India ink vs spray paint

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Forum topic by Brobab posted 03-11-2013 01:15 AM 3244 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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13 posts in 1927 days

03-11-2013 01:15 AM

I am completing an ambrosia maple kitchen table. The top is highly figured and will be a natural finish – probably shellac to pop the figure followed by a few coats of wipe on satin poly. I have decided that the apron and legs will be black, (thought of walnut, but wanted it just a bit more contemporary). I am using regular soft maple. I am really intrigued by the idea of india ink as a black dye. With the maple, there really is no grain to bother trying to highlight and any figure will be obscured by the black.

I have done a sample board sanded to 220 using two coats of india ink with a foam brush. In the picture, the ink is on the left and the paint on the right. The ink gave a pretty uneven and streaky finish. It looks like it would improve with additional coats of ink. I did another sample board with two coats of black satin spray paint, no primer, (just run of he mill generic enamel spray paint).

I will likely finish with one coat of shellac and two or three coats wipe on poly. At this point, i can’t see the benefit to fooling with the india ink, other than that it seems “cooler” as a finish. The spray paint is a one afternoon and done option.

Can anyone offer any reasons why the ink is a better option? Seems to me that using the ink to ebonize might be best done on a small scale, and maybe when the goal is to highlight the grain. Spray paint just seems like cheating – I could always call it spray lacquer and feel better about it I guess….

9 replies so far

View kdc68's profile


2649 posts in 2246 days

#1 posted 03-11-2013 01:26 AM

Never tried it myself…but here’s a link from my archieve of finishing tips…..old school approach

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View bondogaposis's profile


4690 posts in 2321 days

#2 posted 03-11-2013 01:27 AM

Go w/ the paint.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3863 days

#3 posted 03-11-2013 02:31 AM

I take that back

the right side wins

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2331 days

#4 posted 03-11-2013 01:19 PM

The answer is obvious.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View woodman88's profile


144 posts in 2618 days

#5 posted 03-11-2013 02:07 PM

You aren’t supposed to use idia ink by it self. I used it mixed with SOLAR LUX jet black dye worked great. do a search for ebonizing

View Bobsboxes's profile


1362 posts in 2633 days

#6 posted 03-11-2013 02:32 PM

I used black laquer in the rattle can, my table legs came out great. Good luck.

-- Bob in Montana. Kindness is the Language the blind can see and deaf can hear. - Mark Twain

View DrDirt's profile


4423 posts in 3712 days

#7 posted 03-11-2013 04:04 PM

I had some trouble in the past week with spraypaint on soft maple.

I made two large picture frames (27 by 49 for a 24X46 glass panel) and painted them with Rustoleum “Universal” Satin Black, and I had no trouble in the first frame, but the second one, had a real struggle with crackling/alligator skin on one corner ~3 inches on both faces.
Sanded wrinkles out with 320. Resprayed, and had a 6 inch problem.

sanded to bare wood, light coat of shellac, repainted- waited 48 hours, recoated and still a few bad flecks.

I really don’t know what contaminant was driving this at just that spot, there wasn’t any glue I could see.

For the spray can instructions, you have to do your second coat either within 1 hour or after 48 hours.

I like the simplicity of the paint, and ultimately it looks good – - but it was a rough experience.

Maybe as bugz says the Lacquer will be better behaved than the enamel I used.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View looneydude's profile


1 post in 780 days

#8 posted 03-07-2016 10:12 AM

I use india ink for like 75 % of the things I make and have found several different benefits, drawbacks and techniques to using. I have found it as a viable option for an antiqued, satin kinda look, almost like milk paint, admittedly it is a bit more labor intensive than spraypaint, but being stationed in Germany aerosols are more expensive here. Sometimes I will do a base coat of black spray paint and sand with a extremely fine metal sand paper ( 1200 grit) as soon as it is touch dry, but before full dry, this will remove the outer layer, then I will use a disposable sponge brush and coat the entire surface with India ink, which I will then rub vigorously with a paper towel after about 5 mins of drying, this gives a nice, even, marred antique look to the whole thing, depending on the project I will sometimes skip the initial sprayed base coat and use only the ink. Most of my work however is small jewelery box type stuff. Example on the black box pictured, Sorry I don’t have a better pic at the moment.

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2500 days

#9 posted 03-08-2016 04:14 AM

I have done both black paint and India ink. Both work well, but black paint is probably easier to use.

India ink is not a dye, BTW – it is like a thin paint that dries quickly. The streakiness you observe is because the ink dries too quickly for flow out to level, so the surface is uneven. The key to getting a flat surface is to lightly sand it with a high grit paper (600 or higher) using a flat sanding block. Apply several coats of ink to build up a thick enough coat to withstand the sanding. And once the surface looks even, you need to seal it with some kind of top coat, the ink does not stand up well as a finish on its own.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

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