How to Make Ink

Make Your Own Homemade Ink

You can use chemistry to make your own colored ink. It's much easier than you think!
You can use chemistry to make your own colored ink. It's much easier than you think!. Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images

One of my self-improvement projects has been to try to learn how to write legibly. It would be easy to blame my handwriting on being left-handed, but it probably has a lot more to do with trying to write quickly rather than neatly. So, I got a pen and some ink and have been practicing.

Ink is one of the practical contributions of chemistry. You can make invisible inks and tattoo inks in addition to writing and drawing inks.

Although ink recipes may be closely-guarded secrets, the basic principles of preparing ink are simple. You want to mix a pigment with a carrier (usually water). It helps to include a chemical which will allow the ink to flow fluidly and adhere to the paper (gum arabic). Here are some easy ink recipes to get you started making ink yourself:

Black Permanent Ink Recipe

  • 1/2 tsp lamp black (which you can buy or can make by holding a plate over a candle and collecting the soot or from collecting other char)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp gum arabic
  • 1/2 cup honey

Mix together the egg yolk, gum arabic, and honey. Stir in the lamp black. This will produce a thick paste which you can store in a sealed container. To use the ink, mix this paste with a small amount of water to achieve the desired consistency.

Brown Ink Recipe

  • 4 teaspoons loose tea or 4-5 teabags
  • 1 teaspoon gum arabic
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

Pour the boiling water over the tea.

Allow the tea to steep for about 15 minutes. Squeeze as much tea (tannin) as possible from the tea or teabags. Stir in the gum arabic. Strain the ink and allow it to cool before bottling it.

Prussian Blue Ink Recipe

  • Prussian Blue pigment (sometimes sold as laundry bluing)
  • water

Mix the pigment into the water to achieve a rich blue ink.

Unless you happen to have a calligraphy pen, the easiest way to use these inks is with a homemade quill or a paintbrush. If you have recipes for inks you would like to share, feel free to post them.