Ink Showcase: 5 New Colors from Herbin
Toward the end of last month, Herbin added 5 new colors to their standard line of inks. Despite already having an extensive selection from which to choose, Herbin was able to find some new hues that weren't previously featured in their collection. Always a sucker for something new, I decided to check them out.
Packaging & Bottle
I ordered samples of these new colors, so I can't provide photos of their actual bottles, but I do own several other inks from Herbin and can comment on their bottles generally. There's no easy way to put this: I am just not a fan of Herbin's bottle design, and that applies to both their 30ml and 10ml offerings.
My biggest gripe is that the openings on the bottles are simply too narrow and can present a challenge when trying to fill large or oversize fountain pens. Moreover, the shape of the 30 ml bottle—a squat design with a wide base—results in ergonomic challenges when trying to fill those pens that actually do fit in the opening. Specifically, if your pen has a long nib or a filling hole that rests high up on the pen, it can be difficult to fill from Herbin's bottle, especially if it's low on ink. Equally annoying is the fact that the tall neck of the bottle means it's hard to tilt a pen at an angle to get a better fill, which would otherwise be a workaround for the other compromises presented by the design of the bottle.
It's hard for me to express just how much this annoys me. An ink bottle has essentially one primary purpose: to allow its contents to be drawn into a writing instrument. When the bottle is designed in such a way as to inhibit that process, it makes me question its raison d'être, and aesthetic considerations alone are insufficient justification. With that said, the design of the bottles is distinctive, and there are some thoughtful aspects to them, such as the scalloped channel on the top side of the bottle that serves as a pen rest.
One thing I do enjoy is the packaging and labeling. Herbin's bottles come packaged in a glossy black paper box with relatively minimal flourish. A square swatch of color designating the ink appears on the lid of the box, while the front of the box and the label on the bottle both display the ink's name and a small drawing depicting the ink's namesake. I'm not quite sure why, but I thoroughly enjoy these little drawings and feel they do add some much appreciated whimsy to the inks. Compare Herbin's line to something like LAMY's and it's easy to see which has more character.
Color & Inspiration
I studied French in school and though I have unfortunately forgotten more than I'd like to admit, I do still recall enough to roughly translate the names of these inks. I believe "Bleu Calanque" translates to "Creek Blue" and it's a lovely marine hue. I choose the "marine" designation quite purposefully, as it does resemble other inks in that family, such as Diamine Marine or Robert Oster Marine. The color of this blue is far too beautiful to describe the water from any creek I've ever seen, but I won't hold that against it. Though I do enjoy the color, I own too many similar blues to get excited about this one.
Bleu des Profondeurs
I believe the literal translation for this one is "blue of the depths," but "Deep Blue" is probably more apt. It's a dark blue that does genuinely evoke the ocean depths that serve as its inspiration, especially when the ink is put down in volume. It's workplace-friendly, but its subtle sheen keeps it from being boring. Like Bleu Calanque, I already own too many similar dark blues to get terribly excited about this one, but it's a nice option nonetheless. The fish drawing on the bottle is a nice little bonus.
Corail des Tropiques
Again, the literal translation is something like "coral of the tropics," but "Tropical Coral" is probably more fitting. This is a really interesting tint of pink. It's much more muted than the vibrant pinks that you'll commonly see, and it has a sort of peachy quality to it that I like. Personally it reminds me more of salmon than coral, but I get what they are going for. Pink inks often go overlooked and I feel a big reason why is that the vast majority of them are in-your-face vibrant, so it's nice to see something a little more tame.
Rouge Grenat, or "Garnet Red," is probably my favorite of these new inks. It's a luscious, regal shade of red that's quite striking in my opinion. To me, it looks less like its namesake gemstone and more like the skin of a cherry or a glass of red wine. In any case it's a rich, deep maroon with some vibrant undertone to it that really just shines. When applied in volume, you'll get some nice swirls of dark red that are almost black, but in ordinary handwriting it's a more vibrant red.
Vert de Gris
I'm not sure if this is technically "green-gray" or "gray-green," but either way you get the idea. The picture below isn't entirely representative and makes this ink look almost metallic. In actuality it's a sleepy, dusty shade of teal, almost like the teal equivalent of Poussière de Lune (another ink in Herbin's line). I'm not sure what the drawing of the watering can is meant to evoke; perhaps it's supposed to resemble some sort of oxidation that develops on metal?
There's a reason Herbin's inks are among some of my favorites, and for the most part it's because they perform very well. After all, they would certainly have to if I’m going to bother with suffering through those bottles.
Dry times are on the slower side, with most of these inks drying in around 25 seconds on Rhodia paper. While I would prefer faster drying time, in actual use I haven’t noticed any unusual propensity for smearing.
One thing I've noticed is that Corail des Tropiques and Vert de Gris seem far less saturated than the other three inks. When creating my ink swabs, Vert de Gris didn't feel quite as viscous as the other colors, and Corail des Tropiques was downright watery. I haven't found the level of saturation to materially affect performance one way or the other. Regardless of the level of saturation, the inks all perform well with no unusual feathering or bleeding, and very minimal show-through when using quality paper.
These new inks don’t have much shading, but some of them do exhibit sheen. Bleu Calanque, for example, has some very moderate red sheen but it generally only appears in ink swabs. In ordinary handwriting the ink appears more monotone. Bleu des Profondeurs gives off hints of red-gold sheen and, unlike Bleu Calanque, the sheen in this ink actually does show up in normal handwriting. However, it's quite subtle, even when used in medium or broad nibs.
Maybe it's just me, but it feels like Rouge Grenat is more lubricated than the other inks. I tested these inks using the same pen (a Moonman Wancai Mini) and Rouge Grenat consistently felt as if it had better flow to it. Perhaps that's just my preference for the color skewing my opinion, but it was something I noticed.
Though Herbin’s inks are not advertised as being water resistant, they don’t get completely obliterated by water. When subjected to my spill test, most of my writing was still somewhat readable. With that said, I wouldn’t bank on these inks if permanence is particularly important to you. Despite being somewhat resilient to water, the inks do clean out of pens quite easily, and I didn’t experience any issues with staining even when using these inks in a transparent demonstrator pen.
As of the time of this writing, you can purchase 30 ml bottles of these inks for $12 or 10 ml bottles for around $6. At $.40/ml and $.60/ml, respectively, the larger bottles obviously provide the better value, but I have found the 10ml bottles to be a nice option if you aren't ready to commit to a full bottle but want more ink than a sample vial. On a per-ml basis, Herbin's standard ink line falls somewhere in the middle of the pack in value, but given their reliable performance and nice variety of hues, I do think they justify their asking price.
One thing to note is that some of Herbin's more popular colors are available in 100ml bottles for $22, which really ramps up the value proposition if you're willing to commit to that much volume of one color. Finally, Herbin also makes their standard line of inks available in cartridges, but at around $1 per cartridge, it's tough to recommend going that route. I've not yet seen these new colors in either the 100ml bottles or cartridges in the US.