Living Off The Grid: 5 DIY Natural Ink Recipes

I love making my own ink! It’s almost like crafting something magical in a weird way. The first homemade ink I ever made myself was pokeberry ink. Let me warn you in advance -- it can be a messy project and some of the ink can permanently stain. My pestle and mortar remained a light magenta color for the longest time. A quick side note: I don’t recommend using the same pestle and mortar for your ink as you do for your food and medicine.

I was amazed to see how all of the colors actually turn out! For instance, the pokeberries and the juice are a very dark purple color but the ink actually comes out a magenta or a light purple color. Another really interesting thing specifically about the poke ink is that, depending on the recipe you use, the color of the ink fades into a golden brown color after a few weeks or so. Today I am going to share with you 5 different things from nature you can make incredible inks with.

Pokeberry Ink

  • 2/3 Cup Fresh Ripe Pokeberries
  • ½ Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Vinegar (White or Apple Cider)
  • Mesh Strainer
  • Pestle & Mortar OR A Masher and an Old Bowl
  • Little Glass Bottle With A Cork or Lid
  • Small Funnel

Place your berries in the mesh strainer and place your collection bowl or mortar underneath to catch all of the liquid. You might want to cover your table or counter with old newspaper or towels because the berries can stain.

Mash the berries with the pestle, squeezing out all of the juices, and then discard the leftover plant matter into the compost pile. Mix in the salt and vinegar. Using the funnel, pour the poke juice ink into your glass bottle and cork. The ink will naturally foam a little bit.

There are several variations of the Pokeberry Ink recipe.  One even simpler than the one above:

2/3 Cup Berries

½ Cup of 100 Proof Vodka or Rubbing Alcohol

Follow the same instructions as above and there you go. I did find out that my ink made with alcohol didn’t fade as fast or as much as the one made with vinegar, so the first recipe is only good for temporary work.

Black Walnut Ink

The black walnut tree has so many uses that are incredible. You can harvest the nuts for food, collect the sap for syrup, use the wood for building and for firewood, make worm juice, stun fish, and make ink. A tree with so many great uses is worth having in the yard.

  • 1 Cup Water
  • ½ Cup Dried Walnut Hulls (not the shell but the actual hull that encases the shell)
  • 3 Drops Thyme Essential Oil
  • ½ Teaspoon Gum Arabic
  • Small – Medium Saucepan
  • Strainer
  • Glass Ink Bottles
  • Whisk
  • Small Funnel

Place the water and walnut hulls into the saucepan and boil on low–medium heat for about a half an hour. Strain out the hulls and whisk in the gum arabic. Allow the mixture to cool.  Pour into the inkbottle, add the thyme oil, close it up tight and give it a good shake.

Black Raspberry Ink

  • 1 Cup Fresh Berries (it’s always difficult to not eat them)
  • 1 Teaspoon Alum
  • ½ Cup Water
  • ½ Teaspoon Gum Arabic
  • 3 Drops Thyme Essential Oil
  • Small Saucepan
  • Strainer
  • Whisk
  • Glass Ink Bottles
  • Small Funnel

Add the berries, alum, and water to the saucepan and cook on low for about 15 minutes. Mash up the berries to get all of the juice, and then strain and discard the berry pulp into the compost. Whisk in the gum arabic until it completely dissolves. Allow the mixture to cool.  Transfer it into the ink bottle and add 3 drops of thyme. Place the cork or lid on and give it a good shake. This ink starts out a beautiful blue color but it turns purple once it dries on the paper.

Coreopsis Blossom Ink

  • 1 Cup Water
  • ½ Cup Coreopsis Flower Blossoms (Coreopsis tinctoria)
  • 1 Teaspoon Alum
  • ½ Teaspoon Gum Arabic
  • 3 Drops Thyme Essential Oil
  • Small Pot
  • Strainer
  • Funnel
  • Ink Bottle

Simmer the blossoms in the saucepan with the water and alum for 20-25 minutes. Strain the blossoms out and whisk the gum arabic into the mixture. Once it’s cooled, transfer it into the inkbottle and add the essential oil.

Avocado Pit Ink

This ink is pretty incredible. You know what an avocado pit’s color usually is? Well, the ink comes out a reddish-pink color!

  • 2 Large Fresh Avocado Pits
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Soda Ash
  • ½ Teaspoon Gum Arabic
  • 3 Drops Thyme Essential Oil
  • Small Saucepan
  • Funnel
  • Ink Bottle
  • Strainer

Chop the pits into small pieces and put them in the saucepan with the soda ash and water. Simmer for 20 minutes on low. Strain out the pits and whisk in the gum arabic. Allow it to cool before bottling and adding the thyme oil.

All of these inks are fun and easy to make. It is important to have equipment that is specific for your ink making. Pokeberry isn’t edible, and neither are the black walnut hulls -- they can actually make you sick if ingested so please beware and have designated ink equipment! I hope you get a chance to try making some of your own ink; it’s always awesome to see what colors you can come up with if you mix and match. There are many other plants, trees, grasses, etc. that can be used for ink -- these are just some I’ve made and tested myself. Happy crafting!

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