Callifolio Inks: Mostly Unknown, but Super Interesting French Export
Callifolio is a line of fountain pen inks from French art supply manufacturer Artisan Pastellier. They actually have two lines of ink (their other is Encre Classique, which are mixable so you can create your own colors). Artisan Pastellier also makes art pastels, watercolors, natural & metallic pigments, sealing wax, and a few other brightly colored art supplies.
There’s not much talk of the Callifolio inks out there, and I only know of one US retailer that even carries the line (Vanness Pens). I think this is really unfortunate, as they have some magnificent colors.
Artisan Pastellier created their product lines to celebrate heritage colors from the Albigensian region in the south of France, and they pride themselves on coloring their inks with natural dyes found in the same region. Here’s a description from their web site (translated by Google):
The specificity of the Artisan Pastellier is to offer its customers a variety of authentic products based on natural colors, mineral and vegetable, available in ranges for arts and decoration. Pastel blue is the flagship of the brand, given the historical significance of this color in our local and regional history.
I usually try to stick to around six inks in these Quick Look reviews, but I had 11 of their inks on-hand, and decided to just do all of them in one whack. Actually, I thought I had 12, but two of them turned out to the be same ink. Clearly, I should have practiced my dip pen technique before starting this, but you should find that my nib control improved as I worked my way through all 11 inks.
Anahuac is easily my least favorite color of this batch. The samples I see online range anywhere from a dark honey-colored sepia (what I was hoping for) to an orange-brown. But what I’m getting is closer to peach: kind of a pink-orange. Where the ink gets a chance to pool (see the darker areas), it dries as a pink-tinged terra cotta color, which is actually really nice. But in the swab and normal writing areas, it’s too close to peach for me to enjoy.
The shading is very strong and there is zero sheen.
I guess Baikal would be classified as a blue-black ink, although there’s a definite hint of violet in there that gives it just a little bit of “pop” to make it stand out. It’s dark enough to use as an everyday ink, but light enough to retain it’s violet-blue color regardless of how broad or wet the line is. As I look at my figure 8s in the sample, Baikal strikes me as a very stately hue. This is one I may have to buy a full bottle of.
Baikal provides moderate to high shading and a faint hint of a reddish sheen where the ink pools the most. The sheen is only noticeable in the smear and in a few other tiny points, but it’s not enough to obscure the wonderful color of the ink. I’d probably consider this a non-sheening ink because you really have to look for it.
Callifolio Bleu Equinoxe #6
Now this is my kind of turquoise! It’s quite a bit darker than most other turquoise inks, but it’s definitely more blue than green, so I’ll stick with turquoise as its “color family.” It’s probably the boldest color out of the group…and probably the most saturated, too, but it’s not too bright or obnoxious. It’s dark enough to look great anywhere, but not so dark that you can’t see the turquoise color.
Because it’s so dark, the shading it’s as strong as the other colors. It’s there, but not always noticeable. My biggest beef with this ink is the sheen. As with a great number of blue-based inks, Bleu Equinoxe #6 develops a shiny, red sheen where it pools. It’s very obvious in the smear, and somewhat noticeable around the edges of my figure 8s, especially where the ink went down the heaviest. I don’t think this sheen would stop me from buying this ink, as under normal circumstances, it would only show up as a slight highlight. I don’t like it when an ink’s sheen obscures the actual ink color, and I don’t think this ink sheens enough to do that.
Callifolio Botany Bay
This is another in the blue-black family, although it’s lighter than most blue-blacks, so maybe “blue-grey” would be a more appropriate classification. Overall, this color reminds me of a Colonial American blue. Well, more specifically, it reminds me of the blue paneling I had in my bedroom as a child. My walls had colonial-themed wallpaper on the top half, with a matching blue paneling on the lower half of the walls. Blue paneling probably sounds dreadful, but it worked well with the colonial theme.
If you look at the smear where the ink pooled, the heavier portions are more blue…it’s these areas that remind me most of my childhood bedroom. The darkest edges of those inner pools develop a purple sheen, which also shows up around the loops in my figure 8s. You have to look at the paper at an angle to see it, so it’s not an obtrusive sheen. Shading is phenomenal. Look at the second row of figure 8s and check out the progression of the color in the first three loops. It goes from a strong colonial blue to a lighter slate blue.
I will say, though, that of the 11 inks in this review, Botany Bay was easily the driest. My nib kept running out of ink, and I had to dip it several times to get through the sample. Even the swab went down dry, with the cotton swab putting down a much thinner line than the others. Great color, but I’m not sure how well it will perform in a fountain pen.
