Eksplozja Kolorów: Beautiful & Vibrant Colors from Poland!
About a year ago, I started to see KWZ inks mentioned on the Fountain Pen Network and shortly afterward, I noticed them for sale at Vanness. They started to get lots of positive “press” around the innernets from various reviewers and blogs, and I picked up a couple samples. I instantly fell in love with Foggy Green, and decided they warranted a closer look.
KWZ Ink is a small ink company run by chemists Agnieszka and Konrad Żurawski in a town just outside of Warsaw, Poland. The KWZ vision began in 2012 when Konrad—unhappy with the performance and variety of the Iron Gall (IG) inks that were available—decided to try creating his own. Konrad used his super-charged chemistry skills to develop a a number of inks, including IG inks that he designed to be relatively gentle on fountain pens.
Konrad began sharing some of his inks with local fountain pen enthusiasts. One local reviewer sent some samples to another reviewer in Canada, who basically created a firestorm across North America and got the ball rolling. She asked Konrad to make more ink, organized group buys for folks in Canada and the US, and introduced KWZ Inks to a worldwide audience.
What’s in a Name?
I had a lovely conversation with Agnieszka about the history and future of the company, and one of the first things I asked her about was how to pronounce “KWZ” (I don’t want to go around calling it the wrong thing). As you may have guessed, the letters KWZ are Konrad’s initials. I’ve heard several reviewers pronounce it “Kwizzee,” but I’ve seen several places stating it should be pronounced “Kah Veh Zeh.” I didn’t think that was the actual Polish pronunciation, so I looked it up and found that in Polish, the letters would be pronounced “Kah Voo Zet.” So I asked Agnieszka for verdict. She corroborated the Polish “kah voo zet,” but shared that their friend from Canada started calling it “Kwizzee” as a quicker, easier (more fun) variant.
The Nose Knows
I really can’t go any further without addressing the odor of these inks. KWZ inks are fairly pungent. Some have said they think it smells like vanilla. I can see that. It does have a bit of a vanilla smell to it. But there’s a pretty strong chemical smell, too. People thought maybe it was Phenol, which is used in some Japanese inks as a biocide (antiseptic/anti-fungal). But Konrad has addressed this issue in a Fountain Pen Network discussion, asserting that he does not use Phenol due to its toxicity. In another post, he basically attributes the smell to the fungicide that he does use. He won’t say specifically what it is, but says it’s close to Thymol (extracted from Thyme).
They are diligent about keeping these inks safe and non-toxic, so I’m not going to let this smell deter me from using them. I’ve used a couple of these inks in fountain pens, and did not notice the smell when writing. Just as a note of comparison, I went around sniffing a bunch of my other inks. My bottle of Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa is just as strong. My Pilots and Sailors had a different chemical smell from the Phenol in them. De Atramentis and Noodler’s smelled like paint. Diamine Ancient Copper didn’t smell like anything (my sniffer may have been worn out by then). So, I’m not going to sweat the odor. (Inside scoop: Agnieszka talked to me a bit about this odor and that they’re working on some reformulations that have a more neutral odor.)
Now…on to the first round of KWZ inks!
KWZ has two different lines of ink: standard and iron gall. I’ve only tried a couple iron gall inks. All six of these inks are from the standard line (NOT iron gall).
KWZ Standard Azure #4
Azure #4 is a beautiful, vibrant royal blue that leans slightly toward turquoise (but only a bit). Azure #4 immediately reminded me of Pilot’s Kon Peki (it’s pretty close). I compared the two side-by-side and I think Azure #4 is a bit darker and has a little less of a red component to it. It’s deep and saturated, dark enough to be an everyday writing ink, and bright enough to really pop off the page.
When I first got into fountain pens, most blue inks I found didn’t excite me. This blue excites me. It’s a very wet ink, and I think it would perform really well in F/EF nibs.
There isn’t much shading going on with Azure #4. I noticed some in the writing from my glass dip pen on the bristol board, and in the larger figure-8s on the Rhodia paper. But mostly, this ink is pretty flat and consistent. There is a very small amount of red sheen in some areas on the bristol board (writing and smear), but there is zero sheen showing up on the Rhodia, even in the heaviest areas.
KWZ Standard Brown #4
I’ve really tried to like brown inks. I’ve been forcing myself to use them periodically, but they usually leave me disappointed. KWZ Brown #4 is excellent, though. It’s absolutely stunning on Rhodia paper. What I like about it is that it’s just brown. It’s not trying to do anything fancy. It’s just brown. It honestly reminds me of a brown Crayola marker, with maybe a bit more red to it.
