Invisible Ink

Herbin Invisible Ink
One of the most whimsical and intriguing items in the world of writing instruments and stationery is invisible ink. To me, it recalls childhood experiments with lemon juice and Encyclopedia Brown books. To others, it may be studied as a practical form of steganography.

To my surprise, I learned that the world’s most distinguised ink maker manufactures a commercial invisible ink, and that I could buy it at a local shop.

The packaging is charming. A bottle with a simple frame pattern label reading:



30ml J. Herbin

It’s light pinkish colour, and fountain pens are not recommended. My bottle shows significant signs of crystallization around the cap and top of the bottle after light use, so that’s probably why.

Although I’d love to buy a fancy dip pen, for now a General’s nib holder and some Speedball nibs suffice. A blank Rhodia pad also seems in order. I start scribbling away.

Is it invisible? Well, it’s less visible. The ink is wet, and there is a slight tint, so the very curious can probably tell that the paper isn’t as prisitine as it once was.

I let the paper dry and take it to my halogen lamp. Holding it near, the writing slowly comes to life in an aquamarine blue. This is thoroughly fascinating to see. What’s almost as intriguing, is that walking away from the lamp, the ink fades back to “invisible”, as if one saw the paper reveal a secret, temporal message.

Is it truly a method for secret record keeping and communication? It probably suffices for some purposes.

Some possible uses for invisible ink:

  • Love notes
  • Communicating passwords
  • Sketching tentative ideas
  • 5 Replies to “Invisible Ink”

    1. I loved this article about invisible ink! I am a poet and author and am currently writing a novel where the main character is looking for the perfect pencil with which he will write a story that will end at precisely the moment that the pencil has been sharpened down to its final point. As research for the book, I am inviting people to send me a thought, a memory , a word – anything inspired by the idea of ‘ Pencil ‘. I’d be delighted to hear from you and I can be contacted through my website
      Thankyou !

    2. Thanks Sally. This small article was one of the ones that started the site in 2005, and I’ve always thought it one of the better pieces.

      This character in your novel is quite interesting. The idea of a story being contained in the pencil, and somehow let out, and in the right measure, sounds very compelling to me. Good luck with the endeavor.

      I see you’ve also written several children’s books. You may know that pencils have been the focus of a few children’s books, and a blog reader with an interest in children’s literature recently created an annotated bibliography that will be posted soon.

    3. I just found your site after some art supply related google searches inspired by a trip to my local arts and crafts store. I really love inks. I know of at least one fountain pen friendly invisible ink that’s been made recently. It’s by Noodler’s. It glows in UV light.

    4. Hi Andy, welcome, and thanks for your comments. I didn’t know about the Noodler’s ink. Alas, my need for invisible ink has turned out to be minor!

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