Ink consistency

Can anyone recommend some ink additives for thickening and thinning inks? I’m currently using some handed-down VanSon Holland oil based ink, and in the summer heat its very thin and runny. Magnesium carbonate is what I remember from a letterpress course over a year ago. Is this correct? Where could I find it and are there any other additives I should have handy for mixing ink to the desired consistency?

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Use ordinary powdered corn starch.

You may want to read the ink guide at Van Son.

Download the PDF file. Lots of useful information about ink.

I have used lots of things to thin ink when it was too stiff, Crisco, Olive Oil & others. To add body or stiffness varnish will work, the printing kind not paint products.
Good luck,

Some art supply stores sell “Whiting” or calcium carbonate as an extender for inks and paints. It’s use will thicken up an ink. Magnesium carbonate also can be used. One ready source of magnesium carbonate is the “chalk” which gymnasts and weight-lifters use to dry their hands before a work-out.

Either of these may have some impact on the color of the ink, but will help to firm it up for you. A small percentage will not have much impact on the color. If you have access to a heavy varnish (also available from art stores) that may also work for you.

No matter what “doctoring” you do to the ink, make certain you test out a sample fully prior to printing a full run. It is very difficult to “erase” with letterpress.

John G. Henry
Cedar Creek Press