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.
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: