My Swab Shop on has been getting attention lately. Mostly good, some bad. I think most of the ‘bad’ comes from a misunderstanding about the Swab Shop’s use. Here’s the original post I did on my swabs, but let me clarify.

I discovered the need for the swabs because there were several inks I came across whose names were poor guidance for the actual color. Examples of some confusing names:


Steel Blue: I thought it would have been a dark blue-grey, it’s not. It’s really more of a turquoise.

Diabolo Menthe: What? It’s a French cocktail drink that looks like Windex, but how would you know that?

Larmes de Cassis: ‘Tears of Cassis’, a flower. Great color, but who would know by the name?

I’m certainly not trying to bust on these inks at all. In fact, they’re mighty fine inks (well, Diabolo Methe is just a little too light for normal use). My point is though, you need more than just a name to determine the color. 

Okay, so now you can’t really trust the names, so you look at the ‘stock’ swab sheets that all of the ink retailers have on their websites that’s passed down from the ink companies. These are better than names alone, but only slightly. Here’s J. Herbin, and Private Reserve:

These are okay, but they’re inconsistent, so-so color accuracy, and you can’t compare colors across brands without downloading the swabs, cropping them in a photo software, and looking at them side-by-side…..even then it’s useless because they were done by different people on different paper, scanned with different scanners on different computers, you get the idea.  You can’t trust the consistency.

So my solution was the Swab Shop. I set up to have the most consistent and accurate swabs done within reasonable expectation for the purposes of viewing and comparing ink colors across brands to get a general idea of their appearance to narrow down the selection process for the purpose of getting ink samples to try for yourself. Bam! There you go. So if you have any expectation that these swabs are anything more than that, you didn’t get the idea from me.

The Swab Shop is a tool, and like any other tool it has an intended purpose for which the tool performs best. Try to use that tool for something more than it’s intended, and of course it’s not going to perform well! I fully and completely agree with all of the ‘haters’ out there that swabs are not ever EVER going to be able to replace the real thing. And as a side note, if your computer monitor isn’t accurately color profiled, then there is NOTHING I can do on my end to have you view accurate colors!

To get a good idea of an ink, you have to use it for yourself. The type of pen you use, type of paper, pressure you put on the nib when you write, the lighting you’re viewing the ink in, and even your eyes’ individual perception of color will all affect the way you see ink colors!

So that’s that. Enjoy the Swab Shop or not, it’s your choice! After all, it’s a free tool I put out there, and if it sucks and everyone hates it, no one will use it. But if it’s good and people like it, it’ll continued to be used and talked about.

What do you think of it?