My big red ink swab fest.

In recent posts, I have been looking at my fountain pen ink accumulation. Today it is the turn of my red inks to be in the spotlight.

I like red ink but do not use it very much. As somebody who uses mostly blue or blue black inks, it came as a surprise to see quite how many different bottles of red ink I have. This is due to the temptation to try new shades of red, combined with the fact that finishing a bottle, at my rate of use, takes forever.

Every fountain pen enthusiast needs at least one bottle of red ink. A Waterman Audacious Red, for example, would probably do. You cannot go wrong with Waterman ink. Rummaging through my ink drawers, I had forgotten that I owned a bottle of Lamy red and cannot now remember buying it. Others triggered happy memories – such as buying the Beefeater Red from KWZ Inks at the London Pen Show one year, or the Pure Pens Cadwaladr Red, also at the Pen Show.

The little bottle of Campo Marzio Bordeaux was purchased at the delightful Campo Marzio shop in Piccadilly which I recently heard sadly may not be there any more.

The Montblanc Corn Poppy Red was an ink that I had heard about a lot on the internet and had to buy for myself – probably from Harrods, whilst Graf von Faber-Castell’s lovely Garnet Red came either from Harrods or Selfridges in London. I was thrilled with Garnet Red when I first discovered it. It was just what I had been looking for as it had a very pleasing orangey brown hue to it. But when using it more recently, it seemed to have lost this feature that I particularly liked and seemed to have changed from how I remembered it, to a Burgundy. I fear that I may have accidentally contaminated my bottle by filling a pen which still had traces of another ink inside. Time to buy another bottle perhaps.

However, I later purchased a bottle of Montblanc’s William Shakespeare Velvet Red, a premium ink in a 35ml bottle, which I was fortunate to bag at a London Pen Show for a mere £10.00. This also has the special orangey hints that I had liked so much in the Garnet Red.

Today, to illustrate the differences (and also the similarities, to be fair) in my red inks I have swabbed them all. This was an exercise that turned my writing desk briefly into something resembling a science lab. I swabbed the inks with cotton buds, onto a spread in a Tomoe River paper note book which I keep for ink sampling. Also for good measure I swabbed them on a SemiKolon Grand Voyage journal, which uses a cream coloured laid paper and is, I was told, related to Leuchtturm.

Red ink swabs on Tomoe River paper.

I used a Moonman glass nib dip pen for the writing samples, although this is not a good representation of how an ink may appear from the more controlled flow of a fountain pen nib

While gathering my red inks together for this exercise, I thought that I would include a few ink samples that I was given, such as a scented ink by Campo Marzio, given to me by a dear friend in the fountain pen community and a sample of Diamine Sunset, a well regarded ink, given to me by Jon of Pensharing. The Onoto Passion Red was one of three inks, generously given to me by James Boddy of Onoto.

Red ink swabs on a SemiKolon Grand Voyage journal as well as a Tomoe River journal.

Ironically, the only pen in which I have red ink at present, (out of around 18 fountain pens inked) is an Online Campus Fluffy Cats edition, in which I am using the excellent Kaweco Ruby Red in cartridges, not bottled ink. I was therefore unable to do a swab but have included it in the spread nonetheless.

I am conscious of there being a great many excellent red inks that I do not have and am yet to try, such as Sheaffer Skrip red, or Diamine Red Dragon, to name but two, but you can’t have them all. It is the wanting that has led to my present predicament and I am already at saturation point and ready for any eventuality calling for a massive amount of red ink writing.

Some of my bottled red ink stash.

6 thoughts on “My big red ink swab fest.

    1. There are so many choices to tempt us, even for red inks alone. Apart from the hue, there are other factors to consider such as shading and saturation, water resistance, lubrication, and light-fastness, which I haven’t touched on. There are plenty of detailed reviews of individual inks to be found online.


  1. After trying many samples I concluded that Waterman Audacious Red is the perfect one for me. Truthfully though, I never use red, so it just sits there, and I’m glad that I only got samples of all the others. I much prefer burgundy and reddish brown/orange without going straight to red.

    Liked by 1 person

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