How to Mix Your Own Calligraphy Ink

Updated: Dec 2, 2019


Hello friends! This week I'm sharing all about how I mix my own calligraphy ink to use for practice, teaching, and finished projects! Read on to learn why I choose to mix my own ink, and a step-by-step guide showing how I go about doing it. If you'd like a free downloadable version of this guide, look for a link at the end of this post!

I know calligraphy supplies can be intimidating (there's so much out there to buy..and so many options of each thing!), and I hope that learning to mix your own ink will help to make lettering practice more enjoyable.

If you have any questions, shout out in the comments below or shoot me an email at Shannon@DeBordStudios.com (I love hearing from you)!

Happy Inking!

Why mix your own ink?

When it comes to calligraphy ink, there are so many options available for purchase. So why should you bother to mix your own? There are actually several reasons why calligraphers choose (and many times prefer) to mix their own inks!

First, calligraphy is a tradition dating back thousands of years, to the days of scribes copying manuscripts by hand. Part of that tradition is mixing homemade ink to use with our tools. While the necessity of this handmade ink has diminished, many calligraphers prefer to use traditional methods for all their work.

In addition to the Fiddler-on-the-Roof-like love for tradition, mixing your own ink gives a calligrapher much more precise control about what goes into the ink, it’s flow (how thick/thin it is), and coloring. With a few minor supplies, you can create nearly any color in the rainbow!

What do I need?

You’ll need a few supplies to get started mixing your own ink:

  • Gouache Paint

  • Distilled Water

  • Gum Arabic

  • Eye Dropper or Pipette

  • Paint Brush (old or cheap)

  • Ceramic Palate (or something to mix in)

  • Empty Container (Air-tight) to store your finished ink in

Where do we start?​​

My favorite part of mixing ink is drawing color inspiration from​​ all around me. Before you start mixing, find something around your home, on your clothes, or out in the yard that you want to use for color inspiration. Set it near your workspace or take a picture with your phone.

Let’s get mixing!

First, we want to get the right color. Take a small amount of each color you’ll be using in your mix and add it to a different section of your palate. Start adding one color at a time into the base color, and mix thoroughly until the paint is the desired color.

Next, we want to add our binding agent (gum arabic) and thinning agent (distilled water) in equal parts with a pipette or eye dropper. Add the gum arabic and distilled water in small increments, and look for the mixture to be the consistency of ink.

Once it’s close, begin testing it by brushing a bit onto a calligraphy nib and lettering with it. If the ink flows too fast or dries flat on the page, add a bit more gum arabic. If you have trouble with the ink flowing and writing consistently, then add a bit more distilled water. This last part can feel a bit picky, but the more ink you mix, the quicker you’ll be able to get a sense for the right consistency.

When you’re satisfied with the consistency of your new ink, use an eye dropper or pipette to transfer the ink to an air-tight container. Your ink is now ready to use and will keep at

room temperature for 6-8 weeks.

Some Things to Note:

* mixing paint can be difficult if you aren’t familiar with color theory. I highly recommend “Color: A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors” by Betty Edwards as a great beginning resource for color theory!

* I always add a bit of zinc white to my inks, to increase opacity on colored/dark paper

* using distilled water increases the archival quality (how long the color lasts on a finished piece) of your ink, as well as how long the ink stays good for after mixing.

* If your ink smells stinky when you open it, then it’s time to mix new ink!

* Your new ink will lose water to evaporation each time the container is open. This is easily remedied by adding more distilled water as you feel the ink getting too thick.

Have you tried mixing some ink? I'd love to know how it went! Please share your questions or methods in the comments below!

Don't go just yet...

If you'd like a printable PDF of this step-by-step guide, click here.

If you'd like to see some of my work, click here.

If you'd like to read more helpful articles, click here.

#calligraphy #learncalligraphy #calligraphyink #howto

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