Some people get turned away from fountain pens because of how expensive and elusive quality ink can be. However, contrary to what you may believe, learning how to make fountain pen ink isn’t rocket science.
You can make your own fountain pen ink in a matter of minutes. We’ll show you a variety of processes and combinations you can attempt as long as you have a few simple items on hand.
How To Make Ink For Fountain Pens
Mixing inks can be intimidating for beginners. To get the perfect blend, though, you don’t need extensive knowledge of chemistry.
You’ll notice that many of these recipes use gum arabic.
Gum arabic is a natural gum that comes from the sap of the acacia tree. It’s often used as a thickening or binding agent to make inks thicker. Fountain pen inks need a certain viscosity to stick onto the nib.
An ink that’s too thin bleeds through and anything too thick gets stuck on the nib. Because of its ability to thicken solutions, gum arabic reduces feathering, which happens when paper fibers are so absorbent that they pull ink from the pen, causing smudging.
Gum arabic ink is glossy and has a raised texture when dry. Keep in mind that when blended, the ink takes longer to dry, so don’t touch your work right away.
Gum arabic comes in two forms, powdered and liquid. The powder needs a more vigorous first mixing process. Once blended with ink, however, there isn’t much of a difference between liquid and powdered options.
The consistency of liquid gum arabic has a soapy and sticky feel like honey. It blends significantly faster than the powder since it’s already dissolved in water.
Whether you use the liquid or powder, as long as you stick to the same ink to gum ratio, your mixed inks will perform pretty much identically.
Black ink is like a well-fitting dress or suit: it never goes out of style. Black ink is by far the most common color for all sorts of pens, including fountain pens. It’s simple to prepare and many of the ingredients can be found at your local grocery store.
Ingredients and Equipment
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ tsp lamp black pigment
- 1 tsp Arabic gum
- ½ cup honey
- Mixing bowl and whisk
Step 1: Whisk together the egg yolk, honey, and acacia gum or gum arabic in a mixing bowl.
Step 2: Slowly drizzle in the lamp black, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken, eventually turning into a paste.
Step 3: Before using the ink, softly whisk in a few drops of water to achieve the desired consistency.
If the ink isn’t as smooth as you’d like, you can add some heat. Be careful not to overdo it because it will harden the mixture.
Brown ink is a common substitute for black ink and can be made without the use of char or lamp black.
Ingredients and Equipment
- Mixing bowl and plastic stirrer
- 4 tbsp loose tea leaves or 4 to 5 tea bags
- 1 tsp gum arabic
- ½ cup boiling water
Step 1: The first order of business is to make the tea. Like preparing a normal cup of tea, put the tea bags in a cup and pour the boiling water over them.
Step 2: Allow the tea to steep for 15 minutes to remove the compounds from the bags.
Step 3: After the tea has steeped, gradually add the gum arabic. Continue to blend until you reach your desired smoothness.
Step 4: Before storing the thick paste in a bottle, sift it to remove any remaining tea remnants.
Deep Blue Ink
Prussian blue is an artificial color that’s widely used in painting and cloth dying.
Although the descriptions or mixes may appear sophisticated, creating this hue is easier than you might expect. This process dates back to the 18th century and is still used by numerous artists and painters.
Ingredients and Equipment
- Prussian Blue pigment powder or color. This is frequently advertised as a laundry bluing agent.
- Mixing bowl and plastic spoon
- ½ cup fresh water
Step 1: Carefully combine the Prussian Blue pigment and water in a mixing basin.
Step 2: Continue to combine until you have a thick, rich consistency with a deep blue color.
Step 3: Last but not least, store in a clean bottle and thoroughly mix before using your fountain pen.
This ink mixture, like Prussian Blue, produces a dark blue tint akin to blackberries. This mixture is made entirely of natural substances.
Ingredients and Equipment
- Small bowl and a plastic or wooden spoon
- 1 cup fresh blackberries
- ½ cup of fresh water
- ½ tsp Arabic gum
- 4 drops thyme essential oil
Step 1: Place the blackberries in a basin and cover them with hot water to extract the juices.
