Pearl Ex Calligraphy Ink

Joi Hunt Envelopes

Envelopes addressed by Joi Hunt using ink made with Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments: top, Sunset Gold; middle, Aztec Gold; bottom, Rose Gold.

By Joi Hunt. Pearl Ex Metallic Powdered Pigments have been around for a long time, and the product has been used in various ways by many different types of crafters. They like it because of its versatility and its colorfastness. Calligraphers have found it makes a wonderful metallic ink.
   I’m not sure who first thought of making an ink for pen calligraphy with the powders, but it was a natural thing to try. Calligraphers have made inks from powdered pigments for centuries. Scribes in the Middle Ages even made real gold ink from the scraps of gold leaf that resulted from gilding. They would grind the little flakes, add gum arabic dissolved in water, and they had metallic ink. (The mixture was dried in a little cake, which was reconstituted later with water.) Making a metallic ink for calligraphy with Pearl Ex Powders follows the same recipe – pigment, gum arabic, and water – substituting Pearl Ex for the gold (no grinding is done).
   Unfortunately, not all of the forty-nine colors in the Pearl Ex range are equally suitable for calligraphy. For whatever reason, ink made from some of the colors flows off the pen well, and other colors do not.


A Pearl Ex Set for Calligraphers

With more and more calligraphers using Pearl Ex-based ink and showing their work on social media, Jacquard Products (the maker of Pearl Ex) took note and decided to put together a Pearl Ex set exclusively for calligraphy. I was asked to test and select the nine colors for the set, which would also include gum arabic. Because there was some confusion in our community about which colors flowed well from a nib, I was very happy to be involved in this project. I personally tested each color, and I selected the colors for the set based on their beauty and on which colors calligraphers would need to use most often. I am so proud of this set; it takes the guesswork out of using Pearl Ex Pigments – you know which colors will work well in your pen and will sparkle beautifully on the page or envelope. (To see my script in gold foil on the set’s packaging was an added bonus, a dream come true.)

Using Pearl Ex Ink

To make Pearl Ex ink for your calligraphy, mix 4 parts of pigment and 1 part gum arabic (liquid or solid) and slowly add distilled water, stirring to an ink-like consistency.

I use these amounts in a Jumbo Dinky Dip jar from John Neal Books:

   – 1 teaspoon Pearl Ex pigment

   – 1/4 teaspoon gum arabic (liquid or powder)
      (If using powdered gum arabic, stir the two
       powders together before adding water.)

   – 1 teaspoon distilled water

   You can adjust the amount of water used: a thinner consistency will lie flatter on the paper when dry; a thicker consistency will stand up a bit on the paper and have a raised texture when dry. I like to use distilled water because my water is very hard (full of minerals).
   Always test your ink: Write a sample and allow it to dry, then lightly rub you finger over it. If it smears or transfers, add more liquid gum arabic.
   The ink will need to be stirred often while you are using it, either manually or with a magnetic stirrer. The mica pigment particles are heavier than water and will settle to the bottom. If your ink has been sitting for a while, just be sure to use a stiff tool or brush to break up all the pigment at the bottom.
   As you use the ink, water will evaporate out, so adding a few more drops of water may be necessary.
   In addition to the nine colors chosen for the calligraphy set, the following Pearl Ex colors are also pen-calligraphy-friendly (the colors in bold are among the more popular colors):
646 Mink, 647 Sky Blue, 655 Super Copper, 662 Antique Silver, 656 Brilliant Gold, and 665 Sunset Gold.

Joi Hunt is a calligrapher and designer based in Chicago, Illinois, who specializes in wedding and event calligraphy, usually in shimmery gold ink.