Unusual “Inks”

Okay – let’s think outside the box for a bit. You can write with stuff other than the usual inks.

For example – write with coffee or tea! Make up a good strong cup of tea or coffee and use that as your “ink”. Mind you, these will not be fadeproof or waterproof, but it would make a great conversation starter to tell people (or better yet, show them) that this was written with tea or coffee.

Want to do some invisible writing? Use lemon juice. (Just make sure your pens are really clean first!). How do you get the writing to show up? Hold the paper on a hot light bulb until the writing shows up!

Got any other suggestions for “Unusual Inks”?

Make Your Own Inks

When you want to experiment with something different, or if you need a color or ink you don’t have, why not make your own inks? Here’s some ink recipes and ideas to try out.

Colored Ink

  • 1/2″ Winsor-Newton Gouache
  • 2 drops alcohol
  • 10 drops gum arabic
  • distilled water

Squeeze about 1/2″ of gouache into a small container. Mix the gouache, alcohol and gum arabic together, then add enough distilled water to get the consistency you want.


Embossing Ink I

  • 1 part glycerine
  • 2 parts distilled water
  • small amount of watercolorWhen you want to emboss some of your calligraphy letters with embossing powder, you need an ink that will hold the powder. Mix the glycerine and distilled water, then add just enough of any watercolor you want to give it enough color to see it when you write with it. This ink does dry quite quickly, so write only a few letters at a time, then quickly pour on your embossing powder.

Embossing Ink II

  • 2 teaspoons distilled water
  • 1 teaspoon glycerine
  • 6-8 drops gum arabic
  • small amount of watercolorThis embossing ink can be used with pens or brushes. Mix water, glycerine and gum arabic, then add just enough color so you can see the ink when writing with it. Again, write only a few letters at a time and then put on your embossing powder before the ink dries.

Tea Ink
Steep regular tea in a small amount of boiling water until it gets really dark. Use the dark tea as ink. Just be aware that it won’t be lightfast – it will fade.


Grey Ink
Use thinned out black inks to make a variety of grey inks. This will make the ink more tranparent and you will get some nice overlapping lines. This is a nice ink to use when you are teaching and using the larger suede pens. It shows the students where the overlaps are.

 

Ink Sticks for Calligraphy

Ink Sticks are traditionally made from a carbon black ink mixed with gum and resin, and then molded into sticks. To make a writing ink, the ink stick is dipped into water and ground on a grinding stone to create the ink. Ink sticks are available in a variety of colors. Both Chinese and Japanese have traditionally used ink sticks.

With Chinese Ink Sticks, if the bottom of the ink stick appears matte and dull when dry, then it has been made from burnt pine twigs or roots, and will give you a blue-black ink. If the bottom is glossy and smooth, it has been made from burnt vegetable oil and will give a slightly shiny brown-black ink.

Yasutomo Sumi Ink Stick
Made from powdered carbon from burnt pine, or lamp black, plus a binding agent.

Saiboku Japanese Colored Ink Stick
Comes in a variety of colors. Flows well from the pen.

Chinese Calligraphy Ink Sticks
A high-quality ink. Comes in a variety of colors. Excellent for both calligraphy and watercolor painting.

Chinese “Youth” Ink
This is basically a liquid version of Chinese Stick Ink.

 


To create ink from the ink sticks, it must be ground. This is commonly done on a grinding stone, also known as a suzuri, or ink stone made from slate.

Yasutomo Suzuri Grinding Stone
This is a man-made inkstone with the well end for holding water and the flat surface end for grinding the ink. Clean well after use.

Shakyo-Ken Ink Stone
Made of Japanese stone with a very dense grain, this stone has the flat surface for grinding and a well deep enough for dipping your pens.

Unglazed Gaken Dish
A round, white, unglazed ceramic dish for grinding colored ink sticks.

 

White Inks for Calligraphy

When you want to use white or lighter letters on dark backgrounds, you need inks or paints that are very opaque.

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White
One of the best white inks available. Dense and opaque, it covers well. It can be used in dip pens – thin with water to get a good consistency. You can add watercolors or gouache to get pastel colors.

COPIC Opaque White Pigment
Water-based opaque white, covers well and doesn’t bleed into base colors. Good for highlights.

Luma Bleed-Proof White
A very opaque watercolor, it stays brilliantly white when used to cover other colors.

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen White
This ink is a very fine white ink for use in technical pens (will work in a 3×0 tip). It has good covering power. It will adhere to film and acetate too. It is not waterproof.

Pelikan Graphic White
A good opaque ink that adheres well to all surfaces. Gives exceptional coverage. Can be mixed with watercolors, opaque inks and designer colors. Use with dip pens, brushes or aribrushes.

 

Sepia Ink

Sepia or brown, and walnut inks create a nice antique effect. Following are some to try.

Higgens Calligraphy Ink – Sepia
A free-flowing ink. Can be used with dip pens or fountain pens. It is not waterproof.

Walnut Ink
You can purchase walnut ink in liquid or crystal form. When used full strength it can be a very dark color, almost black. Thinned out you can get lovely golden brown colors, depending on the ink. You can use the ink to write with, or you can thin it out and use it to “age” paper to give it a lovely antique look.

