Since pretty much everyone in the Eastern United States is snowed or iced in this weekend (well, except maybe you South Georgians and Floridians), I can probably guess what the readers of this blog have been doing. For my part, I inked up a bunch of pens with every black ink I own to do a comparison. I don't use a ton of black ink, but when I do, I want something that doesn't smear and isn't gray--nothing annoys me more than something being labeled a black ink and getting home and realizing that what I actually have is a washed out color that looks like water I used to rinse pens in. So here goes.
- Sailor Kiwa-Guro Nano-Black. One of my top five fountain pen inks for everyday writing. I'll have to actually do a proper review of this ink one day, but this is my "writes-on-anything-and-is-permanent" black ink. It's pigmented ink, so you have to be diligent about cleaning it out of your pens on a regular basis, but it doesn't feather or bleed, and best of all, it holds an extra-fine line in my Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black. Kiwa Guro appears very dark once it's dry on the paper, and has a matte look to it once it's dry. I do try to avoid using this ink in pens with very wet nibs. Because it's a pigmented ink, the pigment can smear if it "pools" on top of the paper, so I use this ink nearly exclusively in my fine and extra-fine Japanese nibs.
- Aurora Black. The blackest-of-the-black inks. If you pressed me to name one relatively inexpensive, well-behaved and widely available black ink that works well in all pens, both vintage and modern, I would tell you to go buy a bottle of Aurora black. For this same reason, if you forced me to pick a single ink--of any color--with which to be marooned on a desert island with a lifetime supply, it would probably be this one.
- Lamy Black. This is where my list gets interesting, and where I'll preemptively answer the inevitable question: "Why the heck do you have five bottles of black ink, if they are all essentially the same color?" As most hard-core pen addicts know, however, even though an ink might be labeled "black," that doesn't mean there isn't any variation. Both Lamy Black and the next entry on this list, Delta Black, are "black" inks, but the Lamy has hints of green, and the Delta has undertones of dark blue/purple. Lamy inks offer excellent value, and they come in a cool bottle with a roll of blotter paper.
- Delta Black. I have two bottles of Delta black, and I've paid for neither (at least not directly). A small bottle of Delta black ink is regularly given away as a "freebie" to pen show attendees, and more often than not a bottle is included with the purchase of higher-end Delta pens. Many people's reaction is that this is somewhat boring SWAG, but I carry one of these small bottles of Delta ink in my briefcase because it's a great go-to ink in a pinch. The ink behaves nicely and works well in every pen I've tried. I also really like the black with purplish undertones.
- Roher & Klingner Leipziger Schwartz. I have a sample vial of this ink that I purchased from Goulet Pens, but I'm waiting for the next R&K Massdrop pick-three, because I'm going to stock up. I don't know how to even begin to describe this ink, other than as "complex." It's definitely a "black," but on the page it looks completely different from any of the other four inks listed here. It has the blueish/greenish/purplish undertones of the Lamy and the Delta inks, but it's much darker. I like it, and it may give Aurora Black a run for its money as the top "black" in my arsenal.
I've cycled through A LOT of black ink in this hobby. I've used up some bottles; sold off others, and settled on keeping the inks listed here, so I guess you could take this as my "Best Black Inks" list. On a final note, I expect that some people will be surprised that I have not included Noodler's Black and Noodler's Heart of Darkness on this list. These are extremely popular inks, and if you are looking for absolute permanence at a value price, you should consider them. Since I use a lot of celluloid pens, both vintage and modern, I try to stay away from super-saturated ink like Noodler's and Private Reserve. (I also avoid using pigmented inks such as Kiwa Guro in celluloid pens.) In my experience, these Noodler's black inks are so saturated with dye that they smear very easily and take an exceptionally long time to dry. You can dilute them with distilled water to make them manageable, but that's more trouble to me than it's worth. I do, however, really like Noodler's Dark Matter, which while not "bulletproof", has a cool story behind it, dries fairly quickly and I've found it well-behaved on most papers.
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