at stylographika we explore fountain pens, ink, paper, and other sources of inspiration.

Ink Showcase: Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Red

Ink Showcase: Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Red

Last week, Pelikan fans around the world had a chance to celebrate the brand at local Pelikan Hub events. In anticipation of my local event, I had a chance to try out my first ever Pelikan ink. I've been a fan of the brand's pens for some time now, but hadn't had the opportunity to use their inks until now.

Packaging & Bottle

Pelikan’s 4001 series inks come packaged in a silver-colored paper box. The ink’s name appears in both English and German on the front of the box as well as the lid. A small orb identifying the ink’s color is also featured, though the orb on this box of Brilliant Red is more of a true red than the ink itself (more on that later). The box also features images of what the ink would look like suspended in water.

Moving on to the bottle, Pelikan uses a glass design that sort of looks like a squished pentagon. A label that mimics the box design is affixed to the front of the bottle, while the other sides are blank. The bottom of the bottle is drawn inward in an upswept arc giving the reservoir of ink a ‘suspended’ look that I enjoy.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the bottle is the plastic screw-cap, which prominently displays the Pelikan logo. Pelikan’s logo is one of my favorites among all fountain pen brands, and having it embossed on the cap adds a touch of charm that you don’t always find on other bottles.

In terms of actual usage, I have absolutely no issues with Pelikan’s 4001 bottles. Their short, squat design offers good balance and allows me to fill from them without fear of tipping them over. Moreover, the mouth of the bottle is large enough to use with any pen, even oversize ones. It’s not quite as wide as what you’d find on a bottle of Noodler’s or KWZ, but it functions just as well. I also find that the 30ml size hits a sweet spot for me; it’s just enough more than a 15 or 20 milliliter bottle to feel like I don’t have to worry about running out anytime soon without the feeling of overabundance that I sometimes get from buying 50ml bottles.

Color & Inspiration

"Brilliant." "Red." One of these words aptly describes this ink, the other does not.

Certainly the ink is 'brilliant,' in the sense that it is a bright, vibrant hue with a lot of pop. To call it 'red,' though, seems a bit of a misnomer, as it's really more of a red-orange. I took a swab of the ink and compared it against some true reds in my collection, and the difference was night and day. Comparing it against other red-oranges, like Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-gaki for example, reveals more similarities than differences.

Brilliant Red doesn’t really have much shading to it regardless of what type of paper you’re using. I’ve tested it with paper from Rhodia, Baron Fig, Tomoe River, and bulk copy paper and the ink consistently takes on a monotone appearance. There is a modest amount of gold sheen to be found, but it only reveals itself when applying the ink in significant volume and doesn't appear in normal handwriting.

I don’t use red ink very much at my workplace, but even so I’m not sure I would classify Brilliant Red as office friendly. It’s just a bit too vibrant for me and I suspect it would draw attention unnecessarily. With that said, if attention is what you’re aiming for (for instance, if using the ink for editing or marking corrections), Brilliant Red might be a good option for you.


Prior to using this ink, I’d heard anecdotes that Pelikan’s inks were on the drier side. I’m not sure that Brilliant Red has proven that to be true. In fact, when testing it in my Elemental Paper Oxygen notebook, dry times ran around 5 seconds higher than inks from other brands.

In using this ink for the last week or so, it hasn’t given me any issues, at least not when using quality paper. I’ve not experienced any noticeable bleeding, and show-through hasn’t been a concern. When used on inexpensive office copy paper, things take a turn for the worse. Brilliant Red consistently feathers on my office's bulk copy paper, and the issue is only exacerbated when used with legal pads. Of course, this is more a strike against the paper than the ink itself, but if good performance on cheap paper is what you're after, Brilliant Red won't really deliver.

The ink’s behavior inside of pens is pleasant, though. It flows well and I haven’t experienced any skipping or hard starts. It also hasn’t dried out in any of my pens, even when left uncapped for around 10-15 minutes.

The ink isn't marketed as being water resistant and I've generally found that to ring true. When subjected to a spill test, the majority of my writing sample was wiped away, and what remained wasn't really legible.

As for cleaning and maintenance, Brilliant Red hasn't given me any problems. I inked up a clear demonstrator (TWSBI Eco) with it and didn't witness any residual staining.


As of the time of this writing, the best price I've found for a 30ml bottle of Brilliant Red is $10. Interestingly, I found more price variance for this ink than I usually see. Normally when I research ink prices for these posts I see a variance of +/- $.50-$.75, but with Brilliant Red the variance was closer to $2, so you may benefit from shopping around if you're interested in picking up a bottle. In any event, the $10 price results in $.33/ml, which puts Brilliant Red squarely in the middle of the road price-wise.

If you're looking for slightly better value, I should note that Pelikan does also offer this ink in their 62.5ml size for $17, which brings the per-ml rate down to around $.27. Personally I'm not a big enough fan of this ink to consider purchasing at that volume, but it does present a slightly better rate if you're fond of it.

Writing Sample

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Paper Review: Elemental Paper "Oxygen" Notebook

Paper Review: Elemental Paper "Oxygen" Notebook