View Full Version : Gray ink for technical pens

09-02-2018, 03:37 AM
Do you have good recipes or ideas for gray ink for technical pens?
I would love to use gray ink for shading ink drawings, but haven't found anything that would work well. I'm probably not the only person in the world looking for gray ink, so I thought someone might have good ideas here.

I've been trying to make gray ink for technical pens and brush pens by diluting black ink with water. It usually takes about 10 or 20 parts of water to one part of ink (sumi ink, technical pen ink, indian ink or similar) to get nice gray color, but there is a problem that such diluted ink always goes bad as the pigment particles aggregate and form lumps that clot the pens. In other words, something goes wrong in the chemical composition when the ink is diluted. Some indian inks can go bad in just few hours after adding the water, technical pen ink typically is usable few weeks after diluting it.

Is the only solution to mix white and black technical pen ink, or could there be something to add to the diluted black ink to keep it in working condition?

09-02-2018, 07:52 AM
You might need something like gum arabic or gum tragacanth to increase the viscosity, so the pigment particles will not settle out. I have never tried it. I gave up trying to make inks long ago after a lot of failures.

Another thing to note is the water that you're using. Is it demineralized or RO water? Ordinary tap water contains a bunch of chemicals including chlorine.

If you're going to be shading, why use a technical pen and not a brush?

09-03-2018, 12:37 PM
I would definitely attempt it with distilled water. Have you tried mixing different ratios of other colors with the black? Blue & red?

09-03-2018, 03:03 PM
Thanks for the tips.
I've tried it with distilled water and it didn't help.
I've got only black ink that is compatible with technical pens. The normal pigment inks will settle too much and will clot the pens, so I cannot mix other colors to make gray ink. Dye inks would probably work fine, but those are not lightfast so I'd prefer to avoid those.

Adding gum arabic or other binder stuff might work, but I would have to guess that what is the binder in the original ink, since the 'wrong' chemicals do not seem to help. I've earlier tried something like that and it did lead to heavy pigment aggregation and the ink became useless quite fast. If I could figure out the original raw materials in the ink, then it could be possible to add those and dilute the ink.

The black ink seems really difficult to do anything like that to obtain gray color. I no longer wonder why there are entire academic books written about carbon black pigment dispersions, as that pigment seems to be really difficult to keep well dispersed in the water.

09-03-2018, 04:16 PM

I have this link saved but haven't tried it myself yet. Now you have reminded me I think I will order some :)

It seems very well regarded and there is a range of colours as well as a dilution fluid.


Best wishes...

pedlars pen
09-03-2018, 06:24 PM
I think the problem with making a grey ink is that -
1. If you try to dilute a black ink to get it you are necessarily making an ink with very much less pigment or dye in it ,so it will be inherently both less vibrant a colour & if a dye based ink very much more prone to fading on exposure to light.(unacceptably so)
2. Many black inks are actually made from a rainbow of colours ! as anyone who takes a wash from a drawn line knows only too well. There are blues, greens, purples & other colours all present there & it is not subtle either !
Who would have believed it grey is a difficult colour to get right !

09-04-2018, 05:08 AM
Technical pens also have limitations that do not allow you to use ALL pigments available. That does not help with your problem. I have made grey washes with diluted indian ink with a brush. THe brush carries so much more ink that the reduced pigmentation does not defeat the tool and you do not get skipping spaces.