Ink Review | J. Herbin Vert de Gris

J. Herbin Vert de Gris is a blue/green-grey ink that joined the core Herbin range in 2018. I’ve already reviewed Corail des Tropiques and there were some (two) requests for a look at Vert de Gris. The name literally means “green of grey”, but English speakers might be more familiar with the term verdigris, which refers to the blue-green colour of the patina that forms on metals containing copper.

The small illustration on the bottle and box shows a rusted watering can; it’s a blue-green lighter than the ink, with shades of reddish purple in the shadows. I adore the illustrations on the Herbin inks. They’re not always a flawless representation of the ink colour-wise, but they’re very evocative. There’s a certain kind of subdued mood, a daintiness to J. Herbin’s products as a whole, and the illustrations add a lot to it.

An image showing the J. Herbin Vert de Gris bottle
Close up on the bottle of J. Herbin Vert de Gris, showing the watering can.

But I’m getting distracted by clever branding and pretty packaging. What about the ink itself? As with my previous review, I’ve featured the following notebooks/papers:

  • Milligram (85 GSM, white)
  • Leuchtturm1917 (80 GSM, ivory)
  • Rhodia Webnotebook (90 GSM, cream)
  • Tomoe River Paper (52 GSM, white)
  • Tomoe River Paper (68 GSM, white)
  • Col-O-Ring (160 GSM, white)

The pen used for the bulk of the writing is an Opus 88 Picnic with a B nib. I’ve used a Wancher pen in an M, a Jinhao x750 with a Bock F nib, and a Pilot Metropolitan fitted with a Wing Sung EF. The swatches and big writing were done with Toronto Pen Company‘s CxPO Tester pens.

J. Herbin Vert de Gris on Col-O-Ring
Swatch of J. Herbin Vert de Gris on a Col-O-Ring ink testing card.

The colour of Vert de Gris to my eye is more blue than green. Monitor display settings may make the colour look bluer than it actually is. On the page, the grey is just as prominent, if not more so. It’s hard to pin down. I would describe Vert de Gris as a complex, steely blue-grey with just a touch of green.

I didn’t see any sheen or halo effect, which is pretty par on course for Herbin inks. It does have some moderate shading, which I think looks great.

J. Herbin Vert de Gris on Fabriano paper
Writing sample on Milligrams Basic Notebook (85 GSM)
Reverse side of the Milligram Basic Notebook writing sample, showing some bleedthrough where the ink was heavily applied.
Reverse side of Milligram Notebook writing sample

I experienced some bleeding and feathering with the Opus 88 B nib, and unsurprisingly where the ink was heavily applied with the folded pens. I’ve included a picture of the reverse side of the writing sample above. However, the real oddity occurred with the same B nib in my Leuchtturm:

J. Herbin Vert de Gris on Leuchtturm1917
Writing sample (whole page) in Leuchtturm1917

I got a heap of feathering with the B nib on the Leuchtturm paper, which doesn’t usually happen. I tried several other nib sizes in alternating lines,  and on different parts of the page to rule out hand oils being problematic, but it only occurred with one pen. It’s quite a wet nib for sure, but even the lines from the folded pens didn’t feather.

J. Herbin Vert de Gris on Leuchtturm1917 (Close up)
Close up showing feathering (Leuchtturm)

I know a number of factors contribute to feathering– paper quality, composition of the ink, ink or nib wetness, nib size– so maybe it was just a perfect storm of multiple elements that lead to the feathering here. I have had some issues with Leuchtturms before, where some pages just had “problem spots”, but the issue was with the ink not absorbing rather than being too absorbent as is the case here.

If anyone has any insights into this, please let me know. It didn’t happen with any of the other papers tested.

Writing sample of J. Herbin Vert de Gris in a Rhodia Webnotebook.
Writing sample in a Rhodia Webnotebook (90 GSM)

I wrote a little blurb above, which I’ll reproduce here for those who can’t read my handwriting:

My heart is torn. I love the shading, but I don’t love the wetness [of Vert de Gris]. Initially thought it would be quite close to Petrol but it’s not as warm. Really is a steel-y blue.

Vert de Gris fared better on water resistance than Corail des Tropiques. I tested both the same way: dripping water on with an eyedropper, leaving it for 30 seconds, dabbing off with a paper towel. Some of the colour went away, but the lines stayed.

Writing sample of J. Herbin Vert de Gris on Tomoe River Paper (52 GSM).
Writing sample on Tomoe River Paper (52 GSM)

You just can’t beat the shading on Tomoe River Paper. Pardon the terrible stitching on display in the picture. Sometimes you try your best and your best is just bad.

Close up of writing sample on Tomoe River Paper (52 GSM).
Close up on Tomoe River 52 GSM

I’ve already mentioned Lamy Petrol above as a point of comparison for the ink. Unfortunately due to the Unobtanium Principle of Lamy Limited Edition Inks, I don’t have a swatch card of it to show here. It’s certainly not as similar as I thought it was going to be, mainly because Vert de Gris lacks the red undertones.

Of the inks I owned and could compare, none actually came very close. I feel comfortable saying J. Herbin Vert de Gris is extremely unique in my modest collection. I’d be interested in seeing it compared against Pelikan Tanzanite and De Atramentis Fog Grey.

My Col-O-Ring cards for your consideration:

Comparison on Col-O-Ring index cards of Diamine Dark Forest, J. Herbin Vert de Gris, Rohrer & Klingner Salix, Iroshizuku Shin-Kai.
Diamine Dark Forest, J. Herbin Vert de Gris, Rohrer & Klingner Salix, Iroshizuku Shin-Kai

The writing sample below is on Tomoe River Paper 68 GSM. The lighting is dramatically different and less warm because it’s winter and the sun was setting. Life throws you curve balls sometimes and you just have to roll with the mixed metaphors because the concept of time passing is an ongoing struggle.

Writing sample of text from "A Hat Full of Sky" of J. Herbin Vert de Gris on Tomoe River Paper (68 GSM).
Writing sample on a sheet of Tomoe River Paper (68 GSM)
Close up of J. Herbin Vert de Gris on Tomoe River Paper (68 GSM).
Close up on TRP writing sample

Final Blathering and Where to Buy

Hey, I like it. J. Herbin Vert de Gris is a nice, not overpowering colour that has some subtle shading. It leans a little light in a thinner nib, or I’d say it’s suitable for a professional setting. It’s a unique colour in my collection and I’m glad I bought it, though I still don’t know what happened with the one pen in the one notebook.

I purchased my 30ml bottle of Vert de Gris from Pen Classics for $21.99.


If you have any ideas for what you’d like to see reviewed, drop a comment or contact me via email. I want to keep getting better at this blog and review thing, so I welcome comments and feedback!

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I purchased the products mentioned in the review with my own money and have no affiliation with any business mentioned above, which is why I do what I want.

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