Formulas for making ink may be found in specific books, but basically it is the soot of burnt resin or cherry pits mixed with an aqueous binder (a solution of gum water). This is ground together on a marble slab and made into a paste, which is then shaped into sticks and allowed to dry. To make the ink, the stick is then rubbed onto an ink stone or ground glass. This is a stone or a piece of glass that has a fine textured surface, and when the ink stick is rubbed against it, it leaves a residue. The residue is placed in a shallow bowl and slowly mixed with distilled water until the right amount of liquid ink is made to the right strength.
However, bottled Indian ink can be brought from any art suppliers and needs no preparation. It is pure black and permanent when dry. The ink can also be diluted with water to produce washes.
Bistre ink, which was commonly used in Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries, comes in different colours that range from pale yellowish browns to dark blackish browns. Bistre is made from soot containing wood tar. Other tones of colour can be obtained by using different woods. By taking the soot from different levels of the charring one can vary the intensity of the tone. Because of its strength, this type of ink is most appropriate for use in washes. Rembrandt was possibly the best-known artist for using bistre.
Sepia is obtained by mixing bistre with the ink obtained from the sacs of squid. This was what Professor Seydelmann of Dresden did in 1778, and in the process invented a drawing medium that is stronger and darker than bistre.
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