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De Atramentis Document Ink Review

De Atramentis Document Black & Dark Blue

One oft-overlooked property of fountain pen inks is permanence. When choosing inks, people usually ignore whether an ink is waterproof, lightfast, or heat resistant… until they spill a glass of water or their drink of choice on something they’re working on and it turns into a mess that’s smudgy at best and completely illegible at worst.

The problem with fountain pen inks is that to lend them the properties that make them such a joy to write with—flow, color variety, shading, and lubrication, among others—some compromises and sacrifices have to be made. In most cases, this means the (admittedly very nice) ink you’re using won’t hold up to a slightly moist finger, let alone a spilled glass of water (or heaven forbid, a typhoon-induced flood). Yes, I’m looking at you, Diamine Onyx Black.

This brings us to the items we’re looking at today: De Atramentis Document Inks in Black and Dark Blue. I purchased these two a few months ago while looking for replacements for Diamine Onyx Black and Diamine Registrar’s Ink (Black because Onyx Black has no water resistance at all, and Dark Blue because Registrar’s Ink takes forever to dry and has a slight tendency to bleed blue when wet), and they’ve performed pretty well.

For these tests, I’ll be using cheap 80gsm copy paper, 160gsm Bevania Splendorgel, a page from an Elias Dot Grid journal (90gsm), and a pad from a local bookstore that simply calls itself “Jotter Pad.”

Document Black

80 gsm copy paper


Jotter pad

Elias Dot Grid

First up is Document Black. Now, appearance-wise, black inks aren’t really anything to write home about; there’s not really much to talk about aside from how dark a black ink is, and Document Black is no different. As can be seen from the images below, it’s about as black as Diamine Onyx Black, and, depending on the paper, dries in anywhere between 10 and 30 seconds. The resemblance stops there, though. Whereas anything written with Onyx Black turns into a nigh-unrecognizable purplish smear after exposure to water (I wish I were exaggerating here), Document Black holds up pretty well to water, though it did exhibit some minor smudging on the 160gsm paper. There’s no bleeding or feathering, and Document Black seems to behave very well on all but the cheapest paper I can find. Results may be different on broader nibs, but as far as I’m concerned the Japanese F nib is the perfect match for this ink.


Document Dark Blue

80gsm copy paper

160gsm Bevania Splendorgel

Jotter pad

Elias Dot Grid

Document Dark Blue is a surprisingly different animal. Where Black took 10-30 seconds to dry, Dark Blue dried almost instantly on most papers I tested, even though it went down much wetter. It does seem to take longer to dry on the Elias paper, though. Feathering is markedly worse than Document Black, and it flows quite well... too well, in fact.

Jotter pad

80gsm copy paper

Turning over the thinner paper explained exactly why it was so difficult to get the ink to smudge; on thinner and more absorbent papers, it seeps right in and bleeds out the back. I use nibs on the finer side of the spectrum, so it’s tolerable, but broader, wetter nibs will probably leave the other side of the page unusable. This ink is something I’d personally use for signing documents, but for daily writing? Mmm, probably not.

80gsm copy paper

160gsm Bevania Splendorgel

Jotter pad

Elias Dot Grid

Noodler’s Air Corp, Elias Dot Grid

To serve as a benchmark of sorts for the Document inks, above is a set of images showing dry time and drip/smudge tests for Registrar’s Ink. On average, the Document inks dry quicker than Registrar’s Ink, while exhibiting similar water resistance. Also shown above is Noodler’s Air Corp, which has similar waterproof characteristics, but has a nasty way of bleeding turquoise when splashed.

Now for the meat of this article: permanence tests. I used leaves from an Elias 90gsm dot grid journal and a fairly cheap notepad from a local bookstore for these tests, and pitted the two De Atramentis inks against several inks with varying water resistance.



Water Test

Water test

Water test

Water test

These slips were immersed in tap water for several minutes and washed off under a running tap. The Uni Pin fineliner and Uni Signo 207 rollerball, both of which use pigmented ink, were included as a control sample, along with Noodler’s Air Corp, which if I’m not mistaken uses Noodler’s Bulletproof Black as a base. Non-permanent inks were also included in the form of Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-guri and Pilot Blue Black.

The De Atramentis Document inks fared very well, going through water with no noticeable effects. Registrar’s Ink lost its blue dye component, leaving only the grey-black oxidized iron gall element. Noodler’s Air Corp lost its blue-green component,  and Yama-guri went from brown to grey with a purplish halo.


Alcohol Test

Alcohol test

Alcohol test

Alcohol test

This was a slightly more extreme test conducted simultaneously with the above test. The slips were immersed in 70% isopropyl alcohol, dried, immersed in 70% ethyl alcohol, dried again, and finally immersed in tap water and dried. Same results for the permanent inks, while Yama-guri goes full monochrome and Pilot Blue Black fades to a faint blue-grey.


Bleach Test

Bleach test

Bleach test

This wasn’t originally part of the plan, but I had a bottle of bleach next to the tap, so I figured “why not?” The bleach utterly obliterates Pilot Yama-guri and Blue Black, and all that remains of Registrar’s Ink is a yellow/gold mark. The Document inks continue to hold together nicely, though Dark Blue turned slightly teal after exposure to bleach (note the color difference of “Dark Blue” and the latter half of “Document” from the rest of the line) but otherwise endured the caustic assault admirably. Document Black and Air Corp fared the best in this test, with Black staying starkly black and Air Corp’s “Bulletproof” heritage showing through.


So far, the Document Inks have weathered everything thrown at them, apart from sunlight which will take a while to actually test, but I do have a photo I took of a previous test I did back in May 2015, wherein I exposed a sheet of paper to the elements by taping it to the outside of a window for two weeks and pouring water over it afterwards. The Document inks passed that test brilliantly.

So, there you have it. If you’re looking for an ink that can survive spilled water, alcohol, bleach, and being left outside in the sun for extended periods of time for whatever reason, look no further than De Atramentis Document Black and Dark Blue. They may have their quirks, and they may not be as pretty as most other inks, but they’ll probably survive anything short of a nuclear strike, special chemicals or lasers, or someone taking a lighter to your papers.

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