider my opinion. It is not a bad ink at all, but not one I enjoy using that much. If I only had a sample I would not buy an entire bottle.