I have always enjoyed documenting my inks; it’s something I’m surprised more people don’t do. I’ve been using a Rhodia A5 notebook to document inks and I’m currently up to my third notebook. When I saw this pocket notebook for the same purpose, I was very excited to give it a try. You can pick up yours from Neros Notes for as little as £5, great stuff!
The “pink ink” book from Neros Notes is the first in Nero’s (a top dog, I have been told) new range, “Hobbies”. I’m very interested to see what else comes out, but for now let’s focus our attention on the ink notebook. I’ll talk about some basic characteristics of the notebook, how they compare to other systems and what I like/think could be developed.
This notebook offers 24 pages (12 leaves) and each page allows you to document two inks. For the math savvy, this gives you a total of 48 inks to include in a single notebook. I know on the surface this doesn’t seem like many, but let’s consider two things: the first is that this is a pocket notebook, so naturally there will be fewer pages. Secondly, 48 inks is a lot when you think about it. I’ve managed to document around 180 inks in my Rhodias (I’ve only recently started my third) and this has been over a 2-3 year period – a lot have been because I’ve been sent samples, also. For £5, I think that 48 inks in a single notebook is quite reasonable.
The page layout is quite simple and is repeated throughout the entire notebook. You have the opportunity to write the name of the ink, a few notes (3 lines to be exact) about said ink, a window to do an ink swatch and then six ink characteristics that you can rate out of 6 to give an overall rating (you may decide to do something different, but personally I just find the mean by adding up the individual ratings and divide by six). I like the characteristics you can rate. Characteristics like sheen aren’t included, and this makes sense in my opinion, because this is something where people hold more of an opinion on, but I think we can all agree that bleeding and feathering are annoying. This makes the rating easier, though there is an opportunity to rate “shading”. This works for me, as I enjoy shading. If this is a problem for you then you could of course just include the 5 other characteristics and find the mean, or make the “overall” category totally independent in itself. I think the point of this is that it’s quite versatile and even though there’s a hard layout, there is an option to “alter it” to your preferences.
Being that the pages are used to test/show inks, it’s important the paper weight is reasonable. The Rhodia notebooks I use are 90gsm, which is fairly typical; these pages are 160gsm. The advantage to this is that you’re less likely to experience show through or bleed that may otherwise ruin the documentation. The disadvantage to this is that you’re not going to be writing on 160gsm paper on a daily basis. So you may consider how representative it is..
I will note that I did experience some bleed while swatching. I’m not one to make excuses, but I would perhaps argue whether this was user error, as I laid the ink down extremely heavily by turning the nib upside down and sort of “painting”. For best results, perhaps it’s better to colour in with the nib rather than drop a whole load of ink on the paper. This is 160gsm paper, not aluminium. The two pictures that follow show the bleed as a result of doing this method and then the second one shows the ink just being coloured in using the nib. Both give the same results and you don’t need to go excessive.
Building on this, I decided to test a few inks out. They all performed very well in terms of showing the ink off. You could notice shading, sheen and the glitter in shimmer inks are also shown nicely. It’s important for a notebook that’s used to showcase inks to.. Well, showcase them. There’s no compromises here, and that’s very encouraging.
There’s also an opportunity to write some information on the inside cover. You can write your name, contact information and also the start, end and staple days, which I think are quite cool things to be able to add (staple day is the day you reach the middle of a notebook)
There are three systems that come to mind. The first is the one I currently use, which is a fairly loose and free method. The second is the “Col-O-Ring” method. I don’t use the latter, for reasons I shall get into below, but I have seen it be used and I’ll get into pros and cons of different systems and how this notebook fairs. The third is “Inky Fingers” from Matt Armstrong. I won’t get into this system as it’s very similar to the Neros Notes notebook.
