How to make ink from charcoal

Updated February 21, 2017

According to, people have been making and using charcoal since about 3,500BC because it burns cleanly and efficiently. Charcoal has many uses, from smelting copper to making ink. Although ink is cheap and universally available today, you can make your own ink out of charcoal to experience one way people used to make it. Plus, you can use the ink after you've made it.

Burn a handful of charcoal briquettes in a barbecue grill or metal fire pit until they turn to ash. Wait until the ash has cooled completely. Use a kitchen scale to measure 28.4gr. of charcoal ash. Place 28.4gr. of charcoal ash in the glass bowl.

Measure out 29.6ml. of distilled water and add it to the bowl containing the charcoal ash.

Stir the charcoal mixture with a wire brush or metal whisk. As the water and ash combine, the mixture will become very dark. Continue to mix it until the clumps of ash disappear. Be careful to not splash the ink because it will stain your clothing or counter top.

Add one drop of white vinegar to the mixture and carefully stir it in. The vinegar adds stability to the ink and makes it more permanent once it has dried on paper.

Pour the ink into a glass jar that has a tight-fitting lid. The ink will last longer if it isn't exposed to too much light. Keep your glass jar in a dark place, or you can wrap paper around the jar and tape it to hold it on tight.


Wear an apron while making the ink so you don't risk ruining your clothing. Shake your ink before using it to break up any clumps that form while it sits in the jar.

Things You'll Need

  • Barbecue grill or metal fire pit
  • Kitchen scale
  • Charcoal briquettes
  • Distilled water
  • White vinegar
  • Glass jar
  • Glass bowl
  • Wire brush or metal whisk
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About the Author

Rachel Terry has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Brigham Young University. She has been a freelance writer since 1998, authoring literary study guides, as well as articles and essays.