Are the Ecoline Liquid Watercolors actually inks? Or are they watercolors, as it says in the name? Maybe a bit of both? We test a set of Ecoline watercolor ink bottles by Royal Talens (now under Sakura) to solve this mystery. We discuss how well they do with blending inks for lettering and fountain pen calligraphy, as dip pen inks for comic inking, and as washes in watercolor painting with a brush. Are these as widely useful as they appear to be? Watch our test drive for more.
Reviewing the Ecoline Liquid Watercolour Inks
Vishal: Hello and welcome to Stationery Test Drive where every week we take humble tool and exotic tools and strange tools and we make interesting things with them. I’m Vishal.
Samir: I’m Samir.
Samir: After mentioning them over and over again for months now!
Vishal: And using them for months so I guess in some ways this is the video for all of you who have been wondering what the fuss is all about. Well what is the fuss about? Why are Ecoline Inks your favorite?
Minjal: What I really like about the Ecoline is their ability to blend very seamlessly. They are bright and intense, great for shading and layering also! I use it with a Pilot Parallel Pen, sometimes with the Automatic Pen which also has a steel nib, a flat steel nib. You can put down a layer, they dry very quickly, and then blend it with other colors.
While I haven’t used it for painting as such I know that a lot of artists also make paintings with the Ecoline inks, which you know when I saw it on YouTube I was a little shocked because I assumed these were meant for writing, more like fountain pen inks but artists do use it for paintings as well.
Difference between Fountain Pen Inks, Sumi Inks, Dyes and Watercolors
Vishal: We’ve covered this before but what is the difference between an ink and a paint or a fountain pen ink or a sumi ink? It’s quite murky.
Samir: So inks are often, and we have covered this before, fountain pen inks especially are what we generally like to call inks. And inks are usually dye based and in a watered medium with some sort of thickness.
A sumi ink is unusual in that it is a pigment based ink. So it has a medium and it’s also in water but the material in there that gives it its color is not a dye but it’s a pigment. In the case of sumi ink that’s carbon black.
Dyes sort of dissolve into the medium of an ink whereas a pigment is generally just sort of held in suspension. And most paints actually have pigments rather than dyes.
Minjal: So the watercolors that we use are all pigment based whereas Ecoline would be a dye-based formula?
Samir: Right, which is why Ecoline kind of sits in this strange world between inks and watercolors because Ecoline inks are, in fact they are not even called inks, they’re referred to as liquid watercolor.
But yeah, essentially because they are dye-based and they are water-based. They are in chemistry more like an ink than a watercolor. But I believe this one uses like a gum arabic as a medium in addition to the water, so that gives it that certain amount of easily blending quality. It is very close to a fountain pen ink but I guess the range of colors that they’re making it in also makes it a very viable watercolor.
Minjal: They have the most vibrant, bright, colors. I really enjoy using them, obviously I’ve
spoken so much about them. Did you’ll enjoy using it for non-lettering purposes?
How to Use Ecoline Liquid Watercolour Inks for Comic Illustration
Vishal: Well we certainly did and we used them for non-lettering purposes. Why don’t I show you what I did which does include some lettering but is mostly an illustrated piece. I used the Ecoline 411 which is this the Sepia-esque one, the 506 which is a nice Royal Blue and the 700 which is a very nice Black.
Vishal: I used the 512 Hunt nib on I think a Hunt holder which we’ve covered in an episode before. The Ecoline Inks are very nice to use because you don’t need to put them into a palette or anything. You just dip and take off a bit of the excess and you can get a really nice line.
You can get a good amount of line variation with the Hunt nib. Everything from the finest of lines for small details to these nice thick ones which you can do pretty quickly. Inking this took maybe an hour, drawing this took longer actually.
Minjal: Also, the Ecoline ink dries very quickly!
Vishal: It does. I don’t pay attention too much so I usually go over parts and I have a tendency to touch the page, these are all bad inking practices but they’re just habits that I’ve retained.
I like the the level of detail that you can get from having a good nib like the Hunt. But also the Ecoline ink diluted with a little water almost looks like a wash over large areas.
Minjal: As opposed to using say the sumi ink did you enjoy this process with the Ecoline colors?
Vishal: It’s a different process. The lovely thing about sumi ink is the tackiness of it, like Samir said it has carbon black and it has almost a charcoal base to it, so you can almost feel it on the paper.
And the Ecoline feels thinner. So in some ways you can work this faster. I could put that down under a minute which is pretty fast. So it’s quick, which you don’t really think of ink being quick as opposed to a tool being quick but the ink does make a big difference to how quick it goes down.
Samir: That’s an interesting contrast that it dries so quickly because unlike sumi ink this is not a permanent ink, it is not waterproof, you can reactivate it by using a brush.
Vishal: So yeah, I loved this ink. I’m going to try the other Ecolines now. Samir, you also did something illustrative but something completely different.
How to Use Ecoline Liquid Watercolour Inks for Figure Drawing and Illustration
Samir: I went for the completely wash based technique and that’s what I came up with.
Vishal: That is superb and no one’s going to look at these three bottles which are very much like your standard ink bottles which you had in school and think, oh I’m going to get a comic and portrait out of the same three inks. You used a brush I assume?
Samir: Yeah, I just used an old 0 size and 3 size brush that I have from, I don’t know, 20 years ago and they worked perfectly fine, they were just some sort of natural hair brushes that I picked up a long time ago.
The thing that most impressed me about the Ecoline inks is how much of a range I could get using literally just the three colors. This does not look like a painting done with three colors.
Vishal: Especially those skin tones, that is a more of a sepia brown than a red but even then the range you’ve gotten from these pinks to even I guess you mixed a little there for some of the cooler colors.
