Mixing calligraphy Inks: diy guide

Hello! Hope you are all well on this Sunny albeit slightly chilly Spring day. Todays blog post is about mixing calligraphy inks. I am by no mean an expert - and most of what I know and do I have learnt online and through trial and error - but I have got a bit of a process at the moment that seems to work well for me! I will split this post into metallics and flat colours, as the process for mixing these inks is a bit different.

Flat Coloured Inks

When it comes to actual calligraphy inks I only really use black ink (find out which ones in next weeks posts about tools!). I have a couple of other colours but I never seem to use them as I don't feel that I get a great look out of them - maybe it's me, maybe it's the inks. When it comes to making custom colours for inks I use Gouache. My go to brand is Winsor and Newton, but I also like Daler Rowney (especially for metallics-the copper is the bomb). I tend to order them online as and when I need them in the hope that it doesn't feel like I am spending quite all my money on paint...and I can slowly build up to having a pretty broad spectrum and the ability to make most colours.

Essentials for mixing flat coloured calligraphy inks

  • Gouache 
  • Gum Arabic Solution - You can also get powder but I always use the fluid.
  • Containers - I use these from Lakeland, you can also steal mini jam pots from hotels (I do this too..ssssh) there are also other options online go for at least 30ml in my opinion.
  • Paint Brush
  • Test Paper
  • Water
  • Pipette
  1. Firstly get an empty container, I love mini jam jars - they just look cute - but you can use anything as long as it does up tightly, you don't want any spillages.
  2. Squeeze in your gouache colours, if you are doing a light colour then put the white in first and add the colour a tiny bit at a time, you'll be surprised how little you need of a bright colour if your making a pastel.
  3. Add a tiny splash of water and mix the paints thoroughly so they are totally combined then you can see if your close to the colour you want and what else you need to add. **Tip: Paint a little bit on your test paper and see what it dries as it will dry darker than it looks in the pot.** Continue doing this until you have desired colour.
  4. Now its time to add a bit more water and then pour a little bit of gum arabic in...I tend to eyeball it but it is probably better if you start off with a pipette. Mix in thoroughly.
  5. Add more water until you get a good consistency, I tend to aim for cream consistency, but it is quite a personal choice. I always use a Nikko G nib which is quite a hard nib so my ink is probably slightly thicker than someone that uses a softer nib like a Gillot 303. But experiment and youll soon find out what suits you. **Tip: If you add too much water then leave the lid off for a bit and it will evaporate. 

Metallic Inks

Metallic Inks are a bit of a different ball game. The basics are still the same but thanks to a wonderful wonderful invention called Pearl Ex powders you can make them EXTRA sparkly and metallic and all in all just bloomin gorgeous! I have always found it a bit tricky to find metallic inks that I loved, I have the finetec palette but find it a totally pain to use a brush (Lazy i know) so I much prefer making my own.

Essentials for mixing Metallic Inks

  1. Empty container (as above)
  2. Start with your metallic gouache. For the pale gold pictured I used silver as the base, and for the copper it was copper gouache.
  3. Little bit of water and mixing to get it super smooth.
  4. Add a bit of Pearl Ex, using a small spoon (I use a 1/4 teaspoon one). For pale gold I used brilliant gold and for copper I used a mix of super copper and pink gold. Add a little spoonful at a time and mix thoroughly. You will need to keep adding drops of water so that it doesn't get too thick and hard to mix. Keep testing on paper, this is essential!!! Keep doing this until you get desired colour. 
  5. Add Gum Arabic and mix in thoroughly.
  6. Add water until you get to the correct consistency for you. 

Mixing calligraphy ink is all about trial and error and finding what works best for you. If you want to get started on your calligraphy journey straight away, I'd recommend a modern calligraphy starter kit

If you want to mixing inks yourself, make sure that you have a load of scrap paper on hand so that you can keep colour testing. Once you think your ink is at the right consistency, grab a pen and try it - sometimes it takes a while of adding drops of gum arabic and water for me to get it to the right consistency. Also, remember that if you store the ink and go to use it after a while, you will need to add more water as some of it would have evaporated.  

Good luck with all your ink mixing!!! If you have any questions feel free to ask :)