Using Colored Calligraphy Ink

Using colored calligraphy ink is fun and easy — it can add some personality to your correspondence or brighten up a sketchbook in an instant. If you have acrylic paint laying around, try your hand at making your own colored calligraphy ink as well!

Using Color Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

Every week, I call my mom, and we have a long conversation on varied topics such as Desperate Housewives and midcentury modern couches from West Elm. {Superficial? Us? No way.} In the midst of our conversation today, Mom wanted to know the lowdown on using colored calligraphy ink. I think she’s graduating from the school of black and white inks, and she’s ready to take the plunge.

If you’re like my mom and are curious about using colored calligraphy ink, this is the blog post for you. First, let’s talk about pre-mixed inks. In my lineup above, you’ll see that I have several from Winsor & Newton. I got this particular set from Michael’s, and I love the opaque, crisp strokes that these colors make.

Using Colored Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

There is a reason that I prefer black or what ink to color ink, though. Colored calligraphy inks are generally extremely thin, and they don’t thicken {unlike the Winsor & Newton white ink, which does thicken a bit over time}. Because of this, sometimes getting the ink to flow consistently while making large letters can be exasperating. I generally try to encourage my wedding clients to have me use black or white ink for this reason — using colored calligraphy ink can take twice as long and the results aren’t as smooth. However, if you’ve got a small project, colored ink should suit your purpose just fine.

Using Colored Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

Colored calligraphy ink can also be great for line drawings; I designed this invitation using my burnt sienna and red inks:

Using Colored Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

I have noticed that colored calligraphy ink is more fussy than black or white ink when it comes to the surface it’s used on. Because of the high water content, the chance of bleed is pretty high if you have a porous paper surface — say, kraft paper or even low-quality drawing paper. That’s why I generally use watercolor paper when dealing with colored calligraphy ink: it stops ink in its path and everything remains nice and crisp. So, if you are going to use colored calligraphy ink, be sure and test out your surface first — you may be unpleasantly surprised when the ink spreads into “spider webs” along the edges of your paper.

Also note that unlike India ink, colored calligraphy ink is not waterproof; so if you are planning on using the ink in a mixed media piece with watercolor, keep that in mind!

If you don’t have any colored calligraphy ink laying around, you can actually make your own ink from acrylic paint and water. It’s not going to be as vibrant or opaque as ready-made color calligraphy ink, but I like the slightly transparent, watercolor-like results.

Using Colored Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

Making your own acrylic colored calligraphy ink is easy. First, identify the color of paint you want. I’ve chosen a nice purple:

Using Color Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

Then pick out an airtight container and pour a little bit of water in:

Using Color Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

And squeeze some of the paint into the water {how cool does this look?}:

Using Color Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

Next, just shake it up:

Using Color Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

And that’s it! You’re ready to write:

Using Colored Calligraphy Ink | The Postman's Knock

You can find more information about making your own colored calligraphy ink from calligraphy paint at eHow. Reader Susan also pointed out that watercolor paints are very wet and effectively work great for DIY calligraphy ink at a cheap cost. So — there’s another route to creating colored ink that you might consider!

While we’re on the topic of calligraphy, ย I have one more thing to show you. I just created a couple of calligraphy-heavy bridal suites that I am drooling over because of the fantastic letterpress work by Boxcar Press in Syracuse, New York. Boxcar used foil stamping to make the client’s design dream a reality, and I couldn’t be happier with the result! The top image is of a save the date for an Atlanta bride whose fiancรฉ has Persian roots. To figuratively “marry” the two, I created an Atlanta skyline with a Persian motif. The bottom two photos showcase a stunning suite with a custom map and shiny gold calligraphy invitations and RSVP cards.

Letterpress Wedding Invitations | The Postman's Knock

I love creating calligraphy for letterpress — so fun and so rewarding! But for now, I am going to spend the rest of the evening experimenting with my new purple ink, and I hope I have inspired you to shake up a little colored calligraphy ink of your own!

I am wishing you a great rest of the week, and I’d like to thank you, once again, for reading! “See you” on Saturday!

XO, Lindsey | The Postman's Knock


    • says

      Thanks so much, Emily! I am salivating over the delicious recipes on your site. I went to Ireland a few years ago {Dublin + Cork}, and I still can’t forget how good the soda bread with butter was. A lot of people who visit Ireland love the Guiness, but give me Irish baked goods any day. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks so much for reading!

