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Making Your Own Ink and Paints

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Posted on : 10:47 AM | By : Nic | In :

This is from my book, a little section on ink and paint.  The inks are great to use with a calligraphy pen (the dippable kind) and a good horsehair brush is good for the oil-based paints.  Most of these recipes are from the 1800's.


How do I make all-natural ink?
Brown: Mash butternut, peanut, hazelnut, chestnut, or walnut hulls in a towel with a
hammer (or use tree bark off the ground); simmer 1 hour in ½ teaspoon salt, and ½
teaspoon vinegar.
Black: Add lampblack (burn a pine knot in a stove and hold a can over it to catch the
smoke - the soot is the lampblack) to the brown ink.
Blue: Put blueberries in a strainer and crush over a bowl until all the juice is squished
out. Mix ½ cup of blueberries, ½ teaspoon vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt.

How do I make alcohol ink?
In a small baby-food sized jar, fill it ¼ full with coloring powder. Then
add rubbing alcohol to the top of the jar.

How do I make milk paint?
1-quart skim milk (room temperature)
1 ounce hydrated lime (do not use quick lime, it reacts with water)
Optional: 1 - 2 ½ pounds of chalk, glue or rice paste for filler

Put the lime in a bucket, and add enough milk to make a cream, stir it well, and then
add the rest of the milk. Now add any coloring powder that you want, and paint.
Keep the paint until the milk goes sour. Paint takes 4 hours to dry, and covers 280
square feet per gallon. Let it sit in the sun for 2 weeks during a dry season.

How do I make oil paint?
Mix linseed oil with some kind of colored pigment. It does not take very much
pigment to make paint because the paint is usually a very thick paste. If your pigment
just turns into lumps, add a tiny bit of mineral oil to wet it.

How do I make gesso?
Gesso is a white or brown paint used to prepare a canvas to receive oil paint. Mix 3
parts glue with 1 part chalk and 1 part pigment in a metal container, put in a double-
boiler bath and heat, stirring well but slowly. Apply with a broad brush and let dry,
then re-coat.

How do I make whitewash?
Put 25 pounds hydrated lime (not quick lime) in 10 gallons boiling water, cover, and let
sit four days. Strain it, and then add a peck (8 quarts, or 2 gallons) of salt dissolved in
warm water. Boil rice to a thin paste and add to the lime. Dissolve ½ pound clear glue
in water and add to lime. Mix well and let stand at least 3 days before using. Heat it to
as hot as possible when you paint. Keep in a kettle.

What are coloring powders?
You will need to find paint powders that do not contain a binder. The Venetian
powders are made with iron oxide (or rust) and may be somewhat difficult to find. If
you are in a fix, you can make some using a red brick, or with red clay. Experiment
with other minerals to create other colors.

Comments (2)

oh I like the idea of making ink from nut hulls. That sounds like a great project with kids.

Pigments can be bought in powder form from art material suppliers, and in bulk, more cheaply (e.g. for painting walls) from theatrical suppliers, which are usually of lower quality, but good enough for decorating and play painting . The earth colors are the cheapest, being just ground up clay of various origin, some are burnt to give a more red (oxidized) hue. Earth colors are also less damaging to the environment and health. Some pigments, especially the cadmium range are very toxic.