IN-DEPTH REVIEW: Four Fabulous Blues

I’m so excited to bring you this super-charged review of four fabulous blue inks:

  • Sailor Bung Box Sapphire
  • Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium
  • Akkerman Shocking Blue
  • Parker Penman Sapphire

First, a huge and happy shout-out to my Instagram buddy, @mycoffeepot. Gerald provided me with generous samples of Sailor Bung Box Sapphire and Penman Sapphire. He’s a fountain pen nerd (in the best way possible) and if you’re not following him on Instagram, you should be.

Second, let me tell you how I worked this thing:  I loaded up four Pilot Metropolitan (medium nib) fountain pens and got to writing on Clairefontaine 90gsm paper. Lots of writing. So much writing. Then, I set everything aside and didn’t think about these inks for a couple of days. Finally, I wrote just a little more with each of the inks to see if my initial thoughts changed with a little time and separation.

Third, let me spoil things just a little here. You could, seriously, choose any of these four inks and be pretty happy.  They each write wonderfully, flow is great in the Metropolitan, and the color and saturation are right up there with some of the best inks I’ve tried.  These are truly four fabulous blue inks.

Let’s dive in!

Number 1 above will always be Number 1 (Sailor Bung Box Sapphire) below – same for Number 2, 3, and 4.  I think I could have organized things a little better for you, but you’ll figure it out – I’m confident 😉

Smear Testing . . . 

I wrote a little and then smeared across the writing. Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium (number 2) and Penman Sapphire look like the winners here. Then, I scribbled back and forth over the same area three times and smeared that – same winners.

Water Smear Testing . . . 

I wrote, let it dry, and then went over my writing with a dampened cotton swab. The clear winner is Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium. I’d say that the other three inks are about even in their resistance to water.

So, which would you choose?

Still too hard to decide?  Let’s take a closer look.  (Warning: this is where things get really long.)

Sailor Bung Box Sapphire Review . . . 

A solid medium blue, maybe not as saturated as the others. Not especially bright, no muddiness to the color. Just straight up blue.

Some nice shading. Would love to give this a go with a super broad nib because I’m seeing some pretty nice red/purple sheen in there, too.

Decent dry times.

 Definitely not water resistant.

And it’s pretty smeary when tested with a highlighter.

My thoughts on Sailor Bung Box Sapphire:

  • i love the color and it’s suitable for any writing occasion
  • nice shading and some serious potential for sheen
  • this ink can be hard to find
  • once you find it, shipping costs may make the whole thing too expensive

Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium Review . . .

Pure bright blueness.  

Not a lot of shading and definitely no sheen.

It’s interesting, I wrote in my initial review that this ink is supposed to be water-resistant. I’m positive this writing and the one above had been sitting for at least ten minutes when I dropped the water onto it. Maybe it needs to sit even longer? It’s also supposed to be semi-bullet-proof. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but there you go.

My thoughts on Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium . . . 
  • this is an ink i own and love
  • the bright color may mean it’s not suitable for some professional settings
  • it’s only available through Goulet Pens – if you’re outside of the US or don’t want to order online, you may be out of luck
  • i’m not finding it particularly water-resistant even though it’s advertised as such

PW Akkerman #5 Shocking Blue Review . . . 

A rich, dark, blue with a reputation for some fantastic red sheen.

Good shading . . .

Nice sheen . . .

It does just ok on the smearing tests . . .

Yikes. I wrote the word “DRAG” and then dragged a wet cotton swab over the writing after the ink had dried. Crazy, right?

And given the above, the below highlight test probably isn’t too much of a surprise.

My thoughts on PW Akkerman #5 Shocking Blue . . .

  • crazy sheening potential from this super-saturated ink
  • fun bottles
  • this ink can be hard to find and international shipping can be expensive. Vanness Pen Shop (in the US) carries the Akkerman line
  • zero water resistance

Parker Penman Sapphire Review . . . 

True blue, dark blue, saturated blue.

Lots of shading and color variation . . .

Great dry time . . .

Not so great water-resistance . . .

Just ok on the highlight testing . . . 
My thoughts on Penman Sapphire . . .
  • i love everything about it – the writing experience is different from all of the others – maybe a little bit more lubrication than the others?
  • impossible to get (i didn’t know this until i started writing the review, but it was the smallest of the samples that Gerald sent and I knew there must be a reason)

That’s it (enough already!) for today.
Just one quick question for you:  which would you choose?
I’ll be back next week with more on these inks. Specifically, I’ll be looking at suitable substitutes for each.  You know, in case you don’t have a time machine so you can pick up a bottle or two of Penman Sapphire 😉
In the meantime, here are links to some full-size images for you (they’re big!) . . . 
Ink Swabs (note, these are a bit out of order)

INK REVIEW and COMPARISON: Yama-budo -vs- Black Swan in Australian Roses


Back in January, I did a quickie review of Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses (BSIAR) – I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it.  A week or so ago, I received a larger sample of it along with a sample of Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo.

I’d heard so many wonderful things about about Yama-budo that I didn’t wait too long to ink my Pelikan M320 and take it for a spin.

And because I was inking pens, I inked a Lamy Al-Star with BSIAR and decided to compare and contrast it with Yama-budo.

In each of my pairs of writing, Yama-budo will be on top.

The color of each reminds me of grapes. I’d originally said that BSIAR was bordeaux in color and my first thought about Yama-budo was that it reminded me of melty grape sorbet. In looking at the colors right next to each other, I’m confident with each of those descriptions. Yama-budo looks fresh and BSIAR has a more aged look to it. Yama-budo is a bit brighter while BSIAR has a little muddiness to its darker color.

Shading? They both shade, but there seems to be more variation with Yama-budo. Yama-budo goes from an almost bright pink to a deeper purple color while BSIAR seems to remain various shades of the same color.

Saturation is about equal (and very good) with both inks.

I experienced no trouble writing with either ink. Flow was good, neither was excessively wet nor dry. Each is a good quality ink.

There’s no feathering, or bleed through with either. Yama-budo did have some ghosting on Clairefontaine paper, but just when dotting the letter i in a couple of places – so minor that I almost didn’t mention it.

Yama-budo was more likely to smear right out of the gate, but by the time 30 seconds had passed, things were just about even.

Again, Yama-budo on top and BSIAR under . . .

I regularly write in all caps…

Here’s the entire review sheet . . .

Click Here to see it full size (it’s huge).

So, what’s my bottom line?  I’ve ordered a full-sized bottle of Yama-budo. While the color difference isn’t huge, the brightness and amount of shading made all of the difference for me.

There are so many ink choices out there that it is the subtle things that make all of the difference between “just ok,” and “love it!”

Having said that, if you like the color of each of these inks and the brightness doesn’t matter that much to you (or maybe you even prefer the darker color?), save yourself the bucks and go with Black Swan in Australian Roses. Goulet Pens (no association except I spend so much of my paycheck there) sells BSIAR for less than half of what Yama-budo goes for.  ($12.50 -vs- $28, respectively)

What do you think?  Black Swan in Australian Roses or Yama-budo?  Neither? Both?