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Pilot Iroshizuku “Shin-Kai” (blue-black): Ink Review

On Scrively's Ink Reviews - Background Information (click to expand)

Iroshizuku “Shin-Kai”: a wonderfully complex blue-black ink for everyday use

Pilot Iroshizuku "Shin-Kai"

Ink name: Pilot Iroshizuku “Shin-Kai”
Unit capacity: 50 ml (glas flacon)
Price: ca. 20 €
Price per ml: ca. 0,40 €

  Leuchtturm 1917 Spiral-bound Notepad
Color  Blue-black with grayish and purplish hues. Subtle red sheen.  Blue-black. Some grey-purple hues. Red sheen where the ink pools.
Saturation  High  High
Shading  Subtle, but beautiful  Noticeable
Feathering  None  Minimal
Bleed-through  None  None
Wetness  Rather wet  Rather wet
Drying time  10 sec.  8-10 sec.
Smudging when dry  Hardly  No
Regular smear test  OK  OK
Left-page smear test  OK  –

Handwritten review on Leuchtturm 1917 paper
(scanned @600 dpi with Doxie Flip – click image to enlarge on Flickr)

Pilot Iroshizuku "Shin-Kai"

Handwritten review on a Standard Spiral-Bound Notepad
(scanned @600 dpi with Doxie Flip – click image to enlarge on Flickr)

Pilot Iroshizuku "Shin-Kai"

Pilots Iroshizuku “Shin-Kai”, since I first used it a little while ago, has rapidly advanced to my most liked and used inks.

The Japanese name “Shin-Kai” translates to something like “deep sea”, which shall represent its color. Now I can’t tell you if this name serves as an appropriate description of the inks color, since I never really dived that deep myself in order to see the color down there (I imagine it must be rather pitch black there), but what I can tell you is that the ink is a very lovely blue-black. I find the inks color to be pretty complex, exposing some grey and purple hues – depending on how dry the ink is and also on the angle in which you look at the paper. Also, the ink does expose some very nice but subtle red sheen. It does so often at a second pass for instance, or where the ink pools.

“Shin-Kai” has some really nice subdued shading. As with many dark inks, of course, this is to be expected, since the “brightness-spectrum” through which it could potentially shade is rather narrow. Anyway, with both this subtle shading that doesn’t poke your eye out and the muted blue-black color, this ink is excellent for everyday use. It should be “serious” enough for business or school documents, but by being neither blue nor black and with its hues still interesting enough to be fun to use.

Otherwise, the ink is very well behaved. There are no bleed throughs and only minimal feathering on cheaper paper. The dry time is very good for such a rather wet ink. The saturation is pretty high which might cause some ghosting, which normally isn’t an issue anyway.

Pricewise, the Iroshizuku inks vary quite dramatically depending on where you get them from. While some retailers might charge around 35-40€ for the 50ml bottle, I have also seen them for around 10€ on eBay, coming straight from Japan. normally oscillates around 20€ for 50ml, which lays somewhere in the middle and makes the ink still a premium price. Diamine inks, for instance, cost a fraction of that. Faber-Castell or Pelikan premium inks cost about the same.

As for its ‘leftyness’, Iroshizuku “Shin-Kai” is great. It dries pretty fast and has no tendency to smear or smudge.

Lefty approved? Yup, ladies and gents!







I hope this ink review was helpful – feel free to check out my other ink reviews as well.

If you would like to compare this color to any other ink color/brand, I would suggest to head over to GouletPen’s “Interactive SwabShop” – a tool that lets you compare over 500 different inks, while the swabs are done under similar conditions. This is a wonderful tool for “cross-color-brand-comparison” that I can highly recommend.


  1. I wasn’t really into blue-black inks until I got myself a bottle of Tanzanite from Pelikan’s Edelstein ink collection. Now I’m hooked!

    By the looks of your scan, my ink seems darker, but all the other properties compare tête-á-tête with Iroshizuku’s, even for that red sheen you mention. I totally agree with you in that the ink can be used without reservations on business documents and yet, it adds a bit of flair to your writing. I think I will try this ink sooner or later. Thanks for the great review!

    • Scrively Scrively

      I also just started loving blue-blacks for their versatility and the interesting in-between color. I recently got Tanzanite, but had not yet inked it in a pen actually. Let me take this as an opportunity to make a quick Tanzanite/Shin-Kai-comparison swab for you later today. I’ll tag you in it on Instagram, so you can maybe gauge the difference ;-). Thanks gain for your comment!

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