Monday, June 20, 2011

Noodler's Polar Blue ink review

I'm on a quest to find the perfect blue ink. With Noodler's Polar Blue, I'm so very close but not there yet. Read on to find out why.

Noodler's Polar range of inks is interesting because it has some very cool properties.

One of them is them is resistance to forgery, including exposure to water. I'm not worried about forgery per se but I do need an ink which is impervious to water.

The other interesting property is the resistance to low temperatures. This is useful only if you use your fountain pens a lot in very cold weather but I could almost qualify. Chicago gets some very low winter temperatures, 10 below or even less. I have decided that I'm going to keep a cheap "disposable" fountain pen in my car all year round, filled with a Polar ink, because ballpoint pens freeze in winter and run in summer.

Polar Blue is the second Polar ink from Noodler's which I have tested. The first, Polar Brown, has left me mostly satisfied, except for one big flaw: the powdery nature of the ink makes it very prone to smearing, even after it has dried for a very long period of time. The sad thing is that you can easily smudge this ink without trying, just by casually touching it with your hand. This is even worse on fine paper such as Clairefontaine or Rhodia where the ink isn't absorbed completely into the fibers.

I'm happy to report that Noodler's Polar Blue does not suffer from this affliction. The ink dries quickly (another great quality) and it does not smear or smudge no matter how hard you rub it. In fact, I like to call this ink (jokingly of course) Bernanke Polar Blue due to how quickly it dries. Polar Blue gets top marks as far as drying time and smearing are concerned.

Perhaps as a side effect of the quick drying, I have unfortunately arrived at the only negative aspect of Polar Blue. It tends to bleed through, especially if the paper is cheap. On cheap photocopier paper it is guaranteed to bleed, although personally I can still write on the reverse side. On Rhodia 80g, it bleeds to a lesser degree. On Rhodia I would call it a more severe form of ghosting (where the ink has not yet bled all the way through but still shows) instead of bleedthrough.

I admit that the bleeding issue might be compounded by the fact that I tested Polar Blue in a Pilot Varsity which I refilled with this innk. The Varsity has a thicker nib, therefore I'm sure that a thin nib will lessen the problem.

Although Noodler's Polar Blue and Polar Brown are from the same family, they don't share all of the same characteristics. Where Polar Brown is saturated and dark, Polar Blue has a low-to-medium saturation and its color is rather dull and pastelated. Some people have called it "chalky" and I think this description applies. What's interesting is that (if you look at the samples) Polar Blue behaves a bit differently depending on the paper used. On photocopier paper, where more of it is absorbed, it appears darker. On the higher quality and heavier Rhodia paper, it appears lighter.

Noodler's Polar Blue shows another quirk: it is much darker when wet, but it lightens up considerably as it dries up. I find this thing quite amusing.

If you dislike chemical smells, then Polar Blue might not be for you. Although I only got a sample and not a full bottle, this ink emanates one of the most powerful chemical smells I've yet encountered in an ink. However, this all depends on your tolerance to such things. I am not troubled by this in the least. It's not like you'd faint from it. It's just more pungent than other inks. But I guess that's one of the prices you get for resistance to all known forms of forgery substances.

Feathering doesn't seem to be much of an issue with Polar Blue. I haven't noticed any, even on cheap, absorbent paper.

Shading is a non-factor with Polar Blue. It is one of the flattest inks I've tested. When it's wet you will notice that the dried ink is much lighter than the wet ink, even if you layer it on top. Once it dries up, everything becomes uniform.

Finally, here I am at one of the trademark signatures of the Polar range of inks: water resistance. No surprises here, this ink is as impervious to water as they come. Actually, I would say it does even better than Polar Brown because that one leaves a very thin powdery layer on top of the paper, which washes off when wet.

Noodler's Polar Blue is slightly more expensive than the regular Noodler's inks. Since a 3oz bottle of Polar Brown is the usual $12.50 ($0.14 / ml), I don't understand why Polar Blue is $16.00 per 3oz bottle ($0.18 / ml), unless the cost of materials used for the blue ink are higher. Actually, I bet that's the explanation, which would also account for the pungent smell and the slightly different properties. Polar Blue is also available in 4.5oz bottles where an eyedropper pen (Platinum Preppy) is also included so if you use a lot of this ink, the larger bottle looks like a marginally better deal.

To conclude, Noodler's Polar Blue is an excellent bulletproof blue ink, with a lot of desirable qualities. It dries quickly, doesn't smear or feather and can be used in a formal, official setting. Its only major drawback, the tendency to bleed through, may put you off if you are not using high quality paper. It has certainly made me reconsider buying a whole bottle although I was on the verge. In the last minute I decided to give other waterproof inks a try before committing to a bottle.

Here are two samples written with Noodler's Polar Blue loaded inside a Pilot Varsity, on photocopier paper and Rhodia 80g.

Noodler's Polar Blue on photocopy

Noodler's Polar Blue on Rhodia 80g


  1. What a beautiful blue! Where can you get the larger bottle with the Preppy pen? Thanks for the review, I'm trying to decide which Noodler's Ink to try first...

  2. Great detail! I'm still an ink noob, so I love reading posts like this. 

  3. I get all my Noodler's inks from (no affiliation with them, I just love their selection and customer service). They have a section where you can browse all 4.5oz bottles and it says if they contain a pen or not.

    Frankly I would find it hard (if not impossible) to pick just one ink. Noodler's has such a huge variety... If you like really vibrant blues, you might wanna go with (the famous) Bay State Blue, but just a word of warning: be careful in which pen you use it, it might stain.

  4. Thanks Brad! I guess you're more of a general pen expert. I focus almost exclusively on fountain pens and inks. I love many types of pens but fountain pens are on top of the food chain as far as I'm concerned. Having said that, I'm still very much a noob. I've only started getting into this stuff at the beginning of 2011.

  5. I imagine you're getting this a lot, but in your search of the perfect blue, you have to try Noodler's Baystate Blue of course. Thanks for your beautiful articles!

  6. Thanks! I do have a sample of Bay State Blue and I've heard and seen so much of it in other reviews that I feel I'm intimately acquainted with it. I'm a bit on the fence regarding it's staining ability though.