Fountain pen inks come in a variety of colors and formulations. Some inks are designed to be waterproof or fade-resistant, while others are specifically made for calligraphy or artistic purposes.
As one of the top ink manufacturers in the world, Noodler’s has a wide range of options and their Black and Heart of Darkness shades are some of the most popular.
Noodler’s Black is the company’s standard black shade of ink. It is permanent and highly resistant to water and smearing. It appears as a deep, saturated shade of black and behaves well on standard writing paper. Heart of Darkness is similar in texture to Noodler’s Black but has a lighter shade, closer to grey.
In this comparison guide, we’ll dive into Noodler’s range of black inks and compare their base Black and Heart of Darkness shades.
We’ll explain what sets the two varieties apart and share insight into how you can choose the right ink for your needs. Take this information and put it to good use the next time you go shopping.
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What to Look for in Fountain Pen Ink
Before we dive into Noodler’s Ink and its range of black tones, we wanted to give a brief overview of what to look for in a fountain pen ink. The quality and composition of ink can greatly affect its longevity and appearance on paper. Therefore, take time to research a product based on these qualifiers before buying:
- Color Composition – In general, there are three types of inks—dye-based, pigment-based, and hybrids. Dye-based inks are the most common type. They’re affordable and offer vibrant colors, but they fade over time. Pigment-based inks are more expensive but offer superior quality and longevity. Hybrid inks are a blend of dye and pigment-based inks and offer the best of both worlds: affordability and quality.
- Viscosity of the Ink – The viscosity of a fountain pen ink can affect how easily the pen writes. Thicker, heavier inks can cause the pen to write more slowly, while thinner inks can cause the pen to write more quickly. Viscosities vary depending on the brand and type of ink but, on average, most fountain pen inks are water-based and thin.
- Lubrication – Most fountain pen inks are lubricated to some degree to help them flow smoothly through the pen’s feed and nib. Inks that are not lubricated can be more prone to clogging and can be more difficult to clean from the pen. If you’re using a piston-filled pen, we highly recommend finding a lubricated fountain pen ink.
- Sheen – The sheen of a fountain pen ink is determined by the composition of the ink and the surface on which it is written. Inks with high levels of glycerin or other additives can produce a noticeable sheen on absorbent paper. Inks with metal salts or other particles can produce a sheen on non-absorbent surfaces such as plastics or metal.
To find out whether a particular ink meets your needs, try to sample it in a store or find writing samples and review online. Other fountain pen enthusiasts can help you narrow your search to an ink that’s perfect for your pen and writing needs.
Who is Noodler’s Ink?
Noodler’s Ink is a popular fountain pen manufacturer that produces a range of pens and inks. The company was first founded in 2004 by Nathan Tardif, who still owns the business today.
All Noodler’s Ink products are manufactured in the United States according to stringent quality and safety standards, so you can trust that you’re getting some of the most affordable yet top-quality products on the market.
Noodler’s Ink Products
Since its founding, Noodler’s Ink has gained a reputation for making low-cost stationeries that are both flexible and useable in everyday life. Some models can even write in multiple directions. The “Ahab” fountain pen features a piston-fill fountain, while the “Nathan’s Konrad” has a lever-fill function and the “Eagle” features a plunger-fill fountain. All pens are available with a variety of nib sizes, including fine, medium, and broad.
Noodler’s also has a wide range of inks in a variety of tones, from blacks and blues to greens, reds, yellows, pinks, and even some fluorescents. The inks can be further classified by a few distinct features, which we’ve carefully defined below:
- Archival – Archival inks are specially formulated to withstand weathering over time. They are meant to last for decades without fading, so that future generations can enjoy the text or image.
- Bulletproof – Noodler’s bulletproof inks are sturdier enough to withstand anything a forger might throw at them. They can survive UV light, bleach, solvents, alcohol, gasoline, and just about any household cleaner. Be careful to not get them on your clothes because these inks are impossible to get out.
- Polar – Noodler’s makes a handful of polar inks, which can survive freezing temperatures without separating or turning into slush.
- Fast Drying – Noodler’s fast-drying inks quickly dry to prevent smearing while you write. Once they dry, they are completely waterproof.
- Lubricating – Some of Noodler’s inks have an added lubricant that prevents your pen from clogging with dried ink. They are ideal for piston-filled pens.
Although most Noodler’s inks are bulletproof, not all varieties are lubricated, polar, or fast drying. Be sure to check ahead of time to guarantee you’re getting the best product for your fountain pen.
Noodler’s Black Ink
- 100% permanent
- High saturation
- Works well on most paper
- Nearly impossible to clean
- Every batch varies in saturation because the ink is handmade
Noodler’s Black, or 19001 Black, is the standard dye base black shade currently in production by Noodler’s Ink. It comes in a small 3 oz glass vial, 4.5 oz vial, or 16 oz bottle that features a nostalgic painting of a catfish and clearly reads “The only eternal black ink.” At the bottom, in a large font, the vial reads MADE IN USA.
