So What’s Wrong With Red?


Red the color – not the film Red. Helen Mirren is one of my favorite actresses and deserving of a svelte namesake fountain pen in my opinion. But that’s another story. No, this post is about red ink and its nearest neighbors, pink and orange. What can you do with them?

Time after time I load a pen with one of these colors and start out with the best of intentions, most often to shake up my rotation. Nothing wrong with blue, violet, brown, green, teal, and turquoise. They are, with the exception of turquoise, somewhat muted and dark, if not brooding in many incarnations. Red and its cohorts are cheeky in comparison. Shouldn’t that be exciting?

Too often anything in the red family just gets flushed down the drain though not all reds are created equal. Some shout while others whisper. With a few exceptions like Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses, Noodler’s Red-Black, and Rohrer & Klingner Solferino, the pen doesn’t get used and the ink gets wasted. So I’m swearing off for a while. My rotation no longer looks like a  rainbow but that’s fine. Maybe Noodler’s Cayenne will sneak in with the first autumn chill. Since it can look either red or orange, only one pen need get sullied. Glad that’s settled.

Do you have a similar issue with a color? If so, which one?

Noodler's Cayenne Ink

Noodler’s Cayenne Ink



  1. I have Montblanc Alfred Hitchcock red in one of my pens at the moment and am enjoying it immensely http://justdaveyb.com/2012/08/12/pilot-custom-742-blackgold-su-inked-with-montblanc-alfred-hitchcock-red/


  2. I like reds more and more. I prefer the pink or blue reds more than the brown reds. Currently have Akkerman China Town Red in a pen. It is bright, bright and very pretty.
    Don’t we all need some bright colors in our life?


  3. I like reds more and more. I prefer the pink and blue reds to the brown reds. I have Akkerman China Town Red in a pen now. It is bright, bright and beautiful. De Atramentis Ruby Red is another favorite.
    Don’t we all need a little brightness in our life?


  4. There are several reservations I’ve had with red, only some of a chemical or purely aesthetic nature. Last night I was re-reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel” – the part where she gets a letter from her father written in red (the colour of ink reserved for messages written to one’s enemies.) When I was teaching, it was generally agreed red was an intimidating colour with which to mark an essay. I like red (J. Herbin Rouge Caroubier for example), and I put it in pens, but then I never know quite what to *do* with it. It seems to have limited use. I’d never write a letter with it, for example. It’s a tough colour to fit into one’s life. That’s my observation.


    • Interesting remarks, Wayne. Supposedly red is a power color in addition to the connection with anger and enemies. I wonder what that says about the occasional page in my journal that was written in red. Perhaps only that I was testing a new ink but there could have been a hidden significance to my choice.

      For correspondence orange works a little better for me and pink almost as well. A whole letter in either color would be a bit much. A paragraph or even a page is sufficient to demonstrate the color and that’s how I use them the most. A whole letter in red might be alarming. Isn’t it amazing how color affects us.


  5. Never really got on with red, though I find orange a great markup/editing colour, particularly if it’s a yellowish orange like Apache Sunset.

    I tried R&K Morinda, partly because you said it was “very easy to like even for someone who is not overly fond of red ink,” but meh, still too red! So now my red is Sailor Grenade, a bluish raspberry sort of dark pink. I can cope with that!


    For anyone wondering what to do with red, what about a nice rubric?



    • That’s too bad that Morinda didn’t work out for you. It’s color is a little less intense than the other red inks in my collection so I use it from time to time. For a red ink Morinda dries quickly and that’s another mark in its favor. Some reds leave me drumming my fingers on my desk as they slowly go from puddles to dried marks.

      Rohrer & Klingner inks in general perform well for me so I might be a little biased. I will have to monitor that in future reviews.


      • Hi Inkophile, thanks for your reply. I just meant Morinda wasn’t muted enough for me, that’s all, particularly on white copy paper. But no worries about R&K – they do perform well, they’re inexpensive, and they have some amazing colours (Helianthus and Alt-Goldgrün are my top two).


        • You do like soft colors if you prefer Helianthus and Alt-Goldgrün. White paper would bring out those colors or any ink’s color, for better or worse. Verdigris and Alt-Bordeaux were my first Rohrer & Klingner inks and purchased at least six years ago before anyone imported it. Now that R&K is more readily available in the U.S., it’s become one of my favorite ink makers. Glad to see you like it, too.