The closest inks I have to it in color/tone are Montblanc Toffee Brown and Visconti Sepia. KWZ Brown 4 leans more toward red and is a little more saturated than they are, though. This added touch of red gives the ink a very rich, antique rusty look to it, especially on the Rhodia paper.
Adding to the antique qualities of the ink, Brown #4 has beautiful shading. Lines range from a deep, chocolate brown to a lighter, reddish color that seems almost illuminated on the page. There’s no sheen, but there is some black edging around the places where the ink pooled. Seriously, folks, this has immediately become my go-to brown ink.
KWZ Standard Blue Black
Can you say “Three-for-Three”? This ink is simply gorgeous, although it shows up very, very different on different types of paper. My two cotton swabs are wildly different. On the Canson bristol board, the swab is much lighter and leans toward violet. On the Rhodia paper, though, the swab is a dark and luscious indigo color…very “night sky” in appearance.
Although this ink is too saturated to be considered “dusty,” it does have a slight dusty quality to it that gives it a soft and gentle appearance on the page. My broader figure-8s have a nice, antique feel about them.
It’s hard to say if this ink shades or not. The “KWZ Blue Black” title on the Rhodia paper has really nice shading to it, but really, that doesn’t show up anywhere else. There’s some slight shading in the broader figure-8s, but it’s really subtle. Blue Black has a little bit of dark edging, but it’s subtle. Otherwise, it has no sheen at all.
KWZ Standard Flame Red
I’m usually not a fan of red inks, but Flame Red has just enough orange in it to make it interesting to me. It’s a wonderful color. I’m not sure the name fits it, though, as it’s a little closer to the color of bricks than it is to fire. It is dark enough to use for everyday writing.
Flame Red looks a little redder in the swabs and smears, but takes on more of a terra cotta color in writing. It’s also a bit more red on Rhodia than it is on the bristol board. I found it to be a pretty wet ink, and it was hard to control with both my glass dip pen and the Blue Pumpkin dip nib. It seemed to want to spread a bit more than the other colors, particularly on the bristol board. So I think this ink might be better suited for finer nibs, but your mileage may vary.
There’s a slight bit of shading in my figure-8s, but it doesn’t really show up in any of the writing, so shading may be largely dependent on the nib you use with it. As with the others, there’s no sheen to Flame Red, although it did produce some beautiful blackish-red edging on the Rhodia (not the bristol board, though).
KWZ Standard Foggy Green
Oh my. I just adore this color. I don’t have any other inks in my collection quite like it. Foggy green is a dark, murky, forest green that dances on the edge of being green-black in some instances. It has a bit of a blue component to it, but not quite enough blue for it to qualify as teal. It’s still very much a green ink.
How this ink looks in real-world use will depend largely on the nib & paper combination you use. In a medium fountain pen on bristol board, the ink retains its greenness. But using a dip pen on Rhodia produces something that’s closer to black with a greenish tint to it. If you’re a fan of near-black inks, this is a good one to check out.
There’s not much shading happening with Foggy Green. I see a touch in the writing on the bristol board, and a touch in my broader figure-8s on Rhodia, but it’s very subtle, and I wouldn’t expect to see any in everyday use. Sheen? No. Edging? Yes.
KWZ Standard Grapefruit
I’ll say straight away, I’ve never seen grapefruit this color. And I love pink grapefruit. This ink is closer to what I expected out of Flame Red. It’s a wicked vibrant red/pink/orange color that leaps off the page and slaps you silly (in other words, it really gets your attention). All of these inks are quite saturated, but Grapefruit is easily the loudest and brightest of the bunch.
As with several of the other inks in this post, Grapefruit is very wet and would probably do well in pens with finer nibs. It looks quite a bit darker and redder on Rhodia than it does on bristol board, where it comes out a little more orange.
There’s no shading at all with this ink. It’s very flat on paper. There’s also no sheen at all, but it develops a nice, thick, dark-red edging around the pooling areas, particularly on the Rhodia paper. Of these six inks, this is the one I’d be least likely to load up for daily use. It would be fun for an art project or for writing out cards. It’s certainly not one I’d use at work, though, as it’s a little too loud.
I’m pretty impressed with these inks. I guess they have like 60-something different colors (maybe more), so I’ll be interested to try out some of the others.
These are exciting times for ink lovers. In addition to the well-established, “historical” and large-scale boutique brands we’ve all come to know and love, we now have a plethora of smaller, often one-person companies popping up all around the world that are producing some exciting, interesting, and unique inks.
KWZ inks have been around since 2012, but it’s only in the last year or so that they have exploded in popularity. I’m looking forward to seeing where Konrad & Agnieszka go from here.
Other Posts in this Series
KWZ Inks, Part 2 (Standard)
KWZ Inks, Part 3 (Iron Gall – Coming Soon!)