How to Make Ink From Charcoal

How to Make Ink From Charcoal: Complete Guideline

Charcoal has been used for years to make the signature black ink we use almost every day on documents and notes.

While this is a very cheap source, the ink is filled in pens and sold at twice the price of making the ink yourself.

It’s true, you can learn how to make ink from charcoal right at home, and it’s considered an old-fashioned custom too.

The steps are simple, and everything you need to make the ink is inexpensive or found lying around the house. And, of course, we’ll help you all through the process.

What Is Charcoal and How to Make It at Home?

What Is Charcoal and How to Make It at Home

Simply put, charcoal is the black residue that remains after the wood is burnt in a low oxygen environment. They mostly contain carbon and remainders of ashes.

It is made when water and traces of plants/animals are removed from it. Charcoal can be a fine powder or come in lightweight and porous chunks.

This material is mainly used as a metallurgical fuel. When it’s set on fire, charcoal is able to create an immense amount of heat which can be used to forge metals. It’s commonly used by blacksmiths for various kinds of steelmaking.

Other than its industrial use, charcoal can also be a regular household item. For instance, homes with a barbeque or grill often store charcoal briquettes to generate heat for the units.

Nonetheless, charcoal is readily available and inexpensive. You can also choose to make charcoal yourself, which is also a very cheap alternative to buying packs of briquettes.

Here’s how –

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Gather Supplies for wood burning

Since charcoal is basically burnt wood without an oxygenated environment, all you have to do is get two burn barrels and some wood. Make sure one barrel is small enough to fit inside the other.

Step 2: Fill Small Barrel with Wood

Fill the small burn barrel with small logs of wood up to the rim. Grab the big barrel, and turn it over on its side on the ground. Carefully hold the small barrel and turn it over so that the open end faces inside the larger barrel.

Step 3: Fit Small Barrel Inside the Bigger Barrel

Push the small barrel inside the bigger one until the open end is covered with the bottom of the big barrel. Now, you can gently turn both barrels up straight.

Step 4: Light Paper/Wood Scraps

In the empty spaces surrounding the small barrels, pack scrap pieces of paper and wood. Then, light the scraps on fire.

This will eventually cause the wood inside of the small barrel to ignite and burn to charcoal. For the wood to be completely burnt, it might take between 2.5-3 hours.

How to Make Ink From Charcoal with Different Methods?

How to Make Ink From Charcoal with Different Methods

Now that you have your charcoal all set, whether it be homemade or store-bought briquettes, it’s time to make black ink out of it.

It’s also possible to make ink from ash instead of using whole briquettes, but for now, we’ll follow the example of using the briquettes instead.

The process is simple. You will need is charcoal, a grinder to grind the charcoal to powder, and a watery substance to mix everything together with. The question is: which one do you use?

Here are a few popular homemade ink recipes  –

Method 1: Distilled Water and Charcoal

Distilled Water

This is the quickest and most efficient way of making ink at home. Grind up your charcoal, take a portion into a bowl, and add distilled water.

There are no specific measurements. Start small, then keep adding water to form it into a suitable consistency.

Make sure it’s not too runny or too thick, you want it to be workable enough to use as ink.

Method 2: White Vinegar, Honey, and Charcoal

White Vinegar

This is another very popular way of making ink for writing. Taking some of the ground charcoal, add equal amounts of white vinegar and honey, and form a consistency that’s smooth but not too runny.

You will notice that the mixture resembles regular ink and is very easy to work with on paper.

And if you want to ditch the honey, that works too. Just charcoal and white vinegar is also a good combo for consistent ink.

Method 3: Egg Whites/Egg Yolk and Charcoal

Egg Whites Egg Yolk

While egg whites/yolks are an option when it comes to making charcoal ink, it’s not a sustainable method. Both the whites and the yolks can dry up or start to reek of rotten eggs with time.

But they still make good enough ink. If you do try this, we suggest adding a bit of honey to the mix.

Now that you know the combos, let’s get into the actual process. As an example, we’ll be using the white vinegar and charcoal combo. But, you can interchange this with the combo you prefer.

Step 1: Grind the Charcoal

Using a grinder or a mortar and pestle, make the charcoal into a fine powder. You can eyeball how much powder you want to use, but if you’re keeping measurements, take about 1 ounce.

Step 2: Whisk in Distilled Water

To make sure there are no clumps in the charcoal, add 1 ounce of distilled water, and whisk it in with a fork or wire brush. Beat thoroughly until the mixture is completely smooth.

Don’t let it splash, though, or it will definitely stain wherever it lands.

Step 3: Add White Vinegar

Now, add one drop of white vinegar to your mixture. Mix it again, making sure the vinegar is completely stirred in.

Step 4: Pack Up the Mixture

You’re all done. Test out your fresh charcoal ink or store it in a jar or with a tight lid. We recommend keeping the ink in a place with minimal light, as it will last longer.

Steps to Make Charcoal Ink for Painting

When using ink for painting, there’s an extra step to make the mixture suitable for the purpose: boiling. This ensures the ink comes to the perfect consistency to be used on a canvas and alongside paint.

Here’s how to make your own ink for painting –

Step One: Grind the Charcoal

Take a fair amount of charcoal and grind it using a mortar and pestle or a regular grinder. Keep grinding the charcoal until it reaches a fine and powdery consistency.

Step Two: Boil Charcoal Powder in Water

As we didn’t take any specific measurements with the charcoal powder, the measurement of the water is not important either. Most of the water will turn to vapor after boiling, so it isn’t a big deal.

Add your charcoal to the water and boil for about 4-5 minutes. You will notice the mixture start to get darker and thicker. When it resembles ink, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.

Step Three: Add White Vinegar (Optional)

If you want to make your ink long-lasting, add 1-2 drops of white vinegar into the cooled mixture, and stir it in. Your ink is now complete and ready to use.

Tips and Caution While Using Charcoal Ink

Tips and Caution While Using Charcoal Ink

There aren’t many dangers to doing this DIY project since it has been done for many years. However, to be on the safe side, you should keep these tips in mind –

  • Wear throwaway clothes while making/using the ink. If you’re worried the ink may make a mess or cause allergies, wearing throwaway clothes will prevent this.
  • Wear a mask and gloves while handling hot charcoal/wood. Smoke from the burnt wood or dust from the charcoal can cause health issues, so always cover up when you’re near these.
  • Store the ink safely. Keep the ink in an airtight glass container so that it doesn’t dry up.
  • Store the ink in a dark place. To keep the ink fresh to use every time, keep it somewhere with minimal light.

Use the ink carefully. Charcoal ink can permanently stain wherever it lands.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do you make charcoal paint?

You can make charcoal paint by mixing ground charcoal and clear lacquer.

2. What is charcoal powder?

Charcoal powder can be the fine powdery residue that remains after the charcoal is made or by grinding up briquettes of charcoal.

3. Is charcoal harmful to humans?

In most cases, only the process of making charcoal can be dangerous to humans. Activated charcoal is completely non-toxic.

4. What are briquettes made of?

A briquette is basically a chunk or block of charcoal powder. These are commonly used for barbecues and grills.


When learning how to make ink from charcoal, it’s easy to get mixed up in the wide range of combinations, mixing processes, and ways of storage. We hope that we’ve made the task more manageable for you with our tips.

As you can tell, making the ink is a very easy process, after all. But, we still recommend going through the instructions carefully and taking a look at the tips and cautions section before starting.