When I first got into fountain pens, my friend gifted me with a bottle of Noodler’s Bulletproof Heart of Darkness Black. “This is the best black ink in the world,” she gushed. “I love this brand! Most of my favorite inks are from them.”
As a fountain pen newbie, I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. Aren’t all black inks the same? What was the difference between Noodler’s Ink and the ones I could get from Amazon? Is Noodler’s Ink good?
Now that I’ve been using fountain pen inks for years, I finally understand.
Noodler’s Ink is one of the most popular ink brands, and for good reason. It’s highly pigmented and consistently produces high-quality ink at an affordable price. It also has a wide range of inks, from fast-drying to fluorescent, and even archival inks that will never fade.
And there’s more: when you look at the Noodler’s history, and even the names of the ink, you’ll see this brand has a personality that I can’t find, say, in a bottle of Parker ink.
Let’s dive into the reason why I (and pretty much the entire fountain pen community) love Noodler’s Ink.
Great value for money
Many people don’t want to use fountain pens because of the cost—and Noodler’s wanted to change that. Its mission is to provide “the lowest cost per volume”. So if you get a bottle of ink, divide the total number of milliliters by the total price, Noodler’s will generally be cheaper than other brands.
To be fair, you have to compare Noodler’s with inks of the same quality. Ignore the generic ink brands with iffy quality. But if you pit it against Pelikan, Pilot, Waterman, and other well-known brands, you will see how it’s just a fraction of the cost.
Look at this table to give you an idea.
|Ink brand||Unit price (per bottle)||Capacity||Cost per ml|
|Sailor Bungubox Bottled Ink||$59.25||50 ml||$1.19|
|Caran d’Ache Chromatics||$45||50 ml||$0.90|
|Pelikan Edelstein||$45||50 ml||$0.90|
|Pilot Iroshizuku||$28||50 ml||$0.56|
Good range of inks
Noodler’s has fewer colors than other brands, but it does have a lot of different kinds of ink formulas. Here are some of them.
- Noodler’s Standard Inks. You’ll find shades of blues (including the popular Midnight Blue), purples, reds, and greens. The Noodler’s Ottoman Rose is one of my favorite reds—it is a deep, serene shade that reminds me of autumn leaves.
- Noodler’s Bulletproof. These inks resist UV radiation, humidity, bleach, water, and other solvents. These are considered archival-quality, and will not fade or discover over time. This is one of the best fountain pen inks for scrapbooks.
- Partially bulletproof. They use a combination of bulletproof and regular dyes to enable different sets of colors. They may partially fade or smear after prolonged exposure to the elements, but writing will always be legible.
- American Eel Lubicrated Inks. These specialty inks have a wetter formula that helps lubricate pistons or flow freely in pens that have a tendency to skip or dry up.
- Fast-drying inks. The ink dries after just 10 seconds. They’re good for lefties, or when you’re writing on paper that has a slow drying time.
- Vintage-style inks. Noodler’s created ink lines that recreate the colors in historical inks. This includes the Baystate Inks, the V-mail Inks from the World War II era, and even inks that celebrate the Chinese Dynasty (like Kung Te-Cheng, which replicates the indigo ink used by the emperors during the Confucian era.
Noodler’s also has invisible ink, highlighter ink, forgery-resistant inks, anti-feather inks that you can use on newsprint or recycled paper, and anti-freeze inks you can use in temperatures below -20°F.
With such a wide variety, it’s fairly easy to find a Noodler’s Ink that suits your writing style and needs. For example, I love using the Vintage Style inks when I write in my bullet journal because the color matches the vintage stickers that I use.
Meanwhile, I like the Bulletproof ink for my work and field notes, because of how often my notebook gets wet or left out in the sun.
One of the reasons I love fountain pens is that I love very vivid and rich colors. I couldn’t get that from ballpoint pens (the waxy ink tends to be quite muted) and rollerballs had a limited color variety.
Noodler’s satisfies my standards for super-saturated color. Even tricky colors that tend to look washed out—such as orange, pink, or turquoise—are true to shade.
As for its blues and blanks, you can count on a bright color that stays bright, unlike other fountain pen inks that fade after a few months.
Interesting stories behind ink names
One of the things I really love about Noodler’s is that it puts a lot of thought both into the quality of the ink, and even the name of the ink**.
In 2017, Noodler’s released a new color called A House Divided. It’s a light reddish color—quite pretty, but which some would say may resemble the look of dried blood. But under black light, the ink actually looks blue. (Kinda cool.)
Nathan Tardiff, the founder of Noodler’s, wrote a letter that explained the origin of the name. It was a reference to the Civil War, and Abraham Lincoln’s desire to unify the country and break down the barriers of prejudice. (Read the full letter here.)
Hence, how the ink was both red and blue—like the U.S. flag and democracy it stood for.
Tardiff continued to explain that democracy was under threat because of racialism, political divisiveness, and a general environment of hate.
It’s very symbolic, relevant, and a totally unique way of branding an ink color.
Meanwhile, the now-iconic Heart of Darkness ink is a reference to the novel by Joseph Conrad, and Berning Red is a reference to Bernie Sanders. Some of the inks also come with pamphlets that explain the origins of their names, and the historical or cultural inspiration behind the color.
**As I was writing this article, Noodler’s Ink came under controversy because of some of the names of their ink. They were accused of being racist, anti-Semitic, and insensitive. Noodler’s responded by changing the names of many of their inks.
One of the ways that Noodler’s is able to give high-quality ink at a low price is that it doesn’t spend a lot of packaging. The bottle looks really plain, almost like a medicine bottle.
At first, the Noodler’s bottle looks like the dowdy sister of other ink brands, which have lovely glass pots or jars. For example, J. Herbin’s Anniversary Inks have gold or silver stamping and a wax-sealed cap, and the Diamine Sheen Ink bottle looks like a glass sculpture.
But Noodler’s bottle is easy to store and carry around and takes up less space on a shelf. While I certainly won’t complain about pretty packaging—they are so Instagram-perfect, and fun to show off—Noodler’s just makes it more convenient to refill your pen. That’s why it’s one of the best “every day” inks.
A great ink at a great price
Noodler’s meets several criteria for a great ink: quality, variety, price. I’m not saying that the other brands aren’t great, or that all of Noodler’s inks are best-in-class. Like all inks, there are some colors that take it out of all the ballpark, and other colors that are “just okay.”
However, I can say that Noodler’s is a good brand. You may not always be amazed, but you will never be disappointed. And with its price, it certainly makes it easier for people to get into fountain pens even without spending a lot of money.