Ink Selection

Hello —

I just wanted to know what ink people are using. Rubber? Oil? Soy?

What are the pros/cons of these inks? What brand do you recommend?

If I need to limit the number of ink I would initially buy, what select few is most important to have on hand?

I thank you in advance for all your help.


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Hi Leslie,

This has been covered a bazilliony times in the forums (check out the search function, and be thorough), but here’s my opinion:

Rubber: Must absorb to dry. So, no coated stocks. May have trouble overprinting colors, depending on if enough drying time is allowed for.

Oil: Will dry on press and rollers if left, but will dry on its own, through absorption or via air.

Acrylic/Soy: Fine, if you have something against the former two. If not, use one of the above and avoid trouble.

Limiting ink colors: If doing client work, bill the ink cost into the job. Order as necessary. If printing your own work, consider grabbing a stack of used offset ink from a local print shop (they order custom PMS matches for jobs, only use a part of it) and work from that selection.

Good luck!

James Beard
Vrooooom Press

Leslie, swing by my shop and i’ll give you some colors to get you started. Dick G.

Thanks James for the information.

Dick G., where is your shop located? :-)

I’ve been told that the only ink colors a printer REALLY needs are black and red… However, if you have red, yellow, blue, and white you should be able to mix just about anything. Of course black goes without saying.

i’m in southeastern Massachusetts. Dick G.

Dick G., you live so far! Rather, I live so far! I’m in California. Thanks for the offer… maybe on one of my future vacations, I’ll go out there and swing by! Thanks again!

nbpeck - I was thinking the same thing. I might start off with red, yellow, blue, white, and black… then eventually add more. I just wanted to start playing with color and just get the feel and hang of mixing colors. Thank you!

I’m not that far from you, just hop a plane to Boston, rent a car and i’m just a one hour drive. For mixing colors you should get a pms book, there are about 10 colors you need to mix about every color in the pms book. You could always just start with a few colors, warm red, rubine red, yellow, opaque white, process blue, pantone green, there’s a few more but with these you can mix lots of colors. If you ever get out this way do stop by, within a two hour drive from me is Letterpress Things, a huge letterpress store, also The Museum of Printing in North Andover, and the Golden Guru in Connecticut John Falstrom, John won’t let me in his shop, he’s afraid i might get ink on one of his presses, he has the neatest shop in the world.Dick G.

Thanks Dick G.! Now I have a reason to visit Boston! :-D I’m still trying to find places here in Southern CA that can help me learn more regarding letterpress printing. So far I’ve only been to the International Printer’s Museum in Carson, CA — a pretty neat place to be!

I think I got pretty lucky with the machine I got recently. I was able to get it locally (just under 30 mins. away from where I live) for just $800 (thanks to Craigslist). This lady was just trying to get rid of a machine that belonged to her grandfather. It’s a C&P Model-N (which I know nothing about!). I read and read about the different C&Ps but nothing on the Model-N.

Regarding the ink and colors. I have a PMS book that I purchased from an Art store not long ago. I think I’ll take your advice and purchase a few colors and just add a few each time. I’m still a small business that makes stationery and graphic design. In the past we (my partner and I) would send out our work to get printed elsewhere. (digital, offset and thermography) After a year in business, we realized that half of our profits went to pay the printers (which isn’t bad, because it helps keep private printers open) However, I’ve really been interested in letterpress for a few years now but I’ve always been intimidated by the machine’s size, weight, and it’s age so I stayed away from it.

I knew it was time to get one when I couldn’t sleep because I wanted a letterpress so bad. I rubbed my fingers across the cotton paper and felt the indentation that the press made… I knew it was time. So I found the press out of luck one day. It’s now in my possession, but I am somewhat unsure of how to begin and what to get just to get started.

Thanks for your help and patience with all my questions these last few days!


That International Printing Museum in Carson is a pretty nice place, i’ve seen pictures from there. They have a big event there once a year which is where you should be, they have lots of old guys that run the equipment and you should be able to find someone locally that could help you get started. Look on the yellow pages on this site and you should be able to find someone near you that would be able to get you going. If you get out this way i’d be glad to help you, we live on a pond and could fix your husband up with fishing gear and let him take the company yacht out on the pond (its only a canoe, were not a very successful company) what guy don’t fish. I have my shop in a four car garage at home, where i work full time. I mostly do commercial letterpress printing, we have windmills a kluge and 10x15 c&p, plus lots of other stuff. Dick G.

Dick G., I went on their museum tour and they were very friendly. I’m actually planning on taking a class at the end of the month at the museum. I’ll be searching the yellow pages for those who can show/teach me more about the machines and how to run it. Thanks for the tips!

As for the yacht… I mean canoe… that sounds like fun! I’ll definitely put you and all those places you mentioned on my “to visit” list. Do you have a website? :D

Thanks again for your kind words DickG!


Hi Leslie,

The International Printing Museum is a wonderful place — so glad you discovered it.

I live in Southern California, too. We’re extremely lucky to have a world-class printer in our area, who happens to teach classes at both Otis near LAX and Art Center in Pasadena. Summer sessions are coming up:

Gerald teaches on Vandercooks, but the classes cover an immense amount of general printing information applicable to any press.

I’m not sure, but The Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena ( might teach classes using a platen press. You could call to find out.


Thanks for the tips Barbara! I will sure look into it :)

M&H Type/Arion Press in San Francisco is a great place and fabulous letterpress resource. I know it is in northern CA rather than closer to you, but if you want to learn about/purchase letterpress, they are the place to go. The cast a large variety of typefaces for sale and the Arion Press produces beautiful books. You really ought to spend a day and drive up there to take their tour. Everyone there is super friendly and they are willing to answer lots of questions! ;) At least check out their website:

Thanks for the info Alexia. I will keep a note of this! :-D