Reasons to dilute calligraphy ink

Every newcomer to calligraphy has had an unsatisfactory ink experience, the problem has probably been with the consistency (thickness or thinness) of the ink, and through the addition of a little water (2-3 drips) can work wonders in both your ink experience and calligraphy enjoyment.

Why Dilute Ink

Ink that is too thick tends to cling to the nib and will not easily flow from the nib point. This can happen with inks that have sat  for long periods of time with their lids off (such as when you’re practicing calligraphy), which allows the water to evaporate out.

Note:  By diluting thick ink with water you will improve the ink flow from the nib to the paper.

Some inks such as iron gall and walnut inks do not generally require dilution, but there are times where thinner inks need to be thickened, then there are other inks such as Dr Martin’s Bleed proof white ink (more a paint than ink) that will need to be diluted before using.

When to Dilute Ink

There are three situations when you should dilute ink:

Your ink has become thicker or doesn’t flow freely from the nib.

Your new ink is too thick to use (such as Bleed Proof White ink and Lumiere ink).

You want the ink colour to be less intense.

How to Dilute Ink

It is recommend that you use distilled water for diluting your inks. as tap water can have impurities that encourage mold growth and affect your inks performance. In reality, tap water quality varies from location to location so it would be a good idea to purchase some for calligraphy uses.

1  After you have decided on your choice of water, transfer some of the ink that you want to dilute into a small container (such as a dinky dip).

Note: It is recommended that you dilute your ink in small batches versus all of it (no point in ruining a whole bottle of ink) in case the diluted ink does not have the effect you were looking for

2 Use a blunt syringe or a small spoon to transfer a tiny bit of water (three drops or so) into the ink.

3 Using a stir stick, toothpick, or chopstick mix the water and ink completely.

4 Test your ink on a piece of scrap paper (the same type as your workpiece). If the ink still wants to cling to the nib, add a little bit more water, then test again.

5  Repeat the process until the ink is easy to use.

It is easy to overload your ink with water. If you mixed too much water with the ink, just let the ink sit uncovered overnight to allow some of the excess water to evaporate out.

Note:  You will know there is to much water in your ink because it will have a very faded colour and/or bleed at the edges of your stroke.

Note:  If your ink refuses to leave the nib, it doesn’t always mean that you need to dilute the ink, instead, it may be an indicator that you need to clean off your nib. 

Note: Adding water may make your ink color less vivid or less consistent.