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Noodler’s Ink: Not so Waterproof after all

May 5, 2015

A_Ink Test_RedBlack vs Rome Burning
Jaret Kupcinsky, Ian Bowden @ JKPP

I’ve recently been testing inks – looking for a good set of waterproof colors.

These portraits above, (done from people on the JKPP Flickr group) are Noodler’s Red Black and Rome Burning. The Noodler’s specification chart lists Red Black as ‘partially’ water resistant and Rome Burning as fully water resistant. Bulletproof even.

And for my control group, one in straight up Platinum Carbon Ink, Black (which I know is rock-solid-waterproof), next to Pilot’s Iroshizuku Kiri-Same.

A_Ink Test_Platium vs Kiri-Same
Luis Vigil, Pat Hayes @ JKPP

I don’t find the Kiri-Same to be sufficiently different from black to be worth bringing another pen along. So this was a good test, but I won’t be bothering with grey ink. I do plan to use the colors. I’ve ordered a pair of Noodler’s Ahab Flex pens in appropriate colored barrels for the red and gold ink :)

These particular drawings were done with a Blue Pumpkin dip nip, and ink sample vials from Goulet Pens. If I had realized Goulet was in Richmond, I would have stopped by when I was in town!

I have however, found a Canadian company. out of Toronto. So I can now get pens and ink without paying duty. *Winning*!

Ink Test_Platium_Luis Vigil Ink Test_Kiri-Same_Pat Hayes

So here’s what you’d expect with washing watercolor over a waterproof ink drawing. Color does its thing, lines stay put.

These are on Strathmore Bristol (smooth) and tinted with DS Potters Pink, Naples Yellow, a touch of Quinn Gold Deep and some Moonglow. A limited palette that can serve for caucasian-ish skin. Incidentally – I am not very impressed with Potters pink as a pigment. The Daniel Smith tube I tried was inordinately weak and seemed unusually poorly mixed with the binder. I will be binning that directly.

Now here are the Red Black and Rome Burning. Painted with the same colors.

Ink Test_RedBlack_Jarett Kupinsky

Ink Test_Rome Burning_Ian Bowden

Neat hey?

So, we’ve established that Noodler’s claims these inks are at least partially water resistant. I’d say that is 100% true about 20% of the time.

I was expecting a little more resistance than this. Maybe it would be nice to see 70-80% line – holding. But in fact they both give out a tremendous amount of color even though one is “partial” and the other “bulletproof”.

So I have not found a set of waterproof inks – but I have found a new variation on water soluble drawing :) I’ve always done washable drawings with Lamy black ink and enjoyed the neutralizing effect it offers. Now, I am very much liking the color cast I can give to a drawing.

Here’s one last test, done on Canson Montval 140lb cold pressed. Just to see if it was only the smooth Bristol causing the wash-out. If anything, the ink traveled further on this coated watercolor stock.

Pretty great effect hey! I think I’ll be doing more with this.

Cristina Urdiales @JKPP

31 Comments leave one →
  1. Noel R. permalink
    May 5, 2015 9:47 AM

    The only Noodler’s inks, so far, that I’ve found sufficiently “waterproof” are the American Black Eel, Brown #41 and Lexington Gray. Fox behaved as if it was pretty water resistant last time I tried it, but I remember it behaving differently on other paper. The first three neutrals, though, haven’t given me any problems.

    • May 5, 2015 10:01 AM

      I did try Fox – it’s pretty good – but I wasn’t sold on the pure scarlet. I could mix it with black I suppose ?

  2. May 5, 2015 9:56 AM

    The as far from my little experience the noodlers black is not that bulletproof because the paper seizing. Infact a little stays in the surface and the remaining will binds with the cellulose on the paper.
    For this reason it works perfectly with an unsized paper and /or normal paper.

    The definitive solution for a fountain pen is to use the Platinum Carbon Ink or Pentel.
    Probably not as black as the Noodler’s but absolutely waterproof and washable.

    Just my 2c


    • May 5, 2015 10:02 AM

      Yes, these are both sized papers – so there is that. So in a more conventional sketchbook they might be ok. I’ll try that next and let you know.

  3. amats123 permalink
    May 5, 2015 10:00 AM

    I love seeing your portrait and figurative work!! Thanks for posting :)

    I’ve tested most of the Noodlers. For watercolor, Noodlers Lexington Gray is very waterproof and dries super fast on every paper I’ve tried. It’s perfect for wc sketchbook work and life drawing quick sketch making immediate wc wash possible.

