If you’re new to calligraphy, it’s easy to feel terrified at the prospect of modifying your supplies. Ideally, they should arrive ready to use — no need to change anything! In practice, that sometimes isn’t the case. In today’s blog post, you’ll learn why, when, and how to dilute ink to make it more user-friendly!
Why Dilute Ink?
If your ink is too thick, it tends to cling to the nib, and you’ll have a hard time getting it to descend. This often happens with inks that have sat out for long periods of time with their lids off (such as when you’re practicing calligraphy), allowing the water to evaporate out. That said, brand new inks can arrive thick as well!
If you dilute your thick inks with water, the ink flow will often improve. You’ll notice that the ink will go from nib to paper without much of a fuss, making your writing more enjoyable and consistent!
It’s important to note that not all inks need to be diluted. For example, thin inks like iron gall or walnut rarely require dilution. In fact, some thinner inks need to be thickened! (For more information, see the Help! My Calligraphy Ink is Bleeding article.) There are other inks, however, that will come to you needing dilution from the get-go, like Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White Ink. Because it’s more of a paint than an ink, you must add water to Bleed Proof White in order to write with it.
When to Dilute Ink
There are three instances in which you should dilute ink:
You notice that your ink has gotten thicker than usual or doesn’t flow freely from the nib.
Officially, I should recommend that you use distilled water to dilute your inks. Tap water can have impurities that encourage mold growth and mess with your ink performance. In reality, I use tap water to dilute my inks. That said, water quality varies from place to place. Your best bet is to buy a gallon of distilled water and keep it around for calligraphy purposes!
Once you have your water, you can transfer some of the ink that you want to dilute into a small container (such as a dinky dip). That way, you can just dilute some of the ink versus all of it. This is a good idea just in case you end up being surprised at the reaction the ink has to dilution!
Use a blunt syringe or a small spoon to transfer a tiny bit of water (three drops or so) into the ink.
Then, use a stir stick, toothpick, or chopstick to mix it up.
Test your ink out on a piece of paper. If the ink still wants to cling to the nib, add a little bit more water, then test again. Repeat the process until the ink is easy to use, and that’s all there is to it!
It’s not difficult to overload your ink with water. If you get too much water in there, no big deal! Just let the ink sit with the lid off overnight. That way, some of the water can evaporate out.
Also, note that if your ink refuses to leave the nib, it doesn’t always mean that you need to dilute the ink … instead, it may be an indicator that you need to clean off your nib. You can learn how in this tutorial (my favorite is the potato method)!
Finally, remember that adding water may make your color less vivid or less consistent. I like that look, but if you don’t, it’s important to be aware of that.
If you still have questions about how to dilute ink, I’m glad to answer — just ask in the comments! Feedback and suggestions are also welcome. Thanks very much for reading, and enjoy the rest of your week!