Monday, February 13, 2012

Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng ink review

Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng is a very interesting ink. It is apparently reproduced from an ancient Chinese formula and it is meant to mimic the color of the inks used by Chinese emperors. If you ask me, I tend to agree that this color seems particularly royal. The ink itself is purple but it can trick you into thinking it is blue. It's in fact a purple-blue combination and, depending on how the light shines on it and the paper used, you could swear it's one or the other. I will classify it as purple because that is how it is designated.

Kung Te-Cheng is bulletproof which means it is resistant to a forger's chemicals and, more importantly, to water.

I tested Kung Te-Cheng in my Jinhao X750 with a broad nib.

This ink only comes in 4.5oz (133ml) bottles, and it is rather pricy compared to other Noodler's inks. One bottle costs about $27.50 (or $0.20 per milliliter). On the other hand you do get some extra goodies with it, namely an eyedropper Platinum Preppy with an interchangeable ballpoint tip and also a brush pen.

Noodler's recommends that you use Kung Te-Cheng only with the provided pens and for good reason. You will see further on why.

Color and saturation
Kung Te-Cheng, as mentioned, is a mysterious blue-purple which seems to change its color depending on how you view it. Paper makes a difference and so does the light which shines on it. To me, it looks more purple on Rhodia than on photocopy paper. That's probably due to the fact that Rhodia absorbs less of it than photocopy paper.

Saturation is average to high. This is not a bright ink by all means but it is dark and opaque and it does stand out.

Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng doesn't show any shading to speak of, at least not when used with the broad nib of the Jinhao pen. With the q-tip it gets darker in places where the ink has the chance to pool up but I can't exactly call that shading.

Kung Te-Cheng behaves very well in this respect. I haven't noticed any feathering, even on the cheap photocopier paper.

Surprisingly, bleedthrough is well contained, though if you press hard enough on the nib it will show through on cheap paper.

Flow and lubrication
Here's where some of Kung Te-Cheng's deficiencies start to show. I found that this ink is very dry flowing, especially in the Jinhao which is not exactly a champion of good flow. While I love the ink's other properties (color and water resistance), the fact that it felt as dry as sandpaper when writing with it helped to tone down some of my enthusiasm.

In addition I found that it tended to dry up in the pen and it also produced a fair amount of nib creep.

Drying time
Considering the above, it's not a big surprise that Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng dries quickly on Rhodia paper and even quicker on photocopy, within 10-15 seconds.

Smearing when dry
I haven't noticed any smearing but that's also helped by the fact that the ink is absorbed really well into the paper.

Water resistance
Needless to say, Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng is very resistant to water, in addition to other chemicals. After more than 1 minute under running water it remains rock-solid.

Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng is one of those classy inks that are quite beautiful to behold but still manage to be flawed. It can certainly be used in a business setting but in any case I would recommend a fountain pen which is very wet flowing, to compensate for its dryness. If strong chemical smell bothers you a lot you might also give Kung Te-Cheng a pass. While the chemical smell it emits is not overpowering, it is certainly there and it becomes evident when you start laying it down on paper. Water resistance is very often a good thing and in this aspect Kung Te-Cheng is a winner but this is offset by its tendency to dry inside pens and potentially ruin them in the very long run if you forget to clean them. I won't be buying a bottle of this ink but it is definitely worth to try at least a sample. I'm pretty sure that for art it shines, especially when used with a brush pen. Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng does a good job of capturing the mystery and nostalgia of Imperial China.

Following are the two samples I wrote on photocopy paper and Rhodia 80g, respectively.

Noodlers Kung Te-Cheng on photocopy

Noodlers Kung Te-Cheng on Rhodia


  1. Oof, I really agree with you on this one. I wouldn't suggest using Kung Te-Cheng if it isn't going to be used often; leaving it alone in a pen for even a day can really make it a hard starter. I went on a trip for a week and when I came back... well, bye-bye pen. Luckily it was only ~5 dollars, so it wasn't too much of a loss.

  2.  What pen was it, if you don't mind my asking?

  3. Based on your review, this ink would be a non-starter for me.  I have about 4-5 pens inked up and so may not use a particular pen for a day or two.  If this ink is not great for a pen that isn't constantly being used then I would have to give it a pass.

  4. I believe it was a Baoer 100, a surprisingly heavy pen that had a medium nib.... I wasn't such a huge fan of the size of the nib, but mine wrote really nicely out of the box. It's one of those Chinese pens that actually end up being pretty great... I think maybe I'll get another one.

  5. I would definitely NOT recommend this ink for pens that are not used often, based on my personal experience. I made sure to test mine in a cheap pen (the Jinhao) that I was using daily at work.

  6. I use this ink in the pen that came with it. I don't use it on a regular basis, but I have never had a problem with the ink drying in the pen. The pen has been full of kung te-cheng for over a year now and writes perfectly whenever I use it. I mostly write checks with it because the ink is extremely impervious to liquids. I have tested various liquids and had the paper dissolve while the writing was still legible. Good stuff. Pretty, too.

  7. Mike Khashaiar KojooriNovember 14, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    That's a bummer. It's such a beautiful color. I definitely stands out from luxury blue, upper gangees blue, and violet vote. LB and VV are very well behaved. I hope they can reformulate it to be used reliably.

  8. Yeah it really is a beautiful color, wish it performed better.