Bistre is a brown pigment extracted by watery solution from the soot of wood-fires, whence it retains a strong pyroligneous scent. It is of a wax-like texture, and of a citrine-brown colour, perfectly durable. It has been much used as a water-colour, particularly by the old masters in tinting drawings and shading sketches, previously to Indian ink coming into general use for such purposes. In oil it dries with the greatest difficulty.

A substance of this kind collects at the back of fire-places in cottages where peat is the constant fuel burnt; which, purified by solution and evaporation, affords a fine bistre. Scotch bistre is of this kind. All kinds of bistre attract moisture from the atmosphere.