Make your own ink!

My 7 year old daughter is fascinated by the recent TV series Jimmy’s Forest.  Having watched an episode in which Jimmy makes ink from oak galls, she became interested in how we might make our own ink.  Initial surveys of the internet came up with rather complicated recipes involving chemicals that do not exist in the everyday kitchen pantry.  However, my mind quickly jumped from ‘ink’ to natural dyes, surely no big difference.

First we would need to find a fruit with a suitable dark juice.  Blackberries would be good but I am loath to use blackberries for anything other than blackberry crumble, plus we have harvested all the blackberries in walking distance from our house!  We decided instead upon elderberries, there are two large Elder bushes just behind our house.  Elderberry harvesting ensued. (The Elder is an amazing tree; for another great use for the Elder check out my post on Elder bead necklaces.)
Once a decent batch had been picked we squished them through a wire sieve, added salt and vinegar to help the colour stay.  Bingo. Ink.

Next a stylus was required.  My daughter found a small stick and created a point using a large pencil sharpener. It worked.  We found some cartridge paper to write on, and they were drawing and writing happily for the next 20 mins.


As the nib became wetter it became softer and less good for writing but good for painting.  It would be great to try using a feather and see the difference.

The ink was a little pulpy, to make it less coarse we could have  squeezed the juice through some muslin. However, for our purposes the sieve was adequate.

The recipe

One small bowl of soft, dark fruit.

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of vinegar

Possibilities for experimentation are endless and this activity could easily be carried out on a campsite.  Perhaps to make signs for a Fairy House!

Check out these:

‘Inspirational Outdoor Play Books’

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2 thoughts on “Make your own ink!

  1. HappyHomemakerUK says:

    I’m so glad I found you – we have been a little discouraged by the camping here. Roasting marshmallows over a gas flame doesn’t have the same feel as a proper campfire. I’m excited to look at your reviews – what a great niche! I love the homemade ink too – very clever!

  2. Becca says:

    If you want to make oak gall ink then you can use rusty nails (or any rusty iron) soaked in vinegar overnight instead of the chemicals. Mix the strained vinegar with the water that you’ve soaked the crushed oak galls (also overnight) in, and darken with soot.

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