Black Walnut Ink Giveaway

February 28, 2011, 09:04 am  Posted by Lark

Black walnut ink is a beautiful, deep yet translucent, brown black primarily used in calligraphy, but also used for ink drawings or even as a wood stain. I’m not a calligrapher, but I love painting with lots of dark rich textures and couldn’t resist the look of this ink. I wanted to make my own and discovered it is a simple yet long, and sometimes smelly process. If you aren’t interested in the labor of making your own ink but would love to have some, Lark Crafts will be giving away six one-ounce bottles of my 2011 batch. If you don’t win the ink up for grabs here, don’t worry, there’s a handful of Etsy sellers offering black walnut ink listed at the end of this post.

We are pleased to be giving away six 1 oz. bottles of homemade black walnut ink. To be entered for a chance to win, leave a comment  on this post by 9 p.m EST on Monday, March 7. One winner will be selected at random and announced on Friday, March 11. Click here for the official rules.

If you want to make your own ink, here’s how it goes: gather, boil for a long time, then strain. There are plenty of black walnut trees in my area, and locals often consider the fruit a nuisance. They drop big hard green fruit in the Fall—the tree in my back yard litters my driveway for a periodic bumpy drive to the carport. Removing the nut from the husk can sometimes be tricky, but driving over them in my car usually does the trick! So, from my driveway to your artwork. Below are some pictures from the batch I cooked up for this giveaway.

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I consider them a blessing. I collect them from my yard and any other willing neighbor or friend and boil them down. Here’s a set of links showing how to make your own black walnut ink: just the basics from e-how; a blog spot called quince and quire with nice calligraphy examples; and my favorite photo tutorial at freeplaycraft (check out their Etsy shop too).

Along with these online tutorials, I’ll give you a few tips of my own:
1. Let ‘em rot to a good and squishy texture. Unfortunately I once left buckets full of fruit in my back yard and discovered that squirrels considered it the best buffet in town. Yes, squirrels love ‘em and will steal ‘em, especially if you leave them out conveniently gathered up.
2. I boil them whole, but you can remove the nut to eat or try to grow your own seedlings for more trees. Even the empty, cracked shells look cool.
3. Boil them down for a long time and repeatedly. Patience will pay off, but I do have to warn you: they can smell strange. Also, when allowed to rot they can acquire little white worms that float to the top in the boiling process. This might be icky to some of you.

4. Keep a brush and paper handy. As you reduce the liquid the opacity of the ink increases. Constant testing lets you know when it is as dark or light as you like, or how dark it will be until you are sick of boiling. I usually boil for 8 hours, let sit for a day or two, remove the nuts then boil again for an additional 8 hours. The sample above is from the giveaway batch of ink.
5. I strain my ink with pantyhose and always wear gloves because this stuff can really stain flesh! A good stain for art, fabric or wood, but probably not fun when on your hands for the next two weeks.
6. I end up with two batches: one that is smooth and another that is gritty. Because my artwork is abstract and textural I enjoy the gritty look, especially when sealed with a varnish.

Here are some Etsy sellers with their own offerings:

From left to right: Blind Pig Press, White Dragon Paper, Katie Ries and Rogue Cthulhu


58 Responses

    katrina says:

    that is just about the loveliest brown i’ve ever seen…

    Rockcreekcreations says:

    I never, ever would have thought to boil down the black walnuts to make an ink. I wonder if that would work with other things… I would love to win a bottle of this!

    TeriC says:

    Now I have used black walnut in a wool dye but gosh the possibilities in an ink are fabulous! How could I not have realized the potential. We have been bookmaking with our kids and I would love to try this ink. Sumi-e art has been the fashion in our house and I bet that would look fabulous on those brushed. Thank you!

    DK says:

    I’ve also used them to dye fabrics, but hadn’t thought about making ink. I *love* collecting the fleshy green fruit in the early fall as it falls out of the trees. The smell of the big, green things is so spicy and woodsy and absolutely lovely to me.

    Teri says:

    Great tutorial and eye candy! Your bottles are cute! I finally moved my ink out of mason jars and into nicer amber bottles. Enjoy!

    Annabel says:

    I love walnut ink for my calligraphy!
    Would be nice to try these…

    Dixdizzy says:

    great for caligraphy, fabric and paper collage, yarn dye maybe. love to try.

    Yogihg says:

    I’d love to win a bottle of your walnut ink. Thanks for letting me know about it
    Take care Yogi

    Last says:

    How neat is that? it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about how ink, paint and dyes are created.

    Danna BC says:

    Wonderful! I’d love to try this out sometime. :D

    Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the recipe! I don’t have access to black walnut trees so I hope I’ll win a bottle!

    Jo Buzulencia says:

    Thanks for the etsy links…it sure would be Grand to win one of your exquisite bottle of black walnut ink!

    La says:

    I have always wanted to try making a dye with the walnuts. It is just amazing what is in the back yard waiting to be turned into something crafty. Thanks for the post and tips on how to make the ink!

    SewLindaann says:

    That was seriously interesting. I’m going to look for some of those trees so I can play with them. I’d love to win some ink to try. Also, the other comments about using them to dye fabrics is something I’d like to try.

    Thea says:

    Cool! Do you make many inks, or only black walnut?

    USED to stain my hands green for weeks as a child, collecting the things. It would take a truck to crack one open- I never could. I’ve heard that Black Walnuts poison the soil around the trees the grow from – (but they do make a lovely shade of ink.) Very cool that you were able to make something out of those things. they are the devil to get open, BUt i bet you had fun cracking them apart, I hope you didn’t get poisoned.

