The MOTHER of all black ink tests…

Reported by Dana Vitek

Well, I finally did it… a no-holds-barred look at 14 different black inks, 3 different markers and three different card stocks.

I did a similar study back in early 2007, and posted my results on SplitCoastStampers; holy moly, was I ever a rock star then! The biggest names of stamping commented on that post, and the queen herself, Julie Ebersole, mentioned little ole me on her blog. Then I passed out.

But, I knew my work was not finished… there were MORE black inks out there, and clearly I needed them. So, now I’ve got them. I’m up to 14 black inks, some I’ve had for years, a few I just opened today (don’t tell my husband!).

Here are the players, in alphabetical order by manufacturer:

Georgia Pacific White
PaperTrey Ink Stamper’s Select in White
Stampin’ Up! Whisper White

Copic Lemon Yellow
Prismacolor Deco Yellow
Stampin’ Up! Barely Banana (yes, I know, this is not an alcohol-based marker).

Weather conditions:

79 degrees F, 44% humidity, a perfect August day in Delaware (just above sea level), and why am I inside again?

The process:

  • Created a grid and printed it on the three different card stocks with my laser printer.
  • Stamped each ink into its appropriate box.
  • Carefully cleaned the stamp between inks with a three-step process:
  1. Ultraclean, then dry
  2. Stampin’ Mist, then dry
  3. Swipe with a baby wipe
  • Allowed grids to dry for 30 minutes while starting this post
  • Colored over the lines (on purpose) with the appropriate marker
  • Cleaned each marker nib, each time, by coloring on a sheet of printer paper
  • Swiped a line of the matching colorless blender pen through each colored area
  • Checked for bleeding, feathering & smearing
  • Ranked the inks 1, 2, or 3 on each grid
  • Entered the results into a spreadsheet, tallied and averaged the results

**Please note: I did not heat-set any of the inks, because I wanted to see the results of the average (lazy like me) stamper. Heat-setting the pigment inks would probably improve their performance**


  • A ranking of 1 indicated no black ink movement with the yellow marker or associated clear blender.
  • A ranking of 2 indicated no to minimal movement with the yellow, some movement with the clear blender.
  • A ranking of 3 was a hot mess. Movement with both marker and blender.
  • I threw the SU! marker results out of the averaging, because they were the true definition of hot mess. So, the averaging only took alcohol-based markers into account.

    I was VERY impressed with Ranger’s Nick Bantock Ink and Tsukineko’s Memento… that stuff didn’t budge with either of the alcohol-based markers or their clear blenders. Ranger’s Adirondack and Distress inks also fared very well. As for the rest of them, well, you can be the judge (click for a larger view):

    As for the papers, the PTI smeared the least, followed by the Georgia Pacific, and then the Stampin’ Up! Whisper White.

    Between the alcohol-based markers themselves, the Prismacolor smeared less than the Copic by 0.05 of a point (averaged), so I’d call that even.


    Ranger Nick Bantock or Memento on PaperTrey Ink. Anything else, you’ll need to heat set or stay within the lines.

    So what do you think?

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27 Responses to The MOTHER of all black ink tests…

  1. Avatar
    Karolyn L September 12, 2008 at 1:22 pm #

    Wow, this is some amazing work! Of course, the results are exactly what I already thought. You’ve just proven it, and I so appreciate your hard work and effort. My favorite is Memento and PTI CS with Copics. Thanks!

  2. Avatar
    Tobi Crawford September 12, 2008 at 1:52 pm #

    I keep telling people “USE RANGER INK: NICK BANTOCK, LAMP BLACK” but then they say, well palette is popular so…

    i have used lamp black for years, and LOVE it.. now i have proof that it’s the best. THANK YOU!!!

  3. Avatar
    Anonymous September 12, 2008 at 1:54 pm #

    Wow! A very thorough experiment and totally helpful!

    Shawn K.

  4. Avatar
    Dana September 12, 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    You know, THIS is why I love Craft Critique! Your post was awesome and loved your humor too! Thanks so much for doing this! You made THOUSANDS of stampers happy today!

  5. Avatar
    Jessica Diedrich September 12, 2008 at 2:40 pm #

    really interesting test, huh? I personally LOVE Pti cardstock so I’m not surprised…altho, I can’t stand most of my black inks so this was really helpful. I’ll def. try you top picks! Thanks!

  6. Avatar
    m.vivian September 12, 2008 at 2:48 pm #

    yikes – what’s a girl to do if she just uses plain ol’ SU markers and not the fancy (read expensive) ones? None of the inks looked very good. Must I emboss to get a good effect – any ideas out there?

  7. Avatar
    jerseytjej September 12, 2008 at 3:17 pm #

    A cool experiment to say the least! Please try a pad of Hampton Art Stamps AMACO Metal Stamp Art…unbelievable ink for a variety of projects, including embossing! Gina

  8. Avatar
    Lorie September 12, 2008 at 3:24 pm #

    This is absolutely fabulous! Thank you for all the work!

