Ink Spot | KWZ Honey

11/06 – UPDATE: Check out the end of this review for a quick update about KWZ Honey’s formulation.

I’ve been a big fan of KWZ inks since I tried my first bottle of KWZ Iron Gall Turquoise. I was impressed by its combination of price, color, writing characteristics, and ease of cleaning. As time has gone on, I’ve acquired several more bottles of KWZ goodness, and have yet to be disappointed by any of them. But in any line of ink, there are usually a few colors that bubble up to the top of the popularity ladder. Bungubox has its Sapphire. Akkerman has its Shocking Blue and Treves Turquoise. Diamine has Red Dragon and Autumn Oak. And Noodler’s has Baystate Blue and Apache Sunset.


It took a little while for the community to decide what the hero colors of KWZ’s line would be. For a while, people vascillated between Gummiberry, Green #2, Turquoise, and Grapefruit, and each of those are lovely, lovely colors. But the one ink that seems to have bubbled to the top is an ink that’s unlike any other ink I’ve ever tried: KWZ Honey.

Honey is part of KWZ’s “Standard” line (i.e., not their Iron Gall line of inks.)  It’s a very unusual color that I call a yellow-brown. It’s a very unusual combination of yellow, brown, and orange that results in a rich, deep caramel tan color.


Colors in this family can be a little tricky. If it strays too far in color (like with the addition of a bit of green, or a touch more yellow), it can start to look less like honey caramel and more like infant effluence, if you catch my drift. And, as much as I like babies, I’m not particularly chuffed about the idea of an ink that reminds me of what they leave in their nappies. Fortunately, Honey avoids that entirely but hugging the curve with orange.


KWZ Honey is not the most saturated of inks, and so nib choice is particularly important. You can see in the photo above (which was written on Rhodia paper) that the color and saturation of the ink really depends on the width and wetness of flow in a way that other inks may not. The result is an ink that can shade well in a pen where you get a variation of line width or ink flow, but can also appear too light for regular use in fine or dry nibs. This ink really shines for me in italic and flex nibs. Of particular interest is how the inks shading is less binary that you see with some other inks, and has more of a gradual transition/ombre effect. (e.f., see the Ls in “Pilot Parallels” above.)


Like every KWZ ink I’ve ever tried, this one is really well behaved in most situations. On both Rhodia and Tomoe River papers, I got no feathering. On Rhodia, there was no bleed-through, and on Tomoe River, there was just a touch on my flex writing (which I think may have pierced the paper, as I was writing on a soft writing mat.) I found I preferred the color of this ink against the bright white of the Rhodia vs. the cream of the Tomoe River. Dry times on both of these premium papers always averages long (usually around 30 seconds) but I was surprised that KWZ Honey actually dries faster: between 15-20 seconds on both of these coated papers.


Uncoated paper was a bit of a different story. First, the absorptive nature of the paper shifted the color slightly away from that warm butterscotch color toward a more sickly shade. Unsurprisingly, it also ate up most of the ink’s shading capabilities. Surprisingly, there was very little feathering, even on the wide 3.8mm Pilot Parallels or flex. There was a decent bit of bleed-through, but if you used this ink in a fine or medium nib, you should be fine on most papers. It wasn’t until the very wet broad that I started noticing hints of bleedthrough.


This ink isn’t particularly waterfast. It will cling to the paper a bit with water and ammonia, but bleach wipes it right away. The ink cleans out of pens easily, and hasn’t stained any of the demonstrators in which I’ve tried it.


I should note that KWZ Honey, like many of KWZ’s inks, has a very distinctive (and rather strong) odor that comes from the biocides in the ink. Or, at least it used to. As of October 2016, Konrad (the owner of KWZ) has changed his biocides, and there’s a new formula of the ink. I’ve not tried the new formula, but the swatches I’ve seen online seem to indicate that the colors still match quite nicely, but that there may be a slight bit less shading than the old formula. (It’s hard to tell, though.) I bring this up, however, because those who are unaccustomed to the unusual odor of some KWZ Inks may think their ink has “turned” if they have a bottle of the old formula. It probably hasn’t.

