Hello, I’m Felicia the calligraphy person, I use pointed pens for calligraphy, and I love colours, so when I was asked to give these inks a try, I said yes!
My first impressions are that these inks look beautiful. They are stored in these cylindrical glass bottles with a plastic black screw on cap that opens and closes easily, feels functional, minimalist and clean, in a good size. What I’m often not so keen about as a calligrapher is the neck of the bottle being too small to dip the nib into, and the Elixir ink bottles have a good size, they are nice to hold, open and close, it doesn’t feel or look flimsy.
When you open the bottles up, they do have quite a bit of a smell that reminds me of my old Sakura watercolours or paint, and I wonder if it’s the binder that is responsible for the smell. There’s no ingredient list, so I have no idea what goes into the inks.
The colours are beautiful too. I was quite struck by how Sunset Siloso looks in the bottle, it’s completely translucent, and I must say I was quite excited at the thought of perhaps another ink that looks like Noodler’s Apache Sunset, known for its gradient ombre effect when used on its own.
River Safari looks like a deep olive green and reminds me of forest trees, grass and the tropical colours of both orange and green are quite appealing. They smell a bit.. like old watercolour paint. I have no idea what goes into the inks and am probably making stuff up, but I dug out some old watercolour from my primary school and it reminded me of that smell.
A review of the River Safari for fountain pen use has been done by Checks and Doodles in a separate post.
Putting inks to paper..
I have a control sample written in Walnut ink, because I’m familiar with how it sits on the paper, and how the nib performs. I used the Esterbrook 355, which is a vintage mapping nib, capable of extremely fine lines (like 0.1mm, it’s not a very flexible nib, but it does give you shades when you need it. I like these for mini Copperplate writing. (Please ignore the blobs, I smudged them accidentally)
In English calligraphy, we can think about it as creating specific shapes with dip nibs, be it pointed pen or broad pen calligraphy, creating precise edges is quite important. With many fountain pen inks, the inks are made to be quite watery and thin to prevent clogging of fountain pens, so I normally have to add some Gum Arabic (which is a binder for pigments in watercolour) to add some thickness/viscosity to the ink and hopefully prevent feathering or bleeding through the paper.
First, I used them straight out of the bottle, and these inks are feathery and bleed through to the bottom of the paper. I used Rhodia here, which is a well sized paper that is smooth and normally holds ink well on the surface, it is also often recommended for FP users. Poorly sized paper behave like tissue paper or really cheap construction paper, touching inks to papers like that will result in immediate feathering, but I was disappointed these inks reacted like that to Rhodia too. At one point, Siloso Sunset had a bit of an accident where the bead of ink dumped out from the nib onto the paper (imagine water dripping off a stick versus a drop of nail polish dripping off a stick). Sometimes new nibs have oil on the underside, which causes the same effect, but this was an older nib, so I had not expected that to happen.
Afterwards, I added 10 drops of Gum Arabic (shortened to G.A) to a small amount of ink (2.5ml) that I’ve measured with a syringe for accuracy, then wrote again to test. The G.A seemed to have little effect on these inks. For Siloso Sunset, it seemed to have darkened the colour just a tad, and is just a tiny bit less feathery, but on River Safari there’s no discernable difference (in fact it performed slightly worse). I’ve considered adding more G.A, but does not sense to do so, since it would alter the contents of the ink, and if I were to consider inks that are good for daily use, they ideally should not require much tampering with.
When you’re not a scientist but try to act like one anyway..
Finally, I did a super unscientific waterproof test to see how the inks react with water. I already know by experience as a professional klutz that water erases walnut ink pretty effectively (RIP entire practice notebook that I accidentally poured water on once), and I also know Rhodia paper stands up well to water (it beads up on the surface!) I didn’t want to brush water on because I thought the bristles may be the one to affect how the ink comes off the paper, so I beaded a drop of water and used the tip of the metal syringe to guide the droplet around until it covers the square I marked out, and left it for an hour to dry on its own.
So for Siloso Sunset, the water followed the downstroke in t and also started washing out the entire word, even parts not in direct contact with water, and I definitely did not tilt my paper. It happened for River Safari too, so these inks aren’t waterproof at all, and are very sensitive to moisture.
I think I had got a bit of water on my wrist and it messed up some of the text, so I don’t recommend this for writing you want to keep. Compared to walnut ink where you could see a bit of what the original text was, for these inks, the water just washed everything off.
Unfortunately, when I tested the inks on paper, I am sad to say that these 2 Elixir samples are not so suitable for dip pen calligraphy for me. Simply put, these inks are just too wet, which produced feathering and bleeding issues.
These inks are thin and heavily pigmented (darker than I thought), beautiful colours, but simply are too thin to sit well on the paper without feathering. Thin lines are okay, they don’t give flow problems, which happens with thicker inks, like sumi ink, they sometimes also dump out on paper or refuse to flow properly. The problem only comes in when more ink is concentrated, it would almost always feather and bleed, and personally I would not use these inks for calligraphy.
Back of the paper is covered in inks that have leaked to the bottom of the page, and even to the next sheet (which I tore off), which makes it unattractive, like when it’s so hot ourside and your eyeliner is smudging your all over your face because you’re sweaty and your newly dyed hair is literally staining your white shirt, and you look like a hot mess and don’t have your life in check. Wait, that’s me.
Did a quick check and the guys at Elixir Inks said that while these inks may not be suitable for calligraphy, they will be developing calligraphy-friendly inks at a later stage. So I’m looking forward to that!
A cool thing to note
Also want to note that as I was working with these inks, how Siloso Sunset really looks like blood, that I’m calling this Bleeding Sunset.