Since I found myself getting into fountain pens, I’ve never really used black inks.
Grey inks, sure: a good grey can be as expressive as any other colour, ranging from a clean crisp silver to the colour of 2B pencil, and with an infinity of tints, from almost lavender purple, to murky fog-brown. But the point of black is to be a void; to be as, well, inky black as can be. If a black shades to a weak near-grey, I can’t help but consider it a failure.
Black inks by definition can’t delight with a novel colour or sophisticated shading. Even sheen detracts from the purpose of a true black. Without those qualities, I wanted more from black inks than they could give. Like a blind man who leans on his hearing, I wanted black inks to give me the perfect page-feel in lieu of colour: wet, lubricated, drying to crisp outlines.
So many of them let me down, even Aurora Black and Noodler’s Black, which are famed for their wetness and saturation. I went so far as to use Sailor Kiwa-Guro, a pigmented black, which I enjoy but to me it’s neither wet enough nor light-swallowing enough. Like a pencil shading, its line is too silvery reflective to call black.
I fell in love with a few near-blacks along the way. Bungubox’s Ink of Witch springs to mind. Technically, it’s a purple, but to all intents and purposes it’s a black. Not only is it deep and dark, with a gorgeous sheen, it writes like an oil-slick. It remains a favourite to this day.
Iroshizuku Take-Sumi caught my eye after a forum thread filled with people talking about its special ‘something’. Indeed, its flow is unique, even if it’s not the darkest black around. It tames a feedbacky nib, and writes with elegance and grace.
But I finally hit the jackpot when I invested in a bottle of Ryuno Black ink by Kuretake, ordered from Vanness, and now sadly out of stock. It’s scented like Sumi ink, comes in a beautiful grenade-shaped cut-glass bottle, and it writes like magic. It leaves a black hole on the page, and it is simply so smooth.
I went years without a proper black in my rotation, but since getting Ryuno I have been using it often. I still don’t marvel at the colour on the page as I would a beautiful turquoise or purple, but its depth and more importantly its page-feel are exceptionally hard to match.
Maybe I’m just getting old, but I’ve made my peace with black ink.
Edit: I’ve managed to source seven new bottles from Japan, at significant cost! I’m happy to sell five of them if anyone in the UK is interested. Including shipping and customs they cost me £40 per bottle. I’ll sell at cost plus £4 per bottle to cover shipping on.