pens, inks, stores, companies and about the pleasure of owning a fine pen


J. Herbin, a French sailor (Jacques Herbin) formed the company in Paris, dating back to 1670. He started making wax and then moved into ink production commencing around 1700. He operated from a shop on the Rue des Fosses Saint-Germain. (Although the street may have a new name now.) I saw a sample of this ink and it was one of those inks I just had to try. Rouge Grenat is deep rich red colour. I have used it in a variety of pens and the colour consistently comes across in both medium and broader widths. </p>. It is considered to be the oldest name of writing inks in the world. Today, the company is part of Clairefontaine, the stationery company in France. Herbin uses natural dyes in their fountain pen inks which are known for smooth flow and a neutral pH, so it is considered a safe choice for all fountain pens.

There are different lines of ink, so take caution to ensure you are buying the ink best for use:

    • The standard line of ink is the probably the best for all purpose writing.
    • Herbin's Anniversary line came out and address the needs of those wanting shimmering ink (not me, merci).
    • A scented line of inks using floral waters from Grasse, France (a beautiful village in Provence).
    • Calligraphy and dip pen inkj - not for your fountain pen.

The famous violet ink was the colour used by students in France during the Third Republic: 1870 to 1940. Herbin even developed a special black ink for the noted author, Victor Hugo.

The first Herbin ink,  La Perle des Encres (the jewel of inks), was created in 1700. Fountain pen users would buy what is known as the "D" bottles. A classic bottle that has been around for a long time. The "D" stands for a French unit of measure, “la Demi Courtine” - between 30 and 40 ml. The "D" bottles sold today hold 30 ml/ 1 ounce of ink.

Herbin ink is available through a variety of locations in North America. Herbin has more than fountain pen ink. Some specialty inks are for dip pens. Do not use in a fountain pen.

In August 2022 the box listed 32 colours. There are even more colours in cartridge (universal style). Some of the colours I have found to be too delicate -- I tend to lean towards bold vibrant colour of ink, as with a broad or stub nib strong colours look best. But it is not the colour, but the shape of the bottle that has prevented me from using the ink on a regular basis.

The Standard line are all called "La Perle des Encres" - the pearl of inks. Dye-based, smooth-flowing, pH-neutral, lightfast. this is the line of inks that I have been trying. The line is known not to be the fastest dying ink, usually taking more than 15 seconds to dry. Paper and the width of the nib are factors.


J H erbin ink swatches

This is the colour chart that HERBIN produced, but I have found some various of colours in actual use.

The Ink Bottle

The classic D bottle comes with an ink rest - a memory back to dip pens. I find the bottles too shallow. Filling a pen with a large nib is difficult in terms of having the nib submerged in the ink. Six of the colours come in a 100 ml bottle ( Perle Noire 09, Eclat de Saphire 16, Bleu Nuit 19, Lie de The 44, Poussiere de Lune 48, Violette Pensee 77.

J Herbin D Bottle

Comments on Various Colours

Perle Noire - I recently received an email about this ink, a very saturated dark black with a very quick drying time. (Thanks. R. Carpena)

Blue Nuit - P. Johnson provides her review of that colour: "Drab ultramarine with dull purple overtones. Looks like faded watercolor when dry."

Reviews from others are that it is a very good brand of ink that flows reliably with a great colour selection.

Rouge Fuchsia/Opera - a true dark red, not a ruby or Bordeaux, and is virtually identical in color to the OMAS Amerigo Vespucci. The Opera is the scented version. This color is to be distinguished from Herbin's attempt at regular red -- Rouge Caroubier -- which, unfortunately, is a washed-out red like those from so many other brands of ink.

Rose Cyclamen - an almost fluorescent purplish pink, and is a very noticeable color. It also tends to spread more than other colors on paper. A unique color.


Rose Grenat

I saw a sample of this ink and it was one of those inks I just had to try. Rouge Grenat is deep rich red colour. I have used it in a variety of pens and the colour consistently comes across in both medium and broader widths. I love the rich colour of this ink. Dry time is a bit over 15 seconds, I have learnt to slow down and emjoy!

J Herbin Rouge Grenat


J Herbin Rose Grenat

Vert de Gris

HERBIN Vert de Gris Ink

Sample: Leonardo Steel Stub nib, Neenah classic linen paper, Avon Brilliant White

I had previously been on a search for a perfect grey ink. Depsite the many brands I tried, I never tried HERBIN. Well I recently did and I must say I like the HERBIN Vert de Gris (Green of Greys). The company is one of the oldest ink companies, and this colour I take it has been around since probably 2018 or so.

It is a good performing ink but the colour was a challenge depending on the pen/nib and paper that I used. Also, dry time is a bit longer with this ink, so depending on the finish of the paper, that can impact any smearing that can take place right after the ink hits the paper. As you would expect, the better the paper, the better the experience. I had some office paper, while good, a bit of a shinny surface, where the ink sat on the paper just a little too long. But with others like Rhodia or Clairefontaine, I am happy with the ink/paper relationship. The ink has good flow.

As I used my first bottle I found that with some pens the ink was light grey. But as I used various pens, I really started liking this colour when I used it in one of my Leonardo Momento Zero pens, with a Bock steel nib. Ah the green of greys became more obvious. A good flat colour, no sheen, no shimmer. Just what I like.

The colour of the ink is pleasing but nothing like the colour shown on the sample card produced by Herbin.

This is a very attractive green/grey and I will be enjoying to try it in various pens/nibs. I do not see the colour listed on the most current ink chart on the jherbin web site (2023) , so this may be a short-lived experience.

Bleu Calanque

Blue Calanque HERBIN ink

The colour sample I say made me this this was more a flat blue tone ink, but it turns out to be an attractive turquoise. Makes sense as the name Calanque is also the name for a famous drive along the coast of the South of France. This ink feels like the South of France.

It is a good performing inik. This colour, as with just about all the colours have been trying since I stepped into the world of HERBIN ink isa no dissapointment.