Ink choice for woodcuts on platen press

What is the best ink for woodcuts: oil, rubber or acrylic?

My concerns are:

1) I like to let the woodgrain show through as much as possible.

2) I print on 80lb+ cotton rag most of the time.

3) I read on here, wood takes a lot more ink to print on. Perhaps it can be pretreated?

I have already read about the inks as far as paper goes. Oil is glossy, skins, and dries quicker and works on coated paper. Rubber is not glossy, wont dry on coated paper. Acrylic is glossy and will dry on coated paper, but not too fast.

Sorry if this has been asked before, but I could not find it in my searches.

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i haven’t tried any woodcuts on my press yet (i’ve been breaking in gently with type-high lino blocks), but i’ve done woodcuts printing by hand. sealing the block with shellac will help keep it from sucking down too much ink. you can do that before you carve, and if you use the amber shellac, the two-tone effect will help you see what you’re doing in the carving process. (do your drawing first, and shellac on top.)

i like oil based inks, but rubber worked fine — i just had a harder time cleaning my brayer. i haven’t tried acrylic.

That is a very good idea. Thank you!

I stared out in printmaking as a woodcut artist, and I used a similar process to martha:

-Sanded down the plywood with 3 different grit levels, lowest to highest
-draw image using pencil or sharpie (no water based markers)
-paint on amber tinted shellac using as few brushstrokes as possible (because they disrupted drawing)
-allow to thoroughly dry
-sand down again using 3 grit levels, low to high

I print my woodblocks with Dan Smith relief black ink on cotton rag paper that has been slightly dappened (damp box, not soaked). It is oil based, is good on my brayers and blocks. I don’t recommend acrylic for wood blocks.

Now, if you want to play up the woodgrain but keep consistency, I would recommend skipping the sanding altogether, and brushing your block with a good strong wire brush (before or after you cut your image would depend on your level of detail)
Still do the shellac, but thin it down with denatured alcohol so that it will not fill in your grain.

Experiment with damp or dry paper. Also consider the size of your block in comparison to the size of your platen press. It’s typically hard to print big areas on a platen press as opposed to a cylinder press.

Good luck!


Thank you Emily, I really appreciate the experience. I will definitely use that approach.