This week we’re going to take a look at Iroshizuku Murasaki-shikibu. I received this ink as a gift from my wife a few years ago when I really started getting into fountain pens again. At the time I had a lot of vintage fountain pen inks and hadn’t purchased many newer inks. It was actually my first bottle of Iroshizuku ink! Like I’m sure most people felt when they first saw one in person, I was smitten with the bottle design. This is not a review of the bottle, though. It’s an ink review, so let’s move things along.
To start, let’s take a look at the ink itself. It’s a purple ink that I would describe as being violet in color. The name translates to “Japanese Beautyberry“. I’ve never seen one those before, but some of the the images online look pretty close in color. I don’t have a lot of purple ink, so my experience with the range of purple ink colors is fairly limited. While I do usually prefer a darker purple ink, I don’t mind this color at all.
Looking at the chromatography of this ink, it does separate out a bit. There are some light blues that could be interesting if you enjoy playing with ink and water. It is also not a waterproof ink, although it does hold up to water pretty well and should be readable if your writing were to get wet.
As far as dry time goes, this ink has an average dry time. With very heavy applications, it does show a bit of dark sheen, but with normal writing you shouldn’t see any. Still, I did experience a tiny bit of smearing while doodling when my hand rested on dry ink. It wasn’t much, though, so I doubt you’ll have much trouble with dry ink smearing under normal writing conditions.
The Pens I Used
Each week I choose five different pens to fill with the ink I’m testing. My goal is to get a variety of nib sizes and styles, as well as a mix of modern and vintage pens. Here are the pens I chose this week and some writing samples from each:
Lamy Safari – F nib
This is a great combination. The fine nib is wet enough that this ink doesn’t look too light. It even shows off some of the nice shading this ink has. Fine nibs aren’t really my preference, but I didn’t mind writing with this combination at all.
Pelikan M200 – M nib
This nib is nice and wet, which gave the ink more shading than the fine nib did. As strange as it may sound, I may prefer the fine nib to this nib.
Parker 45 (vintage) – M nib
This nib is also very wet, even wetter than the Pelikan. Because of that, it hardly showed any shading. Since I like shading more than wet nibs, I didn’t enjoy this combination very much.
Kaweco AL Sport – B nib
Now this is what I’m talking about. This is a very big nib, but not so wet that I missed out on the great shading this ink has to offer. This was easily my favorite combination of the week.
Swan 1060 (vintage) – Flex B nib
I normally really enjoy writing with a flex nib, but this one is so broad and so wet, it wasn’t as enjoyable with this ink as with some other inks I’ve used. I think if I was going to use this ink with a flex nib, I’d go for a fine instead of a broad.
On cheap copy paper, the Swan definitely feathered and bled through to the other side. Actually, all pens had a bit of bleedthrough, so I wouldn’t recommend using this ink on cheap paper. On fountain-pen-friendly paper, it behaved very well. Even with the extremely wet Swan, I didn’t see any feathering or bleedthrough. If you need to use cheaper copy paper, I don’t think I’d recommend this ink. If you only intend to use it with decent paper, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Cleaning The Ink Out Of Pens
This ink cleaned out of the pens I used very easily. Even pens like the Parker 45, which can be tricky to get completely clean without extended soaking and flushing, came clean without much effort. I wouldn’t worry about using this ink in any pen, vintage or modern.
I’ve had my bottle of Iroshizuku Murasaki-shikibu for years and only occasionally use it. After spending a week with it, I will definitely be using it more often. It is a very nice color of purple that behaves well and has some great shading. In a wet pen it doesn’t have much shading, but also looks a lot darker, so if you’d prefer a light-purple ink that shades with the option of having a darker purple ink, this would be a great choice for you.
Just for a comparison, try a little Jacques Herbin Violette Pensee, for a lighter shade of violet with shading.
I just happen to have a bottle of that ink, but it’s over 20 years old and may have evaporated a bit, so it looks darker to me. I personally don’t think I’d want to go lighter, but that’s a great suggestion for anyone who does!
I’m enjoying this series. Thank you for doing it!
FWIW, my experiences with a different Iroshizuku ink color parallel yours. And, like everyone, I think the bottle is cool—except when it gets towards empty and it’s hard to get the last 15 or 20% of the ink out. If anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears!
Also, a suggestion: a post (with space for replies) discussing pen and ink combos that work well on cheap copy paper. A lot of the writing I do is on paper others gave me, inevitably not FP friendly. Maybe we can band together and provide combos we’ve found that don’t bleed and feather.
You’re welcome, Al! Glad to hear you’re enjoying it. I think the best way to get the last ink out of any bottle is to transfer to a sample vial. You could also only use pens with shorter nibs or hooded nibs that can still be completely submerged, but that’s quite limiting.
Wow. The range of how this ink looks with different pens is astonishing! I love the color of this one. Deep grape purples are the bane of my existence. THIS is the color of purple I love! If I ever get another refillable pen, this will be MY ink!
(Believe it or not, I’m using the cheap, disposable Zebra fountain pens I bought on Jet Pens last year. I cannot believe how smoothly they write, and FAST. I just wish the ink colors were as exciting as this one!)
I hope you can give it a try some day!
You’ve prompted me to pull out my long-neglected bottle! Thanks for another thorough–and thoroughly enjoyable–review.
Hope you enjoy it, Linda. I think I’ll use it more often from now on as well.
This is the sort of ink I admire and like seeing in a letter than someone writes to me, but it’s *just* too light and dusty for me to want a bottle of it. I like your doodles!
Thanks, Ruth! I think you’ve got a great way of thinking about it. I know there are plenty of inks out there that I enjoy seeing on paper but don’t want to write with myself.