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What do you ink? A guide to artist inks

What do you ink? A guide to artist inks

What Do You Ink?

Ink is an incredible medium which encompasses the practices of calligraphy, printing and illustration. This liquid medium is among one of the oldest and has been used since the earliest times, from simple soot based inks right up to the latest acrylic based ones today and beyond.
In this article we will explain the brands of inks we have available and the particular qualities that differentiate them from each other, so you may find the one most suited to your project.

Drawing inks

Drawing inks are highly transparent and vibrant due to the strength of their dye-based colours.
Unlike watercolour paints, drawing inks do not tend to fade as noticeably when they dry which as a key advantage to working with the medium. Despite the colour strength dye-based inks are not lightfast and permanence will differ from brand to brand. Colour may eventually fade with prolonged exposure to bright and UV light and as such should be stored appropriately.

  • Winsor & Newton Drawing Ink feature a shellac binder which fortifies colour strength and makes the ink very water resistant once dry. Dilute with water to create watercolour like washes and colourful stain effects.
  • Dr P H Martins Radiant Concentrated Watercolours are a non-waterproof, concentrated dye-based ink which gives intense and vibrant colour. Due to the fugitive nature of the colours, they are best used for illustration and design work intended reproduction.
  • Tom Norton Walnut Drawing Ink is a rich brown toned ink created to mimic the traditional brown ink mixes of the old masters, without the acidity of those old inks. Perfect when used with a dip pen for sketchbook work. A concentrated darkening agent is also available and both are highly lightfast.


Acrylic Inks

These inks are a highly fluid form of acrylic paint, pigment suspended in an acrylic emulsion, which share the same qualities as standard paint in terms of their permanence and coverage. Acrylic inks can be intermixed with acrylic paint and are a great way to tint colours subtly. Due to their consistency they are ideal for using with refillable paint marker pens, mixing with mediums for pouring techniques and flow well through airbrushes.

  • Liquitex Acrylic Ink come in convenient 30ml dropper bottles in a great range of lightfast colour. They are also compatible with Liquitex range of professional mediums.
  • Golden Hight Flow Acrylics are ideal for airbrushing right out of the bottle and hand just as well with a brush. High Flow features a formula with increased durability, artist quality pigments and a superior range of colours.
  • Daler Rowney FW Ink boasts not only a comprehensive palette but also a wide variety of metallic and pearlescent colours for creating a number of iridescent effects. They also feature another range of highly opaque System 3 Inks.


Calligraphy inks

As the name suggests these inks are formulated to flow smoothly for calligraphy and lettering purposes. Inks intended for use with fountain pens are non-clogging and dye-based. Since pigmented ink is thicker it is prone to clogging fountain pens, even when diluted. Pigment rich inks work best for dip pen calligraphy as the removable nibs of such pens are easily cleaned.

  • Manuscript Fountain Pen Ink is a water-based dye ink designed for refillable fountain pens. Dye ink is highly unlikely to clog and easy to clean making it the ink of choice for your fountain pen. Keep in mind the ink is not waterproof.
  • Higgins Eternal Ink is a hybrid dye and pigment ink which creates a rich deep black ink which is favoured by both artists and calligraphers. The ink is best diluted with distilled water and is non-waterproof which makes it best suited for work intended for reproduction.
  • Winsor & Newton Calligraphy Inks feature a selection of richly pigmented colours intended for maximum lightfastness, although these inks are not waterproof. Due to the pigment heavy nature of the ink, they are unsuitable for use in fountain pens. This ink gives superb results with brushes or dip pens when in use.


Printing Inks

These inks are formulated with the adhesion and slower drying times required for printing, as such they are richly pigmented for a consistent colour. Screen printing inks have a viscous consistency and can be mixed with textile mediums for printing onto fabrics such as cotton and silk.
Block printing inks are thicker and more paste like, applied to a woodcut or linocut block with a roller and then printed with. This process produces a print when paper is applied to the block with pressure from something heavy, usually a printing press.
Colours can either be used straight from the pot or they can be mixed to make extra colours. Some printing inks might be oil based and as such it is important to know, and clean up using the correct products.

  • Brian Clegg Block Printing Ink come in 300ml tubes are suitable for use straight out of the bottle and can be intermixed with other inks in the range. They are best applied with an ink roller from a flat surface like an ink tray.
  • Adigraf Bock Printing Mediums come in both oil-based and acrylic water-based varieties can be mixed with oil and acrylic paints respectively to make inks with suitable adhesion for block printing.
  • Permaset Aqua are a premium screen-printing ink suitable for use on textiles. They come in 300ml pots in both a standard for light fabric and supercover for dark fabrics. 


Alcohol Inks

These alcohol-based, dyestuff inks are generally more vibrant than pigment-based inks due to the higher colour density of dye over pigment. The rapid drying time of the alcohol helps to prevent the ink from bleeding excessively when used on more porous papers. Alcohol inks are also highly blendable when wet and are water resistant once dry.

  • Piñata Alcohol Inks are a range of intensely bright artist-quality inks which use a base of high-quality ethanol. Applied with a dropper, brush or even poured from the bottle they work on a wide variety of surfaces for myriad of effects.
  • Winsor & Newton Promarkers feature a range of alcohol ink marker pens suited for graphic designs and illustration work. The ink can be blended when still wet on the page and layered once dry to increase the depth of colour.
  • Copic Ciao Twin Tipped Marker, Japan's favoured brand when it comes to alcohol-based marker pens. Their range of Ciao markers feature a comprehensive spectrum of colours and are well suited to illustration work for comics, fashion and design.


    Ben Platt
    Ben Platt

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