• August 2, 2012

A Brief History of Ink

  • Written by Printing Professional

The two most vital components to printing are the materials. The substance printed on can vary widely: paper, fabric, metal, plastic, etc. The substance printed with can only be one thing: ink.

Ink was developed in several different cultures, at different times, and independent of each other. Without ink, we would have a much less complete record of history and would have to rely solely on objects to interpret cultures.

The Chinese were the first culture to develop ink, in the 18th century BC. It was composed of a dye from plant, animal, or mineral sources which was ground and mixed with water. This could be applied with a brush.

India ink dates back to the 4th century BC and is still in use today, mainly for drawing. The pigment was initially from burnt bones, tar, or pitch. Today the pigment comes from lampblack produced by burning lamp oil. The pigment is often mixed with gelatin or shellac to make the ink last longer.

European ink was developed in Rome in 400 AD. This ink mixed iron salts with tannins and a thickener. Later, Europeans used pigments from tree branches.

When Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, a new ink had to be developed which was thicker and would not smudge when used with the press. The ink that resulted was composed of soot for pigment, turpentine as a solvent, and walnut oil to make the oil thicker so it would not smudge.

Today ink uses all sorts of pigments and almost any color can be printed. The technology used to convey the color and dry the ink is varied. Accent Printing Solutions complete print solutions utilize the best in printing and graphics technology to deliver your job.