Don’t Forget Your Greens

I’ve been test­ing ink col­ors for some time. I actu­al­ly wrote only with black ink until a lit­tle over a year ago when I had a con­tract in a depart­ment of a com­pa­ny that col­or-cod­ed sig­noffs in their work­flow. The depart­ment I was work­ing in had green for our col­or and we were all giv­en hor­ri­ble green ball­points so that we could sign our parts and approvals. Actu­al­ly, it was a pret­ty good sys­tem; the work­flow sheets were intu­itive and easy to inter­pret at a glance. I don’t remem­ber when or why I bought it, but I had a bot­tle of Water­man Green in the stu­dio. So I loaded up my Rotring Ini­tial with Water­man Green and brought it into the office.

I liked writ­ing with green ink. It’s dis­tinc­tive and eye-catch­ing. Prob­lem is, the Water­man Green is maybe a bit too eye-catch­ing. It’s a bright emer­ald green, which was fine for fill­ing out the work­flow sheets, but I want­ed some­thing dark­er and more dig­ni­fied, per­haps a green sim­i­lar in val­ue but not hue to the blue ink many peo­ple write with.

I start­ed look­ing for Noodler’s Hunter Green, which is one of their «bul­let­proof» inks, but I found a bot­tle of Pri­vate Reserve Sher­wood Green first. Even­tu­al­ly I also found the Hunter, but in the mean­time I heard about a green that real­ly sound­ed like it would fill the bill: Noodler’s Zhiva­go. Zhiva­go is a green-black that Noodler’s calls «near-bul­let­proof».

There are a lot of oth­er greens out there, but those are the ones I’ve tried. Addi­tion­al­ly, I exper­i­ment­ed with mix­ing PR Sher­wood with two oth­er Pri­vate Reserve inks, Vel­vet Black and Grey Flan­nel, to gen­er­ate a more neu­tral gray-green.

The fol­low­ing scan is a com­par­i­son of those five greens. Each has a series of lines fol­lowed by a swash laid down with a brush.


You should not trust the scan for accu­ra­cy. On my screen it comes off a lit­tle bluer than the orig­i­nal, but who knows how the col­or bal­ances on your screen.

Noodler’s Hunter Green, as you can see, is even brighter than Water­man. I wrote with it for a few days but it nev­er real­ly found its way into rota­tion. Like many Noodler’s inks it can take a while to dry, although I haven’t had that issue with Zhivago.

I liked PR Sher­wood quite a bit. At the same time, I picked up a bot­tle of PR Grey Flan­nel. I did not like Grey Flan­nel very much, but I thought that it would be inter­est­ing to see some­thing with sim­i­lar val­ue and a green­ish hue. Since I did­n’t like the Grey Flan­nel any­how, I sac­ri­ficed it for mixing.

Oth­er than blacks and browns of course, I’ve been writ­ing with the
Zhiva­go for a few months. I thought it was what I’d been look­ing for, but the more I’ve writ­ten with it, the more I’ve had a nag­ging bad feel­ing about it. On off-white or ivory paper like the paper in Mole­sk­ine note­books or Crane’s Pearl White, the Zhiva­go comes off as cold and almost sick­ly. Putting down the col­ors in this com­par­i­son made it clear to me, even on white Claire­fontaine Tri­om­phe paper. It’s an olive shade so dark it approach­es black and has very lit­tle warmth to it. It’s an inter­est­ing and impres­sive col­or, but I’m grow­ing less inter­est­ed in it as a col­or to write with.

On the whole, I’ve grown to like the PR Sher­wood best. It’s warm, rich and dark green. It’s dig­ni­fied and sug­gests growth and life. Zhiva­go is dark­er, but sug­gests dis­ease and toxicity.


One of the sell­ing points of Noodler’s is its resis­tance to water and chem­i­cal attempts to remove the marks made with it. So just for kicks I thought I’d take a look at how the oth­er inks would stand up, and how the «near-bul­let­proof» Zhiva­go would stand up.

My orig­i­nal plan was to take the sam­ple sheet and boil it for an hour, but it soon became clear that the paper was not going to sur­vive being boiled, so I stopped and removed the paper after five min­utes in the pot of boil­ing water. My apolo­gies that the sam­ples for boil­ing were not in the same order as the ear­li­er scan.

After Five Seconds

The results were obvi­ous before I got to boil­ing the paper. Dip­ping the sheet in water for five sec­onds washed away a large part of the ink. Foun­tain pen inks are water-based; ones that aren’t have a bad ten­den­cy to clog and cor­rode pens. So most of the pig­ments in most foun­tain pen inks will dis­solve when wet. I could describe how Noodler’s makes their water-based inks water­proof but you’d be bet­ter off read­ing it some­where else. All I know is that they cause some sort of reac­tion in the paper rather than just trans­fer­ring pigment.

You can see from the pho­to (sor­ry, the scan­ner is in the stu­dio and I only want­ed to make one trip in the rain) that there is very lit­tle left after the ini­tial dunk. The inks had all been dry for hours before I soaked the sheet and the ink on two of the sam­ples is gone beyond all recognition.

After Five Minutes

.After five min­utes in the boil­ing water, there is no longer any evi­dence that Sher­wood or Water­man Green was ever on the sheet. Noodler’s Hunter remains true as though noth­ing had hap­pened to it.

Two of the results are slight­ly sur­pris­ing. The Zhiva­go sam­ple is clear and leg­i­ble, but no longer has any col­or to it. It’s as though they took their imper­vi­ous black and mixed it with some green pig­ment and called it «near­ly» because the green pig­ment would wash away even if the black would remain. Per­haps that’s exact­ly what they were think­ing, I don’t know.

The sec­ond sur­prise is that, though bad­ly fad­ed, the Pri­vate Reserve mix­ture does remain vis­i­ble, if only bare­ly. My guess there is that the black ink is more resis­tant to water than either the green or the grey. The amount of black in this mix is very slight, so even if it were quite col­or­fast there would­n’t be much to see.

Noodler’s does have some well-known draw­backs. Most of the Noodler’s inks have strong odors that, while not­i­ca­ble with the ink bot­tle open are usu­al­ly not prob­lem­at­ic while writ­ing. Noodler’s inks (and the two fea­tured here are no excep­tion) tend to exhib­it «nib creep» where the com­bi­na­tion of cap­il­lary action and sur­face ten­sion draw the ink to the top of the nib. This is harm­less, but not ide­al when you have a love­ly nib to show off.

Though I prob­a­bly will aban­don Zhiva­go in favor of PR Sher­wood (or the grey­er blend) for most writ­ing, this exper­i­ment has con­vinced me to sign my checks only with Noodler’s. Prob­a­bly will be the black. Or the brown. I like Noodler’s Wal­nut quite a bit, and it is anoth­er «near-bul­let­proof» ink.

How­ev­er, brown inks are a sub­ject for anoth­er day.

2 Replies to “Don’t Forget Your Greens”

  1. green ink
    I love green inks and have found to my plea­sure that there is no per­fect ‘green’. The col­lec­tion now num­bers 34 dif­fer­ent bottles.
    Each day brings its own excite­ment and colour requirements.
    My quest has been to find my idea of British Rac­ing Green. That won­der­ful colour that Stir­ling Moss had in the 1960’s.…. in my dreams.


  2. Gree­nis PR blend

    I real­ize this is con­sid­er­ably after the fact, but, would you hap­pen to remem­ber the pro­por­tions of your PR blend? Can you tell me any­thing about the ink’s writ­ing qualities?





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