This black comparison has been in the works for a while and with resent additions to my Noodler's collection I thought it was ready to go. Blacks aren't terribly exciting inks but they are practical inks and people usually approach them for a specific reason and usually there are things that people are looking to not be present. In this comparison I've got 32 black inks. I originally intended to make this a comparison of Noodler's Blacks, then I decided to add some notable comparisons and finally I just put all my blacks together so it should be fairly comprehensive.
Starting off with a full page on Rhodia of the first of two sheets of 16 inks. This one has all the Noodler's blacks, and some well known "black" blacks. First thing I see is how brown and patchy Noodler's Black and Black Eel are. These two inks are more-or-less the same ink but with lubricant added to the Eel (the purpose of this lubricant is not to make the ink wetter - though that might be a side effect - but to lubricate pistons in pens). Noodler's Borealis Black, Aurora Black, and Pelikan Fount India stand out to me as the darkest on the page with Noodler's Polar Black being pretty dark as well. Sailor Kiwa Guro, the nano-particle black ink is often regarded as a "black" black but here we see the bring silver sheen really takes away from the black quite a bit.
Sheen on Tomoe River is no surprise but sheen from Noodler's inks is! Seeing Borealis Black with all that sheen, as well as Heart of Darkness, X-Feather, and Bernanke Black was definitely a surprise. I didn't get as much sheen from Aurora Black as I expected but I wager if you left it in a pen for a bit you'd get a lot more sheen. Here, from this top-down angle, Blackstone Barrister Black, Pelikan Fount India and Nooder's Polar Black stand out as the blackest to me. The sheen on Sailor Kiwa Guro is even stronger, understandably, and Noodler's Black and Eel Black still look average.
I've included overexposed photos of the pages. I'm not sure how useful this really is but it should be able to help show how the inks have approached a black colour and might make it easier to see which ink stands out.
What I've done is averaged the colours from the swatches on Rhodia (not Tomoe River to try and avoid sheen). We obviously see things differently than how this algorithm would average a bunch of pixel colours (we might ignore the sheen or not notice some shading) but it gives some idea of whether the ink is neutral in it's colour, or has more red, or more blue. Most of these are fairly neutral with the red, green, and blue values being fairly similar. Noodler's Black has a bit more red and that's where it's brown colour comes from. Noodler's Dark Matter has a bit more blue but what is interesting is that Polar Black is the only ink that dips into the 20s for values (0,0,0 being pure black). The way I see blacks, if an ink approaches it from a blue or a purple I see it as darker (I think) than if it is approached from a red.
Water Resistance of Noodler's Dark Matter, Borealis Black, and Bernanke black are not great but they are still visible after a good washing with water under a tap. These inks are not intended to be water resistant but I always expect black Noodler's inks to be so. There's a little washing with Raven Black (which is Bulletproof, Eternal and Water Resistant) but it still hold up for the most part. Aurora Black did OK and is still readable but still lost a bit. The rest seem pretty flawless as if nothing has happened which is great.
Moving on to page two where all the left-over blacks reside. A surprise was Lamy Black! Lamy Blue-Black (the modern non-IG one) is very washed out looking so I expected a "grey" black. Lamy Black not the blackest of blacks for sure but it's not bad either and at least bested my expectation. Pearl Noir as well is decently black. The Kyo-no-oto Nureba Iro (I wrote it, incorrectly, as Kyo-iro on the sheet, my apologies) is more of a blue-black but is a very saturated ink with high dye content so it appears fairly black. Montblanc Permanent Black is somewhat black but in this angle you see the sheen a bit too much but Mystery Black and Ultra Black are disappointingly purple for my eyes. Of the Sailors, they're pretty similar but approach black differently. Jentle Black is more red than the other two.
