Using Walnut Ink in Altered Books


Altered book artists are fond of using walnut ink as an aging medium (i.e. to make paper look old). It is a versatile substance and you can do a lot with it.

The ink is made from black walnuts and is usually sold in crystallized form, although it is sometimes available in the more costly ink form as well. You mix a small portion of the crystals with hot water, using a combination of water and crystals that will produce the shade of brown that you require. Some suggest a mixture of one part crystals to two parts water. Stir, and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes to ensure the crystals have dissolved.

Then you apply the liquid to your pages, tags, lace, fabric (or to almost any other substance that can tolerate water). You can apply the ink with a brush, toothbrush, wad of cotton batting, sprayer, spritzer, baby wipe, paper towel, calligraphy pen, water-color blender pen, or by any means you want. When dry, the paper will be blotchy and brown - just the way you want it.

Unlike paper aging with teabags or coffee grounds, there will be no lingering odour.

You can store the unused portion in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It will last for quite a long time before it begins to smell bad.

Walnut ink can be difficult to find in some areas. currently carries it (see the search box below). Online sites that sometimes carry walnut ink crystals include,, and

You can also get Walnut Distress Ink from Tim Holtz. This is not a liquid, but is a stamping ink.

You can also make your own if you have access to enough black walnuts and if you don't mind fiddling around with it. I've never tried this, but if it interests you, there is a recipe at this site: Walnut Ink Recipe

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