Many think of a very fluid, intensely colour saturated liquid that is used with a dip pen and brush, made with dyes suspended in a binder such as shellac, but the term ‘ink’ actually covers a widely diverse set of art materials, including fabric printing inks, calligraphy inks, drawing inks and relief inks. So what is the difference between them all and which are the best inks? Here’s a guide to ink!
Black Indian or Chinese ink is most recognisably used for drawing, and especially so in the comic arts, where it is often used to create black and white comic strips. Black ink usually uses lamp black pigment, bound in a gum like binder, which becomes liquid when mixed with water. Its use dates back to the 3rd Millennium B.C, during Neolithic China. It was used originally by Chinese painters but often the materials were imported from India, which is why it is known sometimes as Chinese ink, and sometimes as Indian ink. Indian Ink is usually sold in liquid form in bottles, but at Jackson’s we also offer ink sticks, which need to be ground with a little water into an ink stone in order to moisten the stick and produce an ink that can be worked with. All Indian and Chinese Inks dry water-resistant.
All Chinese and Indian Inks are suitable for the following uses:
AV Indian Ink is made from pigment suspended in a shellac binder. There are 7 colours in the range that mix well with one another, as well as with water, and dry lightfast and water resistant. They dry with a velvety finish and are available in 30ml glass bottles with a rubber eyedropper lid.
Jackson’s Indian Ink only has black in its range, and comes in 2 sizes – 28ml and 300ml. Both bottles have a conventional plastic lid.
Our Chinese ink stones are very solid and durable, and designed for the sole purpose of grinding ink sticks into with a little water to produce a useable Indian Ink. Chinese ink sticks are available in a set of 5 colours (red, white, blue, yellow and green) as well as a separate black stick.
Winsor and Newton Drawing Inks are made of soluble dyes mixed into a superior shellac solution. There are 26 colours in the range, all of which are watersoluble. All colours are available in 14ml bottles each with a convenient eyedropper lid; the black, gold and silver are also available in 30ml bottles. There are 2 blacks in the range – the Liquid Indian Ink is brown/black in colour and is watersoluble, and made from a waterbased solution that replicates a traditional Chinese Ink Stick. The other black in the range is water resistant when dry, and has a pitch black appearance. Distilled water should be used to think these inks as regular tap water will often cause the dye to separate from its binder, breaking down the structure of the ink and causing the colour to appear streaky. Because this range is made with dyes and not pigments, the inks are not designed for work that will be on permanent display as dyes are not as lightfast as pigment, however the colours do tend to appear much more saturated and vibrant, which makes the ink particularly well suited to work that is going to be reproduced in print. The exceptions to this are the white and black inks which are made with pigments, and the gold and silver inks which are metal based. Winsor and Newton Drawing Ink can be used with dip pens, but is not recommended for use with fountain pens as it may clog. It can also be used in airbrushing techniques once tinned to the appropriate consistency with de-ionized water. Drawing Ink is best used on paper and illustration board, but can also be used on most types of acetate, which can make it useful for animators and illustrators.
Aristo Drawing Ink refills the Aristo Technical Pen. The ink is available in 23ml bottles. It is free flowing and will not clog the pen. The inks all possess high opacity levels and are fast drying and waterproof. Aristo Drawing Ink is insusceptible to finger prints on the drawing surface and are light resistant, as well as resistant to lead erasers (where many other inks may be susceptible to smudging). Aristo Drawing Ink is available in 6 colours.
Acrylic Ink is essentially the most fluid that an acrylic paint can be. They are made with the finest possible pigments suspended in the most fluid acrylic resin binders. In order to maintain the fluid consistency whilst retaining paint structure, some inks may not appear as saturated as other acrylic paint ranges. However colours possess just as high light fastness ratings. Acrylic Inks are suitable for:
Dried acrylic ink can be removed with alcohol. Whilst wet, it can be thinned with water and manipulated with acrylic mediums, as well as mixed with other kinds of acrylic paint.
Acrylic Artist Ink by Acrylicos Vallejo is made from super-fine pigments that are suspended in a very fluid acrylic resin, achieving the most fluid possible acrylic colour whilst still maintaining the highest levels of light fastness. Although there is a slight reduction in colour intensity when compared with the Indian Ink, this is compensated for with its permanence. There are 24 colours in the range which all dry waterproof. This allows for near immediate over painting and layering of colours. They can be mixed with one another and with any other acrylic colour, acrylic medium or with water. This means that they are incredibly versatile and that their consistency can be very easily manipulated. AV Acrylic Inks are good creating glazes and washes, as well as to tint grounds. When undiluted they dry with a satin finish. The range is available in 30ml bottles each with an eyedropper lid.
There are 38 colours in the FW Ink range, extremely popular among fine artists and illustrators alike. Colours can be substantially diluted in order to achieve watercolour like stains and washes that dry water resistant. They can be used on many surfaces and can also be layered to achieve colour depth. They are incredibly versatile, and particularly well suited to airbrushing techniques as well as in technical pens for drafting.
