Despite what some medieval encyclopedias claim, Dragon’s Blood did not come from the blood of dragons or elephants who died in battle. Dragon’s Blood is actually a red resin that comes from a variety of different plant species in Southeast Asia, East Africa, the Canary Islands and South America. 

Dragons Blood comes from tree resin.

Dragon’s Blood was used for centuries as an incense, varnish, medicine and dye. It can be obtained from multiple species of trees found around the Indian Ocean, the Canary Islands and Morocco. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Arabs used Dragon’s Blood as a paint, medicine and in ritual magic and alchemy. 18th century Italian violin makers used Dragon’s Blood as a varnish, and the palettes of many Renaissance painters included Dragon’s Blood.  

 

Giotto di Bondone and his workshop, The Pentecost ca 1305-17

"The Pentecost" ca 1305-17 by Giotto de Bondone and his workshop

In the painting above, analysis has shown that Dragon's Blood was used for the flames above the heads of the saints. 

Dragon’s Blood is a bit tricky as a pigment for a few reasons. Dragon’s Blood is not soluble in water, turpentine or petroleum oil, but is soluble in alcohol and in some other oils and alkalis. Another thing that makes this pigment tricky to work with is that it is badly fugitive. That means it is not lightfast and will fade over time and with certain lighting situations. 

Dragons Blood pigment

Above: Dragon's Blood pigment

Use and clean up: Ruby Mountain Dragon’s Blood Ink contains Dragon’s Blood pigment from Sumatra. It is an alcohol ink so it reacts differently than water-based inks. Experiment and see what happens when you use Dragon’s Blood Ink with your watercolors. When it is time to clean up, use rubbing alcohol (available in drugstores) to clean tools, brushes and hands. Dragon’s Blood Ink is non-toxic.