Friday, January 16, 2009

Review: J. Herbin Vert Empire and the Overall Challenges of Reviewing Ink

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From the J Herbin website:

"J. Herbin is the oldest name in pen inks in the world. M. Herbin created “The Jewel of Inks” in his shop on the Rue des Fosses Saint-Germain in Paris in 1700."

"Each bottle of 30 ml has an integrated pen rest. They are known as “D bottle pen inks. The “D” refers to the old French unit of measure “la Demi Courtine”.

* 30 beautiful colors!
* Non toxic and pH neutral
* Lightfast
* Water based
* Flows smoothly and is fast drying
* All natural dyes

Herbin 212

Ink on a windowsill.

Empire outside no corr

You would think an ink review would be easy, but there are a million little factors that come into play. To me, the most important thing is to do your best to accurately represent the way the ink looks on the page. Sadly, I struggled a bit with this one.

To my eyes, on this cream paper shown above, (Exacompta Basics Journal) J. Herbin's Vert Empire is a gray green. A khaki army green. The image above was just taken outside (in 10 degree but very sunny weather) and as usual, the image is too dark & needs to be corrected.

On white paper, the ink looses a bit of the yellow that the cream paper adds, and it looks more like this:


Vert Empire swabbed with a Q-Tip onto white Blick drawing paper.


This is the same image lightened, with a bit of cyan added to make it look (at least on my monitor) more like what it looks like in person - on the cream paper.


Then I try and scan as a 150 dpi tif file. As usual, my scanner blows out the image, and the color is all wrong - BUT the color is slightly closer to how it looks on white paper. But this isn't white paper, it's cream. So I attempt to correct it.


Tweaks in Levels and I think a little bit of yellow once again got it close, but still not perfect.

In testing a fountain pen ink, I'm really only looking for two things. Good flow, and a color that I can live with. Unless a particular ink takes an unreasonable amount of time to dry, (like Noodler's Red-Black) I usually don't pay much attention to dry time. I don't concern myself with whether or not a color is waterproof, or as with Noodler's, "Bulletproof." I use the Noodler's BP black, but I don't really care for their other BP colors, so I have resigned myself to the fact that most fountain pen inks are NOT permanent and I just move on with trying products that I enjoy for their flow and color selection.

J Herbin inks are not known as being super saturated as much as say, Private Reserve inks are. But the thinner, slightly less saturated inks FLOW WONDERFULLY and it makes writing a joy. When you find a good free flowing ink, it can sometimes turn a good pen into a great pen- not that you want a pen that "gushes" with an ink that's just TOO thin, but rather one that makes the pen glide over the page with ease.

So I want colors that I can live with, but I have to keep in mind that any tested ink is most likely going to look different on different color paper. You will get a variety of shades if you try this ink, (or any other) on bright white paper like Clairefontaine/Rhodia, off white paper like Apica, or cream/ivory paper like Moleskine, Cartesio, Canteo, or Ciak.

The pen you use is also going to make a difference in how an ink looks. Thinner nibs versus wider nibs... one may make the ink appear more saturated than another. The drawing above was done with a .05 Cursive Italic nibbed Lamy Safari fountain pen.

If you tend to write fast, like I often do, it seems that this ink comes out a little lighter than if you write slowly. (I'm assuming more ink can flow onto the page when you write slower. )

I don't know that it's dark enough for me to write with on a day to day level, but drawing with it? It's awesome. Laying down line after line allows a great build up of layered color. It does have some shading and doodles look great.

So when considering an ink, you have the ink itself, the paper you will use it on, and the pen. All three things come into play when making your selections.

All Herbin inks provided by Exaclair for the purpose of review,


OfficeSupplyGeek said...

I've always been confused by this:

"Each bottle of 30 ml has an integrated pen rest."

How does that work?

Also, I love the STP lyrics integrated into the art work there. :)

Biffybeans said...

It's just a horizontal groove on top of the bottle. I don't really see how it could be useful, as I don't have a desk to put my bottle to prop my pen.... LOL

Nice catch on the doodle lyrics. Did this one at 3am, pretty, um, well... under the influence of a great deal of wine. (Was celebrating) I was watching STP's DVD "Thank You" (which is flippin' awesome & deserves a review in it's own right) and the lyrics just found their way in.

The line in Rose Cyclamen, "I wonder when he went insane" was about Scott Weiland. The live footage goes in somewhat chronological order and he goes from this normal looking guy to this total.... well, you know. Part of me thinks he's channeling Freddy Mercury... I love him. (Scott Weiland)

inkophile said...

J. Herbin Vert Empire is one of my favorite green inks for all the reasons you listed. But also because the soft color is very easy on the eyes making it excellent for long sessions. It is particularly well-suited to my Apica 6A10 and has seen tons of use for my daily writing. Glad to see you like it, too.

GrannyKass/Penhound said...

I like the vert empire, but I have found a couple of Noodler's that do a better job color wise. Sequoia and Zhivago. Zhivago is so richly green that in most light, it appears almost black but the deep green is in there. Sequoia is a little less deep and has more green tones in it, yet still richly green. If you don't have them, let me know and I will scan a swab of each.

Speedmaster said...

FANTASTIC review!!

Anonymous said...

wow...that's an awesome colour.

I was very lucky to have someone I'm penpalling with over at FPN send me 2 bottles of ink and a pen he no longers uses! Just because! I can't believe how sweet that was of him.

the one ink is j herbins' vert reseda, a nice looking tealish colour. the other is diamine scarlet. The pen is a Haolilai 801 f IN burnt orange.

i'm part of the ranks

Just had to share!


Den Lim said...

i dunno about this one. this came out nice looking on my lamy, but when it dired, it looked like greenish mud. not as dark as what i've seen on your photos. might be because i used an M and not something finer.

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