Through my social sharing, I get a lot of questions about the kind of printmaking inks I use. As with any art form, your materials can be critical to the outcome. Often it’s not just one thing, but a combination of many different things.
So, when I discovered oil-based printmaking inks (after using water-based ones), there was no turning back.
I’m not sure if it’s because I create my printmaking by hand without the use of a press, but my preference is for the slightly more expensive oil-based printmaking inks.
They are lovely to roll out on glass, and (in my opinion) create a more even layer of color. They come in tubes or tins, so if you use a lot of ink, a tin is probably best. I use tubes because I’m not using huge quantities of ink and it seems to keep better for me.
The brand I use is Caligo Safe-Wash Relief Inks. I first tried them because I wanted a permanent ink when my prints dried and was drawn to the fact that the ink washes up with water.
This drying time will also be affected by the humidity in your studio or where you live. In my town, it is very dry, and even so, the Caligo inks take several days+ to dry. If you plan to use the Caligo Safe-Wash Relief Inks with printmaking, just make sure you figure in the time for the print to dry.
Speedball Brand Inks
Speedball water-based printmaking inks are commonly found in art supply stores, but I only use these when I want something that dries really fast. I never use water-based inks with the prints I sell since the ink is not permanent when it dries (water will make it run, and I have seen it offset on your hands even after drying).
I personally find the water-based inks dry too fast. I’ve had them dry or clump on my block or glass surface after only about 15 minutes, and I am not always happy with the uneven coverage they seem to provide. But, try for yourself! The speedy drying time is certainly nice in some situations. Speedball also manufactures an oil-based ink, but I am not as fond of it as the Caligo.
Golden Open Acrylics
Another recent option I have tried is Golden Open Acrylics. They are an acrylic paint that can be spread with a roller. I do find them a little more slippery than the tacky printmaking inks to roll, but play around with different rollers to see if you like this medium.
I have used these paints successfully for printmaking demonstrations and workshops, and they stay open (or wet) for longer than the water-based inks. They also dry quicker than the oil-based inks (I found them dyring in about 30-45 minutes). So, if you are doing a demo or teaching or have a pressing deadline, these can definitely work.
When I am working in my studio and have the luxury of waiting for my prints and cards to dry, though, I much prefer the water-wash oil-based printmaking inks. I actually find the Caligo inks are cheaper to buy than the tubes of Golden Open Acrylics. But, since prices vary dramatically in different countries, you may not find this is the case where you live.
There is another printmaking ink option: make your own. A few years ago, I attended a workshop in Vancouver and learned to make my own ink. It was just so awesome. Here’s a link to a blog I wrote about that process for those who are interested. This ‘Spring Returns’ print (now sold out) was created with my ‘homemade’ ink.
And, if you are a visual learner, below is my video on YouTube that runs through these ink options. When playing this video on my YouTube channel, click on the notes underneath the video for links to these products in Canada and the USA.
Do you have a go-to printmaking ink? I’d love to hear about it!