Traveling with Calligraphy Ink

Jun 27, 2023

Nothing would put a damper on your travels quite like your calligraphy ink spilling all over your clothes! There are lots of ways that people prefer to safeguard their inks during travel (usually involving tupperware containers, canning jars, or ziplock bags), but my preferred ink travel method is to simply skip packing liquids at all!

Here's what I'll be taking with me on my upcoming trip:

  1. Cloth for cleaning my nib. Hotel paper towels are less than ideal for cleaning our nibs. I love my old cotton napkins I found at a second hand store years ago. They are made of thin, lint-free cotton. They feel like cut up bed sheets. I have four of them and rotate them through the laundry. The stains never come out but, instead, serve as a reminder of the many many hours these napkins have been by my side. 
  2. Jar of walnut ink crystals. Walnut ink is my absolute favorite practice and teaching ink. It flows easily and doesn't coat the nib, eliminating the need to rinse. I put a small amount of dry crystals in a jar and close it up.  The ratio is very flexible depending on how dark you want your walnut ink so it's not important to measure carefully (package says 1 teaspoon crystals per half cup of water). When I get to my destination, I add water and mix.
  3. Extra empty jars. I prefer wide mouth, straight sided, glass jars. The weight of the glass prevents them from knocking over so easily and the wide opening makes for easier dipping. I find these on Uline.
  4. Tubes of gouache. Gouache is excellent for dip pen calligraphy. It makes fabulous hairlines, already contains gum arabic (I often add a little more but it's not necessary), and can be mixed in any color. I take however many tubes in whatever colors I may need for the particular trip. When it's needed, I can dilute it in my glass jars and dip right in. My favorite brands of gouache are Winsor & Newton and Holbein.
  5. Stir stick. Coffee to-go cup hole-plugger-thingies make fabulous little stir sticks for mixing our ink. I have also been known to use the tail end of my paint brush more often than not.
  6. Paint brush. This little shorty is great for travel. Because I'm just using the brush to load ink on my nib (if using pan ink), it doesn't really matter what size or shape paintbrush it is. As long as it's big enough to hold some ink, I'll use it. And, no need to use a really expensive brush for loading ink.
  7. Dry pan inks. These particular ones are a beautiful set from The Creative Kinds but you can also easily find Finetec or Gansai Tambi pans. 
  8. Pipettes. If you have a pipette, all you need is a cup of water and you are set for mixing all your various ink options. 

Returning Home 
For the return trip, I simply pour any ink left over out. While that may seem wasteful, I'd rather waste a few dollars worth of ink (it's probably about 10 cents worth of walnut crystals in that jar and a Hershey kiss size dollop of gouache from the tube is maybe 75 cents worth of gouache) than risk ruining hundreds of dollars worth of clothes and shoes in my suitcase. 


Hop over to, our online calligraphy school, for all sorts of great resources! You'll find everything from printable guide sheets to digital backgrounds and more!

Grab 'em now!