Ink not drying

Hello everyone,
I am a beginner with Letterpress and I was using Charbonnel Ink to print on cotton rag for my first prints.

After 2 weeks, when I revisit my finished pieces, I can still rub off the ink, (especially reds, no problem with grays) do I have to mix some additives to make it dry faster? Any help would be great! Thanks.

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That is odd….. I use a lot of Charbonnell without experiencing that problem. I’m sure that the answer is relatively simple, but have a few questions before I can recommend a solution: Which type of ink (etching, letterpress, linseed based) are you using? And what kind of paper? Are you overprinting one color on top of another… or printing an unusually heavy coat?

The rub-off…. is it chalky or oily feeling?

Finally… how are you cleaning your rollers? I have heard from several folks that linseed oil based inks can experience drying problems if the rollers have residual Crisco on them.

Please let us know…

AKA Winking Cat

Thanks Dave for your quick response.
I’ve attached a couple pictures for your review. The print was done 2 weeks ago and I rub it very slightly with my fingers to check.

I was using Charbonnel etching ink (see picture), printed on 100 lbs. watercolor paper.

As for cleaning, I used a combination of vegetable oil and mineral spirit.


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Hi Janet,

From the bottom photo especially, it seems as though there’s way too much ink, whatever kind it is. Maybe this is part of the problem, along with residual vegetable oil on the rollers.

While we’re on the subject, perhaps someone can educate us on (1) the difference between litho and etching ink, and (2) the use of driers, such as cobalt drier.


Oh Janet, I just reread your post and saw that you’re using watercolor paper. Watercolor paper is pretty heavily sized, externally. This means that a starchy coating has been applied to the surface of the paper during manufacture. This is done so that water-based paint will not immediately be sucked into the paper and blossom out in all sorts of unruly ways. It also allows the watercolor artist to “lift” color from the paper for certain effects. So I suppose that if your ink is supposed to dry through absorption, it won’t dry very well on watercolor paper.


Janet- Barb is correct. Watercolor paper is rather heavily sized, and the ink is sitting on top of the sizing.

Charbonnell is rather heavily pigmented, and the vehicle is a lesser cooked oil, so if it sits on top of the sizing, it tries to rub off.

Also, it appears that you are using too much ink…. probably to help get a strong image on the textured paper. If you look at the stem on the orange flower thing, you can see the texture through it…. and the owl has a lot of ink on his edges even though the impression is strong.

So… solutions to the problem: First…. dampen the paper prior to printing it. This will give you a nice strong impression without having to use too much ink. There are a number of postings about this here on Briar Press.

Second… ditch the veggie oil. I get about a dozen e-mails a month from folks experiencing ink difficulties caused by veggie oil. Just stick to mineral spirits. Even a small amount of residual veggie oil can cause drying problems. To be honest, I don’t think this is the problem in your case, but even so veggie oil is not a good cleaner.

Third, consider a different paper. Sometimes watercolor paper is great, sometimes not.

Finally, add a drop or two of drier to your ink. I use “Japan Drier” from my local paint store, but you can also buy cobalt or other driers from artists supply houses. Us it VERY sparingly though. Just a drop or two per ounce of ink is more than enough to make it dry very quickly.

To solve the problem, just try one thing at a time. Then you’ll know which one actually worked best.

Big thanks to both Barbara and Winking Cat. I will definitely clean the press first and try printing again. Thanks to all the advise and I am looking forward to print again :)

Hi guys,

I’m so glad I decided to check back here about Charbonnel ink not drying! I started using it about a year ago on my platen presses, and have loved its coverage. However, I have noticed especially with heavy coverage areas that it still rubs off after several days or even weeks of drying. I do use vegetable oil to clean my press, so I’m wondering if that could be the problem. I’m going to do some testing to see if I experience the same problems when using a different type of cleaner. I use a 100% cotton rag paper but I’m unsure of the sizing - I’ve asked the manufacturer to find out. Hopefully something will work, because I really don’t want to have to switch inks!

Tweedle Press