How to Paint with Natural Inks: Part 1

A few tips on painting with natural inks.

First of all, in my mind, there is no right or wrong way to paint with natural inks. I have developed a system that works for me, that I will share, but I also look forward to hearing how others approach painting with inks.

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Tools:
-music
-watercolour paper
-bottle caps, lids or watercolour palette
-jar of water
-rag
-spray bottle
-palette knife
-2 eye droppers (one for water and one for the ink)
-a few paint brushes (I like an angle brush for applying ink)
-rocks (to weigh the paper down)

The first thing is to “set the mood”. Not to get too “woo” on you, but choosing music that puts you into a “flow” state will help your hands work with the fluidity of the inks.
Pour a small amount of your ink (you can always add more) into a bottle cap, lid or watercolour palette. Have a bottle of water on hand and a rag to dry off your brush.
Depending on the style of art that you hope to paint, will also determine how you apply the inks. If you are creating realistic and detailed art, then adding water may not be necessary at all. I work in an abstract style that embraces the movement of liquids, so adding water is an integral part of my process.

I usually begin by spraying or dropping water in a few places on my watercolour paper and then use my palette knife or my fingers to spread the water around. I love to create magical moments by using an eye dropper to drop the ink onto the water and watch it travel into and along the water trails. I take a rather intuitive approach and use either my palette knife, paint brush or fingers to spread the ink or help the ink along on its journey with the water.

If I am trying to create a more solid or intense colour, I use an eye dropper or paint brush and directly apply the ink to the watercolour paper.

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I also like to use rocks not only for colour inspiration and as a way to “ground” my thoughts in natural objects, but also as paper weights. The more water that I add to the paper, the more that the watercolour paper will buckle. I place rocks on the paper to counteract the buckling. This way, I don’t bother with painting tape and the risk of ripping my painting. Once the painting is completely dry, I will flip over the painting, spray a bit of water on the backside, iron it flat and then quickly place it under heavy books to flatten it.

Note: If you are dipping your paint brush directly into the ink bottle, be sure to wash your brush out before dipping it into another ink. Simply dip your brush into your jar of water and then dry it on your rag. When you are finished painting, you can wash out your paint brushes with a little bit of dish soap.

Those are a few of my methods of working with natural inks. Do you have any tips for painting with natural inks?

3 thoughts on “How to Paint with Natural Inks: Part 1

  1. Hey Melissa
    I have used ink crystals, but not liquid ink. So much fun! And very intuitive. Have you tried 300lb watercolour paper? Thicker and heavier and does not buckle. I use a great deal of water when I paint and it is my preferred paper. Usually use Arches. Love your art! 💕

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