    Another to try is De Atramentis Archival Black. Although it is listed as not being pigmented, it dries faster than Carbon and it is completely waterproof.

    You can sample both from Goulet.

    Disclaimer: I use thes inks in fountain pens. Dip pens lay down far more ink in spots so the drying time is bound to be longer.

    • May 5, 2015 10:05 AM

      That last drawing of Cristina, my Ahab had come in – but that’s a fountain pen that is so wet it’s similar to a dip nib :) I’m thinking I might bring ‘slip sheets’ of scrap paper to put between pages (if it was important drawings) – if you look at the scan up top, you’ll see how much ink came off on the scanner bed! and that was an hour later.

      • quirkyartist permalink
        November 5, 2015 1:42 AM

        I always take some waxed paper for when watercolour is wet and I have to move on. Bookbinders can’t handle,life without waxed paper.

  4. Susan S. permalink
    May 5, 2015 10:46 AM

    I would second the recommendation for De Atrementis Document Inks. I’ve only used the black in a Lamy Al-Star, but Goulet Pens sells several different colours, and others report that they are all very good. Liz Steel has written quite a bit about them on her blog. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find anyone in Canada who sells this ink.

  5. May 5, 2015 11:27 AM

    Very interesting! I have recently made a similar discovery with these “waterproof” inks and also love the effect, especially of Noodler’s Golden Brown ink which creates a bathed-in-sunlight effect.

    • May 5, 2015 11:53 AM

      I really wanted Golden Brown, but my guys were out of stock at the time – that’s really my choice of ‘yellow”. I love the shading in that ink!

  6. May 5, 2015 12:10 PM

    I love the Super5 ink, they try to find distributers out in the world, produced in Germany. Liz Steel has tested them, too. I love them and they are very waterproof. There are 5 colors…

  7. May 5, 2015 1:07 PM

    Thank you.

  8. May 5, 2015 2:31 PM

    Hi Marc, the paper makes a big difference as to waterproofness of Noodlers, my experience anyway. Your drawings are ….can’t think of a good enough adjective…. Love ’em!

  9. May 5, 2015 4:28 PM

    So Bulletproof is not about waterproof — It is another quality that has to do with forgeries. Water resistant is the only thing to look for when it comes to not-running-with-water. I have no trouble on MOST paper with Lexington Grey and Polar Brown. I also had about 75% success with the red. On the other hand, I’ve had 95% success with the Document inks from DeArtramentis, and also 95% with Super5. I mix color to get my proper color!

  10. Jérôme permalink
    May 5, 2015 4:55 PM


  11. May 5, 2015 6:07 PM

    I second the recommendations of the De Atramentis Document inks. They come in 8 colors, are mixable, dry faster than Platinum Carbon Black and you can mix pretty much any color you like.

    Noodlers doesn’t claim ‘waterproof’ because their inks are not pigmented inks. But fountain pen people, talking about water resistance, aren’t talking about NONE of the ink moving. They’re talking about how hard it is to remove ALL of the ink with water (as in removing numbers from checks). Noodler’s inks rely upon making a chemical bond with cellulose to be water-resistant at all and thus, cheap papers are where they shine because there’s no sizing in cheap papers to get in the way.

    Cheers — Larry

  12. May 5, 2015 6:48 PM

    As an observer of art, my faves here are Red Black and Rome Burning with the washes. I like the look where ink lines partially merge with the watercolour.

  13. Julie L permalink
    May 5, 2015 8:20 PM

    a Canadian website selling pens and ink? oh em gee! thanks for the link!

  14. Rene Wojcik permalink
    May 5, 2015 9:13 PM

    I was in southern Utah and I needed a permanent brown that would be compatible with the brown and red rocks of southern Utah. Noodles Polar Brown worked well but Noodlers Golden Brown flowed with the slightest wetting, even when dry on my Fabriano sketch pad. Needless to say, watercolors work well with the bulletproof Polar inks that Noodlers produces, IMHO.

  15. May 5, 2015 10:57 PM

    Interesting discussion. I got Noodlers black for my Lamy safari and was disappointed when it bled on my diary page (about 90 gsm) when I added water after drying. At the same time I tried the almost unpronounceable Squeteague it also moved but La Reine Mauve stood solid as a rock. Go figure.

