Cranfield inks?

Hi everyone. Usually I get my ink from Dave (of Ink in Tubes fame), but he’s not responding to e-mails. Has anyone tried Cranfield inks:? I have a Dick Blick gift card burning a hole in my pocket….

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Never used it but looking at their website, one nice thing is they tell you what pigments are in each color.

(Be sure to click the “Traditional” tab in the link above, because it looks like that is what Dick Blick carries. I would go with this anyway).

They also tell you the relative degree of opacity of each color. Some colors have titanium dioxide (opaque white pigment) in them already, and in addition, the transparency/opacity of different pigments varies, so if opacity is of concern, it would be worth paying attention to that.

Great, thanks! I’m definitely planning on going traditional either way; I’m firmly in the oil-based camp. I think I’ll try them out; the fact that they put so much information on each ink gives me confidence that they care about the product.

Thanks to both of you for bringing these to my attention! I hadn’t heard of them before but they look really interesting.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Please let us know how they work out for you. One unknown is how fast they dry, and I would be interested in that. Also how long they stay open on the press (how long they stay on the press without drying on it). Regards, Geoff

I have used their Caligo Safe Wash relief inks for a couple years now. I am on the fence about them. While I am fairly new to letterpress printing, I do find a distinct difference between using rubber based inks and these, which one would expect. I have not had great success using them on my Golding Official, the consistency is well, different from what I am used to.

Where I have found that they shine is for out of studio workshops. I have a small Line-O-Scribe m711 which I use on my LetterPeddlerPress ( ) to do on-site printing of postcards at events, festivals and the like from the convenience of a bicycle trailer. The ability to wash up all the blocks, press, and people’s hands with just some water and a few drops of dish soap is an absolute joy for convenience and means that I don’t have to carry any solvents or chemicals around with me.
I am sure with time and tuning, I could get them to play well with my other presses, but that is a future task.
For any other Canadians browsing this- AboveGround Art Supplies in Toronto stocks them and can ship.

Hope this helps, I do plan on working with them more to see their full potential!


Have used their original ‘Plum Black’ for quite a while now with excellent results

I have used Caligo’s “safe wash” relief inks with decent results, but it just doesn’t compare to their letterpress ink. I know because I just used for the first time their Carbon Black letterpress ink (going to try their Plum Black next, harrildplaten!) with excellent results. Beautiful.

In the old days printers would have 3 or 4 different kinds of black ink such as a stiff ink for type and a soft ink for poster work on wood type. I use Caligo which is a soft ink on wood type. When washing up I clean the type with vegetable oil first to get most of the pigment off, going over the surfaces with a soft bristle brush as for metal type to get ink out of any small crevices and then a final wash with spirit to remove the remains of the vegetable oil.
The nice thing about Caligo is that it comes off your fingers with soap and water.

I use two or three different blacks. Adana “Jobbing Black” is my main choice, but I’m a big fan of Adana black number 3 which dries quickly to a slight gloss finish on less absorbent stocks. “Flash” black (of which I have only a very small quantity remaining) will even dry on polythene, Astralux and glossy photos.

T N Lawrence used to stock a range of “coloured” blacks, such as Ivy Black which had a barely discernible green tint. Midnight Black had a hint of dark blue. There’s more to black than meets the eye.

That LetterPeddlerPress is a really neat installation! Congratulations, Sean, on a fine idea and execution.


Going back to ink manufacturers, in the UK trade letterpress days there was a well know hierarchy of quality, varying a little from machine room overseer to another, but a lot of broad agreement existed. Few would argue that anyone else made better than Hostmann-Steinberg from Germany. The Heidelberg machine company spoke well of it and used in their demos. Lord only knows if they’re still in business. Kast & Ehinger also from Gemany were also excellent For speciality inks it was horses for courses, for metallic powder in suspension ‘gold’, originally there was only one firm worth trying to use, and that was Johnson & Bloy. As the years passed others cracked it. - The bottom of the heap on price were Forrest and Gibbons.
As us amateurs are always on the look out for oddments spared from the trade, it might be helpful to say that ordinary offset litho inks are usually OK for letterpress If a bit runny, spread on some uncoated for a little while, say 15 minutes or so, and then knife off, it will usually have stiffened nicely for a treadle platen or such. BUT there are for modern presses some very odd grades about that eg only dry with UV light etc etc so caution with acquisitions. .

Ink-makers A & R Gibbon were commercially very successful. The name still exists - I believe they are now a division of Sun Chemical. For a period before WW1 they re-branded themselves Whyke & Hultmann to counter competition from German ink makers, but rapidly reverted to “Gibbon” in 1914 for obvious reasons.

Gibbon purchased the assets of Stevens Shanks when they were liquidated circa 1950 and ran the typefounding business from a back room in north London until the early 1980s. St Bride librarian, James Mosley, rescued Stevens Shanks’ matrices and punches, plus various pieces of foundry equipment (including much surviving Figgins material) when the typefoundry closed down. It is all at St Bride in London.

harrildplaten, Hostmann-Steinberg still exists but is now in the Huber Group, which is one of the large international ink companies. In Canada here, they have a plant in Brampton, Ontario, outside Toronto. Some years ago a pre-press company, which the company I worked for dealt with, had unused large cans of Hostmann-Steinberg cyan, magenta, yellow, black, gold and silver (I think they are 2kg cans). The pre-press company didn’t want them, and since their salesman knew that I had a letterpress shop at home, he got them and gave them to me. I have been using them ever since. They are oil base, and I like them a lot. They print very well.

re Harrild and Geoffrey’s post Hostmann Steinberg etc

Unit 14 Hurworth Road
Heighington Lane Business Park
Newton Aycliffe DL5 6UD

Phone: 01325 312 212
[email protected]

Offset Supplies
Graphica House
Upwell Lane
Sheffield, South Yorkshire S4 8EY

Phone: 0114 243 3333
[email protected]

Unit C Claymore
Tame Valley Industrial Estate
Wilnecote, Tamworth B77 5DQ

Phone: 01827 251 951
[email protected]

Pressroom Plus
4 Crown Court
Clough Road
Severalls Industrial Park
Colchester CO4 9TZ

Phone: 01206 842121
[email protected]

Service Offset Supplies
Oakwood Hill Industrial Estate
Oakwood Hill
Loughton, Essex IG10 3TZ

Phone: 0208 502 4291
[email protected]

J&G House
Holland Way Industrial Estate
Blandford Forum
Dorset DT11 7TA

J&G Environmental
Liverpool Road
Cadishead, Greater Manchester M44 5DT

Phone: 01258 453445
[email protected]



love Ault and Wiborg inks………..


never heard of Toyo inks before
“We are proud to announce that we are the official distributor of Toyo Arets Ink UK products for Southern UK. We hold a comprehensive range of their products in stock at our industrial premises in Hemel Hempstead, Herts. Toyo offer us, and our customers, the backing of a leading global ink manufacturer.

We supply various four colour process ink sets, Pantone ® inks, metallic and fluorescent inks for sheetfed offset, UV and continuous stationery printing. We stock a wide range of sealer varnishes, water based emulsion coatings and overprint varnishes.”
Unit 12, Frogmore Road Industrial Estate, Frogmore Road, Hemel Hempstead, Herts. HP3 9RW
Office Telephone & Fax: 01442 259474
Email: [email protected]


AMRA inks from Switzerland too


Yup, Lawrence are good…………

Hello everyone,

I have a question about Caligo Safe Wash inks as well, one whose answer might be obvious but I just can’t wrap my head around it, so bear with me, please :-)

So, if these Safe Wash inks can be washed down with water and soap (which sounds fantastic and I’m intrigued), I still automatically begin to think about rust and further down the line about damaged ballbearings and such. What do you think? Has anyone any advice on this topic?

Or, asked differently, what kind of machine would you use these inks with, exactly? I have two Heidelberg OHT (one red, one black ball) windmills and I’d rather not ruin them because water is running to some nook or cranny on the inside where I can’t get to afterwards.

I usually use inks from either Martinez (of Spain) or Van Son Rubber inks. I currently prefer the Martinez inks for their silky viscosity and the results I get, which are great IMHO.

Thanks for any insights and replies, especially from people who have tried these Safe Wash inks.