In the past few years fountain pen ink production skyrocketed. In that time not only many of the existing manufacturers released completely new lines of ink but a number of newcomers entered the market. Many of these inks, however, brought nothing new.
What I appreciate about KWZ Ink is their effort to innovate. They are known for reimagining the concept of iron gall ink and creating an entire line of iron gall inks that are fountain pen friendly when compared to the IG inks of old. Today we are going to take a look at one of those inks, the Red #3.
The bottle is very unassuming but provides all the utility a bottle should. The neck is very wide so any pen will fit easily. It is tall so even if the ink level drops filling should be still possible.
The cap is very sturdy and seals the bottle very well. On the image above you can see the color of the ink when wet. It is almost a magenta color in appearance. Notice below that the color hue shifts rapidly when applied to paper and left to dry.
Real Life Performance
I personally really enjoy how the ink behaves as well as how it looks. The ink is very wet and can be tricky to use on lesser quality paper. On the other hand, if you use finer nibs this may be the perfect complement to otherwise dry writer.
The ink also changes appearance depending on paper type. You can see that in my sketchbook it is red-violet in color. It is a heavy paper but quite absorbent. Notice, however, the image below. The ink is applied to a “Word Card” made of lower quality watercolor paper. It is far less absorbent than the paper in my sketchbook. It is the same ink, from the same bottle, not contaminated by another ink, the pictures are color corrected and shot in one session and yet the color is drastically different from my sketchbook. The color is far warmer. I very much like the fact that the ink reacts differently to a different paper types. It makes it exciting and fun.
On top of that, iron gall ink darkens overtime. With the Red #3, however, I didn’t find it as prominent a feature as with some other IG inks. It is still there to an extent but not as obvious.
Iron Gall Safety
No iron gall ink review is complete without talking about safety. And for a good reason. I myself have had my share of issues with IG inks in the past. So what about Red #3?
I must say I do have some mild reservations against the ink. But my reservations apply to all iron gall inks in general. As for the Red #3 specifically, I feel like the ink is a bit weaker than the previously reviewed blue black but it’s still fairly potent and I advise caution when using it long term in a pen. I find it stains nibs, both gold and steel, although that seems to be nothing more than a visual annoyance. However, it is something to keep in mind in case you are sensitive to that kind of thing and if you plan on using it in an expensive pen. These stains are not easy to remove.
I also experienced an issue when the ink leaked in the cap of one of my pens. It did react with the grip section, damaging it a little bit. It was a cheap Hero pen though, so materials used and the finishing lacquer may not have been the best. Still, this is somewhat disconcerting and worth keeping in mind, especially if you’re new to IG inks.
All in all, it is my experience and my opinion that iron gall inks are not the most forgiving in regard to maintenance. You need to take the ink composition into consideration and keep an eye on your pen and clean it regularly. It is my belief that being thorough and vigilant is the only way to truly enjoy the use of iron gall ink in a fountain pen. If that’s something you are good at then I think an iron gall ink won’t pose any dangers for you.
As you may or may not know, I conducted a lightfastness project that started last year and as of writing this review, is still continuing. I set out to test a selection of fountain pen inks by exposing them to direct sunlight.
The KWZI Red #3 did quite well. It lasted 6 months and it could perhaps still go a little bit further if need be. I am confident to use this ink in regard to its durability against UV exposure.
The water test mirrors results of the UV tests. While the ink is very resistant to water upon drying, there is still some bleed and a fair bit of the dye component is washed away. On the images below you can see the results of a 10 minute water test. You can see the remnants of the ink. On the spots where water was applied the ink is much more grayish in hue and much lighter in tone.
I used a glass pen for making the water sample which is a very wet pen so take that into consideration. The drier the pen, the lighter the line, the less ink is on the page, the weaker the resistance will be. Also, the more the ink is exposed to air the more resistant it should become, if I understand the concept of iron gall correctly. My example was left to dry for 4 full days.
That all being said, the ink does very well in the water test, considering it is not marketed as a permanent/water resistant ink.
Below is a visual comparison with some other inks in red color family.
+ Great color
+ Good bottle design
+ Very wet
+ Hue shift from wet to dry
+ Hue shift depending on paper type
+ Fairly lightfast
+ Fairly water resistant
– Iron gall ink does require more maintenance than regular inks
I love the KWZI Red #3. From color to performance, it really does everything well. It is even quite lightfast. I only wish the iron gall component was a bit milder still. As always, there’s a trade-off when using anything unconventional. Proper pen hygiene and perhaps even pen selection may pay in the long run and help you get the most out what the ink has to offer.
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