Samir: In fact I didn’t end up mixing any of the inks together. All I did was dilute them with water and on the page would be the only mixing that happened between colors. For example if you see these areas where two different kind of blue layers meet, in a watercolor it’s not always going to become darker like that, whereas here it’s sort of coloring the paper twice the time so those kind of fluctuations will happen but I’m still very happy with it.
Vishal: It’s extremely successful I think. And speaking of successful things, the successful person who successfully incepted the idea of us covering Ecoline inks after I don’t know 30 weeks of listening to it, Minjal you have done some very unusual calligraphy even for yourself. I’ve never seen this style from you.
Calligraphy with Ecoline Liquid Watercolour Inks
Minjal: So this is called the Jubilee Script. I learned it online from Carol DuBosch during the pandemic. It’s a combination of a lot of whimsical strokes and some broad strokes, again done with the Pilot Parallel Pen, which was the first episode we shot!
Vishal: And the first introduction to Ecoline inks, I think.
Minjal: That’s also correct. So, I used a different set of inks for my piece. I used the yellow and green with a lot of blending.
Vishal: You explained that to us in that Pilot Parallel Pen episode as well that you can almost feed them to each other.
Minjal: That’s right. You can take the nibs, the tips of two pilot parallel pens and just transfer the color from one nib to the other by holding them close to each other.
The pilot parallel pen cartridges which are a part the set, they’re very heavy inks, you don’t get this lightness that you get with the Ecolines because they’re a great mixture of fountain ink and watercolor.
Vishal: I think that lightness, it’s hard to describe just how good it is and how unique it is. Like I said with sumi ink, I like the heaviness of it, I like the tackiness of it. It’s the same with many drawing inks, I think they go for a similar type of viscosity.
As someone who’s never been good at watercolors or things like that I think it’s a good way to get into that sort of way of thinking. I think the Ecoline inks have finally arrived and we finally enjoyed them.
History of Royal Talens Brand
Minjal: Now the Ecolines are actually part of the Royal Talens brand from the Netherlands, and it’s the same group that launched the Rembrandt and Van Gogh ranges of paints, watercolors and oils.
Samir: And the Rembrandt soft pastels is what really sort of made them famous. They’ve been around for more than a century now.
Vishal: How did they go from Rembrandt and Van Gogh to Ecoline? That’s a very different brand.
Samir: That’s because I think the Talens company has kind of changed hands several times over their history. They started somewhere in 1899 as just Talens and made just inks for a long time. They made typewriter inks for quite a while. I think the Ecoline brand has existed since like 1930 or so.
Since then I think they’ve been owned by other companies and most recently of course now they’re part of the Sakura Japanese brand. I think we’ve said this before Sakura clearly likes to go for things that are extra colorful and you can definitely say that about the Ecoline inks.
Minjal: I think we should also test out the Ecoline brush pens. Available again in almost 60 plus shades.
Vishal: If you use the Ecoline brush pens or if you use any other ones do let us know in the comments, what you use them for and do show us stuff.
Why do artists like Ecoline Liquid Watercolour Inks?
Samir: The one thing I would like to say about the Ecoline inks and I’m calling them inks because they look like an ink to me and they’re in a bottle but they do they do call them a liquid watercolor. I think they genuinely do behave like a liquid watercolor.
Whenever I used to read about watercolor artists talking about what they like about the medium the most, it’s always the fact that there’s a certain kind of luminescence to it, that the white of the paper kind of lights it up somehow.
Vishal has done mostly line work but anytime there is a wash it’s almost as if it’s glowing, like all of these bits, even things like this mild skin tone. There is just something glowing about it and I think that’s not very usual for your standard fountain pen inks, so these are definitely something that I would consider a watercolor.
Vishal: And you can fill them in fountain pens which none of us did but I guess we should try.
Samir: It’s just that when you have so many color choices you don’t want to fill a pen and not choose.
Cobra Artist Oil Colours – Water -Mixable Oil Paints from Royal Talens
Minjal: Samir you mentioned the Cobra range of products under Royal Talens?
Vishal: Wait, wait, so we go from Van Gogh and Rembrandt to Ecoline to Cobra?
Samir: They went from Van Gogh to Rembrandt to Amsterdam to Ecoline and now to Cobra.
Vishal: I mean we all know what cobra is, of a certain age people cobra does not mean the snake, but the cartoon!
Samir: Cobra is an interesting idea that we would love to test out at some point. It’s a oil paint that is soluble in water.
Vishal: Oh, that is such a contradiction in terms.
Samir: So it’s an oil paint you can paint with brush and water rather than turpentine or a paint thinner, which would be very interesting to try at some point.
Vishal: That is definitely going on the list of stationery test drive. We don’t know when we’ll get those, first to see if we can get cobra inks ourselves. But every week here on Stationery Test Drive we do this as you can see, next week we’ll be back with another one, another pen I think?
So until then please stay tuned, please follow us on social media at the links on screen and in the description and follow Inky Memo, subscribe to the Inky Memo newsletter, where there are stories about stationery, its history, the culture around it, the people who make it and the people like us who use it in stationery test drives every week. Until next week I’m Vishal.
Samir: I’m Samir.
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Get Ecoline Liquid Watercolour Inks & Ecoline Brush Pens
1. Ecoline Liquid Watercolor, 30ml Bottle, Set of 5 – https://amzn.to/3NW8bvi
2. Ecoline Liquid Watercolour Mixing Set of 10 – https://amzn.to/3K8pLeq
3. Ecoline Liquid Watercolor Brush Pen, Set of 15 – https://amzn.to/3K8PPGr