McCaffery’s Penman’s Ink
This oak gall ink writes brown, but dries a dense black. It is especially created for use in pointed pens used for Copperplate and Spencerian caligraphy.

 

Fountain Pen Inks

Fountain pens need a special kind of ink – one that flows easily – and most importantly, one that won’t gum up the pen. The following inks are designed to work in fountain pens.

Herbin Inks
The oldest name in fountain pen inks, this French ink uses all natural dyes and comes in 30 beautiful colors. It’s non toxic, pH neutral and lightfast. This water-based ink flows smoothly and dries quickly.

Pelikan 4001
This easy-flowing, water-soluable, non-clogging ink is meant for fountain pens, but is also great for learning to use the dip pens. An intense, brilliant black. Not waterproof. Can be cleaned with just water.

Higgens Calligraphy Ink
A free-flowing ink. Can be used with dip pens or fountain pens. It is waterproof.

Calli Inks
A waterproof, pigmented ink. Good for dip or fountain pens. Colors are bright and opaque.

Winsor Newton Calligraphy Inks
A non-clogging pigmented ink. Good for dip pens, fountain pens or brushwork. More opaque, brilliant and lightfast than dye-based inks.

 

Metallic Inks

Metallic inks can add a touch of elegance to your work.

Dr. Martin’s Spectralite Ink
An acrylic ink. Waterproof when dry. Good for pointed pen work too. Available in 18 Carat Gold, 14 Carat Gold, Silver, Bronze, Platinum, Brass, Nickel and Copper.

Dr Martin’s Iridescent Calligraphy Colors
Set of 12 Metallic Colors: Nickel, Brass, Bronze, Copper, Saffron Yellow, Frosted Peach, Rose Lame, Misty Blue, Amethyst, Crystal Mint, Metallic Green, & Sequins Blue.

Winsor & Newton Gold Drawing Ink
Great for decorating letters.

Winsor & Newton Pan Watercolors – Metallic

Winsor & Newton Artists’ Watercolors – Quinacridone Gold

 

Iridescent Pearlescent Inks

Iridescent and pearlescent inks add a special touch to your calligraphy.

Dr Martin’s Iridescent Calligraphy Colors
Waterproof. Lightfast. Flow well. Can be mixed to create a wide palette of colors.

Dr Martin’s Iridescent Calligraphy Colors – Metallic
Set of 12 Metallic Colors: Nickel, Brass, Bronze, Copper, Saffron Yellow, Frosted Peach, Rose Lame, Misty Blue, Amethyst, Crystal Mint, Metallic Green, & Sequins Blue.

J Herbin Pearlescent Inks
These inks have a beautiful pearl-like lustre.

FW Pearlescent Acrylic Inks
These acrylic inks dry water-resistent and with a lovely shimmering pearl effect. Available in 21 colors.

Daler -Rowney Pearlescent Ink
Water-soluable acrylic inks. Water-resistent when dry. Extremely lightfast. Not for use in technical pens or airbrushes.

Tip – If you don’t want to buy all the colors of pearlescent ink just to get the colors you want, buy one bottle of white pearlescent ink and mix some of it with your other water-based inks to turn them into pearlescent inks. Just mix enough for what you need. It may not be as intense as the actual pearlescent inks, but I certainly was happy with my results.

 

Colored Inks for Calligraphy

There are lots of colored inks available these days. They vary from opaque to transparent, waterproof and non-waterproof, lightfast, acid-free, etc.

Pelikan 4001 Inks
A dye ink for use in fountain pens, but also easy-flowing in dip pens. Not waterproof. Can be cleaned with just water.

Winsor Newton Calligraphy Inks
A non-clogging pigmented ink. Good for dip pens, fountain pens or brushwork. More opaque, brilliant and lightfast than dye-based inks.

Speedball Calligraphy Inks
Rich, vivid colors made from the best pigments available. The colors are waterproof, lightfast and acid-free.

Ziller Inks
An acrylic, pigmented, lightfast and waterproof ink. Good for dip pens or brushes.

Daler-Rowney FW Acrylic Water-Resistant Artist’s Inks
This is a pigmented acrylic ink. Water-resistant. A 3-4 star rating for permanence.

Francesco Rubinato Scented Calligraphy Inks
These lovely inks come with a scent appropriate to their color – ie, a lavender scent for the turquiose color.

 

Sumi Inks for Calligraphy

Traditional Sumi Ink is made from soot, water and glue. There are two basic types – one if made from soot from burnt vegetable oil and gives a warm brown-black ink. The other is made from soot from burnt pine and produces a cool, blue-black ink.

Yasutomo Liquid Sumi Ink
A good quality permanent black ink made from vegetable oil soot. Can be used for sumi painting and calligraphy.

Moon Palace Sumi Ink
A highly recommended ink. Dries waterproof.

Best Bottle Sumi Ink
A smooth, rich black Japanese SUmi Ink.

Bokuju Sumi Ink Black
A popular, shiny, dense black ink. Caution: it will eat your nibs.

Chinese “Youth” Ink
This is basically a liquid version of Chinese Stick Ink. Look for it in your local Chinatown.