Drawing Techniques: a Guide
Brown inks : Bistre  
Old Master drawings are popularly identified with the handsome brown color of their ink. Formerly these sheets were commonly described with the misnomer "sepia". It is usual today to describe all such drawings as "pen and brown ink" or "brush and brown wash", because, although a number of different inks were used, it is difficult to distinguish between them. Of the two primary kinds of ink, bistre presents more or less the original appearance at the time of use, and iron-gall ink turns from black to brown with time.

Bistre was made from chimney soot dissolved in wine, water, or a child's urine. A binder was not necessary. The color of bistre varies with the wood from which the soot was derived, but in general it has a warm, transparent brown tone.


  Stefano della Bella, Allegory of the North Wind, Private Collection, New York
Metal Nib Pen
Iron-Gall Ink