Thursday, October 20, 2011

J Herbin Gris Nuage ink review

At one point in my short fountain-pen-and-ink-loving career I got the notion that I should get a grey ink to use in my drawing endeavors. I must specify at this point that I'm not an artist by any stretch of the imagination. I just like art, I have a great admiration for the drawing side of art and I like to doodle a lot.

I bought a bunch of grey ink samples and J Herbin Gris Nuage is the first one I tested. It so happens that I also managed to buy a Noodler's Flex Pen during the same period, so I decided to test this ink in the flex pen. That was kind of a bad mistake. I should have used a darker and more saturated ink in the flex pen.

Going forward I will make a small change in my ink reviewing procedure. I'll organize my impressions by "bullet points" to make it easier to locate relevant information. So here goes.

Gris Nuage comes, like most J Herbin inks, in those dainty little bottles with a 30ml (1oz) capacity. They cost about $9.50 or $0.32 per milliliter. Quite expensive, compared to Noodler's or Diamine inks. Of course, I got mine in a sample vial so there's no bottle to show.

Being a grey ink, the saturation is, well, non-existent.

Surprisingly, and unless I'm imagining things, it looks like Gris Nuage does have a little bit of shading. I suspect this is partly caused by the flex pen which lays heavier, wetter sections in some of the strokes.

This isn't very clearcut but Gris Nuage did show a fair amount of feathering. However, bear in mind that the flex pen was used on cheap photocopier paper. There wasn't any feathering on Rhodia 80g paper.

Bleedthrough goes hand in hand with the feathering. Flex pen + cheap paper = show through, especially where the nib flexes. Flex pen + good paper = no show through and the reverse side remains unblemished.

Unfortunately I can't really say how J Herbin Gris Nuage flows in a "normal" pen but in the Noodler's flex it flowed really well - and wet. That's expected though, but I do have to mention that I adjusted the nib and feed for greater than average flow.

Drying time
The drying time for Gris Nuage proved to be really good, despite the thick lines. It dried in about 10 seconds. The caveat is that this performance was reached on the porous (and cheap) photocopy paper. The situation reversed on Rhodia 80g where after 30 seconds the ink was still slightly wet. However, I agree that flex nibs produce much wetter lines so this might not be indicative of the ink's real drying properties.

Smearing when dry

Water resistance
I wasn't expecting this ink to resist water but strangely enough it doesn't wash off easily. My standard test is 1 minute under flowing water, although in this case I forgot to mark that down on the sample. As you can see, some of it washed off but most remained.

J Herbin Gris Nuage is a grey ink with decent properties, including a surprising amount of water resistance. Personally I wouldn't use it for writing, and I admit that in this case I was wrong to use it in the Noodler's Flex Pen. The reason? It's too light. I do think that it would be ideal for drawing, though a bit expensive. Not being an artist, I can see this as being very suited for drawing backgrounds, clouds, etc, especially considering that it does show some shading when you apply thick swaths of it.


  1. That's a surprisingly light ink.  I've been looking at Noodler's Lexington Gray as one to put in my flex nib.  Have you found anything that's waterproof and that shades well in your flex?  So far the best thing I've got is Noodler's Legal Lapis, but I haven't tried my entire collection yet.

  2. I have only tried 2 inks in the flex: this one and Noodler's Hunter Green (which I will review some time in the future). Hunter Green doesn't shade but it is rather water resistant. Hmm, I don't even know if there are water resistant shading inks.I still have a lot of ink samples to go through but unfortunately I don't write a lot so it takes a while.

  3. I wanted to like this ink, but it was just too light for me. I changed to Noodler's Lexington Gray -- which seems perfect.

  4. I've been hearing about Lexington Gray for a long time but somehow I missed the opportunity to get a sample. But it's on my list. In general I prefer dark inks though.

  5. This is actually one of my go-to inks for school notes.  I use it in a Lamy Safari with a medium nib.  I like it because it is a lighter gray. I color code my notes so if I take notes in gray, all I have to do is underline in my color-scheme (vocab, test question, etc) and the important parts of my notes are easily identified.

  6. There you go. That's a good use for it. But I'm sure it works best in slightly broader nibs, i.e. not F or EF.

  7. I tried some Eternal Brown (which is a pendemonium exclusive) and it shades pretty well.  Way better than the Legal Lapiz (also pendemonium exclusive).  I have a sample of Golden brown I want to try which I ordered several months ago I haven't gotten to. I saw a writing sample of it on Leigh Reyes blog ( and it looked fantastic, but then she has a talent for making most inks look great.

  8. I agree, Golden Brown looks really good but I suspect the shading is more visible if you use it in some sort of calligraphy pen. Anyway, Leigh can turn even an ugly ink into something beautiful.