Natural Ink recipes

Drawing/Writing Inks

Mordant (only needed for some substances). The most common and safest mordants are alum and iron. Iron can be obtained by boiling the dye in an iron skillet or adding a rusty piece of iron to the pot. Soda ash is also known as washing soda or sodium carbonate. It is an alkaline mordant and will bring out different colours.

Substantive materials, such as onion skins, turmeric, tea and black walnuts, do not require a mordant.

Gum Arabic is a natural substance that helps thicken the liquid, and control the flow onto paper. It also preserves colour.

Thyme Essential Oil is used to help prevent mould.


Simmer 1 cup of fresh or 1/2 cup of dried plant material with 1 cup of water and a mordant (if necessary) for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain out the plant material. You should have about 3-4 ounces of liquid. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon Gum Arabic while the ink is still warm so it dissolves easily, and let it cool. Pour the cooled ink into a small bottle and add 3 drops of thyme essential oil. The ink is ready to use to write or draw.

Printing Ink


Rice Paste (Nori), Pigments, Gin


  • Mix 1tsp of gin with 1tsp of water (1:1)
  • Mix 2 tbsp. pigment with 2tbsp. gin/water to create a creamy consistency, adjust as required. Mix in small container with chopstick and move to palette
  • Add 1-2tsp of Nori Paste (thinned a little with water) and mix to desired consistency. When rolling, if it is not sticking to the roller, add more Nori paste.


Find something that dries the color you want, dry it very slowly (the slower you dry it the more color will be preserved) then grind it into a very fine powder using something smooth, flat and nonporous such as a pestle and mortar. Start with small bits of what you’re going to grind and work it into a very fine powder.

Black – Charcoal, burning coal, tar

White – Chalk, gypsum, bones/horns (off white)

Red – Red fruit or berries

Blue – Blue pigments have always been rare and hard to come by. Ancient Egyptians were famous for “Egyptian Blue” one of the first blue pigments that involved mixing copper, lime, sand and natron, then baking it in a furnace. Now since this will probably be hard for you do to, your best bet is indigo leaves or duck poop. But really, there was a reason most ancient art didn’t have blue.

Yellow – Dried urine, yellow clay, or a few different berries

Green – Most plants and unripe berries

Brown – different kinds of soil

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