DIY: The Lazy Man’s Walnut Ink

DIY Walnut Ink
My handmade walnut ink photographed by Andrea Pesce Photography

Okay, before you get excited about the word “lazy” in the title, let me just say this is not a completely lazy way to make your own walnut ink. I’ll be the first to admit I got hand cramps, battle wounds, and stained hands from the walnuts. But once the hard part was done, the rest was a breeze!

What You’ll Need:

  • A fair amount of black walnuts still in their green shells (I used about 75 walnuts and it made a very large amount of ink)
  • A large pot or bowl
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Chisel
  • Fine metal sieve


  1. Gather all your whole black walnuts in a large bowl or heavy duty bag. We have several walnut trees in our yard, so I used those. I tried to choose the ones that were starting to turn soft and black, as opposed to the more green, harder ones.
  2. Fill a large pot or bowl about 3/4 full with clean water.
  3. Use your chisel to begin cracking open your walnuts. You don’t need to get the entire shell off, you’re just trying to get to the rich brown-black tone on the inside.
  4. Place de-shelled walnuts in the pot as you work.
  5. Set the pot of walnuts and water in a cool, dry place that won’t be disturbed for about 2-3 weeks.
  6. After a couple of weeks, your water should be a nice, rich dark shade of brown-black. Carefully remove and discard your walnuts. (The key here is carefully! This ink will stain any and everything it comes in contact with!)
  7. Carefully strain your ink through a metal sieve into airtight containers (I prefer mason jars) and seal tightly until you are ready to use it.

This makes a very thin walnut ink, perfect for watercoloring or dip dyeing. For thicker consistencies, you can boil the ink down or add gum arabic.

If you’re using the ink for dyeing purposes, I recommend pouring a little ink in a bowl with some water, and adding more ink until you get the color you are looking for.

DIY Walnut Ink

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