For years I avoided certain ink brands, namely Noodlers and Private Reserve, not because I actually believed those inks would destroy or “melt” pens, but because of batch inconsistency and the fact that many of the inks bled and feathered on all but the thickest coated paper. Others never dried, remaining tacky and subject to smearing for up to a week or more. I would get frustrated and give up, selling or giving away the bottles I had accumulated.
With nearly a decade in this hobby under my belt, I’m slightly more patient than I used to be, and writing this blog has provided me with the opportunity for experimentation. Noodlers makes a wide range of vibrant and unique colors, and most of the inks are so saturated with dye that you can add a couple drops of water or ink additive to improve the ink’s behavior without changing the color significantly or sacrificing vibrancy. The only caveat is that by diluting the ink, you run the risk of compromising special properties such as “bulletproofing” (permanence/water resistance) or quick-drying. I generally don’t purchase inks for these reasons, however, other than a couple water-resistant inks I keep in my collection, and I’ve found that most aren’t significantly affected by a drop of dilution.
So How Do I “Fix” Problematic Noodlers Inks?
I’ve found that certain Noodlers Inks that are prone to feathering, bleeding, and extremely slow dry times work better with 1-5 drops of water added to a 5ml sample vial. Inks such as Air Corps Blue Black and Walnut are great colors, but sometimes bleed, feather, and smear on cheaper paper, or take a long time to dry on fountain-pen friendly paper like Clairefontaine, Rhodia, or Tomoe River.
On the other hand, for inks that are too dry, I take the same amount of ink (5ml in a sample vial) and add a tiny drop of Vanness Pens “White Lightning” ink additive. You might remember a version of this product when it was sold by Organics Studio, under the moniker “Cuddles Flo Plus”, but Vanness acquired the formula after Organics Studio discontinued it and are now bottling the product directly. White Lightning is intended “for use in poor flowing or dry inks to increase flow consistency,” and the product really does work. I can’t emphasize enough, though, that you should use this product sparingly, and do not add directly to the bottle unless you are extremely sure of the amount. Use too much and you can turn a dry ink into the inverse: an ink that feathers, bleeds, and never dries. I’ve had success using White Lightning to improve the flow of drier Noodlers Inks such as basic Noodler’s Black, 54th Massachusetts, and Shah’s Rose. I’ve also spoken with other people who swear that White Lightning improves extremely dry inks such as certain Kyoto TAG inks, as well as Platinum’s “Classic” series of Iron Gall inks.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
Noodlers Ink is widely available from most pen retailers, and the bottles pictured here were supplied by site sponsor Pen Chalet. What I’ve discovered over the years is that Noodlers makes “tinkerer’s inks.” If you don’t mind playing around with the formulation, you can better enjoy the wide range of colors and properties that the brand has to offer. White Lightning Ink Additive can be purchased from our sponsor Vanness Pens, and is a product exclusive to them. This unique product really does work, and if you have a large ink collection that includes colors you love but can’t use due to how the inks themselves behave, consider experimenting with water dilution or additives to tailor the inks to your preference.
Disclaimer: The inks and ink additive were provided to me free of charge by my sponsors, for review purposes. Many thanks to Pen Chalet and Vanness Pens for making this review possible!