Thinning Rubber Based Ink

What would be the best product to use for thinning Van Sons rubber based ink? Specifically for use in edge painting.

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Van son sells a tack reducer that thins their ink pretty well. Dick G.

You’ll get better results for edge painting if you go a different route…

Such as? This subject always comes up but people seem to not want to share their trade secrets.

Thanks for the advice Dick. I’ll definitely try it.

I completely agree Widmark. Everyone seems to dodge the question. I’ve been experimenting for a little while with some decent results. I always clamp a group of cards tightly making sure they’re perfectly flush. I’ve tried using a brayer, brushes, and rags. From my tests, applying slightly thinned ink with a rag gave me the best result with minimal bleed-though and good coverage.

If anyone has some advice, I’d love to hear it.

Some people use a magic marker or an airbrush.

I have never done edge painting, so i’m not going to give any advice, that tack reducer i use when the rubber base ink is too stiff, or if i leave the ink overnight i will dab a little on the rollers to loosen it up. Dick G.

I’ll leak out my “secret” since edge painting is so ridiculously easy. I originally tried going the same way you’re mentioning, only to make a complete mess out of the test cards. There only seems to be one good reference to the process online, and it’s in a Ladies of Letterpress forum entry. So, I picked up on this and experimented a little further.

Basically, my process is like this:

1) Make sure you have some of the cleanest cut paper available. Ragged or sloped edges will allow ink to bleed through. Die-cut forms are also problematic sometimes with heavier stock, since the pieces seem to bevel a bit.

2) The pile needs to be straightened into a single block and clamped down tight enough to keep the edges flush. Clamp too much in a single point, and you may find the pile beginning to buckle and open up.

3) Super-secret-crucial point: At this stage, you can get by with a roller, sponge, or even a brush, but to combat “wicking” of the ink, you need to coat all edges with a clear medium. Matt Medium works well. Let this dry completely. This completely seals the paper.

3) Other super secret: Liquid inks, pigment, etc. are just too thick. They can dry together into a block and crack when separating the pile. Use something distributed by air, like an airbrush or even a can of spraypaint. Don’t get too heavy with the painting, or again it may bleed into the cards. This is the experimental part, where you need to get the hang of it.

4) After drying, unclamp everything and fan out the sheets. You’ll lose the top and bottom sheet for sure, but everything else should be fine if you followed the above.

It’s real easy, but test it first because nothing is worse than losing a batch to a “finishing” process. Also, when using spray paint or an airbrush, it seems less crucial that everything be cut down nice and neat, but those cuts still look the best, IMO. No matter how you apply the ink, the initial “pre-seal” is crucial.

James Beard
Vrooooom Press

Clean cut edges, tight clamped, Put waste sheet above and below stack before clamping, pigmented inks, like the Acrylic watercolors from the Art Store, you can wipe with a cloth, brush it, make sure you apply a thin layer of color, afterwards - run a fine cloth over a real candle and slightly buff the edge. I color the edges of Books and printed matter, never had a problem.

James, you’re my new hero.

What about metallic (e.g. gold) do you use leaf like Crane or can you get a nice effect with paint?

I’m sure it depends on how metallic is metallic enough. Ink/paint won’t really match foil or leaf, but once sealed, you can repeat the paint and dry process until the density is just right.

Crane has a youtube video on how they do it. They paint a little more than just the edge though.

They fan the paper out like a deck of cards but at a 45° angle and paint two edges at a time. It looks like they use a sponge for the actual painting and some thinned out water based inks.

and from their demo at the NSS:

Thanks so much for sharing, James. I fear that you may now be shunned for violating the code!

I’m already on the run, but the international edge painting mafia is probably closing in on me.

I’ve been experimenting with this and I’ve got the clamping and the air brushing down but my ink (golden acrylic airbrush ink) slightly rubs off after they are done. I’ve tried a few other things like calligraphy inks and other airbrush paints but they all seem to the same thing. Do I need to coat them afterwards with matte medium? or varnish? Am I applying the color to thick?

Any advise is greatly appreciated.

Would it be possible to use letterpress ink in an airbrush?


Well, Yes actually you can. The pigments are ground fine enough.

The problem is you’d have to add enough thinner to it to make it work, and that would deplete the binder in the ink to a point where it wouldn’t bond very well at all.

…. not to mention the health risk.

So, can you? Sure. Should you? No.

A colleague thins engravers ink with water and airbrushes.

Vrooooom, can you give the make of the matt medium you use? Is it a paint on one, or in an aerosol?

A number of pieces of info down through this.

I would call the process “edging”.

I read down through this a pretty good ways thinking everyone was talking about ‘foredge painting” where a scene is painted along the sheet edges of a book.

Just to throw this in, we used silver foil to edge some business cards. It wasn’t really silver. It was actually an aluminum foil (bought from a very good art supplies store). We put the adhesive along the edge of the card and applied the foil. Looked absolutely beautiful.

But over time it turned quite orange. Not sure why but not acceptable in the end. So be careful with silver foil.

For color, airbrushing with acrylic. Michaels and AC Moore have a good variety of colors.

REALLY need to have it clamped down. We put the clamp on making sure it is away from the paper and spray all four sides at the same time.

Typically, I also use our lead saw to cut very accurate blocks that we put on the top and bottom of each stack (against the clamps). When we undo the clamps we set it all aside to really dry.

Also we typically do it with two stacks. Spray one. Hang it to dry. Take the other clamp and get the next stack ready to spray. Spray it. Hang it to dry. Take the other one apart and repeat.

It is good to actually get the stack very straight and then actually sand the edges with fine sand paper.

Also when we are cutting them out to start with we always use cardboard between stacks which always says with the cards through the edging process.