There are 30 colours in Liquitex’s Ink! range. They do not need diluting for use with airbrushes or in calligraphy dip pens. A lot of painters use this ink for under painting, and colour blocking.
There are 24 colours in this range that are available in 28ml bottle with eyedropper lids. They are non-clogging and water and fade resistant. All colours are semi-transparent with the exception of the lunar white and Quasar black which are opaque.
The paint you use in your air brush need to be very fluid so that the components of your airbrush can be easily washed and the flow of the paint is uniform and consistent so that you can apply even layers of colour on to your work. Thick or lumpy (half dried, for example) paint will not give an even spread of colour or your work and it will make cleaning your airbrush a more laborious process. Airbrush paint is the thinnest consistency acrylic paint available on the market – it is even thinner than regular fluid acrylics. Acrylic paint manufacturers have found a way of grinding pigment particles to the finest possible state and then suspending them in a binder that is adhesive enough to hold the paint together without the pigment separating from it, yet thin enough to possess excellent dispersion. In addition to acrylic airbrush paint we also offer a number of acrylic inks. What is the difference between acrylic Ink and Acrylic airbrush paint? The differences are pretty marginal in fact, but generally, the inks tend to be more transparent and dry with a greater sheen than acrylic paint.
All acrylic inks and airbrush paints can be mixed with other ranges of acrylic medium and acrylic colour, but remember this may impair their compatibility with airbrushing techniques.
In this section we also offer a couple of shellac based inks (Winsor and Newton Drawing Ink, AV Vallejo, Sennelier and Jackson’s Indian Inks). Although the colour is very lightfast and the colours intensely saturated, there may be some issue with cleaning these inks from your airbrush – you will have to use pure acetone, but it is possible.
We also offer the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant Watercolour Dyes and Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus Watercolours. Both ranges offer intensely saturated colour, however the Radiant range is not lightfast and is recommended only for illustration work, or anything made with the intention of being reproduced. Both ranges are waterbased and therefore remain watersoluble. The colours are beautiful and transparent and layer really well for airbrushing techniques.
Calligraphy Inks need to be non-clogging for use with dip and fountain pens. Manuscript offer inks specially designed for each type of pen.
Manuscript Calligraphy Dip Pen Ink is water-resistant and acrylic based. It comes in 30ml bottles and its range comprises of 8 colours.
Manuscript Calligraphy Ink for Fountain Pens is not waterproof which prevents it from clogging fountain pens. There are 4 colours in all – black, blue, sepia and red. They are washable.
Winsor and Newton Calligraphy Inks have been in production since the 1890s. There are 18 colours in the range, all intensely vibrant and lightfast. These inks can be used with both dip pens and fountain pens. There are 14 colours in the range, plus a matt black, white, gold and silver. Winsor and Newton Calligraphy Inks come in 30ml bottles. The blue capped bottles are non-clogging and can be used with dip pen, fountain pen, technical pen, and airbrush, and are all fully intermixable. The red capped bottles may have a slight tendency to clog and so are recommended for use with dip pen and brush only.
Winsor and Newton Calligraphy Inks can be used with any sable or synthetic watercolour brush. The paper that they are used on will have influence over the appearance of the final work – very smooth cartridge paper or hot pressed watercolour paper will allow your pen or brush to move more evenly and smoothly over the surface, which minimal breakage in the lines that you make. Rough papers such as handmade watercolour paper are more likely to create a ragged or broken edge in the lines that you make with the ink, an aesthetic that some calligraphers favour.
The Lascaux Sirius Primary System is based on five primaries instead of the usual three. These are: magenta, red, yellow, cyan and ultramarine plus black and white. The full range of colours can be mixed with ease and precision. Mixed in equal parts, the five primaries produce a neutral and vibrant black. Warm and cool tones can be defined logically since on either side a red and a blue can be differentiated.
The Sirius Primary System can be used in professions where the perceptual and sensual quality of colour is essential: Fine Art and Design, Architectural and Interior Design, Colour Theory, Art Education Classes and Art Therapy.
The specific advantages are:
Dr. Ph. Martin's Hydrus is an archival and lightfast artist quality pigment liquid watercolour. Available in a full range of colours.
AV Liquid Acrylic is slightly thicker in its consistency to AV Acrylic Ink. However it is thin enough for many air brush users to purchase as their colour of choice. All colours dry matte and the 24 colour range includes both opaque and transparent hues. Colours can quickly and easily be layered. When applied to porous surfaces, AV liquid acrylic will penetrate and stain the surface. On less absorbent grounds the colour will dry more slowly and can be worked into over a greater amount of time. Its consistency makes it particularly easy to use when painting detail or small scale work, as well as for glazing and layering on larger surfaces. AV Liquid Acrylic can be mixed with other acrylics and mediums. It adheres to most surfaces, including metals, plastics and glass. Within the range is a thinner, which can be used to further reduce the consistency of the colour for airbrushing if necessary.
