Tool Review: J. Herbin Perle Noire Ink

Or, the Little Ink That Could

Black ink is black ink, right? You would certainly think so. However, when it comes to the world of fountain pen ink, that’s not quite the case.

Black fountain pen inks vary broadly in terms of wetness, darkness and hue. Some are very water resistant, most are not. Some are very well-behaved in pens, never clogging or staining, while others, especially water resistant ones, clog feeds and stain barrels. And when diluted, black inks can become shades of blue, green, or purple.

When it comes to black fountain pen inks, especially in relation to using them for drawing, I really like J. Herbin’s Perle Noire ink. This is for 6 reasons:

  1. It’s really dark. It’s definitely a black ink, not a grey ink.
  2. It’s wet so it flows nicely; it feels rich and inky.
  3. It doesn’t fade when erased over.
  4. When diluted, it first shades purple and then green, like a gobstopper. It’s very dynamic.
  5. It doesn’t stain, so I don’t worry about leaving it in my demonstrator pen.
  6. It’s NOT waterproof.


I generally keep my TWSBI 580AL inked up with Perle Noire. That combination behaves well in all but the cheapest paper, and I love the clean, fine lines I can create.

J. Herbin Perle Noire ink review drawing

But this little ink can do much more than line drawings. It’s my favorite thing so far to do pointillism with. I used to use felt-tipped pens like the Kuretake Mangaka Zip pen and Uni Pin Pens, but I was frustrated by the way they faded so much when I erased my guidelines. This ink solves that problem. Plus, the “inky-ness” means much less pressure and much less muscle fatigue. The only caution here is that it becomes very easy to smear the ink, as it takes a few seconds to dry, but I found the same issue with felt-tipped pens.


Perhaps where this ink is really fun though is in creating washes, à la watercolor. This is why I love that it’s not waterproof. As I mentioned above, as it comes into contact with water, it becomes a dark dusky purple, and as you push it further, it becomes green. It has so much depth.


J. Herbin Perle Noire ink review drawing

J. Herbin Perle Noire was my first ink. I knew I wanted a black ink for drawing, one that was dark and wet, but reasonably fast drying and well-behaved. I spent a lot of time researching, and finally decided that I needed a bottle of J. Herbin Perle Noire, and it’s been a fantastic choice (if I do say so myself…)

All the opinions expressed in this blog are my own. I was not compensated for this review.


The Mysterious Skipping Pelikan M205

Or, How I Fixed Baby’s Bottom on My Pelikan M205 for $1

I love my Pelikan M205. It pains my heart to read some of the experiences others have had with this pen, because this fountain pen has the potential to be truly great. Especially because their bad experiences are not necessarily to be chalked up to getting a “lemon.”

Before I purchased my M205, I read a lot of reviews, some really good, some really bad, but frankly I bought it even knowing I might be getting a bad one. I was infatuated and reason wasn’t winning out. When it arrived, I eagerly inked it up with Waterman Mysterious Blue – and fell in love. The nib was so smooth, but with the perfect amount of feedback. It was just soft enough to give expression to my writing and drawing, and to make that ink shade beautifully. I couldn’t stop using it. It felt so good in my hands. I can’t explain the “it” factor that this fountain pen had.

I inked it up next with J. Herbin Perle Noire, and after a bit more use things started to fall apart. It started skipping and hard starting like crazy. My first thought was that it was just a bad match, but because it behaved fine on drawing paper, I kept using it to draw with. I inked it up next with Sailor Jentle Apricot and it was back to its normal self – for a while. It started skipping again, and if I stopped writing for a few moments to gather my thoughts, it hard started.

Frankly by this point I was seriously disappointed, I loved this fountain pen so much to begin with, that I didn’t want to give up on it. After reading Mike Dudek’s post on clickypost.com about adding a gold nib, I thought about doing the same, but I just couldn’t justify it. So, more research.

I eventually discovered the concept of “Baby’s Bottom.” What happens is, on higher end fountain pens especially, the nib is over polished and this causes the tines to be rounded to a point where the ink in the nib stops before the point where the nib reaches the paper. This article by Evan Brus explains it much better than I could.  This is why the M205 worked beautifully on the more absorbent, softer drawing paper, and not so well on higher end fountain pen paper. Critically, I also found this video by SBRE Brown on how to fix it.

This discovery left me with a few options. I could send the pen off to a nibmeister to repair (not ideal in terms of cost and time frame, turn around time can be months), I could purchase the set of micromesh pads recommended by Stephen Brown from andersonpens.com for $20, or this post by Jeff Abbott on the penaddict.com gave me another idea. I went to the Dollar Tree and purchased a seven way nail file (the kind for buffing and removing ridges off the top of fingernails) and with some trepidation decided to try and fix the issue myself.

Now, I was really nervous about doing this because usually I end up making things worse instead of fixing them, and this wasn’t exactly a cheap pen to mess around on. But I had already been thinking about a gold nib, so if I made the problem worse instead of better, at some point I could still just replace the nib and not really be any worse off. At least that was what I told myself. Disclaimer: if you have the same issue, I am not advocating this as a solution to the problem. I could have very easily ruined my nib and you could too if you try it. If you’re feeling brave, proceed at your own risk. I am just explaining how I fixed the issue.

Pelikan M205 baby's bottom fix

Following the directions in the video, I gathered an old towel, a jar with a little water and a pipette. I didn’t start on the roughest grit, the third roughest seemed sufficient. A couple of drops of water on the file, and as per Stephen’s video, 8 figure 8 signs and 8 infinity signs. I went from that grit through to the mildest two or three times, drying the nib off and testing each time. When I was reasonably satisfied that it was working, I dried it off thoroughly and started writing. Half a page, a page, no skipping. I left it sitting uncapped for 30 seconds, a minute, it started beautifully. A little afraid to get too excited, I put it away for the night. The next day, same deal. No skipping. No hard starting. I used it to take notes during a conference call, leaving it uncapped the whole time, and every time it started flawlessly.

I’m very pleased to say that the Pelikan M205 is better than before. It’s smoother and I have zero skipping and hard starting issues. I love this fountain pen all over again and I use it every day. So many of the issues I’ve read about that people have had with their M205s sound the same, and I can’t help but wonder if the solution is really rather simple. Again, I was perhaps foolish in attempting this on my own, and fortunate that it worked out, your best bet would be to send your fountain pen off to a nibmeister, or at the very least purchase the tools that are right for the job. But if you own an M205 and are frustrated by these issues, the solution may be easier than you think.

Another disclaimer for good measure:  I’m not responsible for any issues you may have if you decide to try this. Send your nib to a professional.