Caran D’Ache recently replaced their entire fountain pen ink line with new, considerably more expensive, inks called Caran d’Ache Chromatics. Or as the box says – Caran d’Ache Chromatics INKCredible inks. These are the most expensive regular production fountain pen inks that I know of. At $32 for a 50 ml. bottle that works out to a whopping $0.64/ml. Pilot Iroshizuku inks top out at $0.56/ml, although it is sometimes on sale on Amazon.com. Graf von Faber-Castell, another recently reformulated luxery ink lin is just $0.40/ml. I see Montblanc special edition inks for a penny per milliliter less than Caran d’Ache. OK, I think I hammered the cost enough. This stuff is pricey so I expected a lot.
Despite the cost I decided to buy a full bottle rather than a sample. The bottle design is unique and I wanted at least one bottle. I’m currently enjoying grey inks so went with Infinite Grey since it was the most likely to please me. The bottle is different, maybe gimmicky, but I like it. It stands up straight in the box and sits at an angle when sitting on my desk. This makes it a little easier to see into the bottle to fill the pen. But I’m concerned it may make things harder when the ink level is low since the bottle starts off tipped.
The first pen I inked up with this
liquid gold ink was my Franklin-Christoph Model 03 with an extra fine (but a wide extra fine) nib. It was heaven. I thought the ink was worth every penny. If that had been the only pen I used the ink in I’d be proclaiming it as the best ink ever and worth the cost. It’s the only ink that’s ever been in the pen so I can’t compare it to anything in that pen. There was some nice line variation and shading. Despite appearing to go on the paper very wet it was a quick drier. This may be the only ink I’ll use in the pen, at least until the bottle is empty.
Then I used it in other pens. In the Sheaffer Custom Legacy with an extra fine nib (and this one being a real extra fine) it was pretty bad. I ended up flushing it from the pen. I did a quick Waterman ink fill to see if maybe I had screwed up the pen. It wasn’t the pen, it was the ink. The nib is on the dry side and the ink did not like that one bit. There was a lot of skipping. A grey ink with a thin line starts off in a hole as far as visibility goes and the result was a disaster. The writing sample in the photos below look pretty good but was the best the ink did and it was a anomaly.
The Faber-Castell eMotion, a medium nib, also had some minor flow problems which is most visible in the horizontal and vertical lines. This pen has a smooth nib that is not a dry writer. It masks itself as line variation in the samples, but there was brief skipping when doing regular writing.
The Retro 51 Lincoln is one of the wettest medium nibs that I have. The Caran d’Ache Infinite Grey did well with this nib.There was some nice line variation and shading. I typically find this pen much too wet a nib to be pleasant for me. But the Infinite Grey was dry enough to be pleasant for me.
The Taccia Staccato resulted in some nice variation and shading. The pen did well with the ink, no complaints.
The properties of the ink are good, but not great. It washed almost completely away in the water test. Feathering was non-existent on all the papers I used. Bleed-through was nearly non-existent on the papers I used. The only bleed-through was minor and on some cheap, unknown office paper I tried. There wasn’t any bleed-through on the papers I typically use (such as Doane, Rhodia, and some Staples copy paper.
It’s hard for me to pin down the flow of this ink. It depends on the fountain pen. Flow was perfect with the F-C Model 03, terrible with the Sheaffer and OK with the Retro 51 although other inks are wetter in that pen. So I’d say flow is a little on the dry side.
The intensity of the grey (can grey be intense?) depends a lot on the paper and the pen which is why I like it. The shade of grey varies greatly based on the paper. Not just the color of the paper but also on how quickly the paper absorbs the ink. Non-absorbent papers (Rhodia) result in a lighter grey while more absorbent paper (Doane) results in a darker grey. Caran d’Ache Chromatics Infinite Grey in the Model 03 writing on a Doane Paper writing pad is trifecta. The Doane Paper Jotter is nearly as good. This ink is very enjoyable on absorbent papers, less so on so-called “fountain pen friendly” papers like Rhodia.
This doesn’t make me want to run out an buy some of their other colors. I can’t justify the price difference compared to other inks but it was worth the cost to satisfy my curiosity and I really do like this grey. The bottle will provide several years supply for my Model 03.
Additional Reading and Viewing
Goulet Pens has a good comparison video showing all the Chromatics inks along with some comparisons.