  16. May 24, 2015 6:52 PM

    Hi, I just joined your Craftsy class, which led me over here. Seeing your comments about ink, I couldn’t restrain my inner fountain pen nerd.
    Yes, as others have noted, Noodler’s concern with “bulletproof ink” is forgery. Nathan makes sure that not just water, but all sorts of chemicals that forgers might use to erase and rewrite info on checks, wills, contracts, etc, absolutely cannot eliminate the original writing; a little smear is not his concern. Also, if your Ahab seems to flow too much, you can try pushing the nib down a bit further in relation to the feed, or pushing both in a bit deeper into the feed, or heat setting them (Goulet has how to videos). Polar inks, by the way, were created because some researchers up at the North Pole begged and pleaded for Nathan to create ink that wouldn’t freeze. He didn’t want them to have to go without their fountain pens, so he created that line of ink. The Eel series has a lubricant in it that is intended to help lubricate vintage piston filling pens, though it’s also helpful with particularly stingy pens. And if you get into vintage fountain pens, such as early Watermans and Wahls, some of those gold nibs have glorious flexibility.

    • May 24, 2015 10:40 PM

      Hey Gretchen – come over and geek about pens any time. Love to meet people with the in depth on things. I dunno what it is about fountain pens – it sure brings out the obsessive side in people :) (jk!)

      I actually love the fact Red Brown etc is not totally smudge proof. It’s really the midpoint I’ve been looking for. Fully washable inks end up moving a little to much for me? But I like the way these Noodler’s bloom into the watercolors.

      I want to try some of those fixes on the my Ahabs – I’d like to try getting one of them to be super wet. I’m interested to see what drawing with a lot of flow is like.

  17. May 25, 2015 10:41 PM

    LOL, yes, and I’m actually pretty loose in a full fountain pen context — I’m unsure of the dates of many of my vintage pens!

    You can vary flow with nib adjustments, or more simply just adding a tiny touch of dish soap to your ink, or using something like the Eel inks. Goblet is also selling extra Noodler’s flex nibs, and some people have been taking dremel tools and grinding the sides down to form longer, narrower nibs in order to get greater flex. I’ve not gotten around to this yet, though have gotten reasonable at grinding my own italics.

    If you want to try a vintage flex pen, you might contact Pier Gustafson who does both drawing and calligraphy; he’s got about 4,000 vintage pens and could likely find one to fit your drawing style. (You could send him a video of how you work with pen.) His work is marvelous and quirky.

  18. Annie permalink
    June 21, 2015 4:15 PM in Toronto are great and their prices are very reasonable.

  19. Michelle Leigh Henson permalink
    March 26, 2016 6:50 PM

    The thing about Noodler’s Rome Burning is that the golden yellow color is not meant to be permanent in any way whatsoever. If you look closely at the lines where the yellow has bled out in contact with watercolor, the original drawn line IS left behind…only it’s dusty purple (Caesar’s purple, according to Nathan). This is by design, and a really cool effect if it’s what one is going for, but an unpleasant surprise when trying to find a waterproof yellow to fit into a palette.

    • March 27, 2016 3:30 PM

      I quite like it for what it is – it was well worth it to get a series of samples and experiment.

  20. September 12, 2016 10:57 PM

    wow your art is beautiful. I love the way the water changes the inks reaction and I think it truly adds a better dimension to these pictures. It’s good to know that noodler’s isn’t perfect but I think it may be the best for price for what I want…. though nothing seems good on price to get in Australia.

  21. September 21, 2018 10:04 PM is another Canadian company I order from and I am always happy with them. $35 minimum order gives you free shipping

  22. July 13, 2020 3:26 PM

    Hi Marc… I just did another post on the topic because so many people think it is okay to call water-resistant inks waterproof. I think of being a little bit pregnant.
    NO, Noodler’s inks — I’ve tried six — all supposed to be waterproof (not bullet proof or archival which mean different things) moved on half my sketching papers. I mean MOVED… the first one ruined an onsite drawing for a client out of state, and did not make me happy. I keep Lexington Grey sometimes for shadow work… but it can move too, just not so much as the others I tried.
    I love Platinum Carbon but only use it in the pen…
    I daily draw with DeAtramentis Document Inks (all colors I’ve tried are waterPROOF on every paper I’ve used).
    I ADORE Super5 — whose unusual non-crayola colors I love to sketch with as they add to the drawings with soft muted color.


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