Soy Ink Question

Hi All,

I recently ordered some white oil ink from NA Graphics and when it arrived it said it was soy ink. All of the other ink I have is oil ink. Is it weird that they sent me soy? I wrote to let them know this and they said they didn’t think it should be a problem. I am somewhat new to this, and the less variables I have the better, so I wanted to get your opinion on this. :)


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My understanding is that many (most?) oil base inks today use a blend of oils (linseed, soy, other veg oils, and petroleum oil) and the so-called soy base inks are also a blend of oils, just a higher percentage of soy oil. So if you’re going to be using the white for mixing, don’t worry, it should mix and work well with any of your other oil base inks.

If it’s Opaque White that you’re going to be printing with, not mixing with another ink, be aware that because soy oil doesn’t dry by evaporation like most of the other oils, soy inks may have a longer drying time than typical oil base inks (although that’s not necessarily true for some of the blends).

Dave (the Ink in Tubes guy)

Thank you very much Dave. It is opaque white, but I most likely wouldn’t be printing it alone. I use it to mix colors (use mixing white too) when I want the colors pastel and bold at the same time.
Thanks so much for answering my question - I feel better now. :)


I don’t use soy inks for my own work but I teach at a couple of educational shops and one of them does. The only reports I have heard in the letterpress forums is that there is a color fast problem with some of the colors. Don’t know how accurate that is.

A while back though, when I was ordering new rollers the agent asked me if I would be using soy inks as they would rather give me a different formula if that were the case. When I asked why he said they were “aggressive.” That was enough for me to avoid them.

On a later occasion I had an ink rep in here and asked him about soy inks and there was distinct pain in his eyes as he relayed the difficulties the industry is having with this.

I’d avoid them.


All of this nonsense simply to allow the name “Soy” on the label and get the tree-huggers to feel all warm and fuzzy about being ‘green’ when, in fact, there is only a miniscule amount of actual soy material in the formula, but just enough to allow the designation and at the same time just enough to give it that ‘aggressive’ quality.

Pretty much along the same lines a recycled paper a decade or more ago. It all sounded really good but there was very little actual “post consumer” material in the mix.


Soya oil is indeed a drying oil which drys by oxidation (exposure to the air). The form of soya oil which is used in printing inks is treated just like the linseed oil to form it into a varnish by boiling and thickening, so is not the same stuff you might use in cooking.

Soy inks are formulared to dry just as quickly as the other oil-based inks, and sets up very hard when dry.


On a typical job, oil base inks dry by a combination of absorption, evaporation, and oxidation. John is right, of course, soy inks do indeed dry by oxidation, and do dry very hard as well as more heat-resistant than typical inks (ideal for letterhead that will go through a laserprinter, for example). Manufacturers have various formulas, and some oil blends (such as Tokyo Ink’s Zipset, which includes soy and other veg oils) will actually dry faster than traditional oil base inks. But the fact remains that some soy inks really do take longer to dry, especially if the stock is less absorbent, because the soy oil doesn’t dry by evaporation so more of the drying has to happen by oxidation. If you don’t bellieve it, try printing a job on plastic or other non-absorbent substrate using a soy ink and again using a traditional oil base ink, and see which dries first! Of course, results will vary depending on ink formula (how much soy is in the “soy” ink, I guess), but I know I have some soy inks that are slower to dry.

Gerald and Rick have mentioned “agressive” characteristics of soy ink — can anyone explain that more? (I admit I keep visualizing the fanged “Monster Book of Monsters” from Harry Potter…)



My assumption was that “aggressive” meant that they would be detrimental to rollers made with standard formulas, at least for the Vandercook. I did not pursue it as I do not use soy inks. They grow this stuff in the Amazon Rain Forest on cleared land. Don’t get the trade off there in green speak.

The aforementioned ink guy did tell me that there is no standardization for soy inks, that is to say, there is no answer to the question of how much soy in a formula makes an ink a soy ink. I think the answer is any amount.

But he did also mention that they cannot analyze an ink to determine whether or not an ink has soy in it or how much.

I assume there are a number of possible technical reasons for soy printing ink beyond the appearance of caring for the environment. I just have not heard of any.


many of the die hard pressmen i learned from could tell good ink from bad by the smell .as for the aggressive nature of soya bean oil its pretty irrelevant as the speed of a treadle wont raise the temperature of the ink enough for the nasty reactions that the boffins suck teeth over. most ink reps are taught to deal with rotary ink trains that revolve at 90’000 + revs per hour you wont attain that many revs during the ownership of a treadle if you pump away for the next ten years.