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Calligraphy Inks & Paints

There are as many kinds of ink and paints that can be used in calligraphy as there are projects. It is important to know what you want to set out to do before you buy a particular product

Calligraphy Inks

Calligraphy inkshould always be your first choice for use with a dipping pen or calligraphy fountain pen. Make sure the ink is specifically labeled “cal­ligraphy ink,” which means the ink has a higher density of pigment and thus a stronger, more permanent color. Calligraphy ink is an all-purpose ink, performing well with a variety of papers and pens. While most calligraphy inks can be used in calligraphy fountain pens (check the bottle), avoid leaving ink in the pen when you are not using it.

A thorough soaking of the nib and reservoir will remove any clinging bits of pigment and reduce the likelihood of blockages forming. Metallic gold and silver calligraphy inks are also available, although these should not be used in calligraphy fountain pens since the metallic bits can clog up the pen. Whenever possible, purchase your calligraphy ink from an art supply store or online calligraphy supplier (see Resources) to be sure you are getting real calligraphy ink.

Calligraphy India Ink

India ink (also sometimes called “Encre de Chine”) is a dense, black, permanent ink suit­able for use with dipping pens and brushes. It is waterproof, which means the dried ink will not run or bleed when exposed to water or when it is inked over. (For this reason, never use India ink, or any waterproof ink, in a calligraphy fountain pen, because once the ink dries inside the nib it cannot be washed out.) India ink will not fade and thus is ideal for documents and other important writings. Iron-gall ink is a similar permanent ink, which appears light brown when writing but turns deep, permanent black once it is exposed to air. Like India ink, it is not suitable for use in calligraphy fountain pens. Drafting inks can be used with dipping pens, and certain brands also offer non­-waterproof formulations that can be used in callig­raphy fountain pens. Drafting inks are usually very free-flowing and dense in color.

Calligraphy Acrylic Ink

Acrylic inkscan be found in abundance in craft and art supply stores, in a wide array of colors, many of them metallic or pearlescent. They can be used with dipping pens and brushes, but not with calligraphy fountain pens. Because acrylic inks are waterproof, they are very useful when you want to layer one color of ink over another; however, they tend to dry very quickly, sometimes right on the nib, so it is a good idea to frequently rinse and wipe your nib when using acrylic inks. When using acrylic inks with a brush, be sure to rinse the brush often in water, and when finished, clean with soap and a fine-tooth comb to remove any dried particles of ink from the bristles of the brush.

Calligraphy Sumi & Chinese Stick Inks

Sumi and Chinese stick inkscan be interesting to use in calligraphy, especially where brushwork is involved. Sumi ink is a Japanese liquid ink that is very dense black and can be thinned with water to obtain delicate shades of gray. Chinese stick ink is rubbed on a slate stone with a small amount of water until the desired color and consistency is obtained. This can be an especially good ink to use if you want to obtain a very rich, thick black ink. With both types of ink, use a dipping pen or brush.

Calligraphy Fountain Pen Ink

Fountain pen ink is perhaps the most plentiful type of bottled ink, available in a wide variety of colors, and while it can be used with a dipping pen or calligraphy fountain pen, generally these inks lack the density of color of calligraphy inks. Some bottled fountain pen inks are sold at gift and statio­nery shops and tend to be more of a novelty item, in spite of being labeled as suitable for calligraphy. On the other hand, if you are looking to create a piece that has a somewhat faded, romantic, old-letter- found-in-the-attic look, fountain pen ink would be a perfect choice. You may also have success increas­ing the density of fountain pen ink by adding a small amount of a similar color of calligraphy ink.

Calligraphy Water Proof Vs Non-Water Proof Ink

Water Proof Vs Non-Water proof Ink there are two types of inks and paints—waterproof and non-waterproof. Non-waterproof ink or paint—such as calligraphy ink, gouache, and watercolors—will dissolve, bleed, or run if touched again by water (or ink or paint) even after they have dried. Waterproof ink—such as acrylic ink, acrylic and latex paint, India ink, or any ink labeled “waterproof”—won’t dissolve or bleed when in contact with ink, paint, or water, and so is ideal for using when you want to layer inks or colors.

Calligraphy Metallic Pigments & Inks

Metallic pigments and inks.Powdered metallic pigments can be mixed with distilled water to an ink like consistency to create metallic inks for use with a dipping pen or brush. Often a small amount of liquid gum arabic is added to keep the metal­lic particles from separating. This type of ink is non-waterproof, and will dissolve or separate when touched with water or applied to a wet surface. It is also a good idea to finish the work with a light spraying of artist’s fixative to prevent the metallic particles from rubbing off once the work is dry.

Many liquid metallic inks are also available, and differ widely in their amount of luster and water- fastness, so it is best to try them out before buying if possible. As a general rule, ink that contains metallic pigment should never be used in a foun­tain pen, because the metallic particles can clog the inside of the nib.

Artistic Colours

Artist colors Often you will come across ink that is simply called “ink,” “drawing ink,” or “artist color.” These inks are usually used for drawing with brush or fine nib, or in conjunction with watercolor painting. Many of them are waterproof (check the label to see if the ink contains shel­lac) and can be used successfully for creating backgrounds of color. Many of these inks lack the density to flow well when used with a broad-nib calligraphy pen, although they can work very well with a brush.

TIPstored in a cool, dry place with lids or tops tightly screwed on. Avoid storing bottled ink in direct sunlight. As with all art supplies, paints and inks should be kept away from heat sources and out of the reach of pets or young children.

Calligraphy Gouache

Calligraphy gouacheis packaged in tubes and is mixed with distilled water to an ink like consistency for use with dipping pens or brushes. With a basic palette of calligraphy gouache paints, you can create dense, permanent colors in any shade you desire. Gouache dries to a flat finish, so if you want a little shine to your color, you can add a drop or two of liquid gum arabic or a small amount of sugar dissolved in hot water. Dried gouache appears a shade or two darker than it does in liquid form, so mix your colors slightly lighter than you want them to appear on paper. Designer’s gouache can be used in the same way as calligraphy gouache, not to mention that it is usually easier to find at art supply stores, whereas calligraphy gouache may have to be special-ordered or ordered online.

Calligraphy Tube Water Colours

Tube watercolors, like gouache, can be thinned with distilled water to an ink like consistency and used with a dipping pen or brush. Most water- colors are transparent, so lettering written with watercolor will often appear somewhat washed out. Watercolors are most useful for filling in color and painting details or for building up layers of transparent color. Pan watercolors, while not very practical for using with a dipping pen, can be used with a brush in the same way as tube watercolors.

Calligraphy Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paint is very useful in calligraphy when it is thinned with water and used as a background wash—once dry, you can write on a background of smoothly applied acrylic paint with either waterproof or non-waterproof inks with no danger of bleeding.