Why We Can’t Always Judge an Ink by Its Name, or Even Its Picture: A Tale of KWZ Confederation Brown

KWZ Confederation Brown Montblanc Racing Green swabs comparison

Someone asked me to compare KWZ Confederation Brown with Montblanc Racing Green, thinking the two inks might be similar.

As you can see, that’s a firm “no.”

KWZ Confederation Brown is the limited edition ink made for the 2017 Scriptus Pen Show in Toronto. Montblanc Racing Green was a regular Montblanc ink, but it was discontinued years ago and now trades at very high prices because it’s got a certain mystique.

I snapped a comparison shot of the two swabs and texted it to the friend who had asked about it. His reaction? Puzzlement. He said something like, “That’s weird: my Confederation Brown looks more green, and yours looks more brown.”

Was my ink faded or from a different batch than his? Was something wrong with my ink, or his? Because his looks greener than mine, supposedly.

No, not at all.

That’s a very common reaction. Let’s talk about why.

Our perception of a color is influenced by many factors, one of which is how the color we are looking at interacts with other colors. We perceive a color differently based on the colors nearby.

So in the top photo, Confederation Brown looks browner and less green.

But now look at this photo of Confederation Brown.

KWZ Confederation Brown Sheaffer Skrip Red swabs comparison

And this photo.

KWZ Confederation Brown Montblanc Seasons Greetings swabs comparison

In those two photos, Confederation Brown looks not brown, but green, albeit a yellow-brown-green sort of green.

Confederation Brown has not changed. The only change is the surrounding colors. That makes all the difference in one’s perception of the color of Confederation Brown. (Let me add that when you see Confederation Brown in isolation, it looks fairly green.)

It is highly unlikely — nearly impossible, I’d wager — that anyone’s bottle of KWZ Confederation Brown strays significantly from the standard. That’s because KWZ would have made this special edition ink in one batch. Also because KWZ takes pains to ensure KWZ inks are consistent, even from batch to batch. And it’s very recently made, not likely to have changed color in the bottle.

There’s another issue here: ink names.

So much goes into an ink name. Marketing appeal, the sound of the words, how the name translates into different languages and, of course, the need to describe the color. This ink would have been named by the organizers of Scriptus, the Toronto pen show. The Confederation part of the name refers to the creation of the Dominion of Canada. And the Brown part is for the color.

I think with this ink, reasonable people can differ whether it’s more brown, or more green. As I said, when I see Confederation Brown, it looks green to me — although a yellow-brown type of green. But I think either brown or green is perfectly fair. Also, I’m quite certain that if they had named it “Confederation Green,” some buyers would have felt it was too brown to be named green.

The truth is, there are infinite varieties of any color, be it blue, red, green or brown. That’s part of what makes fountain pen inks so interesting.

Here are the inks I have that I find closest to Confederation Brown in feel. One is more of a brown, one is more of a green.

KWZ Confederation Brown swabs comparison

Stipula Verde Muschiato happens to be one of my all-time favorite inks, and I love how golden it looks here. To me, the slightly browner one is is Verde Muschiato (named green) and the greener one is Confederation Brown (named brown). But they are both green-browns or brown-greens.

Here is Confederation Brown with one of my favorite KWZ greens.

KWZ Confederation Brown KWZ Iron Gall Green Gold swabs comparison

Despite me thinking Confederation Brown is pretty green, KWZ Iron Gall Green Gold is greener. Put another way, next to Iron Gall Green Gold, Confederation Brown surely looks brown. (As it does next to Montblanc Racing Green, in the first photo.) Another reason the Brown name makes sense.

In any case, whatever the name, these are all interesting colors, with many dimensions, and a lot to enjoy. Even a mere glimpse of the swabs shows how different these inks look on white versus cream paper. They also will vary depending on the pen used.

That malleability is a feature of many green-brown, or brown-green, inks. It’s one reason those colors are so interesting. And also why these inks tend to fool our eyes the most.

Ink Dips: De Atramentis Document Red

De Atramentis Document Red

Ink Dips is meant to be a more casual, laid-back ink evaluation than is normal here at Fountain Pen Follies. Instead of carefully evaluating an ink I’m interested in, the point of Ink Dips is to blindly pick an ink sample from a box of the unwanted. Then I fill that sample in one pen and see what I think. It’s an inky experiment that’s a bit dippy. However, this one started out more fearsome than fun, since I was trying a type of ink I find a little scary.

De Atramentis Document Red. This perfectly waterproof red ink gets top marks for behavior in a pen, though cleaning was a little bit of an adventure. And it’s nicely permanent. But for me the ink’s color lacked vibrance and appeal.

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Liking Jane: More About De Atramentis Jane Austen

DeAtramentis Jane Austen ink writing sample

At the end of a dreadful week in the news, I want to take refuge by delving into something utterly insignificant, but at least diverting. That would be ink. I’d like to talk about Jane Austen ink by De Atramentis.

I’ve always maintained that the least interesting aspect of any ink I review is how the color strikes me personally. Instead, I try to be more neutral. Everyone’s taste is individual, but there are certain objective qualities to note about an ink. Is it dry or wet? Does it shade? What does it look like on different papers?

But I’m going to step away from that model here. Because I knew the minute I inked up De Atramentis Jane Austen that I liked it, but didn’t love it. Further, what I like most about De Atramentis Jane Austen is that it’s named after one of my favorite authors. That presents something of a mild conundrum for me.

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Ink Snippet: De Atramentis Jane Austen

DeAtramentis Jane Austen ink writing sample

It’s been Blue Week here at Fountain Pen Follies for more than two weeks. Which surely has created a gap in the space-time continuum, because it seems that even the world’s biggest blue ink fan has grown weary of blue ink.

So I cleaned out three pens filled with blue ink, and searched for an ink that was appealing and not-blue. It took a while, but eventually I found a tiny amount of De Atramentis Jane Austen, left over from the Chicago Pen Show. And Jane Austen is one of my favorite writers.

I was very happy to put De Atramentis Jane Austen into a Pelikan 400 with OBB nib. It turns out to be a lighter forest green, with shading. Not perhaps my favorite color, though the shading is nice. And not the color that I would have chosen for Austen, who was acutely attuned to the comical and the absurd, whereas this ink seems very serious.

But maybe it has a Regency flavor. And it’s a nice color.

It’s an ink that seems to be on the dry side. That vintage Pelikan is a firehose, and the ink doesn’t look very dark, does it? So that could be nice for wetter pens.

Here’s a look at the ink from a different angle, because I think you can sometimes get a better feel for the color when you don’t think about what’s written. Also, shallow depth of field always makes a person feel artsy.  Even if the reason for it was just dusk.

De Atramentis Jane Austen ink writing sample

Jane Austen, incredibly, was born in 1775. Here’s what Anthony Trollope, another English novelist, said of her in 1870:

Miss Austen was surely a great novelist. What she did, she did perfectly…. She wrote of the times in which she lived, of the class of people with which she associated, and in the language which was usual to her as an educated lady. Of romance—what we generally mean when we speak of romance—she had no tinge: heroes and heroines with wonderful adventures there are none in her novels. Of great criminals and hidden crimes she tells us nothing.

But she places us in a circle of gentlemen and ladies, and charms us while she tells us with an unconscious accuracy how men should act to women, and women act to men. It is not that her people are all good; and, certainly, they are not all wise. The faults of some are the anvils on which the virtues of others are hammered till they are bright as steel. In the comedy of folly, I know no novelist who has beaten her. The letters of Mr. Collins, a clergyman in Pride and Prejudice, would move laughter in a low-church archbishop.