• Every Calligraphy Ink Question You Ever Had … Answered!

    In this article, I’m sharing absolutely everything I know about calligraphy ink in an FAQ format. My hope is that the information here will save you some time and frustration!

    Every Calligraphy Ink Question You've Ever Had ... Answered!

    To write today’s post, I combed through emails that I’ve received with questions about calligraphy ink. I’m glad to modify the article to include additional information, so if you have a question, please email or comment! Without further ado, here are answers to the queries — both little and big — that TPK readers have about inks:

    1. What is the best calligraphy ink?

    This is a loaded question because the answer depends on the effect that you want to achieve and your familiarity with writing calligraphy. You can find a guide to calligraphy inks here!

    Sumi Ink | The Postman's Knock
    Sumi ink is my pick for beginners, but there are tons of inks out there waiting to be tried and appreciated! You can find a guide to inks by clicking here.

    2. What is calligraphy ink made of?

    Most calligraphy inks are made of pigment and a binder. For example, sumi ink is made of soot and and shellac. Walnut ink is made of boiled black walnuts (which renders pigmented water) and gum arabic. Remember that not all calligraphy inks are vegan; some inks use animal glue as a binder, and shellac is a resin secreted by lac bugs! If that’s a concern for you, do some research before you purchase.

    Lacy Walnut Ink Envelope | The Postman's Knock
    Walnut ink — which I used to make this lacy envelope art — is generally made from boiled black walnuts and gum arabic.

    3. How do you make calligraphy ink?

    You use nearly any highly pigmented liquid as calligraphy ink! I’ve used coffee and wine as inks, and I love using watercolors for calligraphy. Gouache is fabulous, too. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try making your own walnut ink or try making your own iron gall ink!

    Woodland Watercolor Wreath Tutorials: Part III | The Postman's Knock
    I love using watercolors as calligraphy inks. You can learn how to use dry watercolors with your dip pen in this tutorial!

    4. Is calligraphy ink poisonous?

    Most calligraphy inks aren’t poisonous. All calligraphy inks in the TPK Supplies Shop, for example, are non-toxic. There are some inks to watch out for, however! Iron gall ink has — you guessed it — a lot of iron, which can hurt humans if we consume an excess of it. A good rule of thumb is not to ingest ink and to try and keep any little ones from ingesting it, too!

    My Five Favorite Calligraphy Inks | The Postman's Knock
    Iron gall ink is beautiful to write with, but it’s toxic if you drink it.

    5. Why does calligraphy ink feather/bleed?

    Ink bleed is something nearly all beginners experience. The problem is nearly always the paper and ink combination. If the ink is thin and the paper tends to absorb liquid quickly, then you’ll notice the ink feathering around the edges of letters! A lot of times, the problem can be fixed by switching out your paper or adding gum arabic to the ink.

    Help, My Calligraphy Ink is Bleeding!: 5 Ways to Fix This Common Issue | The Postman's Knock
    Adding a bit of gum arabic to your ink can help it to stay put on the paper! Get more details in this article.

    6. What paper responds best to calligraphy ink?

    32# laserjet paper is my pick for economic and high-quality calligraphy practice, but there are tons of papers out there that will welcome your dip pen. You can find my picks for papers in general here, and here is an article that provides sources for calligraphy-friendly envelopes.

    Calligraphy on 32# Laserjet Paper | The Postman's Knock
    I like using HP Premium 32# laserjet paper for general calligraphy practice. It’s cheap and practical!

    7. What’s the difference between dip pen ink and fountain pen ink?

    Unless a calligraphy ink bottle specifically says you can put that ink in a fountain pen, I wouldn’t. Pigment particles in dip pen calligraphy inks are fairly large and can clog up a fountain pen pretty badly! You can, however, use fountain pen inks to write with a dip pen. Just add some gum arabic to the ink first to thicken it up!

    The Osprey Scholar Pen
    You can use fountain pen inks with a dip pen, but you can’t use most dip pen inks with a fountain pen because they’ll clog the pen up! (Curious about the difference between fountain pens and dip pens? Check out this article.)

