Waterbase inks?

I’m a screen printer and about to purchase my first letter press. For inks I’m wondering if anyone has tried using waterbased inks? We’ve got some waterbase inks that can be used for either textile or paper. Wondering if anyone out there has tried this the only thing i could think of is issues with the rollers? (rubber) and bleeding.

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I have used water base inks in the past with no ill effects on my rollers (composition rollers will not work, you will ruin them). The only problem I had was with the ink drying out on long runs even when using an extender.

I would never try to use screen printing inks on a letterpress. Sounds like a complete mess, and I have both processes in house.

Letterpress inks really need to be in such a thin, uniform layer that traditional, stiffer inks are just easier and probably cheaper than your screen inks ($25 per pound tin where I am, and a pound lasts for an epoch). In fact, rather than use up your good screen printing inks, just visit an offset shop and ask for their castaway inks. They’ll have a ton of custom PMS colors that they barely used for jobs just littering up the shop.

Can it be done? Yeah, you will probably end up with something. But it’s not worth it in my mind.

James Beard
Vrooooom Press

Thanks for the quick reply Vrooooom yea that sounds cheaper than the waterbased inks but can you color match the letter inks to specific pantone colors? If so which brand would allow me to do so

Most major brands offer Pantone support. Van Son Rubber Base Plus (which I would say is the most popular among small letterpress printers in NA) offer all the 14 base Pantone matching colours and most graphic arts suppliers will be able to get you mixes if you don’t want to do it yourself.


Thanks Paul, I’m comfortable in mixing it myself to match as I do it pretty often for screen printing. I just didn’t know if it was possible with inks specifically for print.

It’s possible, but it’s a slightly different process. Takes a little longer, in my opinion.

With screen inks, you can tell within a few swirls of the mixing stick. Letterpress ink is way, way thicker, so it takes longer to mix it together and then check a swatch. There’s a density issue too, since it will print in a much thinner layer than you’ll see in a smear. Kind of like how mixing screen ink with high transparency will look one way in the can, and different on the substrate.

The original $25 price I mentioned is what I pay for pantone mixes.

Thanks Vrooooom when you say pantone mixes are you referring to already ‘mixed’ ink to the specific pantone? If so where do you get it from? Thanks

Exactly. I supply a pantone number, and specify if I want rubber, oil, or acrylic base ink, and they mix it in house. Usually next day delivery; no delivery fee.

There’s a lot of companies around that offer this service. I’m currently using Thomas Lithographic Supply, which is just outside of Austin, but there’s others like Southern Ink just in my area. If you ask an offset shop near you, you will probably get a few names. But best to ask them if they can deal in “shorter” letterpress inks, since most offset inks can be kind of “long” and runny.

Cool that sounds pretty good do you have a website for Thomas Lithographic Supply?

Yes, but it’s nothing more than a business card type of website. Phone orders only. And my mistake earlier, it’s actually “Thompson Supply.”


Thanks Vrooooom if you can email me their contact info at [email protected] that would be great wonder if they ship to Canada? I’ll check here locally as well for inks

Thank Vrooooom! I’m going to see if I can find local if not I’ll give Thompson a shout.