5 common ink problems and how to solve them

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There is nothing worse than being all fired up to start your calligraphy practice and boom you come up against problems with your equipment. Today we are focusing on common ink issues . Helping you problem solve by showing you the most common ink problems and how to resolve them. Hopefully helping you feel less frustrated and getting back to practice. I also have a post on solving 10 common ink problems here.

Ink bleeding and feathering

So a common issues is ink bleeding. This is when the edges of the ink feather and distort. This is not a desirable look and reduces definition of calligraphy and even causes it to become eligible. There area few reasons this can happen and the most common ones are the paper you are using is too absorbent or not designed to hold ink or due to the quality/age of your ink.

Ink is leaving blobs on my page

So your ink isn't bleeding, but, it's pooling at different points in your downstrokes and upstrokes. Causing ink blobs to form on your page and reducing the contrast and definition between your downstrokes and upstrokes.

There are two issues that can cause this. One - you need to prep your nib to remove the oily coating. This is causing the ink to run off the nib creating blobs I talk more about this in depth in this post here

Or two, it maybe the quality of your ink. Sadly not all inks are made equal or are suitable for calligraphy. For example Indian Ink can often be too watery, its cheap to buy which is why alot of people end up using it. But its not thick enough to create the fine delicate strokes we are after.

I recommend using high quality sumi ink that I have in my kits. Such as higgins eternal ink or moonpalace ink. You can find a more comprehensive list in my inks post.

Alternatively you can try and leave the lid off for a day or two in a safe dry environment to help evaporate some of the water content. This may increase the thickness of the ink.

Ink is skipping strokes or not flowing

Ink skipping strokes or not flowing through your nib at all. Your ink is probably too thick. Depending on what ink you are using, there is a simple solution - adding water.

But before you take this advice you need to check if your ink is acrylic based or water based. You can't add water to the whole bottle of acrylic ink as it reacts with the plastic in the ink and overtime separates and ruins it. Adding tap water can also make ink go moldy over time so we have to be careful how we add it or use distilled water instead.

You only need to add small amounts of water. You need to stir it well and test it to see if it improves. I always recommend adding water to ink in small batches. So separating some ink from the main bottle to water down. This will increase the life of you ink and prevent acrylic inks from being ruined.

If you add too much you can always leave the lid off overnight, this will help evaporate some of the water.

Ink is dried up and gone into little balls

Ah so this sounds like you may have added water to a bottle of acrylic ink. Overtime the water reacts with the plastic in the acrylic and causes it to separate and dry out. Sadly there is no way back and you can't save this ink. In future i'd recommend investing in some water based inks.

Ink separated

This is really common amongst metallic calligraphy inks such as Dr PH Martins. The crushed metallic pigments are suspended in a mixing fluid. If they haven't been used then they quickly separate. This is really normal and all you need to do is pop the lid back on and give the ink a really good shake or stir. Some calligraphers use magnetic ink stirrers to keep their ink smooth and well mixed and are particularly helpful when writing a long calligraphy commission or practice session. I usually use the end of my pen holder and give it a good stir and shake before pipetting it onto my nib.