How to Make Soot

Updated April 17, 2017

The word "soot" refers to the carbon that is left over from burning organic fuels. Typically, this substance is thought of as a nuisance that must be cleaned. However, soot is a component in traditional ink and can be used as a pigment for black inks or paints. All that is needed to make soot is organic material that you can burn. If you have organic material of any kind, a safe spot to burn it, and something to collect the soot with, making soot for a project is very simple.

Arrange a small amount of wood in a location that is safe for burning. Grills and fireplaces are ideal for this. Typically, choosing wood that doesn't produce much smoke is a good idea, but in this instance, woods that produce a lot of smoke are desirable. Green or partially-seasoned woods produce a lot of smoke, and soft woods, like cedar and pine, also produce a lot of smoke.

Stand two bricks on their short ends on either side of your wood, then place a large bowl upside-down on top of the bricks. This will catch the soot. Metal or ceramic bowls are better for this than plastic bowls, and the set-up must be high enough above your fire that the bowl does not smother the flames.

Light the fire with the matches. If the wood resists lighting, lightly crumple a little paper, put it under the wood, and light the paper first.

Wait until the fire has completely died out and the bowl has cooled. Turn the bowl over; the inside will have a layer of soot. Any wood that did not burn completely and remains as a solid charcoal can also be used for pigment once powdered.


Any organic material can potentially make soot. If a small amount is needed, a candle can produce a significant amount of soot with the same set-up.


Always be careful when working with fire. Keep a fire extinguisher or water nearby. Do not inhale soot. You may wish to use a mask for additional safety.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood
  • 2 bricks
  • Bowl
  • Matches
  • Paper
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