I’ve written a few times about my ongoing quest for the perfect black ink (here, here, and here). Just to recap, Speedball Super Black has been my go-to ink for years. It is cheap, free-flowing, and very black. However, it has a tendency to feather on certain papers. Since I like to try out new brands of notebooks when I need a new one, I’ve always required a back-up ink. Yasumtomo Sumi ink was one I used for a long time, though I didn’t like how thick it was. Yasutomo Ultra Black was better, but I still found it a little muddy. About a year ago, I tried out Tachikawa Jet Black and fell in love with how thin a line I could get with it. I also recently purchased a little bottle of Deleter 4 and found it to be a nice flowing ink that worked on almost any paper. Most recently, I got myself a big bottle of Moon Palace Sumi, which I have found to be similar to the Yasutomo Sumis, but better flowing.
Basically, I really like all four of these inks: Speedball Super Black, Tachikawa Jet Black, Deleter 4, and Moon Palace Sumi. They are each very black, but have their own strengths and weaknesses. So let me share with you what I’ve found. I’ll go in order of my discovery of them.
Speedball Super Black.
Despite its tendency to feather on some papers, I still find Super Black to be the best flowing ink I’ve ever tried that at the same time is actually black and not a watery gray. It is also easy to find (in the U.S.) and fairly cheap. Here it is at JetPens.
• best flowing
• cheapest: $0.02 – $0.09/ml (depends on size and retailer)
• most likely to feather
Tachikawa Jet Black
This ink is incredible. It creates the finest lines of any of the inks and is amazingly black on almost every paper that I’ve tried it on. It also comes in a really cool bottle. However, the bottle is misleading. It looks like a standard 30ml bottle, but because of how thick it is, it actually only holds 15ml of ink. I thought Jet Black was expensive before, but now I’m only going to use it on very special occasions. Here it is at JetPens.
• allows for thinnest lines
• most expensive: $0.72/ml
Deleter 4 comes in the smallest, worst bottle of the four inks. So I recommend pouring it out into an ink well. That said, I have been consistently impressed with this ink. It works on every paper that I’ve tried, is very black, and flows well. Just a solid ink. You can get it from either Jet Pens or Paper & Ink Arts.
cost: $0.26 – $0.43/ml
• best all around ink
• worst bottle
• only in 30ml size
Moon Palace Sumi
I’ve seen some people online complaining about the smell of this ink. Personally, I love how it smells, like a light version of Tiger Balm. Moon Palace flows better than the other sumi inks that I’ve tried. It dries a tad grayer than the other three inks here, so that is probably its main drawback. But it works on most papers, comes in a nice bottle, and is fairly cheap: $0.07/ml. It’s at Paper & Ink Arts.
• cool smell
• nice large, no drip bottle
• least black of the four
I still have a huge bottle of Super Black that I’ve been working through for years, so I’m going to keep using it. I know which papers it works best on, so the feathering problem only applies to new notebooks that I get. Still, I am starting to use Deleter 4 more and more. It’s a really nice ink. It flows almost as well as Super Black and is as feather-proof as Jet Black at half the price.
Overall, all four of these inks are great. If you were to get just one, I think Deleter 4 is your best bet.