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Chinese scroll
MFA Acc. #: 1980.127


A viscous fluid containing pigments or dyes that is used for writing or printing. Writing and drawing inks are usually water-based solutions with brown or black colorants, such as: Carbon black, Lampblack, iron gallotannate, Sepia, and synthetic dyes. Some of the earliest inks were carbon black (soot) particles in a Gum or Glue matrix. In the 9th century, iron gall inks began to be used. The tannin from the gall nut reacts with Iron and Oxygen to form a strong black color. Early printing inks contained Linseed oil, lampblack, and turpentine. In the mid 19th century, synthetic aniline dyes were used for inks. Oil, resin, and solvent based inks have been used for printing. Suspensions of finely divided Gold or Silver particles were used for decoration and religious writings.

Synonyms and Related Terms

inks; inchiostro; encre (Fr.)

Resources and Citations

  • J.Winter, "Ink", The Dictionary of Art, Grove's Dictionaries Inc., New York, 1996.
  • The Dictionary of Art, Grove's Dictionaries Inc., New York, 1996 Comment: "Print"
  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Hermann Kuhn, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities, Butterworths, London, 1986
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982