I hadn’t heard about the Rohrer & Klingner SketchINK lineup until I stumbled across them while putting together the Ink Testing Station for the Chicago Pen Show. I took a chance and bought the black one, which R&K calls “Lotte.”
The SketchINK line consists of 10 nano-pigment inks aimed at sketchers. These are fountain pen inks, but packaged in a cute way — unlike typical fountain pen inks. The SketchINKS all bear a female name — Lotte, Marlene and so on. No “Laura,” though, so it’s docked half a point for being wrong. Your mileage may vary, Marlene.
The bottle labels have a title written in quirky hand-lettering, plus a sketch of a woman featuring what I presume is the ink. This is Lotte.
R&K says the SketchINKs work with fountain pens, dip pens and brushes. I’ve been using SketchINK Lotte just for writing, like any other fountain pen ink. I had it inked up for two months in two converter pens, a Nemosine Singularity with stub and a Kaweco Classic Sport with fine nib.
Actually, it’s been Pigment Ink Summer here. At the same time, I’ve been using three other pigment inks, including Platinum Carbon Black in my Platinum Plaisir. Carbon Black is my favorite and most used pigment ink, so I know it pretty well, and it’s been interesting to compare the new and unknown R&K Lotte with the venerable Carbon Black.
One advantage of SketchINK Lotte is the price. I’ve always been a fan of R&K’s regular fountain pen inks, because they are good inks that are well–priced. The SketchINKs are well-priced, too. They cost only $12 per 50 ml bottle in the US. One competitor, DeAtramentis Document Black, cost me $20.50 for a 35 ml bottle. Platinum Carbon Black is $22.50 for 60 ml. Sailor Kiwa-guro is about $24 for a 50 ml bottle.
Lotte started up and flowed well. It started up immediately when I uncapped either pen, even when I hadn’t used that pen for days. Flow was well-lubricated and on the wetter side, like all pigment inks I’ve used. SketchINK Lotte writes with a smooth feeling, and with a generous, slightly wider line width. This was very much like Platinum Carbon Black.
Lotte also looks very like Platinum Carbon Black, particularly on fountain pen-friendly paper. Here is a writing sample of the two inks on Rhodia, with Lotte in the Kaweco Classic Sport with fine nib, and Carbon Black in the Plaisir with fine nib.
On Rhodia, Lotte and Platinum Carbon Black were essentially indistinguishable.
Here’s a closeup.
On poor quality paper, Lotte behaved very well, as did Platinum Carbon Black. Each could occasionally feather on cheap paper. But in general, using these for weeks on some really bad papers, they were both solid performers.
Here’s an example, on a random legal pad.
And here’s an example on the bottom-of the line Field Notes paper.
Lotte actually did better than Carbon Black on many cheap, absorbent papers. On that Field Notes, for example, Platinum Carbon Black feathered a bit and looks lighter in color, while Lotte held the line against feathering and spread and looks darker.
The ink’s color is nice: there’s a bit of blue in its warm graphite core, but it just looks black. Like all black pigment inks I’ve used, Lotte doesn’t shade at all, and it dries to a glossy dark color — glossier on fountain-pen friendly papers. Though many black nano-pigment inks can look dark gray on some papers, Lotte stayed black.
Lotte is indeed completely waterproof, to the same degree as Carbon Black. Here’s how they looked on Rhodia and more absorbent regular paper that was soaked in water than dried.
I found only one real drawback to Lotte. R&K points out that the SketchINKs are quick-drying, which I’m sure is useful for artists. However, I found Lotte would dry out very quickly in the feed if I stopped writing and put the pen down uncapped.
Platinum Carbon Black didn’t do that. If I left the Platinum pen uncapped for 30 seconds, Carbon Black would start writing immediately. If I left either the Kaweco or Nemosine with Lotte uncapped for 10 seconds, ink wouldn’t flow again until I scribbled in the margins to get it going. So Lotte is not an ink for people who like to write or draw a bit, then pause for more than a few seconds without capping the pen. It’s an ink for folks who are used to diligently capping pens — for example, marker users, and mothers of marker users.
Now let’s talk nib creep — when ink migrates to the top of a fountain pen nib. It’s just a thing with fountain pens, though some nibs and some inks are more prone to it. I’ve found that pigment inks tend to creep, because they are so well-lubricated; I’ve also found that a pigment ink that creeps onto the top of the nib tends to dry there.
There was only a little nib-creep coating on the Kaweco Sport, but with the large Nemosine Singularity nib, the ink dried in a spectacular fashion. Here’s an extreme closeup.
It looked like I’d spent extra for a ruthenium-plated nib.
But let’s use this as a bridge to my favorite topic, pen-cleaning.
On its website, R&K describes the SketchINKs as nano-pigment inks which are “exceptionally waterproof and lightfast,” as well as quick-drying. R&K points out that waterproof ink can cause “clotting” in fountain pens and may require use of R&K’s pen cleaner. R&K warns that you shouldn’t let the ink dry out in the pen.
They even put it on the bottle, in German and English: “Avoid your fountain pen dries out!”
I applaud R&K for being forthright. I wish more ink makers let everyone know this information right up front. Waterproof inks are higher maintenance and can clog pens and be harder to clean.
That doesn’t mean we can’t use pigment inks and other waterproof inks. It means that we should recognize that these inks tend to be high-maintenance, and pay attention to pen maintenance, pen selection and the time we keep the ink in the pen.
I tested the ease of cleaning Lotte over both a shorter time and a longer time.
First was a two-week test. I inked up the Nemosine Singularity with Lotte, and the Kaweco Classic Sport with a different ink, De Atramentis Document Black (which I believe to be a pigment ink). After two weeks I cleaned them out. Lotte cleaned up fairly easily for a high-maintenance ink — not as easily as a low-maintenance ink, but more easily than Document Black, which adhered much more to the feed and nib, and took longer to clean out. Both pens had some dried ink on the top of the nib, due to nib creep, but a wet paper towel cleaned that off. Water was enough to clean them.
Then I decided to test Lotte for a longer time. I filled both the Nemosine and the Kaweco with Lotte, and kept the two pens inked with Lotte and in use, refilling when necessary, from May 1 to June 27 (Nemosine) and June 28 (Kaweco).
After two months, cleaning out Lotte was harder — as it would be for any high maintenance ink. The converters weren’t bad: those cleaned out just flushing with water. On the Kaweco converter there’s a little dried Lotte stain on the neck of the converter, and the sac is a little stained, too. That’s not surprising: the Kaweco converter tends to stain. It’s perfectly usable. Here’s a photo.
After that two-month inking, I did need to pull the nib and feed to remove all traces of the ink.
Just like the pigment ink dried on the top of the nib, after two months some ink had dried underneath the nib and some ink clung inside the feed — and neither water-flushing nor ultrasonic cleaning with water would remove that. Here is a photo of the underside of the Singularity nib showing some dried ink under the shoulders of the nib.
But once the nibs and feeds were disassembled, gentle abrasion removed that hidden, dried ink easily. I used an old soft toothbrush on the feeds, and again, a wet paper towel on the nibs (only this time, on both the top and the underside of the nibs.) The nib and feed were left perfectly clean.
It’s possible that a technical pen cleaner like Koh-I-Noor Rapido-Eze or R&K’s own pen cleaner would have removed the dried and clingy ink, either in an ultrasonic cleaner, or just by flushing, in lieu of pulling the nib and feed. In general, I caution against pulling nibs and feeds for routine cleaning, because they can eventually loosen. But I left the pen-cleaner method for further research.
After testing Lotte (and other pigment inks), I’m confident that I can use Lotte (and most other pigment inks) in any c/c pen, even an expensive one, for a week or two, with no issue other than a longer water-flushing cycle. Lotte is one of the easier to clean of the pigment inks; De Atramentis Document Black one of the harder.
For longer pigment ink use — over two weeks — I will choose the pens carefully. I’ll choose either a reasonably priced, easy-to-clean, c/c pen like a Kaweco Classic Sport, or any c/c pen that uses inexpensive, replaceable, stainless-steel Jowo nib units. Another possibility might be one of the TWSBI piston fillers that can be disassembled for cleaning. Or I’ll pick a cheaper pen to dedicate to a pigment ink, and use that till it stops working well.
In the end, I found Lotte to be an excellent pigment ink, even for writing. I found it just as good as Carbon Black, except for how fast it dries out in the pen if the pen is left uncapped. I’d happily try the other nine SketchINKs, too.
And the pens are clean and ready to go again.