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Natural Ink

Once you start making ink, the world never quite looks the same. Here's how to make your own colored inks to use in arts and crafts projects. Learn how to gather natural materials — leaves, berries, bark, moss — and transform them into rich, kid-friendly hues.

natural ink swatches

Source: Martha Stewart

Introduction

The base recipe comes from our friend Jason Logan who showed us how he makes and uses natural inks. Pictured pigments from left to right use the following main ingredients: coffee, black bean, sumac, black walnut, spinach, red cabbage, iris petal, elderberry, turmeric, grape juice, pokeweed berry, buckthorn berry, jicama, onion skin, wild grape, and goldenrod.

materials

  • Foraged leaves, flowers, and berries
  • Water
  • Salt
  • White vinegar
  • Gum arabic (available at art-supply stores)
  • Colorful plant
  • Whole clove or wintergreen oil
  • Old pot (stainless steel works best)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Rags
  • Coffee filter
  • Funnel
  • Wide-mouth glass jar
  • Glass bottles with lids

steps

  1. Gather your materials, many of which can be found at home or outside in the backyard.
    make your own ink step 1
  2. In an old pot, add leaves, flowers, or berries, water, salt (1 dash per cup) and white vinegar (1 tsp per cup). Heat, keeping just below bowling.
    make your own ink step 2
  3. Cook for at least an hour or until water takes on a deep, rich color. Use a strip of paper to test your color.
    make your own natural ink step 3
  4. Place a coffee filter inside a funnel, then the funnel inside a wide-mouth glass jar. Pour the water slowly into the top to filter the ink.
    make your own natural ink step 4
  5. In a glass bottle, add gum arabic (one part to 10 parts ink) and a whole clove or a drop of wintergreen (as a preservative). Pour ink into the bottle, leaving some space at the top. Close with a tight-fitting lid.
    make your own natural ink step 5
  6. Name and label your ink.
    make your own natural ink step 6
  7. Use ink in arts and crafts projects.
    make your own natural ink step 7

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