Firstly, “my system”. This involves writing the name of the ink, the pen I used to write the sample, a writing sample (The quick brown fox…), my views on the ink and then a swatch. The Ink notebook shares a few qualities – such as writing the name of the ink, a swatch and the opportunity to write notes, though you only get three lines which in some instances can be enough, but not always. You also get the opportunity to “rate” the ink numerically for certain characteristics and give an overall rating in the Nero offering – which is nice and something I would like to incorporate into my own system. It would be nice if you could write more notes on the ink, but this would sacrifice other aspects such as the rating system.
I also include an index at the back of the Rhodia notebooks so I can search for specific inks, while there’s no “search feature” of the Nero notebook. This does mean, however, I need to remember which ink is in which notebook and I do need to spend 5-10 minutes numbering pages and doing the index, so it begs the question as to whether I’m saving more time than I’m putting in, hmm..
I’m not particularly fond of the “Col-O-Ring” type systems, which is another method. This comes down mainly to the fact that you only have swatches of the ink and no descriptors. This isn’t something that works for me (I’m not saying this is a bad system in any shape or form, I’m saying it just isn’t for me). Being that the Nero’s notebook is a pocket notebook, you’re also getting the benefit of portability that you may argue you get with the Col-O-Ring as well. Though, you do have the ability to re-order inks in the Col-O-Ring book according to shade or colour etc. It would be messy trying to change the order of the pages in a pocket notebook and a venture I wouldn’t advise. Another bonus the Nero Ink notebook has over Col-O-Ring system is the price. These are made in the UK and work out cheaper up front. This isn’t to say the Col-O-Ring system is bad or to speak ill of it – I know it works for some people, but I’m not one of those people. If you share this sentiment, perhaps this will help you decide whether the Nero Ink notebook is for you or not.
What could be developed?
There’s very little that I would change to this notebook. There are tweaks here and there, but to help me with what to say for this part of the review, I decided to consult Mother. She agreed with most of my suggestions, but did expand on them.
The first thing I wanted to consider were the front and back covers. I like the design and I love the pink; I am not one to shy away from pink. I also think it’s a nice play on words (pINK). Initially I thought it would be nice to decide what colour covers you wanted: you could have a blue cover for your blue inks, pink for pink inks etc. This becomes troublesome and annoying because I have many blue inks and I think only one yellow. Each to their own. The second problem I have with this idea is that this is only the first offering from the Nero Notes Hobbies range. As such, you could have pink for your inks, blue for your beer reviews, green for bird watching etc. etc. (just to note, these are examples – I know Nero is a very advanced dog, running his own company and such, but I have not yet had the pleasure of discussing these matters with him. So don’t take these as hints or rumours). The idea to have one colour makes sense I think.
The second thing that I thought about mentioning related to the spacing – which Mother also commented on. She said that it would be better if you had one ink per page. I didn’t tell her that there were only 24 pages, and I think that two per page is a nice number as you get double the inks you can document but it doesn’t take up too much space. One page per ink would allow you to include things such as more in depth notes, but perhaps the nature of this notebook is simply to keep it concise: “a nice purple ink” or “the ink [x] gave me as a gift.” I also commented about my own system and where I was able to write the pen I had the ink in and a writing sample. In hindsight, you can do this on the bottom line if you have space where you write the ink name (there are two lines). Also, the notes could be used as a writing sample, so…
I also considered the characteristics that you could rate. I think the six are good, the only one I would have an issue with is “shading” because some people may like it in an ink and others may not. Also, some inks you may want to be used more professionally and a “straight up” colour rather than this fancy changes in colour – does this mean you rate shading as bad, even though there may be a lot? That being said – why are you using Autumn Oak or Apache Sunset for work anyway if it’s professional?!
Besides these, what’s left to improve on? Nothing. Which leads us very nicely to the conclusion. This is a great notebook – there aren’t many that are set up for this purpose – you do have the option of Matt Armstrong’s Inky Fingers (which sadly I believe are no longer in production) but specifically if you’re in the UK market, this can be troublesome (though fret not – you can purchase from Nero Notes!)
Disclaimer: This notebook was sent to me by Nero’s Notes in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed are my own.