Letterpress Ink

I purchased letterpress ink from Ebay and when received, I discovered it was dried out. Is there anyway to soften it?

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Is it rubber- or oil-based? If oil-based, there’s probably just a skin on top of good ink.

I would urge everyone to properly check out the batch/stock date on tins of ink if possible , to check month/ year of manufacture from a reliable manufacturer this info will be on there , or at least date of purchase…….otherwise buyer beware…………….

Hi Jonathan,

That is decent advice, but not necessarily true. When I started to experiment with letterpress (self-taught) in the mid-1970s, I picked up type and equipment wherever I could find it. The same held true for cans of ink (ALWAYS previously used cans scrounged from print shops).

I started out being able to get good results from the very start. Only much later did I realize that a lot of that was due to the EXCELLENT ink I had originally picked-up. The majority of my best inks were dated 1959!!!!! and were made in Portland, OR. When I finally ran out of it and had to start finding more, I found it much more difficult to achieve the same results. 40 years into this adventure I still have not come across anything as wonderful as what I started out with.


Thats so true Rick. I purchased my first Kelsey a couple of years ago from Ebay. Along with it came an OLD tube of Kelsey black ink. I love it. I wish I could purchase more. The date was from the 70’s.

An oil-base ink has a much longer shelf-life than any of the alternatives. But people now seem to think that “oil” is some petrochemical pollutant rather than the original plant-derived vehicle, linseed oil.
Rubber and acrylic, and in my experience, even soy inks will age to thick—or solid—in an unopened can, where linseed oil-base inks will skin over with a potentially useable amount beneath the skin. You may need to add fresh drier, and definitely work it on the slab until you can pick out any hickies.