Ink is the fluid we use to write, draw, print or sketch figures, impressions, words, etc on any solid medium where it is visible. The history of ink use can be traced back to eons ago with origins in Egypt, India and China being among the first recorded use of ink. Then, it was made from fluids extracted from plants, tree bark, animal skins, burning bones, soot, etc. Over time the process has become modernized with commercial production of ink now being a solely industrial and chemical based process. You can still make ink at home using a few simple ingredients which are easily found in everyday use; once you have the basics down, you can experiment in several ways with this material and create different kinds and colors of homemade ink!
- Black Ink: There are several ways to make black ink. Here's an easy one: take one egg yolk, ½ teaspoon lamp black, ½ cup honey and one teaspoon gum arabic. Lamp black is available commercially or you can make it yourself by holding a plate or any receptacle over a lit candle - it will take some time to collect half a teaspoon though. Mix all of the ingredients to make a thick paste and add enough water to this paste to dilute it so that it flows easily as a fluid.
- Gall-Iron Ink: This method was the most frequently used method before synthetic chemicals came into use for ink manufacture. The one drawback of gall-iron ink is that it is very corrosive to steel and you should ensure that the implements you use while making or using this ink are not made of steel. You will require tannic acid, distilled water (wine or vinegar can be substituted), galls, solid gum arabic, and iron sulfate.
The quantities required are 35 grams of tannic acid, 0.5 oz of gum arabic, 21 oz of iron sulfate, 8 oz of distilled water and galls. These can be gathered from woody areas where they can be found as circular growths on twigs or leaves typically around insect larvae on the tree or plant; tannic acid can be squeezed out of tea bags steeped in boiling water.
Crush and grind the galls to a fine powder, add water and let the solution ferment for about three days. Strain the solution after three days, add the iron sulfate and let the solution stand again for four days. At the end of this period, mix in the gum arabic and ensure it is fully dissolved. The ink is now ready for use and can be stored, but not in anything made of steel.
- Brown Ink: You’ll need one teaspoon of gum arabic, a few teabags or a couple of tablespoons of loose leaf tea (more if you want a deeper color), and half a cup of boiling water. Pour the water over the tea bags or loose tea which is placed in a large bowl, add the gum arabic and allow it to steep for about 15-20 minutes. Crush the tea leaves with a spoon to extract as much tea essence as possible and strain into a clean bowl. The liquid must be cooled before being bottled for storage and use.
- Other types of ink: You can also make ink with some interesting components such as indigo dye, walnuts, different types of dark berries, lemon juice, etc. For making ‘invisible ink’, simply write with a pen filled with lemon juice. Once it's dry, hold the paper over an open flame to heat it and your writing with invisible ink will appear! Indigo dye mixed with water will give you a deep Prussian blue ink. To make walnut ink, crush shells of walnuts into a fine water, mix with water and heat on a medium flame for about thirty minutes. Allow the solution to cool and stand overnight; the next day, strain the solution and add some vinegar. Your walnut ink is now ready for use. To prepare ink from any dark berries, crush them and strain to extract the juice. Add some vinegar and salt mix well and store.
Now that you have the basic methods of ink preparation down and you know the supplies you'll need, you can experiment with other ingredients to make new types of ink. However, be careful while using any chemicals and definitely keep away from children.