This week we’re going to take a look at Sailor Ink Studio 123 (or from now on, just Sailor 123). You may remember this ink from a few years ago when, as one of the first and most prominent multichromatic inks available, it was pretty much the biggest thing to happen to fountain pen ink in a really long time. While there are plenty of multichromatic inks available today, Sailor 123 is still an outstanding ink that deserves another look. It is also one of my favorites and made my list of Forever Inks.
Sailor Ink Studio 123
To start, let’s take a look at the ink itself. This color is one of the more complex you’re likely to come across. Is it purple? Grey? Pink? Green? Yes. Yes to all of those. On one piece of paper using different pens, I see lines that look dark purple, violet, light green, dark green, and kind of bluish. Let’s just agree that it’s tricky to describe.
I found that with wetter applications, it looks more purple. With drier applications, it looks more green. Scribbling solid lines with a wet pen? Purple. Washing the top of a wet nib across the paper? Green. Big drips? Purple. Long flexy flourishes? Green. At times I had to check and make sure that the pen I was using didn’t have old ink in it since one pen looked so different from another. Rest assured, this variety in color is due to the ink itself, not any leftovers lingering inside of a nib.
As you’d probably expect from an ink that looks like this, it has some pretty interesting chromatography. With a bit of water, you’ll see shades of purple, green, blue, and pink emerge. The amazing thing about this ink is that all of these colors are already present to varying degrees in the ink when you write with it, which isn’t usually the case with an interesting chromatography like this.
This ink has decent dry times for normal writing, but I found that with really heavy applications like writing with the zoom nib or with a big drip, it takes quite a while to dry. Still, for most pens the dry times will be more than acceptable for writing sessions. I didn’t observe any smearing once the ink was dry. It’s actually a dry ink, which I’ll discuss more in the pen section. It is not a waterproof ink, but some pink remains on the page after exposure to water. It is not a great choice for archival purposes, but shouldn’t become completely unreadable if it gets wet.
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:
Esterbrook SJ (vintage) – 9128 flex F nib
This ink was a pleasure to use with a fine nib. This nib is on the wetter side for a fine, so that helped with the dryness of the ink. Flexy flourishes went on fairly dry and showed up a little differently than normal writing.
Waterman (vintage) – M flex nib
This nib seemed a little drier than the others. This definitely affected the way that the ink looked. It wasn’t difficult to write with, but I don’t think I liked it as much as the wetter nibs.
Parker Vacumatic (vintage) – M nib
This nib apparently needs to be smoothed out a bit, as it was a little scratchy. That’s the thing about a drier ink, it will make any imperfections in your nib that much more obvious. Still, this was a nice combo to write with.
Omas Cinema – M nib
I had forgotten how wet this nib is. I loved writing and doodling with this combination. It almost looks like a broad nib, but it truly is a medium. This brought out a lot more purple in this ink.
Sailor Pro Gear – Zoom nib
Easily one of the broadest and wettest nibs that I own, the Zoom nib on this Sailor Pro Gear was so much fun to use with this ink. I was a little surprised at how much shading it gave me. Still, most of my writing and doodling with this nib was solidly in the purple range, which is what I saw from wetter applications of this ink.
Sailor 123 performed well on all papers that I tested it with. On cheap copy paper I didn’t experience any bleeding or feathering. On other fountain-pen-friendly papers it performed very well. I would imagine it is fine to use with pretty much any paper you’d like.
Life Bank paper deserves its own paragraph here. You can probably see from the images below, Sailor 123 looks like a completely different ink on this paper. Life Bank paper is known to bring out different colors in certain inks and this may be the most extreme example I have seen yet. Rest assured that the writing samples on different papers were done within seconds of each other, so the only difference from one example to the next is the paper. Interesting stuff!
Cleaning The Ink Out Of Pens
Cleaning this ink out of fountain pens is very easy. Although it has a lot of colors that show up while writing, it is not a saturated ink and none of the colors seems to stick around inside of a pen. I didn’t have any trouble cleaning any of my pens. I was a little concerned about the Vacumatic, since apparently it doesn’t seal well and the ink dried up inside of the pen near the end of the week, but it was totally clean after just a few complete fills and flushes. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Sailor 123 in any pen that I own.
I’m sure that Sailor Ink Studio 123 is a very polarizing ink. There are going to be some people who absolutely love it (and inks like it), and others who despise it. If you don’t like it, thanks for sticking around this long. If you do like it but have never used it before, I would highly recommend you treat yourself to a bottle of it. While it is not a very dark or saturated color, I didn’t have any problems with it being too light to read in any of the pens that I used. It is an amazingly fun ink to write with, doodle with, and just play with.
Evidently this was a gateway drug to lighter inks and dual shaders. First I bought samples and then 2 of the 3 launched at the same time (123 and 252).
I write for pleasure and take notes, bullet journaling at work … why not do it with inks that add more interest.
You chose good nibs to shows the highlights and less good sides of this ink, depending on nib and paper type. 👏
It is definitely a gateway to inks that people may have not otherwise tried out. I wholeheartedly agree that people should use inks (at least for their own writings) that they enjoy and are interesting.