What are the best letterpress inks for easy clean up?

I am wondering what the best letterpress inks are for easy clean up and where to buy them?

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The best inks for easy clean-up are the ones on the other fellow’s press. You’ll have to ask him/her where they bought them.

The inks I buy are an absolute pain-in-the-_____ to wash-up, and the ones I have purchased in this century come from Gans Ink in Los Angeles.


When you find any ink that is simple to remove and quick then please share this with us all., I has been a printers dream to have an ink that comes clean off the machine in one round of wash cycle !

I solved the ink problem years ago, I just print in black, washup is easy, with rubber base you only wash up once in a while.

Yeah, there’s no such thing as an easy-cleanup printer’s ink. Your best bet is good quality ink and using the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning agents.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

I agree with all of the above. However, washup procedure can make the difference between it being a pain and being simple. I think my procedure is very simple.

I’m sure we would share our procedures with you, but It depends on what press you have, as well. What type of press do you have?

In your quest for easy cleanup inks, I recommend that you stay away from water washup block printing inks. Stay with commercial litho or letterpress inks. I would not put water washup inks on a press of mine because they wouldn’t print well, and they would rust the press, rust cast iron furniture if you use it, and corrode the type (if you use type).

I appreciate all your responses. Unfortunately I do not have a letterpress machine, but Iam wanting to to try to use my etching press to print on polymere plates and make an impression. (work in progress) So really I will have to apply ink with a brayer on the plate itself.Trying to convert etching press to make letterpress prints.

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* Has any one tried using an etching press for letterpress?

I think your problem will be the small diameter of the cylinder. If you have enough adjustment and can obtain a metal plate about 16 gauge or thicker and a sheet of something like dense chipboard, for cushioning, you might be able to pass the sandwich of plate, paper, chipboard, and metal plate under the cylinder. However, another problem will be that it appears that the cylinder is not driven by the bed plate, so that there will be drag between the cylinder and the material on the bed, causing slurring. I don’t think you are going to get satisfactory prints from this method. You might do better to use the Japanese method of printing by rubbing the back of the paper, applied to the inked plate, with a large spoon or baren.


I use Van Son rubber-based ink. I’ve found that squirting some vegetable oil onto the rollers (while they’re running), makes clean-up a breeze. It works really well for every color, except red for some reason. So, when I’m okay with printing a less-opaque red, I add some transparent white to it and that makes clean-up a little easier too. I don’t understand the science, I just know it works.

It is not unusual for a printer to wash the machine over once then run some waste sealer or manky varnish through the rollers while they take a break then go wash that off before changing the colour it helps pull the muck out of the rollers . Proprietory wash up aids that often come in tubes are basically oil to loosen the ink and reduce the viscosity to mke it easier to clean off , there are other ingredients of course but mainly they water the ink down till it has little strength left in the colour to stain the next run. some have detergent too and these will always require water to get them out of the rollers .
If you have a coarse litho plate cleaner (its like scouring cream) often blue in colour run that on an apparently clean roller train and you wont believe the crap that is still present. if you try that trick remember to oil your ink disc after as there are acids in the plate cleaners that bring rust very quickly.