Ink-buying for beginners

I need black ink for my letterpress. I’m mainly looking for something cheap and not too messy. Is anyone familiar with Blick or Utrecht art stores? I’d really like something I can buy locally instead of online. And I need some sort of cleaning fluid to clean my rollers with when I’m done?

Any help would be awesome. Thank you!

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If you haven’t been able to search the Briar Press Archives yet, it’s worth doing; these questions are discussed in quite a few places. Good luck! rh

I found a place nearby that sells Van Son inks, but I’m not sure what kind to get. From what I have read elsewhere, I’m thinking I would be better with rubber-based ink. But how do I clean my rollers off? I haven’t been able to find a good answer.

As a former teacher, I have to agree with Onemanger, and say “Do your homework!” ;-) No, you won’t find any simple black & white answers, but you’ll be better informed to make decisions.

So, where are you? I don’t know what your local art stores carry, but I’d suggest you try to find a local printing supply house instead. Is there an Xpedx (or Arvey) Paper anywhere near you? They’ll carry printing ink and roller wash, made for printing presses, rather than a confusing array of artist’s paints and inks, and it will probably be cheaper too. Will you want an oil base ink or rubber base ink? What are your rollers, composition or rubber? Use appropriate solvent.

Dave (the Ink in Tubes guy)

I am in Columbus, Ohio, and I just discovered that my nearby Arvey Paper has ink, which is awesome. My rollers are rubber… and they’re brand new, so I really want to take care of them. I don’t know whether I want oil or rubber based ink. I have done some homework about both of them, but still can’t make up my mind. Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you!

If your nearby Arvey/Xpedx is as friendly and helpful as mine, you’ll find they’re great to deal with and will happily order almost anything you want. They probably carry a roller & blanket wash in gallon size; the least expensive and most odor-free will do just fine for cleaning your rollers and press.

As far as I can see, rubber base ink’s main advantage is that it won’t skin in the can like oil base does (which is one reason I like tubes of ink, no skinning!) but rubber base “dries” mostly by being absorbed into the paper, so you’re somewhat limited as to what you can print on. Most uncoated stocks are fine, but rubber base ink may have drying problems on coated paper or any other non-absorbent stock.

Oil base ink has the advantage of drying well on any surface, and comes in a wider range of colors (including metallics and fluorescents) and formulas (including some soy- and veg-oil based) than rubber base. The main dislike would be the skin of dried ink that can form on the top of cans and must be removed, but careful use of a plastic or similar protective layer can almost eliminate this, as does buying ink in tubes rather than cans.

For what it’s worth, I recommend oil base ink, but you might want to get both and try them to see which you like better. If you can stand doing one mail order instead of buying local, I can send you one tube of each, shipped, for about the price of a 1-lb. can. ( I do have a list of what I have available, for anyone interested—e-mail me at Ink(at)

Dave (the Ink in Tubes guy)

I bought Charbonnel ink from Blick and it works really well. I use odorless mineral spirits for cleanup.

Just out of curiosity, which Charbonnel ink are you using?



I’m with Dave. Buy a tube of black oil ink to get started.

If you are a hobby printer just getting started, a one pound can of ink will last you a couple of life times. Start small.

As far as cleaning your rollers, even paint thinner will work on rubber rollers. Its cheap and easy to obtain.

Nigel! I’m in Columbus Ohio, too! E-mail me; I’ll give you some ink (don’t have much, but you can have some…it’s ancient oil based ink, but should work fine…) rh

Wow! Thank you so much! I will contact you.

just buy direct from van soy- their service is top-notch—rubber base- a few primary pantone colors and their own 101 black.