How to mix orange?

I’ve been printing small things using my “Ink in Tubes” starter set. Up to now, I’ve been printing using the colors I have: black, green, violet, blue, red.

But, now I want orange, which is not one of the colors I have! It’s been on my list for a while to buy a color mixing guide, but I don’t have one.

Is it easy enough for me to mix my 123 yellow, process red, process white to get a nice “Halloween” orange? Should I just jump in and try mixing up a color? Any advice?


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This is my method. I start on the slab with some opaque white. Nearby I mix yellow with a tiny bit of red using a different ink knife. When mixed I slowly add this to the white and mix really well making sure all on the knife is mixed in. Tap onto some paper using a finger tip to get an idea of intensity. Adjust. I use Van Son inks

Hey Jason,
You might want to get your hands on a Pantone book. Even if you don’t use a scale it will help you to know which of the component colors to add. I’d guess you are mixing rather small amounts- you can always approximate the proportions and mix on a slab until it looks right. Make sure to test it thin on paper. What it looks like sitting on the mixing palette can be very deceiving.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Jason go ahead and jump in on mixing ink. It’s the best way to learn. To get a good idea of what your mix will look like when printed, put some ink on your thumb and make thumbprints on the paper you want to print. About the 5th thumbprint will be pretty close to the color. Add and adjust as needed. It’s not that hard…unless you are trying to match a PMS and that’s a whole nother headache lol.

Thanks for the advice!

I dove in and mixed. I can see that it could take a lot of practice and experience to get a specific color (instead of “something orange-ish”). I used a toothpick to mix the ink.

Daniel—I’ll look into getting a Pantone book.


p.s. I scanned my card and tried to upload the image to show my orange, but no luck :-/

Orange is my press identity color so I’m always making it in all sorts of shades. My advice to you is to start with yellow and white and add the tiniest amount of red until it makes the color you’re looking for. (like a few grains of rice - that red is powerful stuff)

My more important bit of advice is to make sure you press is as a clean as it’s ever been. I always have to clean the press, ink it up with white, and then clean it again or somehow (no matter how well I cleaned it) black will seep into the orange in turn it a detestable shade of brown. Running the white causes the black thats ‘absorbed’ into the rollers or smudged at the edges to come up. It blends with the white and then you can remove it easier. I’m sure there is some science to it, but just cleaning the press, no matter how thoroughly, never seems to get it clean enough unless I run the white run.

If you put the white on and even after 5-8 minutes it’s still pure, you can add the orange directly to the white and then re-darken it to the color you’re looking for by adding red.

Putz Pomade roller cleaner will be helpful too. They have it at NA Graphics.


image: putzpomade.jpeg


Some good advice here, but I wanted to add…..

a piece of glass- 1/4” thick- is a very useful surface for mixing ink. Maybe 18X18” is all you need for most things.
Tape it to a piece of 3/4” plywood same size, hopefully painted gray. Run the tape all the way round the edges. 2-3 ink knives are also helpful things to have around. It makes the job of colormixing a lot easier to have these implements (and like others have brought up with rollers, to clean them regularly.)

Good luck.