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Using Dye To Make Ink


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Sorry if I misunderstood. I was under the impression that "The dye is listed as non-toxic, all the colors, so probably a neutral aniline salt".


Of course, otherwise, there may be no reason to worry.

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The photo flo is the surfactant in this ink (approx 60% water, 30% propylene glycol, 10% Triton X-100).

I'm interested in this equivalence. Would it be plausible to use Triton X-100 directly, rather than the Photo-Flo 200 combination? Would the above proportions give the correct amount to try as an equivalent?


It's interesting that propylene glycol is (among other properties) a humectant, that in larger quantities would prevent complete drying. That's probably not of concern in the tiny amounts used in ink, though.



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OK, so here's my first attempt at homebrew ink to suit my particular pen/paper combination, inspired by Drive Dr.'s original post.


Trying for a dry permanent purple ink.

2020 01 18 10pm :

15ml glass bottle with plastic cone lid seal (I misremembered it as 20ml size)

glass eyedropper for glycerin

50ml plastic syringe to measure water


18 ml Distilled water, grocery store grade

5 drops Glycerin, drugstore generic

1/2 tsp Blue Purple 810 MX dye powder from PRO Chemical

0 Photo-Flo (I didn't have any on hand)

Shook 20 seconds 3x

Left to sit overnight in ~50 F garage.

I don't have a pH meter.

- - - - - - -

2020 01 19 3pm :

Filter once through Starbucks sBCAB129 "Interactive Cup" filter paper from roll, in funnel, into clean 15ml glass bottle.

Call this "Composition 810 A".

Trial writing with Wanwou glass nib: super wet at first, but settles down to normal looking line.

Color is very dark and somewhat muddy, not the bright blue-purple I hoped for. Maybe too much dye. Swab looks rather pale on ColORite card.

Trial writing in Jinhao 992 (previously had BSB) writes slightly narrower line than BSB.

Trial writing in target pen Lamy 2000 with Mike Masuyama 0.7mm CI gusher -- looks decent, gives better linewidth variation than BSB 2:1 water on printer paper.

Trial writing on Tomoe River gives desomecent line variation, takes a very long time to dry, so probably still too wet / too much flow. Maybe too much glycerin.

Water restistance tests pending.

- - - - - - -

2020 01 20. 9pm :

Wrote with Composition 810 A on Tomoe River paper, using both Jinhao 992 and the target pen Lamy 2000, Mike Masuyama CI gusher.

Dry time: 5 minutes.

Tap water, 100 F.

Dipped up to line for 15 seconds, pulled straight up, placed on paper towel.

IMG_4489 shows setup; IMG_4490 shows just after removal (still wet).

Turned writing over and wiped against paper towel.

IMG4491 shows after wiping while still moist.

What I think I see:

Some ink washed away immediately. There was pale ink color in the water.

Some ink stayed in place. It was paler than before dunking but remained crisp.

Some ink redeposited, making pale halos.

For my purpose, this is not quite satisfactory. Although the writing remains, accidental smearing would be likely.

- - - - - - -

Observations? Suggestions? Thoughts?




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  • 1 month later...

Thank you for sharing the experiment with us.

Fountain pens are my preferred COLOR DELIVERY SYSTEM (in part because crayons melt in Las Vegas).

Want to get a special letter / gift from me, then create a Ghostly Avatar

Ink comparisons: The Great PPS Comparison 366 Inks in 2016

Check out inks sorted by color: Blue Purple Brown Red Green Dark Green Orange Black Pinks Yellows Blue-Blacks Grey/Gray UVInks Turquoise/Teal MURKY

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I found the Composition shown above still too wet-writing, so I tried diluting it.


Usage report:


I have been using "Composition 810A" diluted 1:1 with distilled water for nearly two months now at work in a Lamy 2000 (medium) cursive italic on a PfFP Tomoe River notebook.



It's about as dry-writing as any nice-color ink I've tried in that pen, and better than most;

It remains legible after smearing;

The color is near what I wanted;



It smears, especially with moisture;

It is not dry enough for the paper/pen combination;

It shades (while many find this desirable, in my work notes I do not);

The color is still just slightly grayish, especially in the pale-shaded parts;


Next try will be without glycerine.


Has anyone else tried the DiveDr simple basic recipe yet?

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Another thing I'll probably try is adding some pH buffer to the mix. This risks precipitation, but if that doesn't happen it could help the color bond to the paper better and reduce smearing.

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  • 1 year later...

So haven't posted here and quite a while but have been diligently working on ink formulas. Also doing some chemical analysis on commercial inks. Dyes are most definitely the way to go. Commercial inks are definitely aqueous dye based with the exception of some pigment based samples that appear to be emulsified suspensions for the most part.


Have settled on pH balanced Proscion dye solutions with varying amounts of Photoflow and glycerine which produces excellent results. Really vibrant colors and yes, shading on good paper! Sample photos to follow and will give specific formulas if requested.

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Here are examples of a vibrant orange on MIO paper with different nibs.


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Here are some samples again on MIO paper with Proscion homebrew and commercial ink.


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