The thought of mixing my own ink used to be super intimidating. I would stick to premixed bottled inks that were ready to use. That was, until clients wanted colors that they simply didn't sell in the oh so convenient bottles! The most freeing thing about mixing your own ink is that there really are no rules. It all comes down to personal preference, meaning you get to create something that is completely unique to your style and project.
The base for any custom colored calligraphy ink is gouache. It comes in small tubes and is an opaque water color. There are tons of colors to choose from including metallics. I'm really loving copper ink at the moment as it's a nice alternative to the ever popular gold ink.
For my custom copper ink, I have 4 main ingredients.
-Pearl Ex Powdered Pigment in Pink Gold
-Water (not pictured)
Most metallic gouache on it's own isn't all that spectacular, so I like to spice it up and add some extra sparkle with Pearl Ex powdered pigments. Pearl Ex is super fine lustre powder. It honestly looks like loose powdered eye shadow to me! Gum arabic is a strange substance, but essentially binds the mixture and helps the dried product not smudge. It adds a great viscosity to the ink and really helps it flow off the nib nicely.
Small glass canning jars have become my new favorite containers for my custom inks. Pictured above also is my brush I use specifically for mixing ink. It's just a small flat head brush that is on the stiffer side, so I can really incorporate all my ink components.
Start by adding a good dollop (more or less depending on how much ink you need) of gouache in the bottom of your jar. Add a 5 drops of water to start diluting the paint, adding more to get rid of any clumps. Next add a small amount of gum arabic just to thicken the ink slightly. The ink should be the consistency of heavy cream. If you want to give your ink a little "oomph" very carefully add some Pearl Ex powder. The copper was a little dark for my taste, so the pink gold powder gave it that little lift I was looking for. Add more water, gouache, gum arabic, or powder until you're satisfied with your ink!
Mixing your own ink really comes down to personal preference. There is no real correct recipe. All that matters is if the ink flows off your nib smoothly and the color shade and opacity is to your liking. While I'm mixing, I test the ink occasionally on dark and light paper. If your ink is too thin, add more gouache to up the opacity. If it's too thick and doesn't flow off the nib, add more water and/or gum arabic. This process will become much easier the more ink you mix. You'll get the hang of your preferred ratios and viscosity over time, I promise!
I hope this is helpful and takes away some anxiety to create your own custom calligraphy ink. Just remember to add your ingredients little by little, and to just have fun with it!