Review: Noodler's Black Bulletproof Ink

This is the ink I've used for a long time but never reviewed until now.

Noodler's Bulletproof black ink is made in the USA and is a popular ink people use commonly in fountain pens. There are over 400 reviews on Amazon and mostly favourable.

For this review, I'll be looking at the ink from an artist's perspective. Is it good enough for sketches, comic book inking, or pen and ink work?


The ink is sold in 90ml bottles. That's quite a lot of ink considering most other inks are sold in the 30ml or even 60ml bottles. Noodler's bottle is glass and has a square base, rather tall, and the opening is quite big. I've bought several bottles before and each one always come filled to the brim. There's a catfish drawing on the label that always makes me wonder,"Why a catfish?"

Bulletproof is a Noodler's term to represent waterproof, bleach proof, lightfast and archival qualities. It's quite rare to find waterproof black ink that's also safe for use in fountain pens, so Noodler's quite unusual in that regard.

It seems that people who use the ink are so enthusiastic that some of them really go all the way to test whether it's bleach proof.

The ink's main characteristic is its ability to bond with cellulose. After the ink has bonded, it's almost impossible to wash off. And hence it's an often recommended ink for use with signing cheques to prevent cheque washing. However, to get the full effect, the ink has to be completely dry. The ink is designed specifically to bond with cellulose so you can easily wash the ink off your fingers but not so on the paper or your clothes.

The Noodler's Black is a water-based ink made of 97% water. When dried in the bottle, it can be reconstituted with water. Because it's water-based, it's safe to use with fountain pens as compared to pigmented ink.

Noodler's Black Bulletproof Ink
Here's the ink test I did, and below are the close ups.

I've edited only the exposure of the scan slightly and left the paper texture visible.

Noodler's Black Bulletproof Ink
The ink is less than dark black.

When used in concentration, there's a tendency for it to form back runs when it dries. Back runs happen when pigments (or whatever particles this ink is using) move back while drying. This is commonly seen with diluted watercolour, and since the Noodler's is water-based, it's not surprising to see that effect as well. For writing purposes, there won't be the problem with back runs. But when you apply ink with brush, this is a problem to watch out for.

Noodler's Black Bulletproof Ink

Noodler's Black Bulletproof Ink
From these strokes you can see the different saturation of black.

Noodler's Black Bulletproof Ink

Noodler's Black Bulletproof Ink

Noodler's Black Bulletproof Ink

Noodler's Black Bulletproof Ink
And since the Noodler's is water-based, the inked areas when dry may look blotchy on certain paper. It's as if the ink is not mixed consistently even though that's not the case because for the ink test I've shaked the bottle prior. This problem is worse if you're applying the ink wash over paper that does not absorb water well. Again, it's a problem for artists and not for writers. This effectively rules out the ink for comic book inking especially if you want to sell your physical page.


Click for a bigger view

The picture above compares various brands of black ink. Top half of the square's a single layer wash and the bottom has a double layer wash. Notice the slight warm tone compared to others.


Here's the waterproof test. It is waterproof to a great extent.


You can see some ink coming off but it's not a big issue. Definitely still suitable for watercolour pen and ink sketches.

For pen and ink sketches, line work, the ink works well but you must wait for it to dry completely, bond with cellulose, before it can be waterproof. The bad news is this ink dries quite slowly.

When water is applied over the ink when it's not completely dry, it's going to smudge. Some people mistake that as the Noodler's Black not being waterproof. What makes the ink more tricky is that even though it may look dry, it may not have completely dried. Having said that, many sketcher friends of mine use the Noodler's Black for their ink and watercolour sketches with no problems.

Some might also like this ink for sketches simply because the ink is not that dark and hence not so striking that it stands out calling for attention.


Here's a sketch where I used Noodler's Black to ink the long sleeve black shirt man on the left near the middle. Note the blotchy patches compared to the other black areas which are filled in with Rotring ink.

The ink, when dried, holds up well to erasing.

When sprayed with fixative

When sprayed with fixative, the Noodler's bulletproof ink may shift. I'm saying "may" because on one occasion where I sprayed quite a lot, the colours turned from black into some kind of dark indigo or dark maroon. I sprayed quite a lot for that. In another occasion where I did not spray as much, the black stays. So do take note of it's colour can actually shift under certain conditions with fixative. In real life, I won't be too bothered by that as the ink does not really break down like dyed ink.

Conclusion

Noodler's Black is popular for fountain pens and certainly for writing. For art purposes, the limitations comes in the form of being unable to ink large areas because it's difficult to prevent blotchy patches, and it's not dark enough to be used for commercial pen and ink work, at least in my opinion.

It's a good ink for line work and writing with the only caveat being the drying time.

For inking purposes, there are much better ink out there, such as from Rotring, Platinum or Sailor. For black and white line sketches in sketchbooks, avoid using this ink. That's because even when the ink looks dry, it may not be dry and when you close your sketchbook, the ink may smudge the other page and destroy your artwork. I'm speaking from personal experience and it's not great to find that out on hindsight. For use with watercolour sketches, you've to make sure that your watercolour covers the ink, if not you will risk smudging from undried ink too.

The ink drying time is also affected by the type of paper you're using it on. I did not have the ink drying problem with the watercolour sketchbook from Global Art Materials but had serious problems on the Strathmore 400 series watercolour journal.

Pricing is quite competitive and I've always considered it to be quite value for money. That's 90ml for USD $12.50 at the time of this writing. It takes a while to use up 90ml of ink especially if you're writing or creating line art.

Availability

Follow the direct links below to get the Noodler' Bulletproof Black Ink on Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Amazon.es

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