Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review

Ink of the Week – Montblanc Swan Illusion

John BosleyFountain Pen Ink 8 Comments

This week we’re going to take a look at Montblanc Swan Illusion. This ink was a 2018 limited edition, so is pretty tough to find these days. I was at the Colorado Pen Show that year and a vendor had a bottle of it. I have always liked weird inks and, based on some reviews I read, this one seemed to fit the bill. I’m not usually a fan of spending a lot of money on a bottle of ink, but sometimes pen shows get the best of you and you do thinks you might not normally do. So anyway, that’s how I ended up with this bottle of ink. It is not one that I use very often, so I’m excited to try in a variety of pens for an entire week. Let’s go!

If you’re interested, here’s Mountain of Ink’s thoughts on it.

Montblanc Swan Illusion

To start, let’s take a look at the ink itself. It is basically a light-brown ink. I’m not sure what exactly the illusion refers to. I feel like I had seen reviews showing this ink to be a brown-grey color with hints of red and green? Maybe I’m misremembering or maybe that’s what I was hoping for, but it’s pretty much just a brown ink. As you’ll see, depending on how wet your nib is, it can range from a light, coffee with a lot of milk brown, to a darker espresso brown. In my opinion, it’s kind of boring. I would much prefer a rich, dark-brown ink.

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review doodles

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink doodles and shading

This ink has an interesting chromatography. It separates out into a kind of brown rainbow with tones of red and green. It isn’t necessarily amazing, but it’s more than I would have expected from this ink. I suppose that’s what separates this from a normal brown ink.

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review chromatography

Here’s a look at Montblanc Swan Illusion chromatography

Being a fairly dry ink, it has decent dry times. While they’re not amazing, you won’t have to wait long for it to dry when you’re writing with it. It doesn’t have any sheen, but does have great shading, especially when used in the right pen. Since this isn’t a very saturated ink, you can expect smudge-free writing once it dries. I was surprised to find that it is fairly waterproof. Some of the color disappears, but what is left behind on the page is still quite legible.

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:

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review fountain pens used

Pens used this week (L-R): Jinhao 599, Cross ATX, Waterman 92, Platinum 3776, Montblanc 149

Jinhao 599 – F nib

This is the first week that I’ve used the same pen two weeks in a row. I intentionally wanted to use this Jinhao 599 again since last week had a wet ink and this week has a dry ink. Also, since I am not very familiar with this pen, I wanted to see how it felt with a dry ink. I will say that this is not the ink for this pen. While it works fine, it is not very enjoyable to write with, as the ink is just too light.

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review fine nib

Jinhao 599 F nib writing sample

Cross ATX – M nib

This Cross nib is wetter than the Jinhao, but still isn’t perfect for this ink. The color of the ink is too light to work well with this nib. I think it works fine for doodling, but for writing is still a bit hard to read.

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review m nib

Cross ATX M nib writing sample

Waterman 92 (vintage)- flex M nib

This nib writes really wet, which turns this ink into a darker brown with some shading. I really like this combo since it darkens the ink enough to be more legible. While it loses some of the shading the other nibs have, I think that’s a worthwhile tradeoff that makes this ink more useable for writing.

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review m flex nib

Waterman 92 M flex nib writing sample

Platinum 3776 – C nib

I have never loved Platinum nibs and the dryness of this ink definitely brings out the scratchiness in this C nib. I must say, this isn’t the most practical nib to write with, especially with 5mm line spacing. Still, I can’t say that I hate the amount of shading this nib gives, especially compared to the other nibs. Having a dry ink in a dry nib really makes this ink into quite a shader.

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review C nib

Platinum 3776 C nib writing sample

Montblanc 149 – B nib

Since I have one, I had to use a Montblanc pen with a Montblanc ink. This is another extremely wet nib and it makes the ink look very dark. Similar to the Waterman, it gives a bit of shading, but most of the lines are dark and solid. For my tastes, this is a great combination.

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review B nib

Montblanc 149 B nib writing sample


On cheap paper this ink didn’t do too bad. I did see some bleedthrough with the very wet nibs, but it honestly did pretty well. I didn’t see any feathering. On fountain-pen-friendly paper, it did great. I saw no feathering or bleedthrough. I would say this ink is safe to use on almost any paper, especially if you don’t use extremely wet pens or don’t care about a bit of bleedthrough.

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review g lalo

Writing sample on G. Lalo Verge de France paper

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review life bank paper

Writing sample on Life Bank Paper

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review fabriano ecoqua

Writing sample on Fabriano EcoQua paper

Wanting to get a bit more out of this ink, I did write with it on some Cosmo Air Light. This is paper that I consider to be “high contrast” and I have to say that I like this ink on it more than any other paper that I tried. A little bit of added contrast makes a big difference in how easy this ink is to read.

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review Cosmo air light

Writing sample on Cosmo Air Light paper

Cleaning The Ink Out Of Pens

This ink is a dream to clean out of pens. It hardly takes any flushing at all before they come clean. Even in the vintage lever-filling Waterman, it was clean in no time. I thought it was an illusion (see what I did there?), but it turns out it’s really just an easy ink to clean out of pens. I would happily use it in any pen that I own.


While this may not be the ink I had hoped it would be when I bought it, I have found a few pens that I like to use it with. I like it a lot better when paired with a wet nib. The darker color is much easier to read and, in my opinion, looks better. If you like how light it is normally, I’d guess that’s how it will look when paired with most pens. Still, for the price of Montblanc limited edition inks, I’d say this is not worth it. The color is just not very special and there are plenty of others I’d rather have. I doubt I’ll use it very often since there are plenty of brown inks that I own that I just like a lot better. I’m glad I gave it another try since I hadn’t used it very often. Now I know that it’s just not my color.

Montblanc Swan Illusion ink review bottle

Comments 8

  1. For some reason, your photos aren’t coming up. I had to go to the immersive reader and even there I had to open them up one at a time. Not sure if it’s a problem on my end or not. I haven’t changed settings or permissions lately. That said… on my monitor, this ink instantly reminded me of the color of a daguerreotype! It’s a strange color all in all. But not unpleasant. Gives the impression of an ancient manuscript. 🙂

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      Thanks for the heads up! Looks like there was some plugin conflict. Should be sorted out now. I could see the resemblance to a daguerreotype. It’s definitely not an unpleasant color, just a little boring.

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  2. Hey, John!

    Nice review! But that wouldn’t be an ink I’d ever enjoy using. If you decide you don’t want it, you can always send it to Shawn Newton to auction off for his scholarship fund.

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