IN-DEPTH REVIEW: Four Fabulous Blues

I’m so excited to bring you this super-charged review of four fabulous blue inks:

  • Sailor Bung Box Sapphire
  • Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium
  • Akkerman Shocking Blue
  • Parker Penman Sapphire

First, a huge and happy shout-out to my Instagram buddy, @mycoffeepot. Gerald provided me with generous samples of Sailor Bung Box Sapphire and Penman Sapphire. He’s a fountain pen nerd (in the best way possible) and if you’re not following him on Instagram, you should be.

Second, let me tell you how I worked this thing:  I loaded up four Pilot Metropolitan (medium nib) fountain pens and got to writing on Clairefontaine 90gsm paper. Lots of writing. So much writing. Then, I set everything aside and didn’t think about these inks for a couple of days. Finally, I wrote just a little more with each of the inks to see if my initial thoughts changed with a little time and separation.

Third, let me spoil things just a little here. You could, seriously, choose any of these four inks and be pretty happy.  They each write wonderfully, flow is great in the Metropolitan, and the color and saturation are right up there with some of the best inks I’ve tried.  These are truly four fabulous blue inks.

Let’s dive in!

Number 1 above will always be Number 1 (Sailor Bung Box Sapphire) below – same for Number 2, 3, and 4.  I think I could have organized things a little better for you, but you’ll figure it out – I’m confident 😉

Smear Testing . . . 

I wrote a little and then smeared across the writing. Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium (number 2) and Penman Sapphire look like the winners here. Then, I scribbled back and forth over the same area three times and smeared that – same winners.

Water Smear Testing . . . 

I wrote, let it dry, and then went over my writing with a dampened cotton swab. The clear winner is Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium. I’d say that the other three inks are about even in their resistance to water.

So, which would you choose?

Still too hard to decide?  Let’s take a closer look.  (Warning: this is where things get really long.)

Sailor Bung Box Sapphire Review . . . 

A solid medium blue, maybe not as saturated as the others. Not especially bright, no muddiness to the color. Just straight up blue.

Some nice shading. Would love to give this a go with a super broad nib because I’m seeing some pretty nice red/purple sheen in there, too.

Decent dry times.

 Definitely not water resistant.

And it’s pretty smeary when tested with a highlighter.

My thoughts on Sailor Bung Box Sapphire:

  • i love the color and it’s suitable for any writing occasion
  • nice shading and some serious potential for sheen
  • this ink can be hard to find
  • once you find it, shipping costs may make the whole thing too expensive

Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium Review . . .

Pure bright blueness.  

Not a lot of shading and definitely no sheen.

It’s interesting, I wrote in my initial review that this ink is supposed to be water-resistant. I’m positive this writing and the one above had been sitting for at least ten minutes when I dropped the water onto it. Maybe it needs to sit even longer? It’s also supposed to be semi-bullet-proof. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but there you go.

My thoughts on Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium . . . 
  • this is an ink i own and love
  • the bright color may mean it’s not suitable for some professional settings
  • it’s only available through Goulet Pens – if you’re outside of the US or don’t want to order online, you may be out of luck
  • i’m not finding it particularly water-resistant even though it’s advertised as such

PW Akkerman #5 Shocking Blue Review . . . 


A rich, dark, blue with a reputation for some fantastic red sheen.

Good shading . . .

Nice sheen . . .

It does just ok on the smearing tests . . .

Yikes. I wrote the word “DRAG” and then dragged a wet cotton swab over the writing after the ink had dried. Crazy, right?

And given the above, the below highlight test probably isn’t too much of a surprise.

My thoughts on PW Akkerman #5 Shocking Blue . . .

  • crazy sheening potential from this super-saturated ink
  • fun bottles
  • this ink can be hard to find and international shipping can be expensive. Vanness Pen Shop (in the US) carries the Akkerman line
  • zero water resistance


Parker Penman Sapphire Review . . . 

True blue, dark blue, saturated blue.

Lots of shading and color variation . . .

Great dry time . . .

Not so great water-resistance . . .

Just ok on the highlight testing . . . 
My thoughts on Penman Sapphire . . .
  • i love everything about it – the writing experience is different from all of the others – maybe a little bit more lubrication than the others?
  • impossible to get (i didn’t know this until i started writing the review, but it was the smallest of the samples that Gerald sent and I knew there must be a reason)



That’s it (enough already!) for today.
Just one quick question for you:  which would you choose?
I’ll be back next week with more on these inks. Specifically, I’ll be looking at suitable substitutes for each.  You know, in case you don’t have a time machine so you can pick up a bottle or two of Penman Sapphire 😉
In the meantime, here are links to some full-size images for you (they’re big!) . . . 
Ink Swabs (note, these are a bit out of order)

6 thoughts on “IN-DEPTH REVIEW: Four Fabulous Blues

  1. Wow, great review! Thanks for doing it! I love all these inks for different reasons. I think the semi bulletproof thing with the LE is that some will wash away and what's left is permanent on paper. Maybe not enough water?

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  2. I always see people raving about Penman Sapphire and I just don't see the great appeal. It's a nice blue, but just a nice blue. 😛 Anyway, great review and comparison! I like that Akkerman the best, but the Noodler's might be worth a sample on my next Goulet order too…

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  3. Ok I contacted Bungubox Japan on FB. They sent me to their amazon page and this is what I saw. Is this the ink that you used on your review? I am trying to give a link. It is a somewhat different name than what you gave. That is why I am a bit lost LOL. The link is: http://www.amazon.com/HATSUKOI-Original-bottled-fountain-Sapphire/dp/B00GO5FV68/ref=sr_1_24?s=office-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1402989174&sr=1-24

    It is named “HATSUKOI – First Love – Original bottled ink for fountain pens, 50ml, Blue, Sapphire, Sky Blue, Light Blue ” and is sold by Bungubox on Amazon for $35.55. Sorry for all the questions. I just want to make sure that I am getting the right ink. 🙂

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