On Tomoe River everything gets a a lot more colourful the sheens make a lot of inks look rather brown, and even Kingdom Note Dorcus hopei binodulosus has it's stunning green sheen on show. Waterman Intense Black, Rohrer & Klingner Leipziger Schwarz, Montblanc Mystery Black, and Montblanc Ultra black all look very blue and not particularly dark at all. For me, Sailor Jentle Black, Montblanc Permanent Black and, surprisingly, Pelikan Edelstein Onyx stand out is darkest on page. The strong copper sheen of Kyo-no-oto Nureba-iro really takes the darkness out of the ink.
Lots of brown on show from sheen and lots of blue. J.Herbin Pearl Noir, and Kingdom Note Dorcus hopei binodulosus stay rather dark here.
These averages, which don't see past the sheen, show that this "page 2" of inks is definitely less dark and more colourful. That said, Lamy Black still stands out as surprising, and Montblanc Permanent Black and J. Herbin Pearl Noire do a stand up job.
None of the inks on this page survive well. Waterman lost it's blackness, Diamine, Rohrer & Klinger, Kyo-no-oto, Bookbinders, and the two non-permant Montblanc's basically lost everything about them. Kingdom Note lost a lot as did Parker and OMAS. The Permanent Montblanc had a a decent amount wash away but is still a strong colour. I was surprised by how well Pelikan Edelstein Onyx, Sailor Jentle Black, Bungubox Black of Score, and J. Herbin Pearl Noire stood up to the water. Not bad for non permanent inks.
I love sheen. And while I don't hate sheen on a black ink, usually if I want to use a black ink I want it to be black and to me the sheen distracts from that too much. That said, with some black inks they get a lot of character out of their sheen so they work nicely from a different perspective. I've included Noodler's Borealis on Rhodia above because it doesn't exhibit any sheen.
Bellow you can see how, on Rhodia even, Black Stone Battister Black, Noodler's X-Feather (surprisingly), Pelikan Fount India, and Sailor Kiwa Guro give of a silver sheen. Bookbinders Red-Belly Black, Diamine Quartz Black, and Kyo-no-oto Nureba-iro have a coppery sheen to them.
On Tomoe River the sheens are obviously exaggerated. Aurora Black has a coppery sheen along with Bookbinder's Red-Belly Black, Bungubox Black of Score, Diamine Quartz Black, Kyo-no-oto Nureba-iro, Noodler's Borealis Black (surprisingly!), Parker Penman Ebony, OMAS Black, Sailor Jentle Black, and Waterman Intense Black. Noodler's Bernanke Black, Noodler's Dark Matter and especially Sailor Kiwa Guro have a silver sheen to them. The standout is definitely Kingdom Note Dorcus hopei binodulosus with that brilliant green sheen (but you definitely will need a wet pen to extract that sheen).
I did test the smudginess of these inks on Tomoe River but this test was done many days after they were written. Both Montblanc Permanent Black and Montblanc Ultra Black smudged when I brushed my dry finger over the written words. It's not a bad amount of smudging but it is there. I know that Aurora Black can smudge but I wasn't able to get it to smudge after this many days wait so it does eventually dry.
If I was to pick a winner (of blackest black) from my eyes, for both papers, it would be, very surprisingly, Noodler's Polar Black. This seems to be backed up by how the average colour of Polar Black is the only ink to drop into the 20s. It's also a fairly neutral grey colour with not much bias towards red, green or blue. Noodler's Black and Eel Black were rather disappointing, and Dark Matter wasn't as Dark as I expected. Montblanc Permanent Black, Lamy Black, and J. Herbin Pearl Noire did a much better job than I expected though maybe a prejudged them too harshly. Kingdom Note Dorcus hopei binodulosus is a sinner with it's green sheen and so is Kyo-no-oto Nureba-iro but they don't fit the "black" black category at all.
Top 5 blackest inks:
- Noodler's Polar Black
- Montblanc Permanent Black
- Aurora Black
- Noodler's Heart of Darkness
- Noodler's Bad Black Moccasin
I'll finish off, bellow, with some 4x4 closer photos of each of the swatches.
I was not compensated for this review and everything here is my own honest opinion. There are no affiliate links.