In the end, what I like best about KWZ Honey is that isn’t much like any of the other 202 bottles of ink in my collection. In the video, you can see several color comparisons I did, and none of them really matched. It’s a largely unique color in the ink world. And a unique (and attractive) color in an ink that behaves so nicely and cleans up so well is a good thing. Couple that with a really affordable price, and you’ve got yourself a winner of an ink. (In the States, Vanness Pens carries 60ml bottles for only $13. Outside of the US, you can order directly from Konrad at

UPDATE: This video was recorded in August of 2016. In October of 2016, KWZ released a re-formulated version of Honey. They switched the biocide that they use due to user complaints about the strong odor. According to Konrad (KWZ’s founder) the new formula of Honey should be identical in color and writing characteristics to the old formula. I have a sample of the new formula, and the color is very similar, but not quite the same. (The new formula has a slightly more green tint to it.) I also find that it tends to shade just a hint less. Otherwise, it behaves as wonderfully as the original formula does.


Disclosure Statement: The ink for this review was purchased with my own funds. All opinions expressed herein are my own.


  • Louise Buth

    I received an e-mail announcing the KWZ ink has been reformulated. I don’t know if it’s my creaky old iPad 3, but a “page not found” came up.
    One thing that is very important to me, even though the brown ink was extremely appealing; no mention is made of it’s lightfastness!
    I am an artist & I don’t buy anything that will fade badly in a short period of time & unfortunately transparent inks are very susceptible to this problem! I learned the hard way!

    • Lightfastness is not something I can easily test with the time I have available for ink reviews, but my experience is that very few dye-based inks are lightfast. You’d want to go to a pigment-based ink instead.

      • Julie Paradise

        Or an ink with irongall, I might add.

        I sort of do a monthly — veeery basic — lightfast test: At the beginning of each month I start a new insert in my Traveler’s Notebook (I make my inserts myself, each contains 8 sheets of paper = 32 pages = 1 month + 1/2 extra pages). I take an extra sheet of paper and do a list (the usual: colour swatch, cross hatch, some 888s, nib width, name of pen, name of ink) with all my inked pens on the extra sheet _and_ on the last page of my new TN insert as well, then hang the extra sheet in my South-East-facing window, … take it off when the month ends and thus have a list that was in a closed part of my cahier right next to one that was exposed to morning-/daylight.

        You would be surprised to find out that many turquoise inks vanish completely, whereas most irongall inks lose their colour but remain pretty legible in dark grey/sepia. One of the most lightfast colours without irongall is Rohrer & Klingner Blau Permanent, even in sunny July and August there was almost no fading visible.

        For a proper lightfast test for artist’s use 30 days is probably not enough, but it does give me some clues as to what inks are not lightfast at all and which ones are pretty stable.

  • Marek K.

    Pronunciation in Polish is “Kah-Voo-Zet”; no idea what W stands for, but as most probably it is from name and surname of the guy manufacturing inks, I would assume it is his middle name.
    I have a bottle of KWZ Honey in the new formula, and by rough comparison with your samples it seems to me as less gold, more like colour of a dark beer, and with a bit of a green component. In thin lines it gets more into light brown than into yellow.

  • Michelle Whitaker

    Honey is one of my favorite inks…and I loved the sweet marshmallow smell of the ink. Sad that he caved into the complaints.

  • Great thorough and beautiful review.

  • Clifford Hughes

    Great review Matt. I really like the colour and it looks so good in the flex writing. Missed your chromatogrphy though. I think of it as your forensic mind at work
    and analysing an ink’s component colours like nothing else can.

  • vis

    One of nicest inks I ever used.

  • jenn

    i absolutely adore kwz honey. the color, the scent… love it.
    today, however, i learned the downsides. while at work, i noticed that my honey-inked pen had leaked. it was sticky and difficult to clean. then, by looking at all of the used paper towels, it must seem that i have an incontinence problem. 😀