How to Make Gypsy Walnut Ink for the Skin

Written by robert gray
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How to Make Gypsy Walnut Ink for the Skin
Make ink from walnuts. (green walnut image by Alina Goncharova from

Gypsy walnut ink is a commercially produced ink but you can make your own from scratch. Walnuts have been used since the Middle Ages to make ink. The walnut tree produces a substance known as juglone. While toxic to certain plants and animals, juglone is what produces the dark colour of the walnut hulls. Traditionally the juice from walnut hulls has been used to make an excellant dye and ink that's colour-fast and lightfast. Once it stains the skin, however, it's very hard to remove it.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Walnuts
  • Cast iron pot, rusting
  • Water
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sieve
  • Stainless steel bowl
  • Vinegar
  • Gum arabic
  • Measuring spoons

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  1. 1

    Collect walnuts in the fall after they start falling to the ground. If the hulls have started turning black that's good.

  2. 2

    Put 13 walnuts in a rusting, cast iron pot. Cover them with water. Slowly simmer for 8 hours. Turn off stove and allow walnuts to steep in the water for another 16 hours.

  3. 3

    Put on rubber gloves and strain the mixture by pouring it through a sieve set in a stainless steel bowl. This will remove any solid matter.

  4. 4

    Put the solution back in the cast iron pot and simmer on the stove until the liquid is reduced by 1/2.

  5. 5

    Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon gum arabic.

Tips and warnings

  • This mixture can be thinned with water to make different shades.
  • The cast iron pot adds to the rich colour of the walnut ink.
  • If you don't have a cast iron pot, use an enamelled or stainless steel pot and throw in a handful of rusted nails to the walnuts and water solution.
  • Don't make this recipe in a kitchen with butcher block counter tops. If you spill any of the solution on the wood, it'll permanently stain the wood.

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