During my last visit with Ink-Fast Donn at the D.C. Pen Show in 2019, he said he was starting to test ballpoint inks to see how well they hold up to UV light.
Last summer, I discovered a collection of the famous and commonly used Bic Cristal ballpoints in my fencing gear. I taught a wonderful group of teens and tweens advanced competition maneuvers and strategy, and to help them remember their lessons and opponents, I insisted they keep “Diaries of Doom” and “Tomes of Terror.” To help personalize it more, I handed out colorful notebooks and pens.
Armed with 8 colors (blue, pink, green, grass-stain green, black, turquoise, purple and red), I created a sample on Rhodia paper and taped it to a sunny window of my home at the end of August. I took it down at the end of February and was surprised by the results.
This photo doesn’t really do full justice to the sample set and proof set. The blue doesn’t look as blue as it does in real life.
Surprise #1 to me was that the black ink faded. With fountain pen inks, you can generally count on black to be the most stable and fade-proof. While it didn’t fade away entirely, it had issues.
Surprise #2: Blue! Blue fountain pen inks fade something fierce under the withering sun. Bic Cristal blue got stronger! It lost some of its blueness and turned blacker, but it held on defiantly under the sun’s gaze.
Surprise #3: Grass-Stain Green didn’t fade as much as I thought it would. It faded a little.
Red and purple faded the most. Green, turquoise and pink faded a little, but survived okay.
Reflecting on this experiment, for some reason, I always assumed oil-based ballpoint inks would be far more permanent than water-based fountain pen inks. Yet, their chemical compositions all have their frailties. Some ballpoint colors react differently than fountain pen inks, but that shouldn’t surprise me as much as it did.