Choosing inks/paints for Calligraphy

Inks were discovered and formulated by many ancient cultures, how they were formulated and produced comes from ancient texts and archaelogical study.


Brief History

Chinese ink can be traced back to the 23rd century bc using plant dyes, animal and mineral inks being based on graphite

India Ink was invented in China, but the materials used in in the manufacturing of the carbon pigment was often traded from India, hence the term India Ink.

A popular ink recipe used around 1600 years ago was made from Iron Salts (Ferrous Sulphite) mixed with Tannin and Gallnuts. Between 800-1500AD medival scribes used the crushed bark of dried hawthorn branches.

The two types of ink generally available at the invention of the printing press were not suitable due to blurring and their lack of adherence to printing surfaces, so an ink was developed using Ferrous Sulphate,gall, gum and water.

Over time an oily varnish like ink containing soot, turpentine and walnut oil was developed especially for use in printing presses.


Choosing the Ink

Over time I have found that the type of ink you will like is a personal choice, as I have found that some I like, some I don’t and others are in between. You are looking for inks that will flow easy from the nib/point of your writing instrument, if it is to thick it will not flow easily.

I was lucky in that I found my first ink in the starter kit that I bought in a local arts and crafts store. I have also found other manufacturer’s inks in Artist stores. I also found that I got the most information and advice on my questions about inks and suitable paints when I was in the Artist stores.

When choosing bottled inks, I suggest that you pick the nonwaterproof type regardless of the colour as waterproof inks are thicker and will cause you problems such as clogging the pen.


My Inks

My first ink was Speedball only because it came in the starter pack I bought, I have since bought acrylic artists inks from Daler&Rownay; due to the range of colours available, there is also the added benefit that they can be mixed just like paint to give me a unique colour.




Be aware that some inks are more expensive than others due to the mixture of colouring agents an other additives used in it’s manufacture,  therefore I would suggest that you shop around online, at your local artist store or at your local art and craft store. as with any hobby the cost will be whatever you are comfortable paying.