    8. Can you paint with calligraphy ink?

    Absolutely! I love to paint with calligraphy ink when I’m looking for a vibrant, opaque effect.

    "Inking" the Illuminated Letter
    I recently used India ink to make an illuminated letter, and I was so pleased with the stunning result!

    9. How long does it take for ink to dry?

    It depends on what kind of ink you’re using and the humidity in the area you live in. Some inks dry faster than others! In my experience, inks like sumi and Ziller dry in just a couple of minutes, while inks like Bleed Proof White take a good 10 minutes to dry to the touch and a few hours to fully dry. That said, I live in Colorado, where there’s very little humidity in the air, so my drying times may be incredibly short compared to the drying times in your area!

    Colored Pencil and White Ink Envelope | The Postman's Knock
    A good rule of thumb is to let ink dry overnight before erasing any pencil draft lines. For most climates, that’s long enough for ink to completely dry! (This is Bleed Proof White ink with colored pencil on a black envelope.)

    10. Does calligraphy ink expire?

    Some inks do eventually go bad because water evaporates out of them, leaving only pigment and binder. This can result in a texture that’s similar to Jell-O. For other inks (like iron gall) you might notice mold growth after the ink sits for a long time in storage. For the most part, though, if you use your inks every once in a while and dilute those that have binders (like India ink) on a regular basis, your inks should last for years, if not decades!

    Holiday Art + Calligraphy Giveaways | The Postman's Knock
    I love my McCaffery’s inks, but after a couple of years of sitting in storage, all of them grew mold. (I spooned out the mold and was able to continue using the inks, however.)

    11. How do you dilute ink?

    The most common calligraphy ink problem is poor ink flow, which is normally caused by too much water evaporating out of the ink. Just add some water back in a little bit at a time! For step-by-step dilution instructions, see this article.

    Why, When, and How to Dilute Ink | The Postman's Knock
    I use a blunt syringe to add water to my inks. A spoon or an eye dropper will work just as well!

    12. Can you revive dried ink?

    Sometimes you can revive dried ink! Add water to the dry ink, wait a few hours, then stir. That said, you probably won’t be able to replicate the ink’s original viscosity. If you can, it’s best to simply buy a new bottle.

    Dipping the oblique pen in sumi ink
    You might be able to add new life to dry ink by adding water and letting it mingle with the ink for a few hours before stirring.

    13. How do you store calligraphy ink?

    You can store most inks in their original bottles or in an airtight dip pen-friendly jar. Try to store inks upright if possible; otherwise, you’ll have an inky mess when you go to take the lid off! And, of course, keep your inks out of reach of children. I’m constantly ignoring that tip and paying for it with inky floors.

    6 Calligraphy Tips for Every Skill Level | The Postman's Knock
    I store my inks in a cupboard in my office.

    14. What’s the difference between waterproof and water-resistant inks?

    Waterproof inks are completely unaffected by water, while water-resistant inks will react to water but remain legible. You can see in the photo below that sumi ink is water-resistant, and Ziller ink is waterproof. Water ruins calligraphy created with Higgins ink, which isn’t a favorite ink of mine.

    Black Calligraphy Inks Comparison Part I: Ziller, Sumi, and Higgins | The Postman's Knock
    You can make any calligraphy waterproof by applying Microglaze to it. Learn how in this tutorial!

    I hope that this article answers any questions you might have about calligraphy ink, including questions you didn’t know you had! As you build your ink collection, more questions might come up. If they do, comment on this article or shoot me an email ([email protected]). I’m glad to answer to the best of my ability and possibly add to this article!

    My Calligraphy Ink Collection from the Intermediate Modern Calligraphy Online Course
    This is the “My Ink Collection” page from the Intermediate Modern Calligraphy Online Course. The page offers a great way to keep your calligraphy collection organized and see how different inks look on paper!

    Thanks very much for reading, and have a great week!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock