The Iron Gall Ink Website

How to make ink - Recipes and instructions

Cyntia Karnes (1998)

It is suggested that you read the description of ingredients before making these inks. The information will help you understand the effect that each material has on the final product.


Recipe 1: "Instant ink " (preparation time: 1-2 hours)


Rules made by E.B. For his children to learne to write bye

" To make common yncke of Wyne take a quart, Two ounces of gomme, let that be a parte, Five ounces of galles, of copres take three, Long standing dooth make it better to be; If wyne ye do want, rayne water is best, And as much stuffe as above at the least: If yncke be to thick, put vinegar in, For water dooth make the colour more dimme. In hast for a shift when ye have a great nead, Take woll, or wollen to stand you in steede; which burnt in the fire the powder bette small With vinegre, or water make yncke with all. If yncke ye desire to keep long in store Put bay salte therein, and it will not hoare. Of that common yncke be not to your minde Some lampblack thereto with gomme water grinde "


alt This recipe is from an English book of handwriting entitled A Book Containing Divers Sorts of Hands, by John de Beau Chesne and M. John Baildon, and published in 1571. The quantities listed are rather large, so the recipe was reduced by one quarter in trial preparations: half a pint (8 fl. oz. or 120 mls.) of cheap white wine; 0.5 ounces of solid gum arabic dissolved in the wine; 35 grams powdered Aleppo galls (one ounce = 28 grams); and 21 grams iron sulfate. In preparing the galls, it is best to first crack them into small pieces with a hammer, then grind them into powder a bit at a time with a mortar and pestle, spice mill or coffee grinder. Placing the galls in several plastic bags will help to contain the pieces while using the hammer.


Part of the inherent difficulty with using old recipes is the issue of changing terminology. Word definitions and context inevitably alter across borders and through time (for more on this problem, see Source Research). In Manuscript Inks, Jack Thompson cites a Mrs. Merrifield, author of Original Treatises Dating From the XIIth to XVIII Centuries on the Arts of Painting, published by John Murray in London, 1849: "...The old Paris quart was equal to 2 pints....The Paris pint was nearly equivalent to the English wine quart." An English quart is slightly more than an American quart.



Recipe 2: ink prepared by boiling galls (preparation time: 4-5 hours)


  • Ure's Tannin Ink Galls - 18 parts by weight
  • Ferrous Sulfate - 8 parts by weight
  • Gum - 7 parts by weight
  • Water - 145 parts by weight


ures boil"Add 130 of the water to the powdered galls in a pan, and boil with constant stirring, to prevent the ink from burning, for two hours, adding water little by little at intervals to replace that lost by evaporation. The decoction is then allowed to cool, and filtered...While the filtration is proceeding we dissolve the vitriol and gum in the remaining 15 parts of water, and pour the solution into the filtrate. The ink does not develop its full blackness at once..."


The ink is easily burned if water is not frequently replaced during the boiling process. During trial runs, an additional 350 milliliters of water was added during the two hour period. The solution tends to become very frothy as it boils, so be sure to use an extra large container, and use a spoon to push down any solids which collect on the interior walls. This recipe was prepared from powdered galls, but you may try using galls crushed into large chunks to save time. Upon cooling, a skin will form on the surface which will be removed by filtering. Also, this ink has a tendency to form a sludge at the bottom of the container over time. The liquid may be decanted or, if using dip pens and not fountain pens, may be shaken to mix the precipitate into solution (the precipitate will clog fountain pens). If you wait a few days before using this ink, the color will become deeper and richer.


Recipe 3: ink prepared by fermenting galls (preparation time: 2 months)


  • Runge's Gallic Acid Ink Galls - 8 parts by weight
  • Ferrous Sulfate - 4 parts by weight
  • Gum - 2 parts by weight
  • Water - 64 parts by weight

runge "The larger part of the water is poured boiling over the crushed galls, which are then allowed to ferment for two months. The liquid is then drawn off, and the residue is rinsed with the rest of the water. The two solutions are filtered together and the gum is dissolved in the filtrate. The vitriol is then added in the form of concentrated solution.

Sigmund Lehner, in his treatise entitled Ink Manufacture (cited in literature), mentions that the conversion to gallic acid caused by the fermentation process should be complete in 8 to 10 days, whereupon boiling water is poured over the mass to kill the ferment."

Trial runs using this recipe are still in progress. Revisit the site in another month to read about the results. 


Recipe 4: ink prepared by fermenting galls and adding logwood, preparation time: two weeks

  • First Quality Campeachy Gallic Acid Ink Galls - 20 parts by weight 
  • Campeachy Wood (Logwood) - 30 parts by weight 
  • Ferrous Sulphate - 20 parts by weight 
  • Gum - 30 parts by weight 
  • Water - 130 parts by weight

camp "Crush the galls, and let them ferment with 80 of the water for a fortnight. Then draw off the liquid, and rinse the residue with enough water to make the liquid and washings up to 100. The remaining 50 of the 130 of water is boiled on the logwood raspings till the solution only weighs 30. It is filtered hot, and the vitriol and gum are dissolved in it. It is then mixed with the gallic acid solution. In a few days there will be a considerable precipitate. The supernatant liquid is an excellent ink of a pure black color."

This is a beautiful, rich black ink, even without waiting a few days. In trial preparations, the logwood was boiled with twice as much water as specified (100 mls. Instead of 50 mls.). This was then boiled down to 30 milliliters, filtered through a sieve and poured over the mixture of gum arabic and iron sulfate. The result is a black sludge which must be filtered through a sieve before adding to the gallic acid (fermented gall solution). The remaining logwood still has a great deal of coloring power, and the dye can continue to be extracted and reduced down for later use.