How Are Inks Made?
Ink is a liquid that is used to write, draw, print, or make marks. The word ink is from Latin and means “colored water”. Ink is used in pens, in some computer printers, and in printing presses. In some countries, people write by using ink and brushes. People usually write or print using black ink, but ink can be any color. The first ink was used in Egypt about 2600 BC.
The first inks were carbon inks, made from soot, which means they are eighty per cent carbon, water and gum Arabic. Red ink would need iron oxide (such as hematite) from ground rocks instead of soot. Later, in Europe, people used iron gall ink. This is the kind of ink Johann Sebastian Bach and Leonardo da Vinci used. Now ink colors are produced by dyes.
Most inks are made by dissolving dyes in water or other liquids. There are many kinds of ink. The dense, black ink used by artists is made by mixing lampblack with various gums and water.
Ballpoint pen ink is syrupy and contains more dye than other inks, so it can have a strong, consistent color when rolled out in a thin line. Ink in a ball point pen is held in a thin long cylinder (tube) inside the pen. The ink does not fall out of the cylinder as it sticks to the sides of the tube.
Fountain pen ink is more watery. Printing ink, for newspapers and magazines, is thick and oily. Because the paper moves through the printing press very fast, the ink must dry quickly to prevent smudging. A disadvantage of many kinds of ink is that they may smudge when wet, spoiling the picture or writing.
Inks are found in almost every aspect of human activity. We read newspapers, magazines, and books on a daily basis. We post lists on our refrigerators, jot things down on our calendars, and leave sticky notes for our coworkers and friends. We make piles of photocopies and print lots of pages from our computers. We use stamps and money, again printed with ink.