  6. I simply don’t like lighter colored, orangey reds. I’ve ended up reserving DeAtramentis’ Oriental Red for journalling or letters as the brick color annoys me too much to use in my manuscript. I find myself focused on the annoyance rather than in the flow. The Herbin reds are too light for me. I like the color of 1670, but not the “coat everything it touches” performance or lack thereof. So I continue to hunt for a true crimson, an arterial color with a hint of black/deep wounding rather than the cheerful vermillion of Iroshizuku which is pretty, but not what I’m after.

    Noodler’s Red-Black I find oddly soothing as it lays on the page, especially out of an OBB nib. It gets out of my way and lets the words inside me hold my attention, not the shade on the page.

    I have hopes of Sailor’s Grenade or Diamine’s Red Dragon, both of which I recently purchased after FPN reviews, but I haven’t gotten around to opening them yet. I’m looking for an ink the color of a pigeon’s blood ruby. The color of Borgia blood. The deep crimson of Roman soldiers’ cloaks in Ben Hur. The shade of Cleopatra’s lipstick. Give me depth of color!


    • Of the inks you mentioned, Beth, I only have experience with the Herbin reds, 1670, and Noodler’s Red-Black. I agree with you on all of them. NRB is the only ink in the red family that I use regularly in a Sailor 1911 F. My Montblanc 220 OB might be a good second home for it though I am smitten with Diamine Violet in it for now.

      Grenade gets enthusiastic remarks wherever I read about it. I might just have to try that one especially if you like it with a wide nib. That really amounts to high praise indeed.

      Borgia Blood and Lipstick Red are great names for ink. Hey, Nathan! Are you listening?


  7. That is really cool discussion, because at a moment I am searching for intense reds and burgundy in ink for drawing two pictures with pomegranates. I have few reddish sepias, but can you, please, advice me the most intense reds?


    • Try these links for some swatches of red and burgundy:

      Noodler’s Ink
      The Writing Desk
      Diamine Ink


    • Sailor Grenade is named (in French) after the pomegranate.It can look like some pomegranate colours in a wet nib, I guess, but my nibs aren’t so wet, and I get a more raspberryish colour, like a darker Diamine Amaranth. So it may be a little more blue-leaning than you want, depending on the pomegranates you’re looking at.


      • I’m now wearing part of a bottle of Grenade. Really love the color, but it decants about as well as it inks long Visconti nibs, which is not very. Sigh… Fingers are raspberry shaded, which I didn’t expect from the deeper, bluer shade of the ink itself. From a wet BB it’s awesome.

        Anyone know another ink in a better/deeper bottle that’s similar in color?


        • Hi Beth!
          That’s a lot of ink to wear but it sounds like a pretty color. Whose bottles work best for you?


          • Because Visconti, Montblanc, Delta, and many other of my favorite pen brands all have nibs an inch long [or even longer!] depth of ink bottles and the ability to lower the pens all the way are huge issues for me.

            On the “haven’t these people ever used their own product?!” list are Herbin and Sailor. I can’t load a Sailor King of Pen nib in their own bottle, even with that portable plastic well! Some of the Conway Stewart bottles fall into this category, but I don’t like the dull ink colors, so I never use them.

            On the other end – I don’t think Nathan Tardiff has EVER lowered a light colored, easily stained demo or celluloid pen into one of his tall bottles. Yes, I can get the long nosed in, but how to I see how far I have lowered them into the bottle after I’ve used some without staining the pen, my fingers and everything else after I hit the side of the bottle! The plastic Visconti bottles are horrific for this as well. The champagne glass shape is lovely for getting it all out, but now that they’ve cheaped up, the weight is insufficient to hold the bottle in place! And their refill bottles even worse.

            Do NOT get me started on the poor design of the Visconti ink wells. They leak out the side at the least touch, the metal caps have a tendency to pop off at the least leverage, and rinsing spills off before the bottle is empty is impossible. Dante Delvecchio, do you ever USE these things????

            On my I love the bottle if not always the ink in it list, best of show – Omas, Waterford and Montblanc. Their bottles turn to get the last drops out, you can see how much is left, there’s no spill and everything is steady. I save these to use with other inks.

            For plastic bottles I’m in love with because I can see what I’m doing even if I can’t get the last drops out – De Atramentis, Rohrer & Klinger and Diamine. Don’t knock over, tall nibs will fit in and they’re easy to decant into something else.

