Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink bottle

Ink of the Week – Laban Athena Grey

John BosleyFountain Pen Ink 8 Comments

This week we’re going to take a look at Laban Athena Grey. This is probably the most interesting ink I’ve had in this series so far. While it may look like a dark grey, nearly black ink, the more I used it the more complexity I found hiding in it. Before this past week, I had only used it once or twice, so this was a great crash course in what this ink is like to write with.

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink example

Laban Athena Grey

To start, let’s take a look at the ink itself. It is a very dark grey ink. If you’re using a very wet nib, it may appear to be black. With a nib that’s a little drier, though, you can get the ink to shade and that’s where things get interesting. Depending on the paper I was writing on, shading brought out blues, reds and greens in this ink. I also found that on some papers the ink looked more red and on others it looked more blue. Taking a look at the chromatography, you can see that this ink does indeed break out into tones of red and blue.

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink chromatography

This ink separates out into blues and reds

As for dry time, this ink is quite wet and takes a little while to dry. It isn’t an absurd amount of time and I didn’t have any trouble using it in my journal, but it takes longer than the Iroshizuku inks I was testing out the past few weeks. With heavy applications, it also shows a bit of red sheen. Fortunately, I didn’t experience any smearing once the ink was dry. Out of curiosity, I decided to test how waterproof it is. Much to my surprise, almost all of the ink came off of the page, making it extremely not waterproof.

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink sheen

This ink does have a bit of red sheen

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:

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink pens used

The pens I used (L-R): Pelikan M205, Kaweco Sport, Newark Secretary, Parker Vacumatic, Lamy Vista

Pelikan M205 – F nib

Using a fine nib with this ink is probably the best way to get it to look like a simple, grey ink. This Pelikan fine gave me some shading, but without the complexity of the Lamy OBB nib. It also tamed the wetness of this ink a bit.

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink f nib

Writing sample with Pelikan fine nib

Kaweco Sport – M nib

The Kaweco was a nice combination with this ink that gave me a nice, dark line with little shading. While it wasn’t very exciting, it was consistent and easy to use.

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink m nib

Writing sample with Kaweco M nib

Newark Pen Co. Secretary (Vintage) – flex F/M nib

This was a very pleasant surprise for me. I had restored this pen years ago, but hadn’t used it more than once just to test it out. It is definitely going into the rotation, so expect to see it more often in tests! So anyway, how did this combination work? In a word, fantastic! This nib is a bit wetter than the Pelikan, but just about as fine. Writing with it was quite nice and having the ability to flex and bring out some shading was a lot of fun.

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink m flex nib

Writing sample with Secretary F/M flex nib

Parker Vacumatic (vintage) – B nib

I picked up this pen at the Colorado Pen Show in October and haven’t used it much. One thing I did not realize is just how wet the nib is. When combined with this ink, it was an absolute gusher! I actually had to refill the pen after writing with it for a while. At a certain point when the pen was running out of ink, I actually started to get some nice shading out of the combination, but the rest of the time it just looked like a black ink.

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink b nib

Writing sample with Vacumatic B nib

Lamy Vista – OBB nib

This Lamy is the magic combo for me. A big fat nib with lots of shading? I could write with this all day long.

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink obb nib

Writing sample with Lamy OBB nib


Writing with this ink on a variety of papers gave me some surprises. On basic copy paper, it did feather and bleed a bit with the wet nibs. On most good paper, I didn’t see any feathering or bleeding. The one exception was on G. Lalo Verge de France, where it did bleed through a bit with heavy ink applications. My big surprise came with how different it looked on different papers. On Tomoe River it had heavy blue tones, while on Profolio Oasis, Leuchtturm, the previously mentioned G. Lalo, and Kokuyo KB Business Paper (which is what I used for the header ink-smear image), it had strong red tones. Keep in mind, these red or blue undertones mainly showed up in the shading of the ink. Regular writing all looked pretty much the same.

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink Profolio Oasis paper

Writing sample on Profolio Oasis paper

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink leuchtturm paper

Writing sample on Leuchtturm paper

Laban Athena Grey Fountain Pen Ink g lalo

Writing sample on G. Lalo Verge de France paper

Cleaning The Ink Out Of Pens

Cleaning this ink out of pens like the Pelikan was quick and simple. I kind of expected that to be the case, given how little resistance it has for water. I was surprised that the Vacumatic took a bit more work to get clean. I don’t have a lot of experience with Vacs, so maybe they’re all hard to get clean, but I found that a bit of color was still coming out even after repeated flushing. Since this was the only pen I had this issue with, I’m going to assume it’s more the pen than the ink. I also think that any remaining bits of this color, once most of it gets flushed out of a pen, would not noticeably affect the next ink the pen gets filled with.


What an interesting ink! I’m no stranger to inks with interesting chromatography, nor am I a grey ink rookie. Still, this ink felt fresh to me. Having the undertones appear differently depending on which paper I used was a new experience. I also was able to pick up on subtle colors in the ink the more I wrote with it. At times I thought it was closer to a blue-black, at others grey, and yet other times it felt like a solid black ink. I know that many people may think it looks pretty boring. Still, if you want a dark ink that doesn’t need to be waterproof (and actually does interesting things when exposed to water), Laban Athena Grey might be an ink for you to consider.

Comments 8

  1. Reading these ink and pen articles makes me realize why I have had so much frustration over the years trying to find a fountain pen (and now I see the right ink) to be able to have a truly positive experience. !! It’s like a recipe, but the cost of the ‘ingredients’ is a bit daunting. 🙂 Perhaps one of your sweet spot combinations will get me back in the game with.. ONE pen and ONE ink! Ha! Thanks for the demonstration.

    1. Post

      It is definitely daunting when you look at all of the possible combinations that are out there. If you’re having trouble finding a combination that works for you, I’d suggest finding a pen that you enjoy writing with. Then you can figure out which ink(s) pair well with it, then find some paper you enjoy writing on. I make it sound easy, and it’s not, but the pen is going to be the most important part of the equation for writing happiness.

  2. I think this would be a great ink for an artist. Getting all those subtle shades to come out could really add depth and texture to a picture. I had no idea this ink had so many tones to offer.

    1. Post

      I’d agree, Ruth, especially someone who wanted a dark ink with interest. There are plenty of lighter, colorful inks out there that do more interesting things, but it’s not always easy to find a dark ink that does them.

  3. Thank you for your reviews on grey inks! I am a lover of grey ink, especially cool greys with lots of shading.The writing sample you did with the Lamy OBB nib is my dream of what I want my grey writing to look like!!!🤓 What paper did you use for that writing sample? Again thank you and keep those grey ink reviews coming!

    1. Post

      You are very welcome! This sounds like a perfect ink for you. That writing sample with the OBB was done on Tomoe River 68gsm paper. There should still be plenty of journals out there with that paper in it. Happy writing!

  4. I just noticed that you have an oblique nib! I didn’t even know you could get a Lamy Vista in an oblique double broad. How do you like oblique nibs? I’m interested in trying one, but it’s hard to buy one to try at low cost.

    1. Post

      I do! I picked the nib up at a pen show from a dealer who sells a lot of Lamy items. I’ve never looked online, but I bet with a little work you could track one down. I don’t mind oblique nibs. I mainly get them for the broadness, not the shape. I think this Lamy OBB was less than $30, so basically the price of an inexpensive pen. Definitely worth seeking out if you really want to try one without spending a lot of money!

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