Printing Inks are available oil and acrylic based. We sell inks that are especially developed for relief printing, screen printing and etching. If you wish to use the colours from your regular acrylic paint range when relief printing, this is possible by simply adding retarder to increase the tack and drying time of your paints.
Although this ink is acrylic based, it contains a very slow drying retarder, and so remains re-wettable with water for a few days after printing; however it does eventually dry waterproof. It is primarily designed to be used in woodcut or lino printing.
This range of 15 colours is bound in gum Arabic, and also offers 3 effect colours – gold, silver and copper. The range of colours uses both organic and inorganic pigments. They can be overprinted with other colours. They are intermixable and can be diluted with water. They do not dry waterproof.
Jackson’s Waterbased relief inks can be used for a number of printing processes, including lino, relief, and monoprinting. As with the Schmincke range, it remains watersoluble when dry. They dry within around 30 minutes and are particularly popular in schools and colleges.
There are 2 types of ink in this range – the standard cover is transparent and the super cover is opaque. They are 100% solvent free and environmentally friendly. The resilient resin binder base hold fast during rub, wash or dry clean while having no feel on fabrics. Permaset can also be used on lino, wood, block printing and most non-porous surfaces. They can be used on most fabrics, including cotton, polyester, silk and most synthetic fabrics. Permaset becomes permanent and washable on heat-setting with an iron.
Caligo Safe Wash Relief Ink is oil based yet can be washed with soap and water. It is suitable for all types of relief printing, e.g. linocut, woodcut, wood engraving, photopolymer and letterpress printing. The difference between the relief ink and the etching ink is that the relief ink contains less than 1% driers, making it just slightly faster drying. The drying time can be reduced through the addition of Cobalt or Manganese driers. The slower drying etching inks are suitable for all types of intaglio printing, e.g. etching, aquatint and line engraving.
We also sell inks that are better suited for craft and hobby applications. Such as:
The Yellow Owl Workshop is notable for its sophisticated yet playful aesthetic. Consistent themes of innovative function, original graphics and bold colours can be seen throughout the Yellow Owl Workshop range. Yellow Owl permanent waterproof ink can be used to print on almost any surface! The ink stamps give brilliant hues on paper, fabric, clay, wood, glass, metal and more.
Each ink case is 3 7/8 x 2 3/4 inches (10 cm x 7 cm) is printed with the same colour to the ink inside.
Pebeo Marbling consists of 9 colours and 1 thickening powder to carry out the art of marbling easily on fabric, paper or any other light base. The technique of marbling used with Pebeo colours is a simplified and modernized bath technique.
Ink is best applied using brushes that are sufficiently soft and have good liquid holding capacity. For this reason watercolour brushes are best suited to ink application. Traditionally chinese ink artists would use goat hair brushes, or sable hair brushes. We also offer synthetic alternatives to these brushes.
In addition inks can be applied with the following tools. To get the best out of your ink painting brushes and tools always ensure thorough cleaning and safe storage after use.
Ink, unlike watercolour, can be applied to non absorbent papers such as cartridge paper. As with all liquid art materials, there is a risk of the paper cockling as a result of ink being applied to it, so if it is watercolour paper that you are working on, you may consider pre stretching it before work. Line and wash board is smooth paper ideal for ink work, that has been mounted to a sturdy backing board to avoid any buckling.
Watercolour and Illustration board are sheets of watercolour and high quality drawing paper that have been fixed on to archival, acid free, lignin free, rigid board. They can be cut down to any size required, and generally are produced to approximately full imperial (22” x 30”) size. Glues used to fix the paper to the board are also archival so that you need not worry about any acid content in the glue affecting the stability of your finished work over time. Watercolour board and illustration board are very popular because they are made to avoid warping, buckling or cockling in the way that standard, unmounted watercolour paper might. Once your work is finished it is ready to frame or display. Because of their greater adhesive qualities (i.e. they are flatter in the first place), watercolour boards are more readily available in hot pressed or not surfaces, although Rough Arches Aquarelle watercolour paper is mounted on to Canson Art Board for their range of high quality watercolour boards. Illustration board is so called because it is primarily designed to be used for techniques associated with graphic and illustrative arts, i.e. line and wash, drawing, sketching, airbrushing etc. These boards are usually available in a hot pressed or not surface. We recommend that these surfaces are not used for very wet work as the surface paper may lift from its backing board if it becomes too saturated; if you are concerned about this possibility, you can help to prevent this happening by covering the edges with wax, which would repel the excess water. The majority of the papers used on the boards are a creamy white colour, with the exception of the Graffiti Manga Marker board in the Crescent Illustration board range which is a bright white, and the Crescent Student Marker board which is a blue white. Watercolour boards help to save time by allowing you to skip the time consuming step of stretching paper prior to use. They are light and easy to transport.