What Is Indian Ink?

indian-ink Credit: Bree Mercer/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Indian ink, or India ink, is the name given to black ink made from carbon soot, a solvent like water and a binder like shellac. The result is a dark, permanent ink that is also waterproof.

India ink is also called China ink and is known to have been compounded and used in China in 3,000 B.C. Soot was collected after the burning of selected pine trees or the burning of vegetable oil, and then mixed with glue made from deer horn. In the 11th century A.D., the soot, or lampblack, was obtained by burning petroleum in an oil lamp. Modern India ink is made with soluble dyes mixed with shellac and is a favorite ink of illustrators.