How to paint using indian ink

Written by joanne robitaille
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How to paint using indian ink
Some Indian inks are more fluid than others. (Two brush image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from

Indian inks are composed of a mixture of water, carbon black and several binding materials. The ink's ability to flow is dependent upon the carbon black -- the finer the carbon black, the more fluid the ink. Indiana inks are excellent ink to use for gouache relief paintings, but you also can paint freehand with them using a variety of different paintbrushes. Talk to people at your local art supply store to find the best Indian ink for your specific project. Indian inks can be messy so always paint on a covered surface.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Indian inks
  • Small glass jar
  • Porcelain dish
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paper
  • Watercolour paper
  • Gouache paint
  • Watercolours
  • Water
  • Paper towels
  • Wood blocks

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  1. 1

    Prepare the Indian ink. Indian ink generally comes in a small bottle and needs to be put into another container when you want to paint. Putting it into a small glass jar or a porcelain dish helps prevent water from getting into your main bottle of Indian ink. While it's not necessary to do so, some painters add water to the ink before they start painting.

  2. 2

    Get your brushes ready. You can paint with a wide variety of painter's brushes, Chinese calligraphy brushes or a simple rolled up piece of paper. If using the latter, tightly roll a scrap piece of paper between your fingers and secure the end with tape to make a paper stub.

  3. 3

    Paint your picture on watercolour paper. Indian ink has a texture similar to watercolour paints. As a result, you need to paint on a surface that's sturdy enough to accept the ink without bleeding or becoming unmanageable.

  1. 1

    Paint your base image. Use opaque watercolour and gouache paints to colour the image. Anything that you want to appear white needs to be painted using white gouache paint. The sections that you leave unpainted will appear black once the process is finished. Leave the painting to dry completely.

  2. 2

    Cover the painting in Indian ink. Pour some of the ink into a small dish or tray. Add a bit of water if you want to dilute it. Paint over the entire surface of the painting with Indian ink.

  3. 3

    Rinse the Indian ink away once it has dried. Turn on the kitchen sink so the water is cool and running out at a low pressure. Run the painting underneath the water to help the Indian ink flake away. Very lightly rub at any stubborn bits of ink.

  4. 4

    Set the painting down on a paper towel-covered block of wood to dry. Place more paper towel on top of the painting before covering it with another piece of wood. Put a few heavy books on top of the wood so the painting will dry flat without warping. Leave it to dry for at least 24 hours.

Tips and warnings

  • Unless you are going to be painting quickly, you should put your Indian ink in a rounded container. The ink will dry quickly if spread out over a flat surface.

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