Of all 11 inks I’m testing, Cannelle gives the widest variation in tones. Just look at the difference between the very light caramel color of the swab and the richer and shadier leather color in the smear. Even the figure 8s range from a dark honey color to a rich sepia tone depending on the nib I used. And I love the edging that happens with this ink. The heavier the ink is laid down, the darker the edges of that area appear.
I used this ink in a pen with a fine nib, and found it to be too light for everyday writing, but if used in a broader nib, or even a stub, I think it would be a magnificent color.
The shading is excellent, especially where I used the C4 Calligraphy nib on the figure 8s and swooshes at the bottom of the sample. Absolutely no sheen anywhere to be found (yay!)
Oh man, do I love a good purple-black ink! I’m a big fan of near-black inks that retain enough color to differentiate themselves from black. I really like Bung Box’s Ink of the Witch when I play around with it. If I do swabs or color patches, it comes out as a super deep purple. But when you load it in a fine or medium pen, it just looks like black. Callifolio Cassis is everything I wish Ink of the Witch would be. It’s dark enough to pass for black, but regardless of nib size or wetness, Cassis is always unmistakably purple.
There is a little bit of sheen in the heavy spots, but the sheen is black, so it really doesn’t interfere with your enjoyment of the ink’s color. There’s some shading where the ink was a little lighter in application (the thinner areas).
I’ll say it up front: I’m not a fan of red or pink inks (which is probably why I hate red sheen that develops on blue or teal inks). Grenat is really nice, though. It’s got a bit of a purple component to it that makes it closer to raspberry than pink or red. I don’t think I’d use it at work, but I think it would be a really nice ink to use for letters or cards.
Grenat is another one that develops a bit of a black sheen around the edges where the ink pools. It doesn’t obscure or change the ink color, but it does add a nice “frame” to some shapes and letters that gives it some depth. Shading is moderate-to-strong and shows up best with broader strokes.
Callifolio Inca Sol
This is closer to what I was expecting Anahuac to look like. Inca Sol is a light-to-medium brown with a not-so-subtle red tint (but not enough yellow or orange to classify it as a terra cotta). I’d probably like it a little better if there was a tiny bit of orange in it (maybe I’ll mix a smidge of Anahuac to some of the Inca Sol to see if I can find something nice in between them).
Shading is pretty dramatic with this one. There’s no sheen, although there’s some dramatic black edging around the areas where the ink pools. I think this ink would look stellar on some parchment or nice cream-colored paper.
These next three inks are absolute magic.
Oconto is the closest thing to a true blue I have in this batch, although it’s more like the dusty color of a clear sky just before sunset, when the blue in the eastern sky starts to deepen. It’s stunning, if I do say so myself. I love all the different shades and tones in the sample smear…from a lovely pale sky blue to a deeper night blue that’s just a whisper away from indigo.
I generally don’t get too excited over plain blues, but this one rings my bell. It has a lot more character than a regular blue has.
Oconto displays some pretty fantastic shading. It does generate a slight sliver of ruby-red sheen around the edges of the heavier areas. Luckily, it’s barely noticeable unless you look at just the right angle.
Olifants is another dark turquoise ink, but it’s much more muted and subdued than Bleu Equinoxe #6. Olifants (the name reminds me of Lord of the Rings). It goes down plenty dark enough to read easily, but light enough to let the color and shading shine through. It’s a bit lighter and more gray than Bleu Equinoxe #6, so it has a duskier appearance…almost antique in its presentation.
The shading is beautiful, and it has a small amount of purply-black sheen where it pools the heaviest. I suspect that most fountain pens wouldn’t produce any sheen with this ink.
And the last one for this review is Olivastre. From the name, I expected more of an olive or army green. While Olivastre has a fair amount of yellow in it, it’s definitely greener than I expected. Along with most of the other inks in this batch, it has a muted, almost antique look to it. It’s definitely an eye-catching color, but has enough green in it to make it a prettier hue than olive or army green would be.
The shading is spectacular, going from very dark to fairly light around the loops of the figure 8s, and it has no sheen whatsoever.
I was very surprised by and impressed with these Callifolio inks. Each color is bold and vibrant, but somewhat muted in tone, giving them a classic, almost vintage feel. The colors are all very unique, too. I’m going through other swatches I have, and a lot of these Callifolio inks don’t have similar counterparts from other brands (I’m not saying they’re not out there…just that they don’t closely match the others I have).
I’m not a big fan of the Anahuac, as it’s a little too close to pastel for me, but the other ten inks are all very classy and refined, but still colorful enough to be interesting and fun. With the possible exception of Cannelle, which is a little on the light side, all of these inks would be suitable for everyday writing.
Best of all, Callifolio inks are super inexpensive. As of the time I write this, Vanness has 40 oz bottles for $12 and 50 oz foil pouches for $8. That’s a steal for these inks!