Storing custom mixed inks

Does anyone have a good way of storing oil-based custom mixed inks? I bought some 2oz. metal tins (cheap from an arts supply store) and had mixed some brown for a job… but given the fact that its oil-based and that the container was not air tight, it developed some major skin.

What’s your secret for storing custom mixed inks in small amounts?


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get some tape and tape around the seal of the lid. i was taught in school to spray pam (non stick cooking spray) on the top of the ink before you put the lid on… it creates a somewhat air tight film over the ink.

Elisa- I’ve heard the “Pam” thing too…. but never liked it since it can alter the drying properties of the ink. Instead, do like the old timers have done for years: Cut a circle of wax paper the same size as the can. Then smooth the top of the ink in the can with an ink knife, and put the wax paper right on top of the ink. Stored that way, it’ll keep for a long, long time.

The other good way to store ink is to get empty Artist Paint tubes. They are available in most art supply houses, and work like a charm. I buy them by the case.

winking cat has a good idea. we used to cut tissue paper then press it down on the ink to get the air out, then put just a couple of drops of oil on it, the ink stays good a long time.

Elisa -

For years, I have used simple saran wrap on my oil-based inks. Whether it’s new ink in a one or five-pound can, or mixed ink in a paper cup or small tin, the saran wrap molds to the surface tightly, and you can easily remove air bubbles as you place it onto the ink. Plus, when you’re ready to use the ink next time, you can slide the saran wrap out, scraping the good ink back into the can - or use a broad ink knife to scrape it (gently) off of the saran wrap if you lay it upside down on the stone.

I’ve tried other tricks over the years, but nothing has been as convenient and reliable as a little bit of saran wrap.

Of course, the best way to eliminate skin is to have your ink in tubes. With tubes, there is almost zero waste, and a 1/4 tube of ink will keep the ink fresh for many years. I still find old tubes of ink sold by Kelsey many, many years ago - but still fresh and perfectly usable in most cases.

In fact, I still *use* tubes of ink I got myself from Kelsey over 40 years ago…

- Alan

Thanks for all the hints everyone! I guess I should have expected the skin since I didn’t try to make an airtight seal. Ink-in-Tubes is one of the best ideas ever and I think my tubes will last me (hopefully) for a long time too. Happy printing!


If you have a special mix, but don’t want to invest in tubes for every little color you mix, you could get a small roll of freezer paper with a polyethylene coating on one side. Put the excess ink from the job in the center of a square of the paper (poly side up) and carefully fold over into a packet, making certain to leave little air space to oxidise the ink.

Tape closed the packet and label it with the color name or PMS designation.

When opened, there should be little (if any) skin, and you can use the ink directly from the packet. If you use a standard size paper, you can store the inks in a box or shelf and keep some order in your ink storage area.

The poly-coated freezer paper also makes pretty fair tympan paper for your press, at a cost considerably less than oiled paper rolls. If you are printing using dampened paper, leave the polycoating up and the moisture will not migrate through the tympan. You can also print on the surface (to position the gage pins) and easily wipe off the image from the surface.