Can I buy decent INK at an Art Supply Store


Can anyone tell me if I can buy decent ink at an art supply store? I’d rather not pay to have it shipped if possible. I’m more interested in rubber-based, or at least non-oil based ink. I tend to be messy, and may not clean thoroughly right away.

Any suggestions?


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There are some art supply stores which sell supplies for printmaking, but most only carry the speedball line of block-printing inks which are closer to pain consistency that letterpress inks. I know that Dick Blick carries Charbonnel and Graphic Chemical Litho inks, both of which will work well for letterpress applications.

If you have a retail paper supply dealer in your area (Xpedex, etc.) they generally carry a line of inks from a major ink provider, Van Son or other. That might be a better bet for you. Otherwise, the shipping on a pound or two of ink is not all that expansive.

Chris- yes you can buy good inks at an Art Supply Store. I routinely buy small amounts of Charbonnell at Pearl in Ft. Lauderdale, and my locally owned art store carries a nice line of oil based inks.

I would not recommend using rubber based ink as a substitute for good cleaning practices, though. Your rollers are one of the primary determinants of print quality, and they deserve to be kept in top condition no matter what ink you use. Leaving ink on them, even RB ink, for long periods of time inevitably leads to hickeys or other blemishes in the ink laydown. It may seem like extra effort to keep your press clean, but in the long run it’ll save you much grief.

Also, while RB ink is popular, you should keep in mind that most rubber based inks are intended for commercial photo-lithographic use. Many of the colors are pigmented with aniline and/or organic pigments which are less light-fast than high quality oil-based inks. Even some RB Blacks will fade to purple over time. This is fine for casual jobs, but for work that is intended to last it is not the best choice. RB inks also have different drying qualities which can be problematic on some papers.

Finally….. I can’t say that I care much for Speedball Oil-Based Inks. They might be OK for linoleum cuts, but their pigment loading is much less than Charbonnell, and thus they take more to produce the same density of printed image. This makes them more likely to set-off, or to gunk-up my fine details. I am also suspicious of their lightfastness ratings.

I personally am a fan of Xpedx. They stock a pretty good selection of oil base inks. I especially like the Braden Sutphin “new century” (their term for oil based ink..) ink. It is priced about the same as Van Son inks, and my experience has been that it has better coverage. Van Son is good, but i prefer the Braden Sutphin inks. I have also tried Caligro ink, and it is nice as well, but i like the price of the Sutphin inks..

I wouldn’t bother with art supply stores like Utrecht, most don’t stock what you should use for letterpress. I would try Xpedx first. It is easy to find, and they are all over the country…

Oldham Ink Group
(817) 554-0041

I use Daniel Smith oil based inks, and Graphic Chemical oil based inks. They are the same inks I use when printing linoleum cuts. Charbonnell is also a wonderful ink, and you would have no trouble with it. Speedball is not worth the tube it is packaged in.
If you have rubber rollers, and are interested in water-clean-up, you could try Faust inks. They will send you a sample if you will e-mail them.

I think that url should be

Faust makes good ink….. I’m glad Boundstaff brought it up