Inks Printers Use

Xerox printed in a first edition of 250 copies.

28 pages, 4.25 x 11 inches.

Printers typically have refined and considered opinions about their favorite typefaces, block materials, papers, and presses, but those same printers, myself included, often incline to head scratching when asked about ink.

When I set up my first shop, I used Van Son inks because those were the inks my teachers used. A few years later I worked for a printer whose shop was in the same building as a Gans ink distributor so I began using Gans inks. It was not long (though also too long) before I noticed that the colors I printed with Van Son and Gans inks tended to fade if hung on the wall. I then asked Gaylord Schanilec what ink he used and, like him, I began using Daniel Smith Litho inks. Before then I had never experienced such vibrant pigmentation, perfect viscosity, or reliable lightfastness. But I had not actually learned anything about ink, I just found an ink that worked for me by asking another printer.

After Daniel Smith stopped making inks I switched to Hanco inks and have been happy with them ever since, except that they don’t overprint as evenly as Daniel Smith inks did.

So lately I have been asking other printers what inks they use, and how they modify them, in the hope that I would learn how to get the same results I used to be able to get. What I’ve found is that most other printers have had similar experiences to mine. They ask friends and colleagues, and then they just mess around until they get the ink to do what they want it to do. This is an essential methodology of our craft—you just figure it out. When you can’t, you ask a friend. This book is the result of asking a bunch of friends, and friends of friends, what inks they use and how they make their ink work for them.

Participants include:

Joel Benson/Dependable Letterpress, Inc.

Ben Blount/Blount Objects

Rebecca Chamlee/Pie in the Sky Press

Julie Chen/Flying Fish Press

Jan & Crispin Elsted/Barbarian Press

Jen Farrell/Starshaped Press

Philip Gallo at The Hermetic Press

Barbara Henry/Harsimus Press

Michael Hepher/Clawhammer Press

Max Hoyt Koch/Koch Printing

Peter Koch & Jonathan Gerken/Peter Koch Printers

Art Larson/Horton Tank Graphics

Peter Malutzki & Ines von Ketelhodt

Russell Maret

Emily Martin

Graham Moss/Incline Press

Pat Randle/Nomad Press

Patrick Reagh/Patrick Reagh Printers

Felicia Rice/Moving Parts Press

Gaylord Schanilec/Midnight Paper Sales

Veronika Schäpers

Richard Seibert/Richard Seibert, Letterpress

Jessica Spring/Springtide Press

Richard Wagener/Mixolydian Editions

David Wolske