Ten Brown Inks- A User Experience

For some months I’ve been thinking about the “perfect” brown/sepia ink . Not too dark, not too red, not too pale, preferably one that can be used in both dip pens and fountain pens, although that last one is negotiable because I’ve found and tested ten different inks and there are plenty to choose from. I used my go-to paper Strathmore 300 vellum bristol. These tests were all done with a Gillott 170 dip pen nib, a sturdy fine/medium width. All the animal sketches are from my own reference and done directly with no underdrawing. Which inks did I like best?

Starting with the samples above, it was interesting how “unbrown” a couple of them were, like the last two above. Dr. Ph. Martin’s Sepia came out as effectively black. The Higgins Sepia is a very dark reddish-black that reads as almost black. So both of those are out of the current running, but I’ve learned to never say never so they’ll be around. The Daler Rowney FW sepia is the closest to what I have in mind but not quite. I need to work with the two walnut inks some more since this is the first time I’ve tried those. I also tested all the inks for waterproofness with a water brush. The walnut inks bled a little and the Higgins Sepia quite easily. This is neither good nor bad. It just depends on what you’re trying to do.

Overall the four above are more what I had in mind. Right now I like the Daniel Smith walnut ink the most of the three walnut inks but it comes in a wide mouth jar that’s a little scary because of the risk of a “catastrophic” spill, so it will be decanted into a more secure container. Three of these four happen to be from France and I like them all. The Sennelier is the brownest, then the Herbin Lie De The, which has a very slight yellow cast, and lastly the Herbin Cafe Des Iles which is the reddest of all ten other than the Higgins Sepia. I plan to finally settle on a couple of the waterproof ones and a couple of the water-soluble ones. All of them will work in dip pens and I’ll be trying them with a variety of my finer, more persnickety nibs to see how they do. There will be a future post on the results of those experiments. And I need to try them all out in a few of the fountain pens and will report back on those results too. If you use sepia inks, especially ones I haven’t tested, let me know what you like and don’t like in the comments!

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