I just got an Adana press and a new Boxcar base and plates and am having trouble with my ink selection.
First I got Speedball ink which was not right. Then, I got Gamblin etching ink which was too thick and sticky and cost a fortune. The only ink that has worked perfectly came with my press, has no labeling and I only have black and red. I would like some other colors!!!
I am getting really frustrated. I got this press to make cards for my business and have been able to make NONE. I spent a boatload on this press and can’t even use it. Can anyone recommend a good ink that isn’t a bazillion dollars per color?
Thank you…

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Black ink for letter/offset in rubber base should cost around $25 per lb. depending on your local market. Colors $30 to 35 per lb. Many major paper/graphic wholesalers have self serve outlets where you can walk in and buy off the shelf. Off the shelf rubber based inks should serve the purpose unless you’re printing on coated stocks - than oil based inks would be your choice.

you can buy ink starter kits which would give you the colors you need to mix your own ink. boxcar has a few available.

If you are in Boston, there is Mix Masters, i think they are in Lynn, or Malden, they are reasonalbe priced and will ship anywhere, i bought from them for years and never had a problem. Dick G.

Dick, I looked up Mix Masters and got this weird website for software of some kind? They said they are in Lynn though so I was confused.

Thanks everyone, it is just very confusing whether to choose oil based or rubber based and I would love to use soy based because my customers would like it. Any advice on that or how to get it?
I guess I just thought I would be already printing these great cards that I see in shops going for like $7 each and it would be peaches and roses but i’m having a hard time with this machine lurking ominously in my office…

You could also try XPEDX. They have local walk in stores all over the place. The inks they are aren’t too much different in price than boxcar or places we talk about on here.

There is one in Woburn and 1 in Braintree. I dont know where they are in relation to Boston.

Xpedix in Braintree is where i get mostly all of my paper and they sell Van Son inks in oil and rubber, the Braintree store is just off the highway about 1 mile past the South Shore Plaza. The number i have for Mix Masters is 781-593-9321, 11 Colmer Rd., Lynn, MA. i haven’t boughtfrom them in a while, most of my ink i picked up from shops that were closing. Dick G.

For letterpress the best colors simply are black and red. If you want to print in a rainbow of colors, you may as well go with offset. The Gamblin etching ink should work fine but you probably have used too much and not worked it hard enough with the rollers before trying to print your cards.

nbpeck- You’re joking, right?!


OOPS! Duplicate post…

Dan - Yes, I’m joking sort of. Of course anyone should feel free to print with any colors they like or that suit the project on which they are working. Personal opinion: for the old fashioned gravitas that is uniquely attractive about letterpress, black and red really are the best colors - with a few million possible exceptions…

I got ink with my press made by adana but i don’t want to wait for them to ship from England or pay the shipping for more colors.
I guess it’s just tough to find the right ink just based on “rubber or oil” bc the Etching ink was oil based I think and was awful. I made many impressions with the etching ink and it never seemed to be workable.
I do want to print in just more than black and red.I will try that Xpedix place though. That sounds good. THanks everyone!

PaperDoll … Holyoke Paper Company just released a line of ink and they are in Holyoke, MA. I got my paper for my first project (wedding stationary) there.

As for Mix Masters - I am so glad I read this thread. I’ll have to check them out.

Paper doll… keep an eye on Craig’s List. In the last month, i have picked up nearly 70 lbs of ink from printers going out of business. Most of it is process colors (but not all) and some premixed neutrals that I preferred. I imagine I paid less than $75 for all of it. It is not everything we will need but a mixed bag of random stuff for experimentation to find out which ink works for us, and on what materials. Best of luck.

PaperDoll…I have a lot of oil-based ink acquired from a closed print shop. 5.25 lb cans, mostly pre-mixed PMS colors. Send me a reply for a list of available colors if interested.

