Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Coloured fluid used for writing, drawing, or printing. Inks usually have staining power without body, but printers' inks—pigments mixed with oil and varnish—are opaque. The use of inks goes back in China and Egypt to at least 2500 bc. The earliest known type was produced from lampblack (a pigment made from soot) ground into a solution of glue or gums. These materials could be moulded into dry sticks or blocks, which were then mixed with water for use. Ink brought from China or Japan in such dry form came to be known in the West as ‘Chinese ink’ or ‘Indian ink’. The names are also given to a similar preparation used today. Other materials that have been used to make ink include plant dyes, soot (see bistre) and fluids from marine creatures (see sepia). Most modern inks use soluble synthetic dyes as the colouring agent.

Subjects: Art.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »