How Is Pen Ink Made?

We as humans use a lot of ink every day, whether it’s in our rollerballs, ballpoints, or fountain pens.

But have you ever thought about what ink is and how it is made? If you haven’t already, take a moment to learn more about pen ink and how pens are made.

However, it’s important to note that not all pen ink is made using the same process, different pens require different methods of practice.

In this article, we’ll explore how pen ink is made, how it came about and how it can be used. Let’s dive in!

When Was Pen Ink First Made?

Ink has been used as a writing instrument since at least one of its earliest applications, when it was used as a dye to write on the insides of caves.

This primitive form of ink was made from fresh fruits, veggies, and rocks.

Over centuries, paints and colors derived from fish and animal components were utilised as ink to generate symbolic messaging, as well as textile ink for clothes and other goods. Ink has a long and illustrious history.

Circa 1200 B.C., a Chinese scholar called Tien-Lcheu experimented with pine tree ashes and oil to develop an ink for handwriting.

He also introduced gelatin to the solution, which was prepared from a donkey’s flesh with some fragrance put into it.

Every one of these chemicals were combined to produce the very first black handwriting ink, which quickly gained popularity in Asia and the surrounding regions.

In fact, some people attempted to change the recipe by using natural products and mineral dyes  instead.

Salt, gum, and nutgalls were among the items. This became the accepted practice at the time. 

Circa 2500 B.C., Egyptians developed their unique kind of ink by combining carbon and gum. This was cured in the shapes of twigs after it was created.

The twigs were soaked in water and prepared to be used on papyrus paper once they were completely dry. In India, a type of ink called “masi” appeared about the fourth century.

This ink was made by the Indians from burnt bone and tar. Presently, this is referred to as “India ink.” It is still a common ink in India, China, and Japan, including among painters who find the ink’s rich colours and durability fun and useful to use.

Inks have since evolved into two varieties in the twenty-first century: printing ink and handwriting ink.

There are many more sub-categories of printing ink according to the sort of handwriting the ink should be used for, such as mechanically plating, digital printing, and traditional writing. 

How Is Pen Ink Made?

Colors and dyes are the building blocks of ink. Pigments are insoluble grains which are not influenced by any compounds existing in the object that they have been combined with, such as inks, and therefore only soak in particular areas.

They can be made both biologically and artificially. Dyes, on the other hand, are soluble, and when mixed with a substance like ink, the compounds produce colour.

The main elements are commonly found in colour ink are: petroleum distillate fluid, synthetic oils, natural pigments, and soy protein. The usage of inorganic pigments is uncommon.

White pigments, which are frequently manufactured from titanium combined with activated carbon, are used in black ink.

For convenience of printing or customized style, both types of ink can incorporate additives like waxes, lubricants, and some kind of dehydrating agent.

If an ink’s foundation is linseed oil, it will dry by oxidizing in the air. When there is ethanol present, the ink dries by evaporating.

The two key ingredients are a color that dissolves in the liquid and the pigment of choice, which must be powdered before being used to ensure that it blends into the solution rather than settling to the base or separating and forming pigment pockets.

Depending on how the ink will be handled, the colours and pigments combined with the other components will differ.

So, after the colourants have been mixed together, they will be mixed with water, probably ethanol or linseed oil, and other organic elements that indicate the sort of project the ink should be used for.

All of the components are mixed together in a big hot saucepan until they are evenly distributed and appear as a creamy liquid.

Some producers even sift the ink solution to ensure that no particles from the chemicals remain, which could obstruct the rest of the production process once the ink is applied. 

What About Ballpoint Pen Ink?

Laszlo Biro, a Hungarian man, invented the very first functional ballpoint pen in 1938, but he was capable of doing this because he concluded that a thicker ink was essential for the ballpoint pen to ever become a hit after witnessing thick newspaper ink drying swiftly at his press.

This ink discovery was ultimately what established ballpoint pens a domestic and workplace norm, making numerous blotches and pesky staining with a ballpoint pen a relic of the past.

Rollerball pen ink has to be thin enough to dry immediately on departure from the pen, but viscous enough to flow freely through the pen, as even the tiniest modification could result in a pen that just doesn’t function. To achieve the necessary thickness, dye is utilised instead of pigment, and the carrier is usually oil-based.

What About Fountain Pen Ink?

Fountain pen ink, unlike conventional ink, is almost always  water-based. Although specific ‘components’ for any handwriting ink are difficult to come across because companies keep them highly protected, fountain pen ink could contain varying proportions of the following items:

  • Dye 
  • A thickening compound, to manage consistency 
  • Surfactant or cleanser, to promote continuous flow 
  • Fungicide, for longevity 
  • Additives, to adjust the PH of the ink and prevent pen degradation 
  • Perfume, to mask other strong odours

Different types of ink may tarnish or break your fountain pen, so be sure you buy ink designed for fountain pens. If you’re not quite sure if a particular ink will work in your fountain pen, it’s best not to risk it.