Where Did Ink Come From? 

Ink, as a writing tool, has been around since what is believed to be one of its original uses in the form of dye as a means of writing on the inside of caves. They derived this rudimentary form of ink from regional fruits, vegetables, and minerals. This eventually evolved over hundreds of years so that both pigments and dyes from fish and animal parts were used as ink to create symbolic communication, but as ink for fabric on clothing and other items. The history of ink begins many centuries ago.

Around 1200 B.C., an inventor from China named Tien-Lcheu created a black ink for writing by experimenting with pine tree soot and lamp oil. He then added gelatin to the mixture that was made from the skin of a donkey with some addition of musk. All these ingredients created the first black writing ink that became very popular in China and the surrounding area. So much so that some tried to improve on the formula by substituting natural dyes and colors from plants and minerals. This included salt, gum, and nutgalls. This became the standard ink formula of that time. 

Egyptians had also created their own form of ink around 2500 B.C. by blending a mixture of carbon and gum to create it. Once formulated, it was dried in the shape of sticks. Once thoroughly dry, the sticks were dipped into water and readied for use on papyrus paper. 

Around the 4th century, an ink known as “masi” emerged in India. The Indians created this ink from charred bones and tar. This is commonly known today as “India ink.” It is a popular ink still today in India, China, and Japan as well as with artists who find that the bright colors and permanence of the ink makes it enjoyable and practical to use. 

In the 21st century, inks have evolved into two types: printing ink and writing ink. Then, there are even more sub-classes of printing ink depending on the type of writing that the ink will be used for like mechanical plating, digital printing, and conventional writing. If you've ever wondered, "How is ink made?" continue reading.

How Ink Is Made

The foundational makeup of ink is pigments and dyes. Pigments can be created organically and also artificially, particles that are insoluble and are not affected by any chemicals that are present in the item that they are being incorporated with, such as ink, and only absorb in selective areas. However, dyes are soluble and when they are incorporated with a medium like ink they elicit color through the chemicals. 

Ink made with color usually includes the following ingredients: petroleum distillate solvent, linseed oil, some form of organic pigments, and soybean oil. Inorganic pigments are not commonly used. For black ink, the ingredients include white pigments which are commonly made from titanium dioxide coupled with carbon black. Either type of ink can also include additives such as wax, oils, and some form of a drying agent for ease of printing or custom design. If an ink has a linseed oil base, it will dry through air oxidation. When alcohol is present, the ink will dry through evaporation. 


The two main ingredients are a dye, which dissolves in the ink, and the chosen pigment which has to be ground before it is added so it will blend into the mixture and not settle to the bottom or separate and form pigment pockets. 

The combinations of dyes and pigments coupled with the other ingredients will vary depending upon how the ink will be used. So, after the combination of the dyes and pigments are complete, they will be combined with water, possibly alcohol or linseed oil depending upon the ink being manufactured, and other chemical ingredients that reflect the type of project the ink will be used for. 

All the ingredients are put in a large heated vessel until it is properly dispersed and appears in a smooth liquid form. Some manufacturers even strain the ink mixture through a filter to make sure there are not any sediments left from the ingredients that might impede the rest of the printing process when the ink is used. You can watch the entire process below.