  9. Avatar
    Heidi September 12, 2008 at 3:40 pm #

    Holy cow girl, you are a rockstar! Excellent comparison! I am going to have to find a place that carries Nick Bantock in now!

  10. Avatar
    Janet September 12, 2008 at 4:13 pm #

    Thanks so much for this! I have a few of these black inks already and just got a few more (shhh don’t tell – I have yet to use them!) I will be breaking out the Memento soon! Which GP paper did you use? I have a large ream of 110 lb. card stock from Wal-Mart. I have yet to use that either. I really don’t like SU’s whisper white it seems thin, especially with Copics. I’ve purchased some 80 lb Cougar White…same as my envelopes, we’ll see how that works.

    Thanks for all your hard work!

  11. Avatar
    Kathy September 12, 2008 at 5:00 pm #

    Thanks so much!!!!!

  12. Avatar
    Sharon in NE September 12, 2008 at 5:32 pm #

    yep…put that “rock star” banner back on. Great job.

  13. Avatar
    Penny September 12, 2008 at 5:50 pm #

    Fantastic! Thanks for all your hard work on this , it will be very helpful 🙂

  14. Avatar
    mnhyrkas September 12, 2008 at 8:08 pm #

    what a thorough test, but wish you had included one more part. I do watercolor my images from time with the plain ‘ole water brush dipped in ink. Do you think if I looked at the SU marker results it would be a fair comparision to how the ink would do when watercolored on? you can contact me at SCS mnhyrkas. thanks!

  15. Avatar
    mnhyrkas September 12, 2008 at 9:37 pm #

    Thanks for letting me know that you’re planning a sequel to your Mother of all black ink tests. I can’t wait to read inks and techniques episode II. 🙂
    So exciting! Aren’t we just stamping geeks. I’ll go subscribe to your blog so I don’t miss it. You are a great stamping scientist! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Avatar
    NanaBeth September 12, 2008 at 11:40 pm #

    Well I sure wish I was someone famous so I could reach about a million people with this. Fantastic job-you have no idea how helpful to a neophyte stamper. And showing the actual results so we can actually see what you are talking about. You are the very super BEST! You going to do similar comparison tests on other products-like maybe adhesives and the ever elusive straight cutting paper trimmer?

  17. Avatar
    Cat on the lake September 13, 2008 at 10:18 am #

    Wow what a truck load of information that we all need and can use! Off to find Ranger Nick Bantock!

  18. Avatar
    Kristine September 15, 2008 at 9:01 am #

    What great information! Thanks for all of your efforts!


  19. Avatar
    Anonymous September 15, 2008 at 12:16 pm #

    Thanks for this. I was really surprised that one of my favorite inks didn’t make even the top three. (Won’t say which one.) Now I know what should become my new favorite.

    An idea for m.vivian, who left a comment about using SU markers – try heat embossing, doing your coloring and then ironing the embossing off if you don’t want the shiny finish. (Or, just try heating the black before you color, without embossing. That would probably work too.)

    Julie B.

  20. Avatar
    Anonymous September 15, 2008 at 10:41 pm #

    Wow you went to a lot of work. But I think this research would have been far more valuable to stick to the inks that have been carefully formulated to work with alcohol pens. The ink companies include descriptions on their websites that clearly explains each ink’s purpose.

    This is no different than trying all the gasolines available to see what gives your car the best gas mileage only to learn later you should not put disel in your car at all…some inks you tested are not designed for the porous paper you testing it on.

  21. Avatar
    Etha September 16, 2008 at 10:42 am #

    I use Ranger Archival and Palette inks all the time with the markers, I also heat set religiously all the time 🙂 My favorite inks are really the “archival” ones by Ranger and they work super if you give them a blast with your heat gun. I has become second nature to me, also avoids getting my smudgy little fingers over a spot that isn’t all the way dry yet!

  22. Avatar
    Michelle Adams September 20, 2008 at 5:07 pm #

    Thank you so much for such an awesome review! WOW!

  23. Avatar
    Michelle McGee September 25, 2008 at 9:43 pm #

    EXCELLENT job on this!

  24. Avatar
    Dana October 13, 2008 at 12:33 pm #

    I can’t tell you how many folks I have given THIS link to them about inks! You did a FANTASTIC JOB!!

  25. Avatar
    Emelie (fruSolli) October 23, 2008 at 5:18 pm #

    wow awesome comparison. i would like to know what pad is best for Promarker pens. i have just ordered the distress pad and now i’m regretting it as other pads did better for other pens in this test.

  26. Avatar
    Mel M. M. McCarthy February 8, 2009 at 8:05 pm #

    Hall of Fame all the way! WOWza. Thank you for going to all that expense and effort. Your black ink test is nothing short of a public service. You’ve saved people a fortune and a lot of frustration. (P.S. Our lips are sealed about those new inks. Your hubby may never know what a hero you are!) ;O)

  27. Avatar
    SueB September 6, 2009 at 9:45 am #

    You ROCK, girl – TFS! I just picked up some Ranger Black Soot Distress the other day – always glad for your tips and critiques!