Wild Inks & Paints: outline & progress

This post is for the backers of my book Wild Inks & Paints to be able to preview the contents and keep track of my progress. (If you’re seeing this but missed the campaign, don’t worry, the book will be available after completion.)


πŸ”Ž Still researching/testing

πŸ–‹ Write-up still needs work

πŸ– Needs images

Crossed out: all done!


Intro πŸ–‹


  • Equipment πŸ–‹πŸ–
  • Safety πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹πŸ–
  • (Techniques, may not be needed)
  • Definitions: dye/ink vs. pigment/paint, binder vs. medium


  • Gum
  • Starch πŸ–
  • Milk πŸ–
  • Egg glair πŸ–‹
  • Egg tempera πŸ–‹

Assistants & modifiers:

  • Metal salts: alum, iron salt, copper salt πŸ–‹πŸ–
  • Acids πŸ–‹
  • Alkalis
  • Other: sugar, preservatives πŸ–‹

Part 1: Plant Colours

  • Foraging ethics πŸ–‹
  • Harvesting advice and storage methods (dry or freeze, and how) πŸ–‹πŸ–
  • Phytochemicals: botanical colour compounds, their properties, how to best extract and work with each category πŸ–‹
  • Extracting dyes: flower, fruit and bark methods πŸ–‹πŸ–
  • Generic recipe to turn a dye into an ink πŸ–‹πŸ–
  • Preserving colours: wet (ink form)πŸ–‹, dry (clothletsπŸ–, inspissationπŸ–‹πŸ–), precipitated πŸ–‹πŸ–(alum and chalk lakes, notes on other methods)

Dye plants:

(No breaks for seasons, instead arrange them in the order in which they appearβ€”we get a rolling visual palette of the seasonsβ€”and use a visual device [icons in the outer margin] to indicate the gradual turning of the year, then pantry stuff)

(For each plant: names, palette, habitat, best extraction method, cautionary notes if applicable, how to store for later use, notes on preservation and lake if applicable, recipes if there are any historical or it requires special treatment)

  1. Daffodil πŸ–‹
  2. Gorse πŸ–‹
  3. Grape hyacinth πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹πŸ–
  4. Mahonia berry πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹πŸ–
  5. Yarrow πŸ–‹πŸ–
  6. Poppy πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹πŸ–
  7. Camomile (Dyer’s and Roman) πŸ–‹πŸ–
  8. St John’s Wort πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹πŸ–
  9. Tansy
  10. Mullein
  11. Mulberry πŸ–‹
  12. Coreopsis
  13. Lady’s bedstraw
  14. Marigold πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹πŸ–
  15. Heather
  16. Dogwood
  17. Knopper gall
  18. Damson πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹
  19. Goldenrod πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹πŸ–
  20. Elderberry πŸ–‹
  21. Buckthorn πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹
  22. Blackberry (with note on bramble tops) πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹πŸ–
  23. Pokeberry
  24. Chokeberry
  25. Privet πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹
  26. Shaggy ink cap πŸ–‹
  27. Horse chestnut πŸ–‹
  28. Hawthorn berry πŸ–‹
  29. Walnut
  30. Acorn top πŸ–‹πŸ–
  31. Oak marbleΒ  πŸ–‹πŸ–
  32. Sloe
  33. Alder cone
  34. Pine cone
  35. Cedar cone
  36. Ivy berry
  37. Avocado (now we’re in pantry territory, order TBD)
  38. Pomegranate skin (and flowers)
  39. Sumac?
  40. Turmeric
  41. Black grape
  42. Onion skin
  43. Saffron
  44. Sage
  45. Hibiscus

Part 2: Pigments

  • Ochres: Types, finding, washing
  • Carbon blacks: Making lamp black, making charcoal black, historical recipes
  • Calcite whites: from chalk, seashells, eggshells

Part 3: Tools & Media


Quill pen: Hebraic, Arabic and Western methods of making

Bamboo pen


Paint pans


  • Making watercolour πŸ–‹πŸ–
  • Making gouache πŸ–‹πŸ–
  • Notes/recipes for media I don’t use and can’t judge properly: oil paint πŸ–‹πŸ–, printmaking ink (eg for linocut) πŸ–‹πŸ–, pastel πŸ”ŽπŸ–‹πŸ–
  • Wheat paste πŸ–
  • Impasto medium πŸ–
  • White dough πŸ–


  • About art paper, issues to plan for
  • Sizing/coating paper: starch, rice water, wheat paste, muqahhar recipes
  • Dyeing paper (after preparing with alum, milk or other)
  • Using reactivity to create patterned paper: iron solution over gall, alkali over yellow, vinegar as discharge agent, pre-drawing with milk or alum coating before dyeing


(can be separated if there’s a lot of material)

  • Cleaning recipes
  • Invisible inks

Sourcing materials


Endnotes (might not need them)


Inks & Paints of the Middle East


A handbook of materials and art technology used in early Islamic manuscripts, for artists and art lovers alike.

Published in 2020, Inks & Paints is a concise and approachable, but thoroughly practical manual examining the main materials used in manuscripts during the Abbasid period, also known as the Golden Age of the Islamic world. It is based on Arabic inkmaking treatises of the time, most of them never translated nor even knowledgeably transcribed, backed by my own experience as a working artist focused on historical materials.

The book’s 126 pages are abundantly illustrated and tightly packed with practical information on materials ranging from colours to binders and solvents use, preparation and preservation methods, and much more, plus a large number of historical recipes. I personally prepared and tested all but a small handful of the recipes before including them. The format is designed for practicality: A5-sized and wirebound, it can open flat on any page and be propped up so you can follow instructions without hassle.

Whether you have a general interest in art history or want to prepare and use these materials, this book will transport you. It is available to order in the shop.

What readers are saying about it: