Some say that black is black is black. Considering a near cousin in similar light, one might also say that gray is gray is gray. At the risk of adding more to plenty, I am giving this space today over to another look, comparison and consideration of two gray inks: J. Herbin’s Gris Nuage and Sailor’s Jentle Ink Gray.
I should say from the beginning that this won’t be a review that encourages anyone to run out and buy gray ink. Not that I have particularly negative things to say about either of the two grays mentioned above, rather that any description offered isn’t going to alter the fact that gray—excepting perhaps slate gray—is usually an impractical color for any document where words must be read to get the full meaning. In short, gray inks are all too often hard to read.
Think for a moment of ink as serving a basic purpose similar to the choice of font in a printed document. Readability is an important characteristic no matter how you look at it, unless you are talking about decorative fonts, where legibility might be secondary. If the purpose of your ink is more toward decorative or artistic purposes, then you don’t worry as much about a squinting, stumbling reader trying to make out letters and words. I exaggerate, but without a doubt, like the choice of font in printing, visibility and sharpness play a part in words written with pen and ink.
For me then, a gray ink is most suitable for those times when I write for myself only in a mood best supported by gray ink. Terrific for putting down a somber thought in my journal. Maybe not even a somber thought, but just a descriptive accent.
The J. Herbin and Sailor inks shown on this page are both fine inks. Shading is better in the darker Sailor gray, as is the flow of ink from the pen. The Sailor is a wetter ink. I usually find myself wishing for better saturation in gray inks, but might that come from the lack of depth?
If I had to write a note to someone with only these two inks to choose from, ten out of ten times I would opt for the Sailor ink, but wish for something even darker.
I said something in these pages a while back on the subject of gray inks (The Brothers Gray), something to the effect of their having potential to heighten atmosphere. I believe therein lies the true purpose and enjoyment of gray ink. More often than not, don’t we hope for something that won’t make us work too hard at seeing the words?