Does the quality of ink vary from brand to brand?

I mean will the quality of my colour and ink coverage be affected by the brand?

Just curious as I am getting some mixed results with colour looking patchy like the paper is swallowing the ink (if that makes sense??)

Thank you in advance :).


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Yes, Meaghan, There are some big differences in ink quality. Not so much these days as you might have seen many years ago, but it still can be a problem. We all have our favorite ink suppliers, and I won’t mention any by name (to avoid Brand Name Battles), but if you are having some difficulty, contact the company and see if they might have an available ink to suit your substrate better.

I have found inks in which the pigment is not milled as well as others, or some which have a lower percentage of pigment in the mix, which can cause some of the mottling you mention.

Maybe going to a better grade of ink will eliminate some of your difficulties.

When I began letterpress printing, most cities had several ink houses who would custom mix and blend inks for the individual printer, but that day is long gone as the corner store has given way to the big supermarket. I’m not certain the old days were better in that regard, they were just a bit friendlier.

While there certainly is the potential for varying quality of ink causing problems, I personally haven’t found that quality usually varies all that much, and that’s not nearly as much a problem as some of the other factors. Sure, occasionally you’ll run across an ink that just doesn’t work well, or at least doesn’t work well for a specific job. But take a somewhat scientific approach and try changing variables one at a time to determine if it’s the ink, the paper, the amount of ink, the inking system, the amount of impression, the plate or type, or maybe the weather or something else that’s affecting the job. Try printing the same job, at the same time, on several different papers and see what you get. If you’re not already familiar with how much the choice of stock affects the printing, you may be surprised. And even when you find a favorite brand of ink that works well for you, not all colors will print the same as the pigments seem to affect ink behavior! If you have the need, you may be able to find a good local ink company that is willing to advise and work with you - one company near me has over 100 formulations for black ink alone.

Dave (the Ink in Tubes guy)

Ok! so I have decided to try another few brands. I have tracked down this company that tells me they sell genuine letterpress inks. I chatted to him about the fact that I have been told that there was no such thing anymore - well it can’t hurt to try - right?

So assuming there is no great difference in the quality are there any techniques I can try to get a good thick coverage without the ‘mottling’.

I will in the meantime try printing the same job with a variety of stock.

Thanks heaps for the tips so far :).

I can say there is a huge difference in inks. we switched brands based on a pressmen’s suggestion. Colors were brighter, the ink laid down smoother, solids were more consistent and we used less ink over all. You don’t always get what you pay for as well, the new brand was almost half the price!

Are you able to give the name away? You have done such a great job of selling the idea to me?!?!?!


I guess it’s ok to mention what I have good things to say about. I’ll leave the name of the other out though.

We use Ke inks from Pertech. I’ll see if I can find vendor info tomorrow. The brighter colors were in the process sets. The pantone colors, well they all just matched the books ;)

thank you very much :). I am in Australia so I will try and track down a local supplier. I’ll let you know how I go and thanks again for the tip! :).

I’m interested in this too! Thanks for the information.