Hi All. I know ink can be a sore subject on briar, but I’m trying to determine what type of ink I want to use in my shop. I have read a lot of what people have said previously, but I guess I just want to hear it again.

So here’s what I’m asking…

What’s your favorite ink (that you can still purchase), what do you use to clean up your rollers (and what type of rollers do you use) and your type and what do you like about your particular ink?

Or what ink have you used and you just don’t like at all?

I know a lot of it is personal preference, but I’ve only been printing for a few years, so I would love to hear from more experienced printers.


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I use oil based inks from VanSon. The primary mixing colors that are used to mix Pantone inks. Process Yellow, Cyan, 021 Orange, Warm Red, Rubine, Rhodamine, Transparent White, Opaque White, Black, Reflex Blue, Process Blue, etc..

Depending on the Pantone color you mix will help you in the purchase of your ink.

I use mineral spirits to clean wood and metal type and for roller clean up.

Inky Lips Letterpress
Jonesboro, Arkansas

I second Van Son. I’ve been very happy with their products so far, but I’ve been trying out the oil base and rubber base in order to judge my favorite.

The only trouble I’ve had has been with ordering custom PMS colors from my local ink man. I think it’s a little too formulated for offset, and sometimes has strange drying properties or adhesion difficulties for photopolymer plates.

Seems to be like oil based is a little better if you’re vigilant about cleaning up after using it. Rubber base can get contaminated by oil from the press fairly easily, but it’s also good stuff.

There is a ink company in Malden or Lynn, MA called Mixmasters, they mix pms colors reasonably, i have bought lots of ink from them, oil and rubber. Dick G.

Thanks for the comments. I’m pretty good at mixing inks, so I won’t be going to anyone for that. But it’s good to know that Van Son has CMYK and more.

I’m definitely more familiar with oil based ink, but where I was working, he used litho inks and cleaned up with baby oil and denatured alcohol. I’ve heard that denatured alcohol is horrible for rubber rollers and I do not want to destroy my brand new rollers, so I turn to all of you lovely people.

Vroooom- do you use rubber rollers? What do you use for clean up?

Dick G- That’s good to know. Sadly I’m in Georgia (though I just left Mass.)


with the Van Son oil based… which one do you use? There seem to be about 6 different kinds of oil based!

If you’re using rubber rollers, it’s important to check twice before choosing a press wash. I usually use california wash, which is water miscible.

I believe oil base plus is what I’ve used the most of, but I have some new Quickson type silver ink that is really nice.

As for rollers, I’ve only just now sent off to get new rubber rollers. I have a pair of rubber rollers that are ok, and a possible pair of vinylith rollers (not 100% sure) that are at the end of their life and bleeding from the cores. They also slide around from side to side, but surprisingly, they work better on my press than the older rubber rollers, where one is definitely smaller than the other in diameter. Can’t wait to get my new Buna-b rollers.

As per the PMS colors, I generally prefer to mix as well. But one of my biggest clients is a real stickler for exact matches (no allowances for even a single step of variation) and I order premixed inks for those jobs.

James Beard
Vrooooom Press

Oh, and no matter which supplier you want to go with, I recommend finding one that you can comfortably call up and talk with over the phone. Nothing saves you from wasted time and energy like a knowledgeable vendor! And the ones that are less than helpful… I take my business elsewhere!

I like the Van Son Rubber Base Plus and Oil Base Plus systems.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

I also use Van Son oil-based ink, specifically SonaPrint. I’m also in Georgia and don’t get a chance to print very often, and have very little trouble with skinning using SonaPrint. I’m a little scared of using QuickSon, figuring it will dry up on me too fast.

I use “odorless” Mineral Spirits for rollers and press.