    Melissa says:

    We kids were always “hired” to deal with the walnuts from our 3 trees because my mother was a nurse and she couldn’t show up to work with the stained hands. Ahh, the memories ….. Thank you for your generous giveaway. I have been doing pen and ink drawing for a while and working with walnut ink sounds like fun.

    Woolensails says:

    I use walnut ink to age my products.
    I have tried crystals but didn’t like them, so use a more concentrated brand and water it down myself.
    The color on yours looks really rich, nice shade.


    Arlene Wright-Correll says:

    what a great idea. Arlene Wright-Correll

    Sharlyn says:

    As an art student in college, we dyed fiber with black walnut dye. I guess I never gave it any thought that the “dye” could be used for other things. I’d love to try using this as ink. What a great affect it has. Please consider this my entry! Thanks for reminding me about fiber dying and introducing me to another art!

    justval says:

    The brown is such a dark, rich, chocolaty color! I envision pots of fabric, lace and yarn steeping. After removing the green hulls, into the composter they go. Enriching my soil and dyeing lovelies!

    Kristi says:

    While researching I discovered a whole world of ink making out there, from pomegranates to something called Blue Gall. It’s fascinating and maybe I’ll have another ink giveaway later on. If anybody knows about other inks, throw up some links.

    Jo Miller says:

    Thanks for letting me know about the giveaway! I have tried to cook it down also. I was impatient and only cooked for about 3-4 hours, but was able to use the ink. It just was not as dark as I wanted. And I love your packaging, so minimal and cute.

    Profcnc says:

    Thanks for the tutorial and for the giveaway.

    Cassie says:

    I would love to give this a try!

    rmumau says:

    when I was a girl, I would collect the black walnuts in the yard and get my clothes all stained, much to my mother’s dismay. I was always disappointed to hear they could not be eaten… now I have a use for them!

    Amanda says:

    This sounds great, though when I got to the bit about the worms I was glad you boiled them:)

    I would definitely love to paint something up with this stuff. Thanks for the tutorial and your notes.

    Derek McCrea says:

    The ink has a unique color, I bet it would make a great tool for pen and ink drawings.

    alexa aloxa says:

    Wow, what a rich warm color. I want to try my hand at ink-making (thanks for tips & tricks) but first, I’ll cross my fingers and hope to win a bottle of your black walnut ink

    Not only are they great in cookies but beautiful on paper too!

    Ardi Kinerd says:

    Hey Lark people! I miss you guys.

    Ardi, former intern

    I LOVE walnut ink – its rich, deep brown tones, the earthy look it lends to projects and the fact that it’s made from natural ingredients. Sometimes you can’t perfect what Mother Nature gives us to work with! :D

    Love using this on tyvek, which I use for inside covers on my handbound books.Thanks for the tutorial!

    Frivolitea says:

    I would love to see some examples of different ways walnut ink can be used in artwork.

    Brandi Rinks says:

    That is so amazing! I’ve just been trying to get my pugs to not chew on those when I could’ve been boiling them down and making ink! Thanks so much for this tutorial!

    Eliza_bethcooke says:

    Please please let me win! I want to draw with that.

    DBarrentine says:

    What a beautiful color this ink is! I’d love to try working with it. ; )

    Taryn says:

    Had no idea it was such a process–but what a beautiful result!

    This looks great! But I haven’t seen a Black Walnut tree since we moved… so I hope I win some!

    typogal says:

    I use walnut ink to age projects. Thank you for the tutorial. I’ve printed it out for a future project to see if I can make my own!

    Kristi S. says:

    This looks fantastic, and so much more rich than the Higgins I’ve been using. Would love to try it… thanks for the opportunity.

    Kreedich says:

    There is a black walnut tree on the edge of our property that I curse every fall, but the squirrels are kept happy and the dye is beautiful!

    Otgjen says:

    Great tutorial! Will have to give it a try when I have time!

    Karla Ricker says:

    I haven’t used black walnut ink in a while and haven’t thought about it either. But once I saw this I think I need to try using it in some of my paintings. May have to try making it at some point. But can’t do that just yet.

    Kathleen says:

    I, too, would love to give this a try. Hope I win!

    PeacefulBeader says:

    Pick ME!!!! I really want to win this ink. There is so much I could learn from such a rich, deep, sweet colored ink.

    christina says:

    this is wonderful! i’ve never tried this ink, i’d love to have the chance!
    happy day!

    justanotherartist says:

    Oh my goodness! I am going to have to try this. I use walnut ink every day but have never known how to make it myself.

    Lanagram says:

    This is just way to cool…. I have told children that this could be done when we were on walks in the woods.. :-)
    Thanks for taking the time to post…. I have used walnut ink from the store for different crafts…. I want to try this so much…Lanagrams

    Cherie du More says:

    My mum uses walnuts to make licquer but ink seems much better! hope to get a bottle to prove her ;)

    Dahlinglili says:

    wow, this is a completely new concept for me. thanks for the interesting idea!

    You know I have made dye with Black Walnuts that I collect at work – much to the joy of the groundskeeper! I have never tried making ink though. This looks utterly yummy and I would love to be able to try this ink!

    Pamisu says:

    How totaly awesome, now I know what to do with little green balls that litter the patio, however, I’ll have to do this when my husband is away….

    Unavnaora says:

    another web site with black walnut ink stuff on it:

    Lauren Cohen says:

    this is kewl i wana try n make my own some day ^_^

    I like this post, enjoyed this one regards for posting.

    Regards for helping out, superb information.

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