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  Supermassive Black Ink Round-up part 2!May 01, 2012 4:16 AM PDT | url | discuss | + share
Added 1 new A* page:~~~~~~~
Part 2 of the Supermassive Black Ink round-up! For part one, go here.
In part one I showed a photo of the inks tested, and the "report card" of blot tests, three with each ink, applied to Canson Illustration paper with a clean Q-tip: a) one of the pure ink, b) a second of the pure ink, gone over with i) a water-dipped Q-tip, ii) a Mars Plastic eraser, and iii) Deleter White 2 ink, and c) a diluted wash of the ink. For (a) I was mostly looking at darkness and shine, for (b) how well the ink resisted damage, and for (c) how close to pure gray (ie non-yellow) the ink appeared in a wash.
Here's a scan of the (a) row that shows the darkness of the inks a little more clearly, although with a certain amount of lightening of some of the inks due to their reflective surfaces:
An oversaturated photo of the (c) row, to show the relative yellowness of the washes:
Now, if we take samples of each black from that scan of the (a) row, blur them to make it easier to see their overall value, and then raise the contrast to make it easier to compare them, we get a relative scale of their values (lightness to darkness). But some of those patches were actually kind of uneven, mostly due to uneven reflection from the surface. If instead of adjusting their value relative to each other, we adjust it relative to the paper next to them, we get another relative scale, this time of their gloss (high gloss to matte):
That's the meat of it, but below you'll find individual descriptions of the ink from their test session. For the most part these weren't selected very scientifically, but were just ones I found in local art supply stores, or that I saw getting particularly interesting mention online when I was searching for waterproof black pigment inks:

Yasutomo Waterproof Sumi
I used one 12 ounce bottle of this ink, with maybe one ounce remaining, for all of the inked A* pages through episode 16, page 45; episode 13, page 136 was the first page I did off the computer, so that was a total of eh I think 139 pages all done with that one bottle, not to mention all the other ink drawings and paintings I did over that 6 month+ span that started back on October 11th. And I should add that probably on most occasions I wasted about half of what I poured out to use, because I didn't want to pour back the unused portion, as it would have been at least partially diluted by the washes I'd been doing with it. Considering that their 12 ounce bottles go for about $12, or $1/ounce, that's a nearly unbeatable value, especially when you consider that all but one of the other inks cost at *least* $3/ounce.
This stuff is easy to handle and doesn't smell bad (there's a faint smell like old beets or something if you smell it close up). It is somewhat yellowy in washes, though, rather glossy, which can make scanning it tricky, and it is not very black or waterproof, at least in comparison with most of the other inks. I was particularly having trouble with it making a gray muddle when I tried putting Deleter White 2 ink over it.
I still think it's a fine ink, particularly for the cost, but I was getting to the point where I needed something that was a little cleaner--hence this ink test!

Higgins Black Magic
This seems to be the most common black comic ink in the US, as far as I've heard anyway. It's maybe a hair darker than the Yasutomo Sumi, but very matte, which means it's a dull surface that is easy to scan into digital form because there's very little reflection back from the scanner's internal light source. At $3 for a 1 ounce bottle it's pretty cheap relative to the other inks, aside from the Sumi and Speedball. It smells faintly of some sort of chemicals. It isn't the darkest ink out there, it washes a bit yellow, and was one of the slowest-drying of the inks I tested, but it's a reasonably solid performer. The trademark inkwell-shaped plastic bottle is handy for resisting being tipped over, and comes with a small eyedropper descending from the inside of the cap, although it's a kind of small and not easily used eyedropper.
Higgins is made by Chartpak, which also makes the Rapidograph and Koh-I-Noor inks described below.

Speedball Super Black
This was the first ink I tried in my initial tests to see if I could do A* by hand, and it is not coincidentally the cheapest, going in big 32 ounce bottles for a mere $13. It is about as dark as Higgins, nearly as matte, quite waterproof, and from the mentions I've seen appears to be the second most commonly used comic ink in the States. It smells a little more strongly than Higgins and is quite fluid.
It is, however, incredibly yellow when diluted in a wash--really icky looking. I dropped it after a few test drawings.

Rapidograph Ultradraw
These Rapidograph and Koh-I-Noor inks go for about $4 for a 3/4 ounce bottle, although the bottles do come with a handy pointed spout, presumably for easy insertion into the ink chambers of Rapidograph technical pens. They are also incredibly fluid, and all but the Ulniversal were so fluid that, when I put a Q-tip end soaked in them into a glass jar of water, the ink immediately shot high up the sides of the glass, even to places that didn't look wet--rather a startling phenomenon!
In fact the distinctions between them--which seem to involve similarly worded recommended uses on paper or film--were largely lost on me. None of them are very black--they were the lightest inks in the test. Ultradraw may be the glossiest of them, and smelled faintly turpentiney.

Rapidograph Ulniversal
That is not a typo--or rather, the "Ulniversal" typo was on the label: check the photo of the bottle in part 1; it's supposed to say "Universal," of course. Reassuring quality control!
Like the other Rapidograph/Koh-I-Noor inks, Ulniversal isn't very black; it was perhaps the yellowest and most waterproof of them, although the least fluid (but still more fluid than most of the other inks). It smelled like glue.

