A Quick Review of Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay Inks

Quick review of Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay Inks https://daisyyellowart.com

I love art materials that are versatile and flexible, materials are inherently building blocks to art. These india inks are thoroughly engaging and now happily incorporated into my creative endeavors. 

Each October you can find me playing with inks every single day, creating little abstracts! A mix of patterns, hand-lettering, with lush blends of inks. Once again, I'm participating in the Inktober Challenge. Each year I dive into a different aspect of ink and am always amazed to see what I can accomplish in just month of experimenting! 

Two years ago I splurged on two different sets of Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay Inks {24 bottles}. I'd been using their black & white inks for  years and wanted to see what the other colors were all about.


The Bombay inks are pigment based india inks, acid-free, archival grade, lightfast, waterproof & non-toxic. Pigment-based means that fine pigments are suspended in the liquid medium. The ink comes in 1oz. glass bottles with a built-in dropper inside the lid. The inks can be used with a brush, diluted with water with watercolor-like techniques, dip pen, dripped from the dropper, etc. Various sites state that this ink can be used in a technical pen but my concern would be that it would be difficult to clean. So I'm not using it in my fountain pens.

Review of Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay Inks https://daisyyellowart.com
5x8" watercolor paper, Dr. Ph. Martin's india inks, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

5x8" watercolor paper, Dr. Ph. Martin's india inks, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

What on earth are they? How do they compare to other mediums?

Let me give you a non-scientific fluidity spectrum based on my experience.  Fountain pen inks are highly fluid {i.e. J. Herbin dye-based ink}, then next the Bombay india inks, then acrylic inks, then fluid acrylics. Of course there are other products along this spectrum, but I wanted to give you a frame of reference. 

India inks are thinner than acrylic inks, while retaining that intense saturation of color. If you take acrylic ink and add water, you lose color intensity so acrylic ink + water does not equal india ink. These inks are more dense and opaque than fountain pen inks. So if you want an ink that is light and airy and potentially translucent straight from the bottle, this is not it. 

The black is especially crisp & consistent. 
An opaque waterproof black for your collection. 

With india ink, you can achieve interesting watercolor-like variations. Yet these inks are permanent when dry, whereas of course watercolor is not; so there are interesting options for layering. 

8x8" watercolor paper, Dr Ph. Martin's Bombay Black on gouache, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

8x8" watercolor paper, Dr Ph. Martin's Bombay Black on gouache, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

Pros & Cons

Pros: The colors are opaque, lush, rich, intense & saturated out of the bottle. They move around sort of like watercolor paint, but with a thicker consistency. Opaque directly out of the bottle, they can be beautifully thinned with water or watercolor mediums and dry fairly quickly. If not diluted, they have a bit of a sheen when dry. 

Once dry, they are waterproof so you can add more layers or write on top with more ink or add watercolor and the earlier layers of ink will not intermingle. I love using these inks with a dip pen or brush. Try them with salt water for a glittery look! I love that the inks don't feather or bleed.

Per the manufacturer website, "These highly pigmented India inks not only remain lightfast and permanent, but are also totally waterproof when dry. They adhere to nearly all surfaces and are non-clogging when used in pens. Inks can be diluted with water and used with brushes in traditional watercolor techniques or in dip pens, technical drawing pens, and airbrushes. All colors are brilliant and transparent, except black and white, which are opaque and have excellent covering power."

Definitely versatile: you can use them in a dip pen, with a brush, dripped from the dropper that is part of the lid of the bottle. You can use objects like plastic gift cards & chopsticks to make marks and slashes, splatter from a brush, etc.

Older pages have retained their brilliant color. They work on watercolor paper, bristol paper, moleskine drawing paper, etc. 

Cons: If you don't shake up the jars every month or so, they will begin to settle and ultimately separate. This is not true of all inks. For example, the colors I haven't used at all {and thus never thought to shake up once in awhile} in two years {i.e. ochre and brown and gray} have completely separated and are yucky. Like unused nail polish, if you want a reference point. That's the con. So they will not last forever. My J. Herbin inks don't require any shaking and none have separated. So the Bombay inks are not going to last a zillion years.

PS. I only review materials that I've used for at least 6 months

In order to share useful information with you guys, I feel like I need to use a material in all sorts of circumstances and combinations for at least 6 months. I need to understand the material. The pros & cons. There are a lot of things that you don't discover until you've tried the materials in different ways, on different papers, even to see what happens as the containers sit on your shelf or after your pages have long dried. 

Making groovy collage fodder with india inks.

Making groovy collage fodder with india inks.

If you are just going to use a few colors, just get perhaps black, white, aqua, blue, magenta, yellow, tangerine & grass green if you can find them sold individually at reasonable cost. I found it less expensive to get the sets {about $36/set} even though there are some colors I never use. 

If you want to start with ONLY one set, definitely get Set One, because in this set you get a great assortment of colors including black & white. The key missing color is orange. Set Two adds lush colors as well as orange.

Tutorials with Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay Inks!

Groovy Inked Papers Tutorial and Make an ink color swatch chart.

Still vivid after three years!

And the really good news? Flash forward several years and I rediscovered my ink swatches which had been in an open box on my art shelves for 3 years. I snapped a photo and the colors are just as vivid! I also checked the abstracts I'd done over the past few years and they're all looking great. Definitely good to know! 

Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay ink swatches. https://daisyyellowart.com
Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay ink swatches. https://daisyyellowart.com

This review is not sponsored by any entity; I purchased all of the materials. Links to Amazon are affiliate links, so if you purchase via the link sometimes I get a tiny rebate.