Revisiting Noodler’s Black Ink

When I started sketching I bought a bottle of Noodler’s Black ink.  It was “bulletproof”.  It was “water-resistant.”  Or so sayeth Noodlers.  It was only later that I discovered that fountain pen people have different definitions of waterproof than I have.  In fairness, the definition is based upon performance on papers with little sizing and fountain pen users are more concerned with signatures not disappearing in the rain than they are about a bit of the ink muddying a watercolor wash.

But I generally work on paper that is sized to accept watercolors and the result is that a light-color wash and Noodler’s Black don’t go together.  Quickly, I came to understand why so many sketchers use Noodler’s Lexington Gray, which is a very dark gray ink that seems more “bulletproof” than Noodler’s Black.  Lex Gray has been my ink of choice for a couple years.

2014-04-24treeBut I decided to revisit Noodler’s Black so I filled a Pilot Prera with it and took it sketching.  It was far too cold today to be out sketching, mostly because of a brisk wind that accompanied the 44F temperature.  My first attempt with the ink was made in my cheap sketchbook (best case scenario for Noodler’s Black).  Unfortunately, I’d also forgotten that Noodlers Black takes longer to dry than Lex Gray, particularly when it’s cold.  As you can see, the sketch is smudged badly.  Oh well, it was fun trying to capture this small crab apple tree.

After I did this sketch I walked a bit, trying to warm up before plunking myself down in front of a building to give the ink another try.

While no fault of Noodler’s Black, I had to do this sketch more quickly than I would normally do it as it was just too cold to sit there more than a short time but, frankly, I became pretty frustrated long before I finished.  I was experiencing more smudging of the ink which resulted in attempts to fix (cover up?) smudges, which made it worse, which caused more attempts to fix it, etc., etc.  Anyone who has sketched for a while knows that drill.  The results are never pretty.  This sketch was done on Stillman & Birn Alpha paper, which is more heavily sized than my dollar store notepad.


The real ‘test’, however, came when I got home and attempted to put relatively light color on top of the sketch.  As you can see, everything is dull and muddy, largely because the ink washed out into the color.  When I was finished I emptied the pen and filled it with Platinum Carbon Black.  Noodler’s Black is not an ink I’ll be revisiting again… ever.

4 thoughts on “Revisiting Noodler’s Black Ink

  1. Good to see you sketching buildings again! I dumped my “Bulletproof” ages ago — it annoyed me so much, I didn’t even give it a second chance!

    • It was fun to sketch a building again, though I wish it had been warmer so I could have slowed down a bit. As for Noodler’s Black, I’m a slow learner. It’s just that there are people who use it. I have to assume that the paper theyuse accommodates it somehow. I’ll stick with Noodler’s Lexington Gray and Platinum Carbon Black I think. The problem I have with PCB is that it doesn’t make my fine nib pens as happy as other inks.

      Cheers — Larry

  2. I am beginning to think that the problem you are having with Noodlers Black is related to climate. I live in Brisbane, Australia and have been using both the black and Lexington Grey in a Lamy Safari for a while now and don’t have any problem with drying time. I’ve used these in Fabriano Venezia and the Stillman & Birn Alpha and Zeta.

    • When it comes to the slow-drying problem, temp/humidity is the obvious ‘culprit’, to use your word. Unfortunately, I can’t change that. As for the waterproofness of the ink, many people have complained about Noodler’s Black in that regard so I’m not convinced that my climate has much to do with it, though some do have success with that ink. I’ve never been one of them and won’t use it again.

      Cheers — Larry

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