Ink Opportunity For Me


I just got a C&P OS. I’m just getting into letterpress. I have an opportunity to buy about 80-100 5lb cans of various pms offset ink from a huge offset printer(these cans have various amount of ink left in them from previous jobs). The price is one hundred and fifty dollars for this. I saw the mountain of colors, some are metallic. I would really like to have these colors around for the future. As someone new to printing do you think I should jump on it.

Any thoughts?

Thanks for your time and experience.

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it depends on how much ink is left in the cans, what kind of ink it is, how old it is, and how much skin is on top. Some old inks can skin over with a hard crust that becomes flakes when you try to remove it.

Plus, some old ink can be a disposal problem….. and he may be trying to get you to take his old cans away so he doesn’t have to pay to have it disposed of properly.

I wouldn’t recommend buying it all. Instead, open the cans and select the ones that you want.


It’s Superior brand offset ink, I’m almost sure it is oil based. I opened one and it had a skin on top, not sure if it got to the hard crust state.


The ink should be fine for use. A little ink goes a long way, so having that much in your storage might be an issue unless space is not a problem.

When you compare to new prices of ink at $15-20.00/lb., you can’t go wrong if you can use it.

Winking Cat is right that disposal of the ink may be the issue the fellow is trying to get around, but many litho printers rotate their stock and throw away perfectly good ink just to have a fresh supply to maintain color consistency. You need to determine what you will do with the ink if you don’t use it. Our local landfill has a reduction scheme where they charge a minimal fee to properly dispose of small quanities of inks and paints in order to keep folks from dumping them into the landfill.

If you feel you need that much ink, and it serves your purposes to have such a variety of colors, go for it. Don’t be afraid to negotiate a bit. You might get a real bargain. You can always selkl it off to others on this list to recoup the cost if you have multiple cans of colors you may not use often.

Thanks J henry.

From what I know about printing it’s a ton more than I will use. This is from a very big and busy commercial printer. I thought of bringing small containers and taking a bit of each, but that would take a while and I wouldn’t want to ask too much of the businesses time. Was just gonna throw it all in my car. So selling some off will be what I do to a lot of it. And trading some will local letterpress printers.

I don’t know if this is a good idea. The crust in old cans of oil based ink can be a pain to work around, although it can be done. But for $150 you could buy a new 1lb can of white, black, transparent white, the primary colors, plus a couple cans of other colors you might want. Unless you’re a job printer yourself that amount of ink will last you a very long time. As a new printer I wouldn’t want to hassle with the little bits of crud that might contaminate old cans of ink.


I can’t say if its a good deal or not most of my clients are offset printers some of their old inks are custom mixes for long gone customers. If you do get the ink you may want to salvage what is good and put it in aluminium paint tubes.

I agree with Paul. I have been using discarded partial-cans of ink from various printing plants for over 30 years. Since the ink is usually free I have no problem dealing with the dried ink on top of the cans since “the price was right.” And the 50 year-old inks are definitely superior to what is made today. Most of the ink I acquired over the years was offset ink and works just fine for letterpress.

What I find amazing, is the suggestion of going to the messy and time-consuming process of digging the ink out of the cans and putting them into aluminum tubes. I am not even factoring the cost of the tubes themselves.

One of the few drawbacks is ‘guessing’ what the free ink actually looks like (a lot of the cans have names instead of PMS numbers) and what their drying (or lack thereof) properties might be, but that is part of the adventure and I have rarely had a real problem with any of the inks.

Thanks foolproof.

I actually got the ink. I am pleased with what I got. A lot of the cans do have a hard skin of ink on top. Does anyone know the best way to get to the usable ink below? Or should I just go at it with an ink knife. Anyone know where to get cheap ink knives or alternatives. I like the idea of tubing some for easy application to the ink disk in the future. But tubing all of it seems like it would take a while. Anyone know a cheap place to get tubes or tins?



Thanks Paul!

While we are on the subject, I’ll tell you about another possibility. I would never have dreamed of doing this, but this is exactly how a local commercial shop used to save and store all of the special ink mixes and colors that they used for special one-time jobs. If there was a fairly decent amount of ink leftover, they would simply dig it out and put it into Dixie Cups. That’s right, Dixie Cups!!!!! They would then stretch some Saran Wrap or other such material over the top and put a rubber band around the wrap to really seal it. They would then simply write the PMS number or whatever other information they wanted to save about the ink on a piece of tape and stick it on the Dixie Cup. They actually had many many shelves of these in their plant. If I ever needed an oddball color for something I was working on at home, I simply went over there and puttered around looking on those shelves until I found what I wanted (or something really close) and they would tell me to “just take it”. They just used this as a resource to go to in case they needed a small spot of color for a project. They used to be both offset and letterpress.

I remember specifically getting a Dixie Cup of purple ink from them in the mid-80’s for something I was doing. I went back and used the ink from that Dixie Cup at least 20 years later to do another job that required a little purple ink.

The Dixie Cups have some sort of wax lining that seems to make them ideal cheap containers for ink.


Dixie cups are actually better than plastic cups, as the wax lining prevent the ink solvents from migrating out. Ink in plastic containers can actually dry on the sides of the containers and render a stored batch unusable (by the time everything is skinned off) in a matter of months, depending on batch size. Another popular thing I’ve seen is using made up cardstock business card boxes.

i always get my ink from larger shops that are closing, mostly for free, ink can be a disposal problem so most shops are more than happy to give it away, you said it was superior ink, they make an excellent quality ink. Good Luck Dick G.