Rubber inking woes

Hi everyone,

I just got a desktop press and am hand inking as a start.

I’ve got some Vanson black rubber ink, but I find that after 3-4 impressions, my inking plate (rectangular glass block) starts to get really dry, and that the ink no longer sticks onto my rubber brayer.

In fact, if I keep rolling the brayer on the inking plate, eventually the brayer itself becomes clean! Almost like as if the rubber ink on the inking plate is peeling off all the ink on my rubber brayer (in the way we sometimes use sticky tape to “unstick” sticky residue from something).

Is this an issue
-with my rubber ink being too dried up? (its an old can of ink)
-Too little rubber ink?
-Too much braying? (It was difficult to get the brayer fully black, so i had to roll quite a bit, which may have accelerated the drying process for the rubber ink)

Thanks in advance for the advice :)


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Rubber ink usually don’t act like that. It sounds like you got a can of Tough text ink, make sure you can says rubber base, van son makes other inks,

Thanks for the advice. The label on my can of ink is sort of faded, so I can’t be sure (though I’ve been told its rubber ink).
I’ve ordered some new van son rubber ink, will see if this helps….

Thanks again :)

You’re using Rubber Based Ink, not rubber ink. I use Oil Based Ink. Who is the manufacturer of the ink you’re currently using.


Oops, apologies, yes rubber based ink!

The can I got it from had the Van son logo, but the rest of the words were faded out (its a very old can).

I suspect its rubber based ink (I was told it was by the person who gave it to me), but it could as well be “tough text” ink.

Strangely, the ink REALLY sticks. For example, when my brayer is fully inked up, just rolling it on plates results the plates picking up 100% of the ink from the brayer! Almost like a sticker!

This leaves the actual inverse print of the plate ON the brayer (ie. whole brayer is black with ink, except for the parts that were in contact with the plate, which have ZERO ink..

If your ink was oil base or tough text there would be a hard skin on top of the ink in the can, rubber base ink don’t get this skin but will get a rubber like skin on top when its old.

Hi everyone!

Ok, I finally got some new vanson rubber based ink from box car press. And I am still facing some issues. I realised my problem seems to be a “brayer” problem, rather than an “ink” problem.

The issue seems to be with the type of brayer I am using. I got a couple of speedball rubber ones (one is black, and one is tan). The tan one is “soft” and the black one is “hard”.

A) I started with “Soft” type brayer, but with horrible results

- its almost IMPOSSIBLE to ink cleanly
- I made sure to ink with the lightest pressure (with roller bearers)
- Making the inking block too wet, will result in over inking
- Using sparing amounts of ink, will result in a “mottled orange skin” type pattern on the photopolymer plates
-Worst of all, after awhile, the soft type brayer just wouldn’t take any more ink (it starts to get really tacky and “dry” up). Continued rolling to pick up more ink doesnt work, and adding more new ink doesn’t work very well either because of the “skin” on the brayer. Note: All this happens within 30 minutes, in a room about 25 degrees celsius.

B) Using the black rubber speed ball brayer (Hard)
- This is infinitely better… For some strange reason, the ink doesn’t dry up even after 2 hours, I can still roll it out nicely.
- When inking the rolling plates, I can apply pressure with out worry of over inking (possibly because the rubber is hard enough so it won’t start inking the “sides” of the relief)
-HOWEVER: I realised for best prints, I need REALLY little ink, and I need to roll the ink back and forth on the photo polymer plate maybe 10 - 15 times for dark and even coverage. Each “roll” on the plate will lay down a very feint bit of ink, and it takes awhile of doing this before the ink layers build up to be dark enough. This is fine, but I am sure there is something I can do to make it less tedious (ie. 1-2 rolls to ink the plate, rather than 10-15)

My desktop press is just a simple adana (slightly broken, hence hand rolling the ink for now).

Attached are some images of the Soft brayer and the “dried skin” that develops after half an hour. The clean white parts of the tan brayer are the parts where the “dried skin” gets peeled off when it sticks to the inking block!

In contrast The black brayer does the job fine, doesn’t dry out, doesn’t get sticky… But it takes really long to be able to ink enough for just one impression!

I am also considering buying actual adana ink rollers, and making them into hand brayers. Repairing the roller mechanism on my desktop adana will be a real tough job, so its hand inking for now.

Apperciate any tips :) thanks in advance!

image: brayer2.JPG


image: brayer1.JPG


a larger brayer would carry ink much better, those brayers are kind of small.

I’ve never had any success with the tan Speedball brayers on photopolymer, they are very smooth compared to the material on my other brayers (and the rollers on my presses). They don’t seem to take ink nearly as well as more expensive options.

Hi thanks for the tips!

Kimaboe: When you say “more expensive options” are you referring to more expensive plate options (ie. zinc? magnesium) or more expensive brayer options?

I am considering getting some japanese rubber ones….

Expensive options being a 150 dollar brayer from Takach Press or Conrad Machine co.

Lika dis:

actually, 177. But they are worth every penny and will last 5+ years before needing to be re-surfaced, and frankly they’re the best thing since sliced bread.

I’ve got a cheaper one ($75-100’ish if I remember correctly) that works ok for wood type and cuts, but I rarely hand-ink. If I did, I would probably have made that investment without hesitation.

With hand rollers you get what you pay for. I have invested in several sizes of rollers from T. N. Lawrence in England, and have never regretted the money spent. I have both kinds of rollers (Durathene and rubber), and am happy with both. I have always sprung for the artist quality brayers because the frames are better.

I agree with Devils tail Press, and invested in three top quality brayers, 10, 15 and 20 cm wide and don’t regret the money spent on them.[backPID]=120&tx_ttproducts_pi1[product]=1826&cHash=71f03a95a9

image: bc849e20c1.jpg


I suppose the diameter of the brayer for Sprockett’s application is that it must be small enough to fit within the open area of the Adana, or he would have to remove the chase to ink.

I use the same rubber I order for my press rollers on my brayers, and get them covered at the same company that does the press rollers.

John Henry

Thanks for the tips everyone!

My action plan:

1. Get a higher quality brayer
2. Talk to adana to see if they can make hand brayers out of the same rubber that their rollers use.

Sprockett- you’re in the UK or USA or elsewhere?

Why don’t you talk to a re-manufacturer who makes offset rollers and have them cast/grind you one to be whatever size you’re seeking?

Just search the classifieds section on briarpress for roller recovery and give someone a call.

Hi Havenpress,

I’m located in Asia… not many places here do custom rollers. I’ll probably speak to someone who does roller recovery (either US or UK). Shipping costs are a killer :)

Thanks for the suggestion!

Sprocket… I don’t think it’s your brayer. It’s your ink and climate conditions. Rubber based ink requires a lot of shear to work well and can “dry up” rather quickly under some conditions. (it’s not actualy drying, as much as it’s actually tacky-ing up… but that’s a chemical discussion.) It’s not the best material for hand-inking.

My friends in Tibet won’t touch rubber based ink at all for that reason. They use the standard Speed-ball Brayers, and oil based ink. The better brayers will of course help, but changing of the ink is the best option.

Thanks WCP :)