Understanding the lightfastness, permanence and archival quality of inks


At Winsor & Newton we make two ranges of ink, Drawing and Calligraphy; the main difference is down to permanence.

Drawings Inks are made from dyes and are very bright and transparent, but most of them fade over time. They are not lightfast (the lightfastness of a colour is how permanent it is or how unaffected by light it is).

However, there are two exceptions: Liquid Indian Ink and Black Indian Drawing Ink. Although they are not officially classified as lightfast, they are archival, which means they are permanent.

Liquid Indian Ink is the more traditional ink produced from Chinese ink sticks, and it is not waterproof. Black Indian Ink is based on shellac and is water resistant, which means you can apply paint washes over it once it is dry.

Calligraphy Inks are another option for artists. They are made from high quality pigments in acrylic, making the 18 colours in this range lightfast for long lasting results. Our calligraphy inks are not waterproof though, which means they can be reactivated with water even after they are dry.

A top tip for working in Drawing Ink: choose Drawing Inks rated T on the colour chart to achieve high levels of brilliance and transparency.