This review is so long overdue that maybe it became pointless. More than a year has passed since I first got the bottle of DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN ink; many more agile reviewers already stated their opinions. It seems that DOCUMENT RANGE found it’s way to sketcher’s arsenals all around the world without my tiny drop of analyse and help, which is quite natural – I’m not claiming these ramblings really matter. But I promised to do it, and new generations of sketchers will come, so somebody will eventually find it useful one of these days.

DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN ink was sent to me by Dr Franz-Josef Jansen, the owner of DE ATRAMENTIS INKS, in order to try it and give my opinion on it. A fellow member of F P N showed my sketches to Dr Jansen, some of them done with other De Atramentis inks. It seemed to sparkle his interest and decision to include me among much more prolific and famous sketchers like LIZ STEELE or JANE BLUNDELL, for example. My review coming so late clearly shows their justified prestige 🙂

If I can say anything in my defense, I worked a lot in the meantime, and it was the first time a manufacturer gave me a product to test. I wanted to really spend some time with it, use it in different scenarios and give unbiased opinion after thorough examination.

So I used DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN for sketching and professional illustrations in my usual workflow; lived, traveled and worked with it and after more than a year of this kind of companionship, I believe I have a solid first-hand experience to share.

 After this long introduction, I will give my impression in the shortest way: I love it.

To explain why, let’s take a break with some imagery, the first I did with DE ATRAMENTISDOCUMENT BROWN. It was the evening after receiving the bottle, I was eager to try it and impatient to clean a fountain pen for it, so I just used a dip pen.

The reason I was interested to try it is that it is not black. The waterproof ink I have been using regularly up to that point is PLATINUM CARBON BLACK, very well known among sketchers and fountain pen artists. It always served me well, completely stable after drying, never giving up under washes of watercolors. But, black. Now, with several manufacturers entering the waterproof arena, things changed significantly, but just several years ago we weren’t so spoiled for choice. So, the hue, speed of drying and permanency of DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN were my first points of interest and examination.

It is a dark reddish brown, on broader strokes where the line is very saturated it borders on black, on lighter lines is warm and pleasant. A bit darker than I imagined, but with a dip pen that leaves more ink than fountain pen nib, it was to be expected. I proceeded to watercolors, to check water resistance, but also to see if it dries quickly enough to be safely washed over immediately after drawing.

The result was fantastic, completely equal to highly dependable PLATINUM CARBON BLACK. I deliberately made a darker image, to wash over the ink in several layers of water and paint, but DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN ink stayed firmly on BOCKINGFORD watercolor paper. Nowhere the line diluted or smeared, and I didn’t have to wait for it to dry.

Great! Have I found my non-black waterproof ink? I passed my favorable comments to Dr Jansen, but didn’t want to publish my opinions without further testing. Soon I worked on the illustration BROCELIANDE and gave the ink even more beating – lots of water, lots of paint, even some texturing and scrubing with a sponge…

DE ATRAMENTISDOCUMENT BROWN took it all without complaining, confirming that it is dependable and can be used for serious work.

I love the fact that the line still has contrast, but is not as imposing as pure black. Visible here in close-ups of SENTRY:

OK, so it can take a beating, but what about sketching? Wasn’t it the idea behind this review? True, so I took it for a spin in my F nib PILOT PRERA:

To make this review a bit shorter, I will link the individual sketching sessions, rather than repeat them all completely. This very first experience you can find in post GORNJAK:

Over the following months, I made several of these sketching trips, each time with DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN, and always it was a pleasure. From this very cold session at SOKO GRAD

…to magical spring-time experience at MOSS CREEK

…to windy and rainy OLD MILL:

No matter the temperature, atmospheric conditions or the season, it always worked well, allowing me to work freely, immediately and full of confidence. It dries fast and stays firmly on page, which are the essential requirements.

DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN became de facto my sketching ink, replacing completely PLATINUM CARBON BLACK. I still use the latter for INKING MY COMICS, where I need the ink to be black, but for watercolors I switched without hesitation. All of my color work, like this illustrations for LIGNES DE FRONT, have been with it since:

Or ULTIMUS I drew for the poster of comics festival in PIROT:

At one occasion, I did a quick comparison with PLATINUM PIGMENTED SEPIA, another waterproof brownish ink…

So, DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN works well for me and continues to do so as my sketching ink of choice. The other benefit of Document range is that all the colors are intermixable, so it is relatively easy to make a perfect shade.JANE BLUNDELL has done a tremendous work to showcase it, and you can see the various combinations HERE or HERE, with many other samples on her site. Clearly anyone’s ideal color is not far away. I have yet to try mixing my own shade, as the original brown has been close to my wishes; maybe lightening it a bit with yellow would serve me well.

Recently I saw that De Atramentis introduced a mixable WHITE ink also, for creating pastel shades. Along I also saw some comments on too much feathering of De Atramentis Document inks, causing them to bleed on various papers. That got me curious to try my first writing test, because I usually draw on quality watercolor paper and it was never an issue for me. As I know that PLATINUM CARBON BLACK can feather horribly on some papers, I decided to put DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN to writing test. First on 80gr FABRIANO COPY 3 paper:

It is not a fountain pen friendly paper and DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN did feather, but less than PLATINUM CARBON BLACK. Both came out better with finer nib, less ink to bleed, but in any case DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN was crisper:

Turning the paper, DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN could be seen showing through the paper a bit, but significantly less than PLATINUM CARBON BLACK (here PCB is on the left and DADB is on the right, as the image is reversed):

Samples in MIQUELRIUS FLEXIBLE NOTEBOOK were interesting; although it is a very thin paper, just 70 gr, it is better suited for fountain pens and writing was much sharper and controlled:

Turning the page, DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN can be seen, but it is subtle even on this light paper:

Turning the page again, PLATINUM CARBON BLACK shows more:

Close-ups show that again DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN was crisper than PLATINUM CARBON BLACK:

And on BOCKINGFORD as well as other watercolor papers, my intended usage, feathering is no issue at all:

I didn’t test DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN on usual notebooks from Clairfontaine, Apica, Rhodia, Leuchtturm and others as it is not my real concern. But results on MIQUELRIUS could be used as a guidance of what to expect.

How well, or not, DOCUMENT INKS perform on various writing papers, and if they bleed more than other brands, I cannot confirm. The experiment showed that at least it feathers less than my other usual waterproof ink, so it is a plus also under it’s belt. Drawing with fountain pens is my main focus and for that usage I can recommend it sincerely. One will likely do sketching and watercolors on special paper anyway.

All in all, I never had a reason to complain. I can personally recommend DE ATRAMENTIS DOCUMENT BROWN for sketching. Yes, it was given to me for testing, but the conclusion is from my own long and thorough experience, and without any obligations to manufacturer. It works well for me, maybe it will be equally fine for somebody else.

Illustration-hommage to MASQUEROUGE: