Easy Recipes for Homemade Ink

A puddle of black ink, close-up
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Ink is one of the practical contributions of chemistry. Using basic materials found at craft supply stores, you can make invisible inks and tattoo inks in addition to writing and drawing inks. Although some ink recipes are closely guarded secrets, the basic principles of preparing ink are simple. All you have to do is mix pigment with a carrier (usually water). It helps to include a chemical that will allow the ink to flow fluidly and adhere to the paper (typically gum arabic, which is sold in powdered form).

Black Permanent Ink Recipe

The most popular ink, black permanent ink can be prepared at home using the following materials:

  • 1/2 tsp lamp black (This you can buy or make yourself by holding a plate over a candle and collecting the soot, or by collecting another form of 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 that 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. Applying a small amount of heat may improve the consistency of the solution, but be careful—too much heat will make the ink difficult to write with.

Brown Ink Recipe

Brown ink is a popular alternative to black ink and can be prepared without any char or lamp black. All you need to make it is:

  • 4 teaspoons loose tea or 4-5 tea bags
  • 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 and mix until you have a consistent solution. Strain the ink so that you are left with a thick paste and allow it to cool before bottling it.

Prussian Blue Ink Recipe

An even simpler recipe, and one that produces a bold color, is this recipe for Prussian blue, which painters have been using since the early 1700s. All you need to make it is:

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

Mix the pigment into the water until you have a rich blue ink with a thick consistency.

Unless you happen to have a calligraphy pen, the easiest way to use these inks is with a homemade quill or a paintbrush.

Blackberry Ink Recipe

Like the recipe above, this one produces a rich blue ink, but one that is darker and made entirely of natural materials. To make it, you will need:

  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp gum arabic
  • 4 drops thyme oil

First, heat the blackberries in the water, pressing them to release the juice. Once the mixture is dark blue and all of the juice is released, strain the mixture and stir in the gum arabic until you have produced a thick paste. Add the thyme oil and stir. Allow the ink to cool before bottling it.