Hi emthree!
How much do you want for your colors?
I would have to check for “actual” Pantone color numbers but colors I use a lot are a cotton-candy pink, turquoise/teal, sunshine-y yellow things like that. And white of course.
Do you have any fun colors that fit that description? :)
Thanks for your help!

Please contact me via message from my contact here in Briar Press if you are interested. Thanks!

I too was frustrated with just black and red that came with my adana.
I then just bought every possible colour of Offset ink, made by Torda, it comes in a kilo a can, and will last me my lifetime.
I was a bit worried, that offset ink might not work, but it works fine!
I make cards for children, so really needed bright colours for whales and snakes etc!
The only exception is the metallic ink, silver and gold, that looked pale and non shiny after it dried, so gold kind of became bronze, and silver became grey.

Probably the reason that the gold and silver didn’t look shiny was that the paper was not smooth enough. Gold and silver commercial inks generally use aluminum pigment to produce the color. (To make the aluminum look gold, they add a little yellow or maybe orange pigment as well as the aluminum). The aluminum pigment is in the form of very tiny little flakes. When the ink dries, the flakes have to lay down flat on each other to make the ink look shiny. This is called “leafing.” On paper which is a little rough, if you look at it with a good magnifier or microscope, it has tiny little hills and valleys all over it. When the ink is printed on this paper, the aluminum flakes can’t lie flat. Instead, they lie at different angles up and down the hills and valleys of the paper. Since they are not in a nice smooth flat layer like a mirror, they don’t look shiny.

Hi everyone,
I have a very basic question about ink. I am very new to printing with a letterpress and I am about to make my first ink order from Van Son. I have been doing some reading and keep seeing people post about “mixing” black and “printing” black. I am just wondering if someone can clear up for me which is which when I am ordering online from Van Son Inks? I would hate to order the wrong one.

Your help would be so appreciated!


Black ink is black ink, right?
Not quite.
Certain Pantone (PMS) colors call for a bit of black. Pantone Black (mixing black) is the suggested ingredient. I happen to use the black I have and I don’t think the resulting mix of ink knows the difference.
Ask your ink merchant for all the literature she or he has on ink. If it isn’t much, contact the manufacturer and ask.
I think you will be fine with a general purpose black.

Hi Inky,
Thanks for getting back to me. I had read about a few people who had found that when mixing certain colours with their printing ink it they hadn’t turned out right, but I couldn’t find any distinction between which was which for ordering.

Thanks for your help! I really do appreciate it!


The difference between the two is that mixing black is a more neutral black (does not contain a blue shade toner) while some Process Blacks and Dense Blacks contain blue shade toner. Using a Black Ink that contains blue shade toner will work for mixing on certain colors but if the color your are mixing is a light or creamy color the blue shade toner in the black will give you an odd shade. One other difference is that normally mixing blacks are about 15-20% stronger in pigmentation.

If someone is looking for a fair priced quality printing ink, then I suggest they look at the R/B ink series from ZIPSET. ZIPSET has distributors nationwide and you really get your moneys worth. The R/B series was formulated specifically for letterpress printing. It’s made in Japan and the colors are clean and vibrant.

Don’t forget about Dave, the ink in tubes guy. His prices and service can’t be beat.

Looks like he has a new website, too:

Sam, thanks for the compliment about Ink in Tubes! Just to clarify, I’m Dave Robison, “the Ink in Tubes guy”, while Dave Celani is another Dave (maybe too many Daves?). I don’t have a website, but Dave C’s excellent site is a great how-to for people wanting to put their own ink into tubes, although I don’t believe he sells tubes of ink.
My “Ink in Tubes” can currently be ordered through the Trollop Press Etsy website (and Raven can offer much quicker shipping than I usually can), or by mail directly from me (e-mail for a list), and I’ll be working with a couple of folks on possible retail locations.
Also, don’t forget that N.A. Graphics does carry tubes of letterpress ink in several colors (and APES does too?).

Dave Robison, the Ink in Tubes guy