Creating White Calligraphy

White Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock

We woke up to Boulder being blanketed in white, and it’s still snowing. Considering all the opaque white of the outside world, today is a wonderful day to discuss how to create opaque white calligraphy. Let me invite you into this warm little apartment, where we’re wearing flannel jammies with wool sweaters, enjoying chamomile tea, and eating sweet and salty Bin-Bin rice crackers {say what? — no, but really, they’re delicious}.

Boulder, CO Winter Wonderland | The Postman's Knock

Now that you’re all settled in, let’s get started! If you’re reading this post, creating white calligraphy may be a mystery to you. It sure was to me! I used to browse Etsy and notice gorgeous wedding envelopes covered in strokes of vibrant white calligraphy. The calligraphy was bright white and opaque — I couldn’t figure out how they did it. I scoured the internet high and low for advice on creating these opaque miracles; but no one seems to have blogged about it {until now}.

I took a chance and purchased Winsor & Newton white calligraphy ink from MisterArt.com.

White Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

If you are interested in creating white calligraphy, this Winsor & Newton white calligraphy ink is the stuff you want. I would advise you to buy more than one, not only to justify the shipping cost {$7.50, ouch}, but also because you’ll need one bottle to keep refilling the other bottle. The reason I keep one bottle for refilling and another for keeping filled to the brim is you need to make sure that this ink is stored in an air-tight container or else it congeals like you wouldn’t believe. I haven’t found better air-tight containers than the little glass containers that are original to the ink, thus my “empty one bottle to refill the other” technique.

White Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

Creating white calligraphy is simple if you already know how to write with India ink. If you’re starting from zero, don’t worry — just check out my other tutorials on creating calligraphy before reading on:

All you need to create white calligraphy is your Winsor & Newton ink and an oblique or straight calligraphy pen. You’ll also need a strong nib that isn’t too fussy about thick ink; note that white calligraphy ink is considerably more viscous than India ink.

Pen Nibs for White Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock

The nibs that I have experienced the most success with are: Hunt Imperial 101, Hunt Ex-Fine 512, and the Hunt Extra Fine 22 {see the nibs on the right in the photo}. These nibs are thin, but strong enough to smoothly write with white ink. The nib to the far left in the photo is a Hunt Mapping Round Pointed 103 nib. I use this nib quite often in creating delicate black calligraphy on wedding envelopes, but I recommend only using it with white ink in special circumstances. The ink needs to be very watery for anything to flow out of this nib, and even then the ink won’t keep its flow for long. Consequently, the special circumstances I speak of are instances in which you need to create very small, fine white calligraphy. For example, I just used this nib with white ink in order to create delicate return addresses on the back of wedding envelopes.

White Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock

Now that we’ve covered the nibs, here are a few other tips related to creating white calligraphy:

  • After the ink sits out for about an hour, it will start to get thicker. Because of this, your new motto is “Dilute, dilute, dilute”. Don’t be afraid to put in as much as 1/8 tsp of water at a time to make the ink more manageable. I shake a few drops of my dipping water into the container of white ink, tightly close the lid, and shake up the ink. Et voilà, ink that is manageable to write with again.
  • I have tried water-based white calligraphy inks {as opposed to acrylic-based inks, like Winsor & Newton}, and found that they are not opaque. That’s why I say Winsor & Newton is the way to go.
  • White ink can be used to write on any dark or dark-ish color of paper. Use it to create correspondence that stands out!
  • As a business owner, I love using white ink to write “Thank You” on the kraft paper-wrapped packages that I send out to clients. It’s a very nice, unique touch.

If you have any questions about using white ink in your calligraphy endeavors, please do not hesitate to comment! Quite a few of you have sent me emails over the past couple of months with questions about using white ink, and I I hope I have covered everything here. If not, ask away! Someone else probably has the same question that you do.

Whether you’re snowed in like we are, or you live in the southern hemisphere and are about to head to the beach, I hope your weekend is wonderful and you find some time to create something that makes the world a little prettier. Thanks again for reading, and see you Wednesday!

XO, Lindsey

Comments

  1. Albrecht Clauss says

    Hello from Germany!