            Finally, best in show – love both ink AND bottle – Iroshizuku. Whoever invented these have my undying gratitude. Bought every color, saving every bottle. Yes!


            • You’ve done us all a service by calling out the losers and validating the winners. Have you tried Stipula?

              Most of my pens have medium-sized nibs and converters so when necessary a narrow-necked pipette does the trick nicely. No waste since it will grab even that last drop of ink. No risk of cross-contamination either.


              • No, I haven’t. The moss green color looks intriguing. Otherwise I’m not drawn to the colors.

                The vast majority of my pens are pistons, power fillers or some varient that requires direct suction.


                • Moss Green is more brown than green but I like it especially in my Namiki Falcon SB. How does the bottle look for your needs?


                  • If it’s deep enough for a 149 & the neck is wide enough, the shape looks good. Got to be able to see where the ink level is relative to the section.

                    Sent from my iPhone


                    • Beth, if I owned a 149, I would be delighted to test it for you. Maybe some dimensions will help. The diameter of the opening is about an inch and the height of the bottle is over three inches. The glass is tinted dark brown. 70 ml is a lot of ink and compared to some other brands a reasonable price to pay at $19 per bottle.


                    • One of these days we need to swap snails offline & see if we’re close enough for a meet up. I experienced my 1st stingy Carene nib recently & thought of you.

                      Sent from my iPhone


                    • Hee! Don’t I wish but I expect California is a bit far for a meet up.


                    • Yeah, that’s not commutable from Florida, even with a hurricane as my tail wind. Which it’s starting to seem that I’ll get by early next week.


                    • Indeed. Stay dry.

                      Just sent an email to your Gmail account.


  8. I’m like that with greens. I long to find a perfect green (hence why I keep inking it up) but I haven’t found one yet. I do however love reds!


    • Don’t get me started on green… 😉


  9. […] Fountain pens / Writing. Lamy 2000 and the Origins of “Lamy Design”, Part 1 Moleskine Pens and Pencils Photo Gallery Picasso’s Sketchbook Danitrio Seirei-Nuri Genkai Review Of The Montblanc 149 By A Former Anti-Montblancite Pita Bread Pencil Holder Pocket Blonde: Lamy Tipo Rollerball So What’s Wrong With Red? […]


  10. I have been thinking about this since you initially posted this one, and have thought on it quite a bit. Because it’s an interesting question that you pose. First, I never imagined myself to be a big fan of reds or pinks, but bought a few samples on a whim and it was all over. Just love it, and I usually have at least one pink-ish red, or pink, in my rotation at any given time. Caran d’Ache Sunset is a big favorite, and I often use it in my journal.

    I have never been a fan of fuchsia or magenta (in real life, at least) yet a pen friend sent me a sample of Noodler’s Saguaro Wine and I’ve been playing with it constantly. I really enjoy drawing with it, so I inked up an eyedropper fill Preppy with what was left of the sample, and I find myself grabbing for it often. Even after I ink up new pens. Surprise!

    I’m not a fan of “blood red” inks, and can’t get into that. I recently pulled out Binder Burgundy again after it had sat in my stash for a while, and maybe it was the pen I was using it in, but it just had a very “bloody” feel, and didn’t care for it. Maybe I can modify it so that it’s a little pink-er.

    What’s interesting is, I do not care for orange too much. One of my pen friends uses it in her letters, often, and I love seeing it in her letters. I made some orange ink purchases based on her writing samples, then once I had them, I found I wasn’t interested in using them. However, I am currently using Iroshizuku Yu-Yake in a calligraphy pen (mostly for use in my journal). As far as orange goes, I really love it and it’s the only orange I have right now. That being said, I find that it doesn’t get as much use as, say, J. Herbin Vert Olive (I’m addicted to green!), which is also one of my calligraphy pen favorites, and sees a lot of use in my journal. In fact, I find reasons to write things when my calligraphy pen is inked with Vert Olive. It’s funny how personal and subjective inks can be.

    Sorry for the late post, but this was an interesting question and I wanted to think about it a little.


    • That’s a great and thoughtful reply, KP. I do think preferences in ink color alters over time and even simple things like the changing of the seasons can affect our choices. It took me a long time to warm to orange ink but Noodler’s Apache Sunset got to me first. Yu-yake didn’t exist back then but now that my Lamy 1.9 mm is empty, I wonder if it would like a little orange nip…


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