Ink choice for beginners…

I’m a fairly new letterpress-er, slowly getting a small set up together.

I’ll initially be using an Adana 8x5.

I’m getting really confused by ink types and wondered what others are using. I’d ideally like to mix my own Pantone colours. Van Son seem to crop up a lot.

I’m based in the UK if that makes any difference re. suppliers.

I know a lot of the information I need must be here - but I’m getting a bit confused. There obviously seem to be so many variables in letterpress printing, so I’m hoping to just narrow down on some of the options.

Any pointers would be very much appreciated.

With thanks,


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First, realize that most printing ink will work just fine. Yes, everybody has favorites, and rarely you may run across an ink that just doesn’t seem to work right (or at least not for you on a specific job). But almost any letterpress or offset ink should be fine to start with. Certainly Van Son is a good brand, well known, and widely available, but some lesser-known or local companies may make ink that works as well or even better for you.

If your work habits or situation leads you to think you may not be able to always clean the ink off the press at the end of the day, you might want to consider rubber base ink, as it won’t ruin your rollers if left on overnight or longer, but rubber base can have drying problems on certain papers and is not recommended for coated stock.

Generally, I’d suggest just starting with traditional oil base ink; it’s been working well for many decades and should do well for you on almost any surface you care to try to print on. As for Pantone colors, there was another thread here a few weeks back on that subject.

Dave (the Ink in Tubes guy)

I have to concur with Dave the Ink Guy….. with one small exception: I don’t recommend leaving ink on the press overnight, even with rubber-based ink. ( It is my feeling that a press should be left clean at the end of the day so that you can start off fresh tomorrow….. but that’s just a personal preference. )

I use a lot of Charbonnel oil-based ink, and I’ve had good luck with most of the major brands. For beginners, I think I’d recommend Faust Ink. It always seems consistent and prints well without a lot of effort.