Ink Review: Noodler’s Bulletproof Black

Box + Bottle BPB

It’s been long overdue: our first ink review! And this is an ink that everyone should know about. Noodlers is owned and run by one single man: Nathan Tardiff. Nathan takes care of making and packing every bottle of Noodlers ink sold, a gargantuan effort if you consider the huge range and the near-worldwide availability of these inks.

The name is odd, I know, and the inks are odd. Noodlers inks are the most varied of any brand, in both colour and characteristics. Some are permanent, some tamper-proof, and some will stain your pen, clothes, and desk permanently. Bulletproof inks are permanent on paper, but wipe off plastics with ease. They’re waterproof, smearproof, and create a bond with the paper that can’t be broken once dry. Or so Nathan says! Does this claim hold up? Let’s see.

Noodlers Bulletproof Black

Noodlers BP Black is one of a relatively small range of inks with the “bulletproof” designation. This is one of the most popular inks Noodlers sells, so popular that people have even ordered ginormous made-to-order bottles of the stuff. It’s essentially the standard for black inks in the fountain pen world, and for good reason. Many people swear by its feather-resistance, permanence, and blacker-than-black appearance. People have even used this ink to fill out newspaper crosswords with no problem, despite the fact that newspaper is some of the lowest quality paper in the world.

First Impressions

The box it comes in is standard Noodlers fare. A big Noodlers logo and hand-drawn pictures of catfish (the Noodlers mascot) and other stuff adorn the relatively plain white cardboard outside. Ink tends to be a no-frills product. You get the ink in the box and that’s about it. BP Black is no exception. The bottle is a unique design, and has a relatively tacky looking label stuck on. Nathan designs and prints each label himself. And every label has a different design.

Noodlers Box

The tacky appearance of the whole package is actually a good thing: it’s a way to keep costs down. Each bottle of Noodlers floats around the $10-$20 mark and are more capacious than your regular ink bottle. And the amount of ink you get is tremendous. I have never seen another brand that fills their bottles all the way to the top like Noodlers does. You need to take care when popping open the lid, as it is literally filled to the very top. Every bottle of Noodlers I own has arrived like this, so you really get consistently great value for money with these inks.

So first impressions are an emphasis on function rather than form. And for something that sits on the shelf most of the time, that’s really what you want!

In Use

I’ve been using this in my Platinum President for the past week at Uni.

The bottle is taller than it is wide, which is good because you want to be able to submerge your pen’s nib all the way in the ink. This design lets you do that even when the bottle is around a quarter full, and is not too common on other ink brands’ bottles which I find a little strange.

Lubrication is great! I notice pens that normally have a little friction glide across the paper with this ink inside. I’ve also found that this ink work on even very fine nibs where other inks would clog up.

In my Platinum President I find it takes a while to dry in the tip when uncapped, so during lectures I’m able to keep it uncapped during breaks in writing without any worry, which is a huge plus in my mind!

The colour is not quite a deep dark black, but it’s definitely more black than most inks out there. Diluting it shows that this is a grey-based black, which I much prefer to the typically purple-based black inks that are very common these days.

Tests

  • Colour test: I do a very wet swab and a drier swab so you can see what this colour looks like in a wet vs dry pen
  • Saturation: Ink saturation is how dark and full the colour is. Inks that are not fully saturated will have some shading qualities (dark and light areas in writing).
  • Drying time: I take multiple timed tests to show how long it takes for this ink to dry on bad, medium, and good paper, and with both a wet and a dry flowing pen. the pen is written with a bit after filling to bring it to its “true” flow before testing.
  • Waterproofing: After waiting for the ink to dry I drip a few drops of water on the ink and let them settle. I also wipe a wet finger across the dry ink, and a slightly damp “sweaty” finger as well.
  • Bleed-through: I show the reverse side of each type of paper to show any bleed- or show-through
  • Feathering: Close-ups of writing show how this ink “feathers”, or the tendency for the ink to soak laterally across the paper.

Note: Tests done on 80g Rhodia Grid paper (good), copy paper (medium), and Paperways grid paper (bad) with a Lamy Safari Medium.

