Best ink for photopolymer plates?

I’ve searched the Discussions and the Boxcar web site, still coming up empty, so…. is it best to use rubber-based or oil-based inks on photopolymer plates? I’d like to print on Lettra and later Arches Rives BFK.

And which brand/s would be best to start with?

Thanks for any advice!

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I’ve used Van Son oil based CML, and Sonaprint. I now have my ink made in Ft. Worth at Oldham Ink. I don’t know that it matters which ink you use.

I have a friend in NY that uses Rubber Based ink.


This might seem a flippant response but it is actually quite serious


I always used rubber based for most imprinting and numbering jobs.Also used Tuff Tex to print on metallic label stock. A few months ago after speaking with a VAN SON distributer I bought QUICKSON oil based ink it works for me. Note don’t leave oil based on your rollers too long.

Thanks everyone! Just a couple of follow-up questions…

Gerald, does your Flickr pic mean one type is less toxic than the other? (I assume you wouldn’t want to wear too much of either…)

Mike, what did the Van Son distributor tell you that caused you to switch to oil-based?

And one more – Casey, is Oldham supplying you with Van Son or Blue Hills Ink or some other kind? I looked at their web site and saw three kinds.

I did not switch as rubber based is great for large as in 75,000 sheet runs when I leave ink on press for days using anti skin spray during idle times.However I needed an ink that would work good on coated papers without using dryers.Quickson is inexpensive,can be left on idle press for hours,mainly vegetable based drying oils.Check VAN SON’s website for detailed information.

Thanks for the extra information Mike – that helps!


I don’t know that it matters all that much, in regard to photopolymer, which type of ink you use. Most are hybrids anyway, rather than clearly rubber- or oil-based.

It is far more important that you use a quality ink. It will simply make the work easier. As far as I know there is only one ink around that is formulated for letterpress and that is limited to black. Most of the inks being used today are formulated for offset printing.

More important is the type of press you are using. For a Vandercook, I use high-end stone lithographic inks (oil-based) exclusively. These are heavily pigmented, sticky, and have strong viscosity. I wouldn’t recommend them for a platen press, however, precisely because of these qualities.

In terms of toxicity, I wouldn’t recommend ingesting any of them.



I have been hoarding two 1lb cans of Consolidated letterpress job black that was made in the 60’s. It prints beautifully. For colors, I have been using Van Son Infinity acrylic because it has a little more body than most oil based offset inks without being overly tacky.


Thanks Gerald – I have a platen press, so no stone lithographic inks for me!

And Sumner thanks for the information too. Are you using the Van Son Infinity acrylic on a platen press? I have a C&P Old Style.

Yesterday I ordered Van Son rubber-based inks so that’s what I’ll be starting out with… we’ll see how it goes!

Thanks everyone!


I own a commercial print shop, so I have several presses. Both platen and cylinder, letterpress and offset. I have been in the business over 20 years now and in the industry for 35 years

For letterpress I like a fairly short medium tack ink. The Rubber Base ink you purchased is probably the best ink you could use to start with. The Acrylic ink dries with little more gloss so the colors have a more punch. I have wanted to try the artist grade litho inks for some time, I suppose I will just have to break down and buy some.