Ink From Berries

This entry was posted in Arts, How To by Cleave on

When ever you go looking online for a recipe to make ink from berries you wind up seeing the same text, the exact same text on each site that you go to. You don’t see any pictures, you don’t see any thoughts or guide lines, you just see a small set of instructions with a ton of ads all around what has been copied onto the page. Not seeing what I wanted to find out I took that recipe and then experimented with it to see what I would be able to come up with. At least you are going to be able to see images with this step by step guide and it will be more how to instead of how many ads can be stuck on one single page.

First you want to get some berries to work with. The darker the better and if you know which ones stain your skin and clothing the most those are the ones that you want to use. So if your afraid of getting messy or getting ink on your skin and clothing you had better use a smock or apron and gloves to keep your hands stain free. Being an artist and a hands on type of person I just go for it and worry about cleanup later. Other items that you are going to want to use are a mortar and pestle, some measuring spoons, a cloth to strain with, a stick or two and a funnel to strain your liquid when you are done making and mixing the ink. You will also want a pen to try your ink out with. You can use ether a refillable fountain pen with a refillable ink reservoir or a plain dip pen or quill.

Ingredient List:
1/2 cup of ripe berries
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
Thin linen cloth
Scrap piece of nylon or scarf
Small container to store ink in
Fountain pen or quill
Paper to write on

Step 1: You need to crush the berries to get the juice from them and this is going to be one of the messier parts of the whole process. You want to take and add the berries into the mortar and then take the pestle and crash them and drain the juice every so often till you can just pour it out any more. If you have the equipment you could use a juice press but this is to make a quick ink that anyone can do and does not require all that much. You can even use the back side of a large spoon and a glass bowl if you do not have a mortar and pestle.

Step 2: Once you have as much juice drained away by just crushing you will now need to squeeze the rest out. To do this transfer the mush to the center of the cloth and then wrap it up into a ball with the ends of the fabric out the other side of your hand. Now just start twisting the ends down into the ball and as you do more juice will be squeezed out. Once your have squeezed out as much as you can you will will be left with a stained cloth and a hard lump of what used to be berries. If your creative that could be the start of another project like incense or something. You could also throw it into a fire or a fireplace so that the smell would be there as the other woods around it would be burnt. The thing is that ball of hard leavings is worth saving and drying out for use later.

Step 3: Take the raw juice that you now have and add to it the salt and vinegar. Make sure to get both completely dissolved into the juice as this is actually a preservative for the final product, the lettering that you put on paper. Take your time with this because if you go to fast you are going to have juice all over the place and all over your.

Step 4: Now that you have the base of the ink made you should strain it once more to get out any of the seeds that might have been left as you were making the ink. This is especially important if you are going to be using the ink in a fountain pen. If a seed gets stuck in your pen that could be very costly to fix or replace. To strain the liquid use a piece of nylon or scarf at the end of a funnel and then pour your liquid through that into another container. You might notice that very quickly it will not just flow freely as the screen you have made is getting clogged. Gently tapping on the side of the funnel will get the fluid moving again till there is just mush on the screen. This you can either add to the hard mush ball or just rinse it out of the fabric.

Step 5: Now that you have come this far you want to make sure that the ink you have made is doing what you want. If your berries had a lot of sugar in them you might have to thin your ink out with a bit of water to get it to flow right. If you ink was made from berries that were not as sweet you might need to add something to it to thicken it up. In times past they would have used powdered egg whites and gum arabic to thicken with. You don’t have to try and find that for there is something that is already out there that will do it, it is Meringue Powder. It is egg white and gum arabic for the most part and will thicken your ink beautifully. Remember to use it just a little at a time or you will just wind up with a colorful paste.

Step 6: Fill your ink reservoir and start writing. Since it is a home made ink it will take you a bit to figure out how best to write with it.

One thing that you should know about your new ink, as it dries it will get both darker and more vibrant. At first it might seem to just be watery but don’t despair, let it dry first to see if it is going to be what you expect. Once you see how it is dry then you can decide if you need to thicken it more or not. Once you have it just the way you want put it in a jar, label it with the date and color and then stick it in the fridge till you are ready to use it.

It really doesn’t take a lot of time to make the ink and you will find that you can make just about any color if you have a berry that puts out that color of juice. Have fun with your new ink for whatever use you might have for it.