Rapidograph Rapidraw
Didn't stand out much from the other Rapidograph/Koh-I-Noor inks, but may have been the glossiest. Smelled of faintly perfumey chemicals.

Koh-I-Noor Acetate Ink
Couldn't find a good link for this one--I just found it, along with the Rapidograph inks, in the University of Washington Bookstore's large art supply section. Smelled of icky chemicals and was probably the lightest of these four.

Pro Art India Ink
Along with hm another brand name I can't remember now, both of which give a P.O. box in Beaverton, Oregon as their address, Pro Art is quietly (it appears they used to have a web presence, but no more) supplying most of the art supplies I've found in non-specialty stores (such as Fred Meyer) in Seattle. This ink isn't particularly easy to find online, but at about $3 for 2 ounces, it's pretty cheap. I wanted to try it out after reading Veronica Fish's interesting ink review. And it is indeed an interesting ink, although perhaps for the wrong reasons.
You will notice in the chart above that it is both the second-darkest, and by far the most reflective; it dries with a very uneven, oily sheen that I think must help give it its very dark tone, at least in spots. It comes with a big, very sloppy eyedropper on the bottom of the cap, and smells of somewhat strong chocolatey chemicals. :p
The real nightmare begins when you try to use it: it separates very easily; in fact, the first Q-tip-full I got of it was nearly completely watery. Perhaps for a similar reason it rinses off the brush fairly easily, and dries very slowly. It would be very difficult to try painting evenly black areas with this ink.
On the plus side, this was one of the most waterproof of the inks I tested.

Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay Black
An extremely smooth matte ink that is quite affordable at about $3 per ounce. It isn't the darkest, but is nicely waterproof, and should scan very cleanly. Has a sharp but not really bad chemical smell.

Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star Matte
Basically a stronger version of the Bombay Black, Black Star Matte dries to an unbeatably smooth black matte surface. It is pretty expensive at about $10 per ounce, but that can come down to more like $6 per ounce if you buy a big 32 ounce bottle. The one ounce glass bottles this and the Bombay Black come in are very nice, though, and have a very usable snub-nose eyedropper on the underside of the cap.
If all I was concerned about was how my ink drawings reproduce when scanned in grayscale, I'd pretty definitely be using this ink. This was also a sentimental favorite for A* due to the "Black Star" name. :)

Kuretake Manga Ink
I was rather rooting for this ink as at just over $8 for a two-ounce bottle, it is surprisingly affordable for an imported ink. It is nice and black, and quite waterproof, with a thick feel and a slightly sweet chemical smell, but was also one of the glossiest of the inks I tried, which means it could come out unevenly when scanned.

Deleter Black 3
At about $5.50 per ounce directly from the manufacturer in Japan, this is reasonably affordable for an imported ink, although their shipping is pretty steep, so you'd kind of want to order a lot at once (for smaller amounts, the math might work out better if you order it through I was made aware of this ink via an art supplies post in the Galaxion webcomic's blog.
One of the blacker of the tested inks, and fairly reflective, where this one stand out is in its wash: whereas all the other inks come out with a discernible yellowish tint in a wash, Deleter Black 3 washes almost a pure neutral gray; this doesn't matter for images scanned in and posted online, of course, since those are easy to desaturate digitally, but I also want A*'s original art to look nice in person, since I hope to sell it, and this is a nice-looking ink, although in the test it does appear to have been the second-least-waterproof. Has a strong turpentiney smell.

Deleter Black 4
A very black, highly waterproof, reasonably matte ink, this one looked promising in the test results, although it wasn't as nicely neutral gray as Deleter Black 3, and was significantly more expensive, at nearly $8 per ounce. Has a faint vegetably smell.
One annoying thing about these Deleter Black inks is that they come in these totally cylindrical, wide-mouthed, cheap plastic jars, and when you unscrew the lid, more often than not the ink has formed a big bubble right across the jar mouth--and when it pops, as it must, little drops of ink scatter around. Ugh. Really bad packaging!
And there was a late arrival that didn't get into the main test battery because I didn't find out about it until afterwards, but it sounded so potentially stupendous that I just had to try it out:

Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star Hicarb
"Hicarb" is supposed to stand for "high carbon content," and this ink is supposed to be the darkest of Ph. Martin's line. Expensive like the Black Star Matte. Claims to contain no varnish or shellac, which are generally used to give these inks their waterproof properties, but it has *something* in there aside from just carbon, as there's a fairly chemical smell about it. Here's its test sheet:
Pretty positive test as it came out dark and fairly smooth, although the waterproof aspect seemed a little iffy, and it wasn't significantly less yellow than most of the others.
One ink I have messed with that I did not include in the tests is Platinum Carbon Black, because, while admirably liquid and waterproof, it isn't really very black at all--more of a dark gray. As an imported ink it's a bit pricey at about $12 per ounce.
Well at the end of all that I decided on four finalists on which to conduct a more comprehensive test: painting an actual picture! The ones I chose, based on their relatively standout performances on the test battery's report card, were Black Star Matte, Kuretake Manga Ink, Deleter 3, and Deleter 4. And then I threw in Black Star Hicarb as well once it arrived.
So, in the next and final installment of these ink tests: the paintings, and A*'s new black ink revealed! =ooooooh~~
Continue on to part 3!
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