What is Indian ink?

Indian ink is suitable for use in your sketchbooks, altered books, mixed media work, and painting. It’s a rich, deep opaque black. Have you tried Laura’s Handpainted Collage Papers workshop? Indian ink would be just perfect for that.

You can apply the ink with a variety of different tools such as pens and brushes, or maybe even a stick if you’re into trying some gestural mark making! Try experimenting with the brushes you already have, but of course, because the ink is impermeable once dry, be sure to clean your brushes carefully. One of the advantages of Indian ink is that it provides that dense opaque black, but you can also dilute it to create a range of tones and work with it using a watercolour style approach.

If you don’t already have some, you’ll find Indian ink is readily available in art shops and online.

One of our favourite techniques to use with Indian ink is a resist painting method. Aside from those collage papers above, we’ve used the method to create all of the examples you see on this page.

If you’re a textile artist, you might be ready to ask us if this is a technique that you can do on fabric. Well, we think it’s best done on paper, but there is always the option of using technology to help you – The painting that Linda’s holding in the photo is an ink resist piece made using this technique. We photographed the painting and enlarged it before printing it to fabric to make the quilt.

We hope you’ve been inspired to try working with Indian ink and to give the handpainted gouache resist technique a try. If using inks appeals, you might also like the other related workshops that we’ve picked out below…

Do you have some ink in your art supplies collection? We love to work with inks and often use acrylic ink, but today we want to talk to you about Indian ink.

Indian (or Chinese) ink is an ancient medium that artists have used for thousands of years. It’s made from carbon black (traditionally soot and ash from all sorts of burnt things like bones and tar), mixed with a binder which could be water or a gum based solution such as shellac. When made with the gum based solution it’ll be permanent when dry.

Why is it called Indian ink?
Turns out it’s a bit of a misnomer as the ink is thought to have originated in China, but became referred to as Indian ink when it was imported to Europe via India. That said, the use of ink has also been found in India since at least the 4th Century BC.

The resist method uses a combination of Indian ink with gouache paint. (It’s the gouache that gives the colour). This example is worked onto watercolour paper. It’s a good idea to use a fairly robust surface as the technique involves putting your work under the tap to wash it!

We have a lovely workshop with Linda which guides you step-by-step through the process. There’s a link to it below…

Handpainted Gouache Resist

More workshops that use ink

Handpainted Collage Papers

Create your own handprinted collage papers, perfect for sketchbook and mixed media painting. Then explore how you can expand your collage and have fun playing with scale.

To access this post, you must purchase Handpainted Collage Papers.

Ink Painting

In this collection you’ll find a selection of workshops exploring the use of ink. We’ll show you how you can combine acrylic ink and acrylic paint, use gouache as a resist for Indian ink, and make mixed media drawings with watercolour pencils and writing ink.