What is that red ink doing?


Remember the red ink I made? I’ve sold and given all but one bottle away and that’s mine for use and experimenting.  This ink has a very interesting and temperamental characteristic.  It doesn’t like to stay the color red.  Not at all.

This is a backlog project that I am slowly working on.  Please ignore the drawn in lines and focus only on the ink.  Notice something funny about this line?

Notice the letters.  Darker at the beginning and lighter at then end

Notice the letters. Darker at the beginning and lighter at then end

Exactly.  And what’s more you can see it over time.

A little bit later and focused in on the end few words and you can see a difference.

A little bit later and focused in on the end few words and you can see a difference.

So what is going on?  A chemical reaction is happening.  This ink is an acid base indicator and therefor changes color depending on where in the pH scale it is.  Well this goes on a beautiful red and slowly turns purple all the way to a very dark purple that looks black.

We can look at it under a 20X microscope.  So why don’t we do that?

Freshly drawn ink line

Freshly drawn ink line

A few minutes later we see this.

Line 2

Starting to get a bit darker

The color change is significant now.

The color change is significant now.

Okay but that is just one line, How about comparing two lines under the microscope?  That sounds like a great idea.  Let us do that.

Two lines 1

Fairly lightly colored bottom line darkened first line.

Especially when drawn next to each other the color difference really stands out.  Just like the first line, you can also see the pattern of darkening and how it starts to occur.

Two lines 2

The darkening process is noticeable.

These pictures under the microscope were taken roughly one minute apart.

Two lines 3

Very definitely a purple bottom line and the top line is much darker and almost black now.

Two line 4

Top line is noticeably blackish looking and the bottom line is darkening up its purple.

Notice the pattern of color change?  Pretty interesting though hardly scientificly done.  I would need many test samples done with more precise timing.

So why is the ink changes to purple and then black?  The answer to that is pH.  But what is changing the pH of the ink?  Metal in my nib?  Paper to acidic?  My breathing heavily on it?  My breath wasn’t a factor I assure you.  So that leaves the pen and paper.  Frankly it could be either or both.  Others had reported color changes to me and I had experienced it before myself.  The best way to use this ink is with a clean and dedicated feather quill pen.  Then the ink doesn’t change colors.  Any metal nib I put it on seems to cause the ink to do  this color change.

I did some further experiments.  The problem is solved!  To see what I did and how I did it click the link below.

I did a follow-up post here.

2 responses to “What is that red ink doing?

  1. Pingback: Backlog – First Rough Draft | scribescribbling·

  2. Pingback: Red Ink Experimenting – Follow-up post | scribescribbling·

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