Mixing inks for modern calligraphy

I’ve been mixing my own calligraphy inks since I started writing back in 2005. I’ve learned a lot along the way and wanted to share my top tips for mixing calligraphy ink with you.

All images by Emma B Photography

Why mix your own ink? Why not just buy calligraphy ink?

There are a few good ink brands on the market – but for colours they don’t allow much creativity, and sometimes they can be runny or of a consistency which doesn’t work brilliantly with a pointed pen for modern lettering. Mixing your own inks gives you an infinite choice of fun colours and complete control over the consistency of your inks.

Gouache as a base for calligraphy inks

I’ve used gouache inks from day one. Winsor and Daler are both widely available, and both have a fab colour range and are ace for mixing at home.

Gouache is amazing for its opacity. With a little white mixed in, almost any colour can work beautifully on dark papers – creating strikingly beautiful letters.

How to mix gouache for modern calligraphy

You need three ingredients:

  1. gouache (sold in tubes at most art stores)
  2. water
  3. gum arabic* (via art stores or online)

(You can skip the gum arabic if you’re just playing or practising, but it helps bind the pigments together so you can easily rub out pencil lines on a finished piece of calligraphy.)

How to mix your own calligraphy inks with gouache

Start with a pea-sized blob of gouache in a small jar. Use a paintbrush to slowly add drops of water, and mix in a little at a time. You’re aiming for a runny consistency which will give a strong colour (ie not too watery) on the page. Add a drop of gum arabic when you’re happy with the result – and then try it in your pen!

The best test of consistency is to write with your gouache ink. If it’s too thick it won’t flow well in your pen; too thin and there’s a risk it will drip in big blobs onto your paper. (If this happens to you often, try using less on your pen at a time. Paint it on with a paintbrush rather than spooning it up with your nib.)

Getting the best from gouache calligraphy inks

Treat your new handmade inks to some fabulous coloured paper – the darker the better.

Try using a dash of white as a base for all your inks – this will make them stand out beautifully on black, blue or any other dark paper colour.

Metallic gouache is wonderful too. I love Winsor & Newton’s gold and silver. Mix these only with water and gum arabic (no white!) and keep it quite thick for a gorgeous shine to your calligraphy projects.

Come to a modern calligraphy workshop and buy colourful inks in my pop-up shop!

Friday 11th August, 1pm – Manchester Craft & Design Centre – tickets £65
Friday 6th October, 1pm – Manchester Craft & Design Centre – tickets £65
Friday 20th October, 10am – Anthony Burgess Foundation – tickets £30*
Saturday 21st October, 10am – Anthony Burgess Foundation – tickets £30*
Friday 24th November, 1pm – Manchester Craft & Design Centre – tickets £65

*Workshop only price – calligraphy kits will be available to purchase on the day


Photography credits:

http://www.hoghtontower.co.uk/ | http://bigchieftipis.com/ | http://www.betsyslivingvintage.com/ | http://www.eventcrockeryhire.co.uk/ | http://www.arelesbridal.co.uk/ | http://www.theonewhobakes.co.uk/ | http://felicityfarmflowers.com/ | http://www.mediamua.com/ | http://www.kerrybakermua.com/ | http://calligraphy-for-weddings.com/