Preparing for my first run

Hi everyone,

I’ll be receiving my Vandercook very soon and am still in the stages of learning…everything. I would like to try a small run sometime soon. Although I am still researching, can anyone suggest a quick reference to purchasing 1) ink and 2) paper (specifically, how little or how much I would have to order). Any other all-in-one guides to printing from photopolymer plates would be helpful as well. Thank you so much.

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Try going to a local offset printer or two (commercial printers - not simply a quick-print shop) and introduce yourself and tell them that you are getting your first press and would be interested in knowing if they have any off-cuts or odds and ends of paper that they might give you to experiment with. Uncoated sheets would be best.

1. It never hurts to ask and the worst that could happen is that they simply say NO.

2. You might be very surprised at the odds and ends that they might be willing to part with. They generally “clean house” once or twice a year to get rid of all their leftovers and odds and ends and many of them generally just donate it to their local schools or day-care centers for kids to draw on.

At least that has been my experience over the years. You may get really lucky and have a variety of colors to play with as well.

You can also ask them about scraps of ink while you are at it. Like I said, it never hurts to ask.

Good luck.


if you are anywhere near Chicago, IL, let me know. I bought 100 lbs of oil-based ink from a printshop that was closing down and really have no use for most of it. I can give you some of it for free. I only paid like $10 for it. I’ve used it on my C&P Pilot and it works fine.


Hi Karen!

If you can’t find a local printer willing to part with their used inks and paper scraps(if they say no, try dumpster diving behind their building!), I order from Xpedx ( They carry VanSon inks (in my area anyway, they are a national chain but I don’t know if the catalog is regional…) and a large selection of papers.

For fancy papers, try Cranes & Co. Lots of soft, thick cotton rag papers that produce the deep impression most new printers are after.

Also, if you’re getting art-ful, you can find lots of sources of unconventional papers for cheap or free. I LOVE printing on old dictionary pages, atlases, cardboard, kraft paper and paper bags, etc. Keep your eyes open at the thrift store.

My first long-run project was a set of drink coasters. I went to and requested a sample pack. They sent me well over 300 coasters for free, and I printed them ALL, I was so excited. You could try that too. I will say trying to print on round stock on my C&P as a first project was a bit of a challenge, but I learned a lot.

Good luck, and post pictures when you’re finished so we can all ooh and ahh and tell you how great they are. :)

Thanks everyone…so helpful! I’m very excited about this new adventure. I’m sure you’ll see me asking more questions…

Good suggestions, to which I just want to add that over many years I’ve always found the local Xpedx (formerly Arvey) store to be friendly and helpful (unlike another paper company whose first question always seemed to be “What’s your account number?”). They’re willing to sell many of their papers by the single sheet and have open samples on the shelves for you to feel and compare, and if you ask have been willing to give you up to five sample sheets if you want to try something before buying. They are also great about special ordering paper not on their shelf, and checking stock & getting things from other Xpedx stores.

Xpedx does carry Van Son ink, but for those wanting smaller amounts than 5.5lb, 2.2lb, (or sometimes 1lb.) cans, NA Graphics carries some letterpress ink in 1/4lb. tubes, and I’ve been putting a variety of Pantone colors into tubes which I sell (and I’ll be happy to send a list to anyone interested).

Check Xpedx for sale or closeout items, too. I bought several cans of ink there just the other day, to put in tubes, and was lucky enough to find Rhodamine Red, one of the more expensive colors, on sale.

Dave (the Ink in Tubes guy)

Dave (years later) I’m curious about this ‘ink in tubes’ idea - sounds like a brilliant answer to the ‘drying in the can’ problem. Pls send me your list. And what kind of equipment do you use to accomplish this feat?


Yes, years later. It’s interesting — and heartwarming — to note that Karen, who originally posted this message, has done a fine job of learning. Congratulations, Karen — you’ve come a long way!


Let me add that for the new and smaller press hobbyist, the ink in tubes is terrific. True colors and good service. Thanks Dave.


Let me add that for the new and smaller press hobbyist, the ink in tubes is terrific. True colors and good service. Thanks Dave.


Let me add that for the new and smaller press hobbyist, the ink in tubes is terrific. True colors and good service. Thanks Dave.


I second Barb’s congratulations to Karen, and also to all the other enthusiastic newer printers who are learning letterpress printing and keeping it alive and well.

Neil, thanks (3x) for the compliment. Putting ink into tubes has seemed to fill a need in several ways, so I’m glad Ink in Tubes has been well received.

Mike, if you happen to look at Dave Celani’s web site on putting ink into tubes, you’ll see how it’s done, although I don’t follow Dave’s procedure exactly. It’s hardly high-tech, mostly just being careful with an ink knife. The fun part is printing virtually all my ink tube labels & box ends with the color ink in the tube using hand-set type and printing on a hand-cranked Multigraph letterpress of about 1920 vintage.

Anyone interested in a list of some of the colors of Ink in Tubes that I have available can e-mail me at “Ink(at)” and I’ll be happy to send a list.

Thanks! Dave (the Ink in Tubes guy)