Make Your Own Black Walnut Ink

homemade black walnut ink2Hi friends! In my last post, I talked about my recent adventures in dyeing wool with plants. Today, I want to share another really fun experiment I tried: making my own blank walnut ink! It was incredibly rewarding.

I followed the instructions offered by You Grow Girl, but honestly, it’s so easy you hardly need instructions.

First, my daughter and I collected about 20 black walnuts off the ground from a local park. We did this in late September. They were still green, but we wanted to grab them before the squirrels got them all. The pigment comes from the skin, so you need them to have the skin still intact.

black walnuts

Then I threw them in an enameled stock pot, covered them with water, and left them outside to let them blacken and ferment for about three weeks. (Note: by the end, there was a tiny bit of mould floating on top. I just scooped it off with a slotted spoon. It didn’t harm the finished ink.)

Then I put it on an outdoor burner and let it simmer for a couple of hours. (It has a strong, woodsy smell, so I preferred to do it outside). Then I just turned it off and let it cool overnight.


The next morning, I strained out the walnuts (I left them outside for the squirrels to help themselves to) and moved the ink to a smaller pot. I let it simmer a little longer on the stove inside to increase the intensity of the pigment.

Annnnd… that’s it! I ended up with about two cups of liquid. I was amazed to discover that the very first time I dipped my pen into the still-warm liquid, I had a gorgeous, brown-black ink that flowed perfectly and dried with a slight sheen. It worked beautifully with my inexpensive pointed nib pen. (I have this set of nibs with this holder — the ink works great with the 512 — the total ensemble costs less than $10.)

I added a few tablespoons of rubbing alcohol as a preservative.

I transferred a small amount into a tiny glass jar I’d saved, to make dipping easier.

black walnut ink

After testing the ink out on different papers, I found that it worked best on my Strathmore Calligraphy paper. (It doesn’t bleed, and it doesn’t snag on the nib.) It was so fun, Lydia couldn’t stop playing with it.

drawing with walnut ink

black walnut ink drawinglady knight, done in black walnut ink

I was amazed how well the ink and pen worked together: I could write up to three sentences out with a single dip. And it’s so fun! You feel like Shakespeare! (Note: I realize he probably used oak gall ink.)

black walut ink test

It works great in calligraphy…

black walnut ink calligraphy(Full disclosure: I practised about 20 times before creating what you see here)

A few days later I learned how to make a folded pen and gave it a whirl with my new ink. I LOVED the results.

homemade folded pen and black walnut ink

All in all, the whole experience was just so fun and satisfying, and didn’t take much time or effort.

I honestly prefer my homemade ink to the India ink and calligraphy ink I’ve purchased! It looks deeper and richer when it dries. It does take a long time to dry, though, which is especially challenging as a leftie.

If you’ve got access to a black walnut tree dropping nuts onto the ground (and, you know, I desire to use a dip pen), I highly recommend giving it a try!

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  1. I love this so much!

  2. That is so cool! What a fun project. Mostly I’m impressed that you know what all the different seeds and nuts on the ground are, which maybe just shows how much of a city girl I am, ha (also the trees here are completely different than where I grew up).

    • Thanks, Katie! I’ve been making a concerted effort to learn the local flora over the last few years, it didn’t just happen. :) Also, my mom’s an avid gardener, so I grew up around plants and a love of plants, so I guess that helps, too!

  3. Hi Kathleen!

    So exciting to see your folded pen and your walnut ink! I am glad to see my article helped you. I might have to try making ink again sometime. Happy crafting and creating!

    Winterbird / Ida

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