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Choosing Your Fountain Pen Ink Color Online

(J. Herbin Fountain Pen Ink Vert Pre)

As you’re shopping online for a new bottle of fountain pen ink, likely the ink color samples you see on your computer, tablet or smartphone have a big influence on what you decide to purchase. Can you trust what you see on your computer monitor? Do you ever wonder how the ink samples are made?

When we first started producing samples of fountain pen ink colors for our online store, we used a special color calibrated computer monitor and made careful adjustments with graphics software to make sure the color sample looked as close to real life as possible from our viewpoint. The flaw in this method is that most shoppers do not use color calibrated computer monitors. As a result, the ink color samples look different to each shopper because each shopper uses a different monitor or smartphone to view the samples. Since then, we have intentionally purchased computer monitors that are a variety of different brands so that we can compare and see what our shoppers might be seeing. Even so, it is not possible with current technology to make sure that each one of you sees a completely accurate sample of each ink color when you are shopping online.

Other retailers have made ink samples that don’t even display real ink swatches or handwriting at all. Graphics software is used to pick the color and then a computer font that looks like handwriting is used to create a “handwritten” color sample. This also has disadvantages. When you look at the color variations in the ink samples below, can you see how it would be difficult to decide what part of the sample it would be best to pick the color from? A computer generated color sample does not give you any idea of the shading or opacity of the ink. Plus, it still does not change the fact that each of you are using different computers and smartphones that each display colors slightly differently.

If you are a regular shopper at Writer’s Bloc, you may have noticed that many of our ink color samples look like this:

(Noodler's 54th Massachusetts bottled fountain pen ink sample)

We decided to come up with a standardized way of creating our online fountain pen ink samples so that you might be able to discern some of the ink’s characteristics before you decide to buy. Each sample is handwritten with the actual ink, in the same calligraphy style, using a Brause dipping pen with a Steno nib. The “swish” above the handwriting is made with an inked cotton swab and goes from left to right so that the heaviest ink application is on the left and the lightest on the right. The paper used is always bright white 90g Clairefontaine French-ruled paper. (Note: the ink photos on our website that include the ink bottle or cartridges in the photo are meant to give you a general idea of the ink color and are NOT meant to be the primary color sample for the ink.)

What are some of the advantages of this method? Clairefontaine is known as one of the best papers in the world for writing, and it performs exceptionally well with fountain pens.  This paper is very good at eliminating or reducing writing problems that are common on low-grade paper such as ink feathering and ink bleeding through the paper. By the way, if ink happens to bleed or feather while we are making our samples, we do not retouch the samples or re-write them to try and get rid of the feathering – we just use them the way they are to help you discern the character of the ink. The Clairefontaine paper is a bright white color so it does not detract from the color of the fountain pen ink.

Why use French-ruled paper and not blank paper? The lines on the French-ruled paper help you to see how opaque or how transparent the ink is. Can you see the lines on the paper through the ink sample? For example, Noodler’s Eel Polar Black ink is very opaque:

And J. Herbin’s Vert Pre ink is more transparent:

The Brause Steno nib allows you to see what your writing might look like using a fountain pen with a fine to medium size nib. The Steno nib is a flex nib, so the line width in the samples varies. The cotton swab generated “swish” above the writing helps you to see what kind of shading the ink might have. Noodler’s Ink Habannero has some nice shading to it:

To prepare the color samples for our online store, the ink samples written on Clairefontaine paper are simply scanned, cropped and re-sized. That's it. They are not retouched or enhanced by graphics software in any other way.

Even though we have a standardized system for creating our ink color samples, each of you will see the color a little bit differently depending on your own personal monitor or screen. Each of you will be writing on different kinds and colors of paper, using different nib sizes and you all have different handwriting. This too can affect the way an ink looks as you write with it. Our wish is to give you the most realistic online ink samples possible to help you choose your fountain pen ink!


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