Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Inks from Natural Dyes

Those of you who have been following my blog will know that I have been playing around with making natural dye inks ever since a local artist David Brightmore asked me to make him a set of inks from natural dyes a few months ago. I have had the inks on the back of my mind for a fow weeks and earlier on this week made space to make some of the traditonal recipes. I first made two "blacks" the first the traditional gall nut ink the second a later in time ( 1800's) slightly more complex one with logwood, and sugar. Then I embarked on the brazilwood reds the traditional source of most red inks up until the the 1920's. I made two the second of which I used in the pictures are with the brazilwood extracted in acetic acid. This latter recipe I found on the net in Henrietta's Herbal Page .
the blacks from David Carvahlo's book 40 centuries of ink. published by ISBN 1.406844136. Browsing through Dominique Cardons Book Natural Dyes I came across a reference to fermented persian berries being used to make a green paint and then felt that I really wanted to make a set of dyes quickly having got into the swing of it, and not wait around for a week or so to ferment the berries so I made up a concentrated solution of the extract of rhammus berries and made an ink with that. That is the yellow. I have been playing around with making paints, it is these that I use to paint the covers of my dye books, for years but had not found a good strong yellow to paint with except saffron. So I was extremely pleased to find that the persian berry extracts made a really strong yellow. The final colour the green is made with an extract called "green" surprisingly enough and this is apparently extracts from various plants. This I also made up into a a strong solution and made an ink from that. Then I painted a picture! I am pleased with them with some reservation. I had hoped that the brazilwood would be redder and the black is really a charcoal grey,nice to use in a paint but not quite dark enough for writing. However I have got the hang of making inks and for my own purposes ,which is to paint pictures as a starting point for my felt landscapes , I am more than happy with them and think I will try the cochineal red apparently more brilliant but less lightfast and purple. I have put samples of ink painted onto card in my southwest facing window for a month so will see how these fare lightwise.
Oh! and the blue on the right hand side is not an ink but a thickened ( with gum tragacanth) indigo concentrate.


  1. Great links! Looks like your research is paying off, the colors are wonderful.

  2. Fabulous colours, thanks for sharing.

  3. I do like the colours, you have made good progress, it's fun to be out here watching.

    I hope they prove reasonably good in your light-fast test.

  4. These look absolutely stunning!