Step 2: In the same basin, squeeze the blackberries until the colorful juices are collected. Continue pressing the blackberries to extract as much juice as possible.
Step 3: Repeat until the color is a deep blue.
Step 4: Sift the mixture with the strainer to separate the juice from the solid particles and residues. Make sure you place the cloth inside the strainer to catch the tiny seeds to make sure you get a super smooth liquid
Step 5: In a mixing bowl, combine the juice extract with the gum arabic and stir well.
Continue to mix until you achieve the desired consistency, or until the mixture resembles a paste. Now add the thyme oil, which keeps mold from forming, and carefully combine all the ingredients to achieve a flawless mixture.
You can store your fountain pen ink in a sealed container, preferably glass. To prevent evaporation, store the bottles in a dark, dry, and cool location away from direct sunlight.
Different Types of Ink
Since we’ve covered how to make ink, we can get into some basic concepts that will help you understand your ink better.
Fountain pen ink is mostly used for writing. Colors range from simple blacks and blues to vibrant reds and greens, melancholy greys and browns, and everything in between.
Some inks are designed to last a long time. Many inks fade over time, especially when exposed to the sun. Archival inks, which are non-fading and permanent, are designed to last.
Some archival inks are waterproof, so you can be confident the ink won’t wash away if the page gets wet.
Some specialist inks were not made for daily use. Some examples of these are UV and highlighter-reactive or invisible inks. Highlighter inks are designed to not cover up text when you write over it, allowing you to use your fountain pen to make sections of text stand out.
UV reactive inks are only visible when exposed to UV light. Even if you don’t use these inks regularly, they’re still fun to have around. You can use it to make glow in the dark art to give your art a bit of a split personality
Qualities of Ink
Shading is how light or dark the lines from your pen are. In other words, when the thickness of the ink spreads differently across the paper. You’ll find that there’s more ink in some parts of the paper than in others.
It’s one of the most basic and easily identifiable features of fountain pen ink. Regardless of the ink color or nib style you pick, shading can offer your handwriting a lot of personality.
On top of that, there’s a new trend in fountain pen inks called dual shading. This happens when the ink shade is not the same as the base color.
Have you ever seen a light blue ink with pink shading dry down, or a purple ink turn aqua? This property can make your work much more appealing. The disadvantage of these inks is that they are often quite pale, making them difficult to read.
Sheen is a characteristic that you find in many modern fountain pen inks. Sheen inks have a slightly metallic appearance where ink flow is heavier. The metallic appearance may be a different hue than the ink itself.
Producing ink with a sheen is difficult since it requires you to use a lot of ink and slow-absorbing paper. But, with the appropriate balance of ink, pen, and paper, you can get some sheen out of certain inks.
Metallic particles have been added to some contemporary fountain pen inks, creating a shimmer effect. Consider putting glitter in your ink. Because these inks are designed for fountain pens, they’re less likely to damage your pen. An ink that’s been glittered will leave solid metal residue in your pen and nib, so it’s best to use with cheaper fountain pens.
Even so, if you decide to use one of these inks in your pens, you should exercise caution because clogging is always a possibility.
Wet ink flows easily from a pen and is better suited for a flexible nib.
Dry ink feels like it doesn’t flow as easily out of a pen. It’s better suited to fine nibs that don’t require a lot of ink flow.
The drying period of ink is critical to delivering a high-quality finished product. An ink that dries quickly won’t smear as easily if you touch your paper right after you’ve finished writing on it.
If you’re left-handed and have trouble with your palm running over wet ink, faster drying ink is a tremendous help. In terms of writing, there is no actual benefit to a prolonged drying period.
As you’ve seen, producing fountain pen inks is surprisingly simple, and the ingredients are inexpensive and easy to come by. The fundamentals are straightforward, yet the diversity is ample. So once you get the basics right, you can start experimenting with food coloring to get all kinds of colors.
Fountain pen ink, along with a dependable fountain pen, has become an indispensable component of both contemporary and classic literature, as well as works of art. These ink types may appear to be some mysterious substance that is difficult to come by, but that conception couldn’t be further from the truth.