Taking Inventory: Ink Sac

Squids In

In the briny depths of Minecraft’s oceans (and quite a lot of its rivers) lurks a rather remarkable creature – the squid. Floating in place, occasionally flapping its eight tentacles, squid live a mysterious, serene existence.

What are they thinking, as they bob along with the ocean waves? Are they wondering how we get by with just four limbs? Are they ruminating over what it would be like to have to deal with gravity? Are they simply pondering why land creatures are so mean? We’ll never know.

But squid are special, because they have been chosen to guard the darkest force in Minecraft – an item with the ability to turn everything it touches pure black. These objects are not rare, but they are powerful. It also just so happens that they’re our item of the week. That’s right, today, we’re featuring the ink sac.

Ink sacs were added to Minecraft in early 2011, at the same time as squid and fifteen other colours of dye. One to three sacs are dropped by squid when they die, but you can also get them while fishing. In Bedrock Edition, you’ll find them in stronghold storerooms, or you can craft them from base elements.

Ink sacs are a dye. That means you can use them to change the colour of all sorts of things – beds, carpets, concrete, fireworks, shulker boxes, stained glass, banners, wool, sheep, and terracotta. You can also use ink sacs to craft dark prismarine, book and quills, as well as gray and light gray dye.

Now, forget everything you just read in the last paragraph, because version 1.14 of Minecraft will change it up. We’re going to be revamping the dye system and you’ll no longer be able to use squid ink directly to dye things. Instead, we’ll be adding new dye colours – including black dye, which will be crafted from squid ink.

Now, forget everything you just read in the whole rest of the article, because real-world squid ink isn’t black at all – it’s actually a very dark brown. Historically, it was also used as an actual ink called “sepia” – particularly by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Most of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings were made in sepia, and it only fell out of favour once modern chemical inks were created.

The ink sac is found in most species of squid, octopus and cuttlefish, and consists of a bag made of muscles which sits just below the squid’s gut. The ink itself is made of a natural pigment called melanin, which is the same pigment that creates darker skin tones and hair colours in humans and other animals.

Squid have ink as a defensive mechanism – sometimes they squirt out loads of it as a smokescreen to hide their escape. Sometimes they squirt out little bits, about the same size as themselves, to confuse predators into attacking the wrong target. You might have noticed that Minecraft squid do this when you attack them, too.

Today, pretty much the only remaining real-world use of squid ink is in cooking, where it acts as a colour and a flavour, often for pasta and rice dishes. I’ve never tried it, but the Internet reliably informs me that it tastes “like the ocean in a pleasant way—not like you accidentally swallowed a mouthful of seawater”. Yum!

Duncan Geere
Written By
Duncan Geere