– Colour test

BPB Colour Test

This test shows that in a dry pen the ink takes on a much greyer appearance than in a super wet pen.

– Saturation

BPB Saturation Test

The three swabs (each consecutively applied on top of the previous swab, numbers indicating the start of each swab) show that the ink is fairly saturated. After the second swab the ink is pretty much at its fullest saturation, with the first swab only showing some lightness. This ink will shade fairly well in a drier pen, and a medium flow pen will show some shading as well.

– Drying Time

First I show the drying time of the regular formula ink, on each of the 3 different paper types. Then I diluted the ink exactly 2 parts ink : 1 part clean water and tested again to see if any different in drying time resulted.

BPB Medium Dry Test BPB Bad Drying Test BPB Good Dry TestThis first round of tests shows that BPB has a fairly lengthy drying time of over 20 seconds. Of course, a change of pen to a drier or finer tip will drastically improve this. For example, even on great paper, this ink in my Fine nib Platinum President has dry times less than 10 seconds due to the thin width of the nib and the medium flow.

BPB Diluted Medium Dry Test BPB Diluted Bad Dry Test IMG_9142This next round of diluted tests show no improvement except on the Rhodia paper (good), with drying times being extended on the other two. Again the same applies as before if you use this ink in a different pen. Also present is a subtle change in the saturation of the ink once diluted.

– Waterproofing

This test involves both normal and diluted versions of the ink as well. The drip test has 3 drops of water applied to a grid of dry BPB and left for a while, and the other two show how pressure from a damp and wet finger affects the ink. Note that this test does not show “true” waterproofing, as inks like this only become absolutely waterproof after a few hours or so of drying, and is instead used to show what would happen if you were in the process of writing and got your paper wet.

IMG_9137 IMG_9139 BPB Diluted and Normal Pressured Waterproof Test

The tests show that even after a short period of drying, the ink exhibits excellent waterproofing. It also seems that diluting the ink has improved this quality even further, especially in the drip test where you can barely see where I have applied the drops. I’m very impressed!

– Bleed-through/Show-through

Bleeding is when the ink soaks through onto the other side of the paper, even possibly going onto the next page in extreme cases. Show through is when you can see a ghostly outline of the ink from the reverse side of the page. Each of these photos attempts to show both qualities on the reverse side of the writing done in previous tests.

Bad Paper

Bad Paper BPB Show and Bleed Through

Good Paper

Good Paper BPB Bleed and Show ThroughI didn’t bother to test the medium paper, only the two extreme ends of the quality spectrum, because as you can see there is absolutely zero bleed or show through in any of these paper types! This is superbly well behaved and suitable for writing even on the worst paper; I mean, check out this newspaper:

BPB Newspaper test reverse BPB Newspaper testWow, only a little bit of show through and zero bleed through even on newspaper!

– Feathering

Good paper BPB Feather test IMG_9161 IMG_9159

Absolutely zero feathering even on the worst paper. It makes me wonder why inks like Noodlers X-Feather are even necessary!

Conclusion

This is one impressive ink! Nathan has managed to create a perfect balance of colour, bleedthrough and feathering resistance, and waterproofing that absolutely shines in any pen. The only concern is drying time, so I would recommend putting this in a drier pen to cut back on the wetness, but apart from that this is the perfect black ink.

Add on the fact that it’s fairly cheap (approx. $10-$20 per bottle not including shipping) and that it can be diluted and still keep these excellent properties and you have a fantastic ink that will suit pretty much any situation!

Colour: 4/5
Shading: 4/5
Dry time: 2/5
Bleed: 5/5
Waterproofing: 4/5
Feathering: 5/5
Versatility: 5/5
Value: 5/5

Overall: 9/10 
Outstanding

  • http://www.inkdependence.com Mike

    Really nice review. As I guy who does these ink reviews pretty often, I know you spent some serious time on it. Bravo!

    • jono

      Thanks Mike!

  • Carlos

    Top notch review. Thanks and keep up the good work.