    Thank you very much for this interesting post! Trying this ink will be an interesting experience!
    My calligraphy teacher taught me the use of diluted of diluted opaque white gouache. It is important to pay attention to the special kind of opaque white: a simple one like in paint-boxes for children will not do: it is either to thick or not enough opaque. So use “Finest Artist’s Calligraphy Gouache” by SCHMINCKE – if availiable!

    Good luck and regards,
    Albrecht.

    • says

      Hi Albrecht!

      I did a brief search for Schminke’s Calligraphy Gouache on the web … it seems that at this time it is only available in Europe {you lucky Europeans}! Luckily, Winsor & Newton does the job well here; though whenever I have the chance to try out the Schminke’s gouache, I will certainly jump at it.

      Do you dilute the opaque white gouache in an airtight container, use it, and keep it until ready for use again?

      Thanks very much for the input! Hello from Colorado. ;)

  2. Bonnie says

    I just bought Higgins “Pure White”. I haven’t had a chance to open and use it yet, but it looks thin. I’m going to use it on kraft envelopes. After reading your post, I wonder if it will be opaque. It is waterproof, and that was my only concern when buying it. I know very little about using the correct ink for calligraphy, but look forward to learning and seeing what I can do. I’m just going to use this for “fun” mail art, so it really isn’t as important as wedding invitations. I’ve used the black Higgins, years ago, and had good luck with it… will see how good this white ink is. Bonnie in VERY white WI

    • says

      Hi Bonnie!

      I have the Higgins white — it didn’t work very well for me on kraft paper, though by no means don’t let that discourage you from taking a crack at it! Just know that if it doesn’t work, it’s not just you — it’s the ink. I am not sure what the Higgins ink is meant for, but I conjecture that it may be intended to add light highlights in ink drawings. Let me know what your results are! :)

      {And I can relate to your WI weather … when we got in the car this evening, the windows were frozen on both the outside and the inside!}

    • Albrecht says

      Hi, Lindsey!

      As for keeping the white gouache, I use a more or less airtight little glass – if the content has dried up you just add water again …

      Best regards from springlike Germany!
      Albrecht.

      • says

        I’m feeling a little resentful at “springlike Germany” because we have so much snow on the ground and cold weather here in Colorado right now! ;) Thanks for the tips on the storage!

    • says

      Thanks, Bettina! I’m loving your blog — we just took our own little NYC trip in September. Brooklyn was my absolute favorite. If you like Mediterranean food, try Tut Café next time you are there. :) And yes! Enjoy the calligraphy tutorials! If you have any questions, I’m here.

  3. Christie Lee says

    I love the Winsor & Newton inks but haven’t experimented with the white. I’m excited by your tutorials. I can’t believe that you can add that much water and still maintain the integrity of the ink. I’ve been teaching my kids how important it is to keep their ink bottles clean at the top to prevent spillage (who knew that my India ink wouldn’t come out of my mothers brand new rug?). Tightening the glass bottles is probably my biggest fight with them to prevent wasting my ink.
    We have such crazy weather here in L.A. ( Lower Alabama) that it iced over for the first time I can remember around the time of your post. Our entire city shut down that Tues & Wed ( Southerners can’t drive in ice, snow or the threat of flurries) and it was 70 degrees by Friday of the same week. It’s is Carnival (Mardi Gras) here in Mobile, which is the original city that revived Mardi Gras after the Reconstruction so lots of Carnival Association invitations to complete before Fat Tuesday!

  4. kathleen says

    from your photo i can see that the ink looks very similar to the consistency of diluted standard acrylic paint. i use acrylic paints for dozens of uses either thick or diluting with various amounts of water. they are very cheap you only use a small amount, they can be kept in any airtight container and they are so versatile you are more likely to run out before they dry out..

    i suggest you use an old nib to start in case it clogs it up as acrylic paint dries kind of plastic(y ) but it may be worth a try as it could save you a lot in the long run.
    if you are not used to acrylic paints…. the DiY ones like Decoart and Anitas are a diluted thinner version of art acrylic they still work really well and go far (they will still need to be diluted for this project i’m guessing 1 part to 2-4 part water maybe). the art acrylics are thicker and go much further i recommend Reeves they are really thick so the are fantastic value.

  5. kathleen says

    just another thought i just remembered you can refill ink pads with acrylic paint and rubbing alcohol so if you want to try that too it may give you a better consistency and shelf like then mixing with plain water.

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