Noodler’s categorizes its base Black ink by the following classifications:
- Forge Resistant
- Water Resistant
As you can tell, Noodler’s Black is a sturdy ink able to withstand just about anything. It’s waterproof when dry, will never fade, and won’t wash away if exposed to harsh cleaners or chemical solvents. This makes it a top choice for anyone who wants to leave their mark.
- 100% made in the USA from cap to glass to ink
- Archival quality
- Medium 3oz. Bottle
Noodler’s Ink 19001 Black is made from a cellulose derivative that behaves well on just about any paper, no matter how cheap. The color itself is a rich and saturated black, similar to crude oil yet smoother and less shiny. When applied to paper, it quickly adheres and dries within just a few seconds.
We ran a smear test and found that, within 30 seconds, the ink had almost entirely dried. Once stable, we then tested the ink’s moisture resistance with a few drops of water and found that you couldn’t even tell we’d wetted the paper. It also created very little drip on the paper while we wrote.
All-in-all, we found Noodler’s Black to be one of the best base black inks on the market and loved just how permanent it really is. For such an affordable product, you’ll struggle to find anything that can compete.
Our only complaint with the shade is that some users have reported noticeable variations from batch to batch. Noodler’s makes all of their inks by hand so it is understandable that there may be some difference from one vial to another. However, when we tested the ink, it came out dark, bold and saturated.
Heart of Darkness Ink
- 100% permanent
- Works well on most papers
- Dries quickly
- Slightly lighter than other shades of black
- More prone to feather
Heart of Darkness is another popular shade of black ink manufactured by Noodler’s Inks. It’s very similar in composition to the standard base black but with a slightly different tone. It comes in a small 4.5 oz glass vial or a 16 oz bottle that features a vintage pen-drawn elephant pushing through jungle brush. Below the image, the bottle reads “Au Coeur des Tenèbres”.
Noodler’s categorizes its Heart of Darkness ink by the following classifications:
- Forge Resistant
- Water Resistant
Just like the standard Noodler’s Black, Heart of Darkness is a versatile and durable dye ink capable of withstanding just about anything. You can leave it out in the sun, soak it in water, or let it percolate in a solvent and the ink will still look as fresh as when you first applied it to paper.
Heart of Darkness behaves well on most everyday papers and can even absorb into cheap materials, such as newspaper, with only mild feathering or bleeding. Although it’s not classified as a lubricated ink, it still contains a good volume of natural oils that help it smoothly flow through your pen. As you write, you’ll feel the difference in your hand and on the paper.
When we tested the ink, it dried fairly quickly, preventing major smears after the 15-second mark. This is roughly half of the time it took for the Noodler’s Black ink to dry. After it stabilized, we then tested its moisture resistance and found that it stood up equally well, showing absolutely no signs of running or bleeding.
- Genuine Noodler's Quality
- Blackest Bulletproof Noodler’s - Waterproof
- Fountain Pen Ink for Vintage or New Pens
- 4.5 oz Eydropper Glass Bottle
- Includes FREE Fountain Pen
Colorwise, Heart of Darkness produced a deep black with hardly any shading issues. It dried matte and solid, though slightly lighter than the standard Noodler’s Black ink. Comparing the two side-by-side, Heart of Darkness definitely falls within the black family but it’s closer to a grey than the base Black ink. Nevertheless, it’s bold enough for everyday use and, personally, we think it’s an outstanding ink.
Our only complaint about Heart of Darkness is that it seems more prone to feathering than other Noodler inks. While this is manageable or only slight, if you prefer the look of crisp lines, it may not be the right ink for you.
Which Ink is Right for You?
At the end of the day, both Noodler’s Black and Heart of Darkness are top-quality low-viscosity black inks available at an affordable price. Compared to other options, they are both rich and saturated shades of black with little variation from one batch to another. And that’s saying something considering that they are 100% handmade in the United States.
If you prefer a midnight black with very little shading, we recommend Noodler’s Black. It’s matte, solid, and leaves very little splatter. However, if you want something a little lighter with tones of grey and brown, we recommend Heart of Darkness. It’s equally resistant to water and other solvents and dries with very little shading.
You can purchase both shades in small or large sizes from most fountain pen retailers, or even from Amazon. The vials are always filled to the top so you can trust that you’re getting every pennies’ worth of value for your purchase. That being said, though, be careful when opening the vials as they can easily spill and the ink is nearly impossible to clean from clothing.
To learn more about the individual products or the history of Noodler’s Ink, check out the official Noodler’s website. While there, you can also find a wide variety of other colors and products, as well as an in-depth overview of the terms Noodler’s uses to classify its products.
Choosing a fountain pen ink can be a daunting task. With so many different shades of black, it’s not always easy knowing which to go with. Noodler’s Ink alone produces more than 10 different varieties, with their standard Noodler’s Black and Heart of Darkness being two of the most popular.
If you prefer a saturated black color with very little shading, we recommend Noodler’s Black. It’s a low-viscosity dye-based ink that is 100% waterproof once dry. For something a little lighter, we recommend Heart of Darkness. Compared to its darker cousin, Heart of Darkness has a greyish-brown hue that dries matte and solid. Both are available online in 3 oz, 4 oz, and 16 oz bottles.