Well, that was a surprise!

I found this group of inks on Ebay, and the price was too good to pass up. They run for about $2.50-$3. To find them, search for “fountain pen ink” and sort by lowest price + shipping. They have ten colors available that I could find. Black, Blue, Turquoise, Violet, Hot Pink, Red, Bordeaux, Brown, Green, and Orange.

The glass bottle was purchased a while ago, it appears the new plastic bottles are supposed to hold 30ml, and they do look close in size to the Diamine 30ml bottles.

I decided to start with the basic Black ink, since I believe that the black ink of a brand can give you a good overview of how the inks will be. How Black is black? does it fade? Feather? Bleed? If the black handles well, I get more interested in the other colors. So what about this ink? Well, as the title says, I got surprised. Lets get into it!

The bottle isn’t that much to look at, very straight forward, it tells you the brand and color and that it is safe for fountain pens, that is it. So to test an ink, first thing is to fill the pen, and here was my first surprise:

That is a plastic plug! They put in a second leak prevention other than the cap, on a bottle I paid $2.62 for? It is a second one. You can see the white in the bottom of the cap, that is the standard foam or plastic seal that most companies use. So this bottle seems to be well designed for travel. As a side note, none of the inks I ordered had leaked at all, maybe due to this double seal?

I inked up my Hong Dian Dark Blue Forest with it, since I figured the fude nib would give a wider range of testing. First up of the tests is on standard Hammer Mill 20lb copy paper.

20lb Hammer Mill Copy

  • General Writing Test
    • The top is a general writing test, starting with some broader lines and finishing up with a quote from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles. As you can see, it handled quite well on copy paper, leaving a nice black line and next to no feathering, much better than I expected.
  • Dry Time
    • Dry time might be a tad bit long for copy paper, coming in at 11 seconds, but still plenty fast enough for most needs.
  • Water Test
    • Next is the Water Test, and as expected it didn’t fare….. what? Um, I did add the water, didn’t I? Ya, there are a couple smear marks, and my eyedropper is empty. So, surprise two! This ink is waterproof! It moved a little bit when I wiped the water off, but not much at all, especially where I let it dry first.
  • Bleed and Ghost
    • Here is the first place this ink really gets a bad mark. Even the fine writing ghosted a lot. But, considering it is on copy paper, that isn’t a big surprise.
  • Close Up
    • Here you can see how well behaved this ink really is on this paper. I was expecting to see a lot more of those paper fibers to be feathering off from the main writing, but it did very well.

Rhodia 80gsm notepad

  • General Writing Test
    • Here you can see the difference with a better paper. The lines are all much narrower than on the copy paper, and it was much more comfortable to write on as well.
  • Dry Time
    • Now this was a bit of a surprise too, nearly 30 seconds to dry? I really didn’t expect it to be three times the drying time of the copy paper. Good to know, if you need a fast drying ink, it is not on Rhodia.
  • Water Test
    • It moved around a lot more here, more than I expected, but not bad really. yes the paper around is grey, but the lines are very clear. If you spilt your coffee on your important papers, you would at least still be able to read it with this ink.
  • Bleed and Ghost
    • The ONLY place it came through the paper is where I did the Water Test, so no bleed or ghosting here.
  • Close Up
    • I enjoy this part, the edges of the lines are so much smoother than on the copy paper. Really an interesting comparison.

Tomoe River 52gsm

  • General Writing Test
    • The apex of paper, and I might have gotten a bit carried away writing with the large, flowing lines, took up more room than I intended, lol. Obviously no feathering at all, and very clean lines.
  • Dry Time
    • Oh boy, now we get into it. Yes, I timed it up to 10 minutes and IT STILL WASN’T DRY. I know that is common for Tomoe River, but still, 10 minutes? wow.
  • Water Test
    • Before you ask, yes, the dry side WAS dry. I left it sit for nearly an hour, checked for smearing before I added the water. So this ink does dry on tomoe, eventually. One thing though, it did good on the water test. Some moving of color, but plenty of the ink stayed right where it belongs, so reading after a spill or some rain is no problem, even if the ink wasn’t fully dry.
  • Bleed and Ghost
    • Another surprise, how many can one ink have? I always expect a lot of ghosting on Tomoe 52gsm, but it is barely there at all!
  • Close Up
    • Finally, the close up. The edges of the lines are the most crisp here, and it covered the paper fibers quite well.

Final Thoughts

Karkos Black ink really surprised me in a lot of ways. For the price, I don’t know if it can be beat for a general use ink. It costs so little, for just a little over $10 you could get 150ml (5oz approx) of this ink. If you use a lot of black ink, this should be on your radar, it won’t cost much to give it a test run, and if their batches are consistent with what I received, you might have found a new workhorse ink.

This just leaves us with one question: How good is the rest of the Karkos ink line? I will be diving into them soon!


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