Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown | Ink Review

Julia van der Wyk is an artist, classical musician, and lover of the outdoors. During business hours she is a front-end web developer. She resides in Santa Cruz, California, where she can draw Pelicans with Pelikans. Her (mostly) daily drawing is posted to twitter and Instagram as @juliavdw.

My ink-loving life started in childhood when I picked a bottle of Pelikan drawing ink from an art store shelf, for use with a brush and my calligraphy dip nibs. I started buying the Pelikan 4001 series simply because of the larger bottles, at the time it didn’t occur to me to think there was a difference between fountain pen ink and drawing ink, or even to wonder if Pelikan also made pens. It seems fitting to me to begin my ink-reviewing life with a bottle of Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown.

The Pens

For my fountain pen tests, I used my Pilot Plumix with a Medium Italic nib, a Jinhao 950 with Medium nib and my TWSBI Micarta with Extra Fine nib.

Clairefontaine Pocket Notebook

No feathering and limited show-through with this ink. Subtle shading with all three nibs, though I think the EF shaded most obviously. No sheen, just bright, brilliant color.

Daiso Word Cards

No feathering or show-through. More shading evident with the round nibs than the italic. No sheen, and color slightly more subdued on this matte paper. Central color richly evident.

Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book

No feathering, bleed or show-through. Subtle shading, bright, rich color. No sheen to “get in the way”. Ink appears more red with brush application than with fountain pen nibs.

Tomoe River (Hobonichi Techo)

No feathering, bleed or distracting show-through. Larger range of tones for shading. No sheen, just rich color.

Midori TN insert (Graph)

No feathering, bleed or show-through. Subtle shading, mostly for EF and italic nibs. Bright color, no sheen.

Baron Fig Confidant Plus

Bright, rich color on this off-white paper. Subtle shading mostly evident on EF and italic nibs. No feathering, bleed or show-through. Or sheen.

Multi-purpose Inkjet Paper

Here’s where all the feathering, show-through and bleed are! The EF nib is not EF enough to hide the absorbency of this paper. The color is nice though, even without the shading.

Art Test


Using a Winsor & Newton series 7 brush (number 3 round), I found it easy to pull a variety of values from the ink. As a standalone artwork, however, the ink doesn’t go quite as dark in the shadow areas as I would prefer. Even layering on with straight ink, the dark parts stayed a brilliant, medium reddish brown. I am more pleased with the brush results on a rougher paper than the hot press watercolor paper. (Soho sketch paper vs. Fabriano Aquarello).

Dip nibs and calligraphy

Using a Speedball C-1 nib on the Soho sketch paper was a bit of a challenge due to the rougher texture of the paper, but the ink flowed like a champ. There were only a few strokes where I had to restart and adjust my nib angle to get better ink coverage. One dip lasted for the entire word, and some nice shading can be seen.

Using a Zebra-G flex nib in an oblique holder (new nib, treated with flame) it was a little bit more work to use the ink. Pelikan 4001 series is rather thin, and the oblique flange gets in the way when attempting to dip straight from the bottle. I’d recommend putting the ink into a shallow dish if you want to do more than a few words with this ink. However, once the ink was on the nib, it flowed well. There is lovely shading, but similar to my experience with the brush, the dark tones stay fully medium.

Using a flat brush on the sketch paper, I found no real shading or depth to the marks. But the central color is nicely exhibited.

Conclusion and Wrap-up

Overall I do like this ink, though please note my emotional bias towards all things Pelikan. If you’re looking for a sophisticated Sepia ink or a sheen monster, this is not the ink for you. But if you want a smooth-flowing ink with rich color and some shading, this bright and friendly ink will fit the *ahem* bill. For my own use, I like it best in the calligraphy nibs, second best the fountain pen EF.

  • tg

    I have always found 4001 series to be terribly dry and flowing poorly in anything but the best adjusted nibs of mine. Checked Brown and Blue Black, both really dry. It’s a pity, because I enjoy both colors.

  • This particular color is dry, and ugly, it went down the drain to reuse the bottle. Other 4001 colors (notably violet) are much better.

  • Kenneth Solomon

    Nice review, thanks. Did you do a longer writing session? Thanks.

  • Robert Draper

    I love my Pelikan pens but have never liked their inks. I’m a serial ink mixster so all my Pelikan inks have been mixed with others to alter the hue. The trick is knowing when to stop…but thank you for your very thorough review, well done!

  • Randy R

    I enjoyed your humorous, analytical, and writing styles, Julia — “knit the lazy dog some booties,” indeed! :p

    I have and very much like several brown inks (two of them specifically due to Matt Armstrong and to Stephen Brown) but I don’t have Pelikan’s brown. Personally, I don’t need or even care much for sparkly or sheening inks, but I definitely like the shading you’ve shown here.

    Thanks for a great, very informative, review.
    And, thanks to Matt for putting your thoughts on his website!
    More please.

  • David

    Why are there shadows under the Pelican’s feet? I mean really, the review was perfect right up to the point where I saw the weird foot shadows – and now I can’t stop thinking about them. Sigh…

  • Robert

    Nice review, but this ink isn’t my cup of tea: too much red for my taste.