Tag Archives: pigments

Making natural ink / paint

I started thinking about making inks when I planned to apply to that Green and Away residence, because my project had to use materials from the fields and woods around the site. I planned to develop print making processes that were entirely based in the natural environment, so scratching into rocks or making woodcuts, that kinda thing, but also needed to work out how to make my own inks and paints in the same way.

Having done minimal amounts of research, I noticed that ink is basically just a pigment (coloured powder) mixed with oil. Ink can then be thickened using wax I believe. Making a pigment is fairly easy, so I started this with some soil from the garden.

Spreading the soil onto a tray, I grilled it for a while to try and remove as much moisture as I could.

I then ground some of this in a pestle and mortar, and heaped it onto a pane of glass to be mixed with a bit of vegetable oil.

Unfortunately this makes quite a gritty paste rather than a smooth ink, as you can see:

This means that the particles of soil are too big to mix properly with the oil, so that if painted on a page the oil stains the page while most of the soil separates into clumps:

the problem is not necessarily the method but the materials. The soil is much too sandy and granular, so that even after I’d put it through a seive, you could still see lots of tiny lumps of glass and rock within it if you looked very closely:

I tried mixing some spreadable butter into it, making a fairly smooth paste that could be rolled and used for simple monoprints:

Next I tried making some water based paint using some old onion skins. These were boiled in a small amount of water for 20 mins

After being boiled, they’d taken on a rich red colour, and the reduced water looked pretty awesome.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work quite like that on the page, but it still makes some nice yellow/sepia-ish washes like zis.

The darker patches on this picture also have some paprika and butter paint layered over the onion skin wash, tasty.

Next I tried grass, deciding to grind some fresh leaves with some vegetable oil.

The grass can then be clumped together and used to apply the grass oil onto the paper:

I was pretty pleased with this one

Some, like this one, had thick soil paint spread on the back and drawn into, which shows through the oily translucent paper:

Next I ordered a bottle of cold-pressed linseed oil, which is the best kind to mix oil paints.  I burned a few old envelopes to get a pile of ash, which was then ground in the pestle and mortar to form a fine, smooth grey pigment.

When mixed with the linseed oil it makes a really good syrupy paint

which can be painted on with ease. This one’s backlit by the way:

I’ve also used the ash paint for a bit of life painting with drawing over the top. The paint works really well, you can loosen it with more oil or turpentine and it dries with a really nice charcoal finish that works well with the added pencil patternation.

Currently listening to: Jah Wobble & The Chinese Dub Orchestra – Chinese Dub