I like discovering new brands, particularly ones that approach well-trodden ground from a whole new angle. Colorverse is a Korean ink manufacturer that I encountered on Instagram a couple of weeks ago. I immediately got in touch to ask for some review samples. What caught my eye?
Space theme — done thoroughly
All of Colorverse’s 20 inks are space and science (well, astrophysics specifically) themed, so far spread across two different “seasons”. Inks are named things like Saturn V (blue) or Mars Curiosity (red, obviously). The names are matched with neat little icons on the label and across the box — real care has been given to the branding and the story. Normally I don’t give a toss about box shots, but here you go:
You also get a (somewhat overblown) brochure inside each box explaining the theme and the range.
In fact, every part of the packaging features space. Here’s the lift-out tray inside the box, adorned with constellations.
Obviously the box helps protect the cargo, but this kind of packaging also makes for a more impressive gift than a plastic bottle in some bubble wrap would.
Unique bottles — little and large
The bottles are super cool. They’re teardrop shaped, something I’ve never seen before. And I say “bottles” because when you buy one colour you get both a 65ml and a 15ml bottle in the box. Same shape, same branding, just one has shrunk in the wash. A gimmick? Maybe, but having a small bottle for travel or gifting is a pretty cool idea.
Worth noting at this point that the plastic caps have an inner rubber seal — it all feels well put together.
Transparency — all the specs you need
Unusually, Colorverse publishes proper specs on each of its inks. Pantone, hex and RGB shades, pH levels, and — most excitingly — surface tension. This should directly relate to ink properties like “flow” or “wetness”, eliminating some of the opinion and guesswork in reviews about which inks are “wet” or “dry”. (I deliberately picked three inks with low surface tension, hoping to get my preferred wetter feel).
Meet the inks
So, I picked four inks to try, paid $70 for shipping from Korea (note: I got the actual inks for free. See my ethics), and waited as patiently as I could. Here’s what I got:
Supernova, an ultra bright blue (darker than turquoise), which I loaded into my Sailor Pro Gear with HM nib. Supernova is perhaps most like Blackstone Barrier Reef Blue, including its heavy sheen.
Quasar, a highly saturated “blurple” — note that I simply couldn’t get my camera to pick up the purple tint, no matter what I did with white balance. I loaded it into a TWSBI Eco with F nib. Comparing against my swatches, it was somewhere between Iroshizuku Asa-Gao and Monteverde Charoite. Quite unusual, and again a bit of a sheen monster.
Andromeda, a pinky/purple red wine colour, which I loaded in my Pilot 823 with FA nib. It has a gorgeous golden sheen.
I figured it was close to Sailor Oku-Yama, but actually it’s closest to Iroshizuku Yama-Budo, although a bit less pink.
Proxima B, a blue-black that I haven’t yet inked. Here’s a shot of it on Tomoe to tide you over.
So those are the colours. What are they actually like to write with, though? All three seem to be — so far — completely living up to my expectations for wetness, colour, shading and sheen. For instance, Supernova is smoothing out the toothy feel of the Pro Gear nib; Andromeda is happily keeping up with the flow of the 823’s FA nib at flex.
I’ve wrriten on a few different papers and dry time is decent; I’ve had no skipping or hard starting, nib crud or feathering, bleedthrough or other nastiness. I happen to quite like inks that smell (like KWZ or Sailor), but I’ve noticed no particular aroma from these. The only thing I can’t yet report on is staining of converters or barrels.
We have lift-off?
Colorverse is definitely aiming for the premium end of the ink market. I can think of few inks that come in more impressive boxes (Montblanc and Caran d’Ache Chromatics, perhaps?) With each ink you get the two bottles, brochure, guidance notes, napkin for cleaning your pen, paper bookmarks and pen stands, stickers, and a fancy box. The ink is great, and the branding tells a strong story (even though Nemosine got there first with the whole space-ink thing).
The founder, who I corresponded with by email, seems to be going all-in with quality and attention to detail. And I think that’s essential to capture customers’ and retailers’ attention in what has (pun intended) become quite a saturated market. There are so many ink brands and shades out there that you really need a hook to stand out. And, as evidenced by my own experience, Colorverse’s approach works.
With so many shades on offer, each with different pHs and surface tension, I can’t claim to give a stamp of approval to the whole range here (although it seems that Leigh liked the load that she tried).
That said, I really like the three colours that I put through their paces here. In fact, I really can’t find anything to criticise. At 30 USD per colour, Colorverse is undoubtedly on the upper side of pricing — but don’t forget you get 80ml across two glass bottles for that, so I’ve definitely seen worse performers in the price-per-ml contest.
The killer, at least for those of us in Europe, will be distribution. Until Colorverse gets into local retailers, the international shipping will prove to be an important factor. So get on the case, Bureau Direct!