  1. Bonnie Schulte says

    Love reading your posts.I only wish I was as good of an artist as you, using the pen. But, I’ll keep reading and learning, so thanks for the inspiration…Bonnie in Cold cold and as before..White WI

    • says

      All it takes is practice — and goodness knows that with the weather outside like it is, there’s ample indoors time for that right now. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I can, unfortunately, still relate to your weather woes! We have a good five or so inches of snow on the ground and there’s ice all over the place. On the bright side, it’s great “relax with a cup of tea” weather. :)

    • says

      Hi Rory! Yes — it’s Winsor & Newton gold! I wanted to show a sample of it, but in order to use that ink I generally have to let it sit upside down for a while so the solids that have settled at the bottom mix with the liquid a bit. I love it, though; once it’s all mixed, the gold is opaque enough to use on black paper. If you can’t tell, I’m a big Winsor & Newton fan. :) Thanks so much for reading!

  2. says

    Have you tried the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay inks? They’re colored India inks, but I have such trouble with them because they clog up my nib even if I don’t let the ink dry. Any suggestions or should I just go for Noodler or Windsor-Newton?

    • says

      Hi Meredth!

      I haven’t tried the Dr. Ph Martin’s inks — though I was looking at reviews and it seems not many people are having trouble with clogging. I will probably buy those inks if I need to make a mixed media piece with color ink and watercolor since it seems their advantage is they are waterproof.

      If you live near a Michael’s {or a Hobby Lobby?}, you might buy one of the Winsor and Newton inks just to see if it works any better for you. They might be runnier and therefore less prone to clog than the Dr. Ph Martin’s because they are water-based. If you’re able to try a Winsor & Newton, please let me know how it goes!

      Do you usually have trouble writing with black India ink? Sometimes my black India ink gets a little bit gummy and hard to use if I put it in a not-so-airtight container. That may be the case with the colored inks?

      I wish I could be of more help! Keep me updated on whether the Winsor & Newton works better for you {I haven’t tried Noodler}. :)

      • Meini says

        Hi lindsey ! Loving your adorable blogs and works!
        Its my first time to try Dr’ ph martins India bombay ink. But i really confuse because the ink is too thick to flow and always comes out gummy Or do i need to mix with some water? Pls your advice โ˜บ๏ธ

        • says

          Hi Meini!

          If the ink is too thick to flow, first try shaking it or rolling it around with the cap on so the ink can blend together better. It may have separated! If it’s still too thick, add a few drops of water at a time until it reaches the consistency you need. :)

          I hope this helps!

  3. says

    I just stumbled upon your most wonderful blog! I am a bit of a letter writing, paper adoring freak ( a term of endearment) myself. You pictures are absolutely beautiful. So lovely to run into a kindred spirit that still believes in the power of a handwritten letter. I just followed you on pinterest. Nice to meet you.

    • says

      Hi Barb!

      I’m so glad you like the blog. And yes! The “dying out” of the handwritten letter is beyond me. There aren’t many things in the world that stir up more anticipation or happiness than getting a hand-written letter in the mail. It’s such a simple but meaningful gesture — my dream would be for a “Letter Renaissance” to occur. Email is often a bit to easy and impersonal.

      As a Pinterest follower, you’ll see that my other great love is homemade cooking. I LOVE using Pinterest for finding great recipes, and that’s my chief use of it. :)

      Keep writing and thanks so much for reading!

      In paper adoring freak solidarity,


  4. says

    I know this is an old post, but I want to start playing with inks other than black india ink, so I’ve been doing some digging! I’ve noticed in a couple of your posts that you shake your inks to mix them. I know with nail polish, you shouldn’t do this, because it leaves bubbles in the polish (you should roll the bottle between your palms instead). So, I’m wondering, after shaking the ink, have the bubbles caused any difficulties?

    • says

      Hi Stephanie!

      Ah, going back into the archives! :) At this point, I do generally stir inks to mix {usually with the wooden side of a paintbrush} because it’s ready to use quicker! However, if you do shake, you’ll just wait a couple of minutes and the bubbles will go away. Since ink is less viscous than nail polish, the bubbles just disappear.

      Which leads me to ask: can a person blend nail polishes? Or are you talking about just reviving the polish in general {after it’s been sitting for a while and has separated a bit}? This is helpful information to me because I always shake up nail polishes!

      • says

        Good to know, thanks Lindsey!

        I was just referring to reviving the polish after it has been sitting for a while. But to answer your question, yes you could blend nail polishes. I wouldn’t recommend blending colours in the bottle though (unless you don’t like the colour you bought, I guess, haha). But you can mix colours on a plastic sheet, or paper plate to make new colours or lighten colours with white, etc.

        I don’t generally blend colours, except to get a gradient effect. In which case, you can use two colours and mix the middle (so you end up with a rectangle with one colour gradually fading into the other) and then dab it onto the nail using a makeup sponge!

        Happy nail painting! ๐Ÿ˜€

        • says

          You sound like a bonafide pro … if I dabbed nail polish onto my nail using a makeup sponge, I would end up with a mess. My nails are hardly ever painted in my blog posts for a reason; I’m horrible at painting them, and when I do, the paint never stays on! Suffice it to say that I’m in awe of your nail polish skills right now.

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