Black ink for relief printmaking

I’m looking for recommendations for a black ink brand that does not leave a sooty/smudgy impression. Linoleum block printing.

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I am curious which inks have you tried? I am a big fan of the Akua inks but you’ll also need to have some transparent based and release agent on hand as well depending seasonality.

I’ve used Vanson Oil-Based ink forever.

Here in the UK. following in my artist Fathers footsteps, I have never used anything else than T.N. Lawrence’s Linseed OIl based ‘original series. Theres an excellent range of colours too.

I used oil based ink from Graphic Chemical and Ink for years and don’t remember having this problem with smudging surfaces (when dry).
When I bought oil based relief ink from Daniel Smith a few years ago, I did encounter this problem. I tried to contact them for consultation about this but couldn’t get a reply. (via email)
I also tried Charbonnel, France, which I randomly chose online..just to try it out, and had the same problem.
I did try Akua a few years ago but I haven’t been able to work well with the water based inks.
I recognize the Vanson brand name and may have used some years ago. Maybe I’ll try it again.

I’ll also check into T.N. Lawrence..

calligo safe wash relief ink

Do you mean by a sooty/smudgy impression that the dried ink is somewhat dull and chalky and comes off if you rub it?

This can have several different causes but to tell you what they are I have to give a little background information first.

Inks are made of 3 different things: pigment, vehicle and additives. We all know what the pigment is, and in this case it is carbon black.

Next the vehicle. The purpose of the vehicle, (or varnish), is to completely coat the pigment particles and act like glue to glue them to each other and to the paper being printed on. The varnish also protects the pigment so if it is rubbed, the rubbing is on the varnish coating, and not on the pigment particles themselves.

Additives are a subject in themselves so I will skip them for now.

The most likely cause of the sooty/smudgy impression is that the print is being made on an absorbent paper, so a lot of the varnish drains off the pigment and soaks into the paper, leaving the pigment unprotected and able to smudge. It also leaves the pigment looking dull, because if the varnish hadn’t soaked in, it would have stayed on the surface and given the ink a sheen or gloss.

The next most likely cause is that the ink was made with too little varnish to protect the pigment for the way it is being used in this case. This might have been done because the ink was made to be printed on less absorbent paper, or it was made to be over-varnished after printing.

Now here is where the additives can come in. One additive which is often used in commercial printing inks is wax. (This is not what most people think of as wax, but a very fine powdered polyethylene wax, for instance). What this added wax does is, after the print is made, it slowly migrates to the surface of the ink, and forms a waxy film. Then, if the ink is rubbed, the rubbing is to the waxy film on the surface of the ink, and not to the pigment underneath.

For these reasons I would recommend using commercial printing inks like Van Son and a host of other manufacturers who sell to commercial printers. These ink makers have solved most ink problems long ago.

For this reply just simplifying to talking about black inks….. I use the following: Cranfield Relief Carbon Black, Gamblin Relief Portland Intense Black, Gamblin Tom Huck’s Outlaw Black, and Hanco Litho. Archival Process Black. Sometimes I use them individually and at others mixed to fit a specific occasion. When I am concerned about the possibility of the image getting smudged (say, for instance, an image in a book that will get handled and rubbed) I will add a drier to the ink. This makes the surface of the ink harder and more durable. Good luck and good printing!