oil-base v. rubber-base ink / metallic inks.

Oil base v. rubber-base ink — is one better for letterpress printing than the other? I’ve only used rubber-base ink to print with so far. Can I use California Wash for the oil-based ink as well? What differences, if any, will I notice between the two inks?

On a similar note, I’m wanting to find copper and silver inks, but they seems to only be available as oil-base. Any suggestions for sources for these colors? I’m thinking of calling NA Graphics…

Also, I think I read somewhere else on the discussion board that the metallic inks don’t show up quite as nicely on softer paper like Lettra. Any thoughts?

Thanks for any advice…

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Both ink types should be suitable for letterpress. I use primarily rubber based inks from Van Son, and I have been very happy with thier performance. The biggest difference between the two types of ink that I am aware of, is the drying characteristics. The advantage of rubber is that is will not dry out on press easily. It is stable and consistent for hours and hours, and can even be left on press overnite, if need be (though not a good habit to get into).
Oil based inks will dry within a few hours if left unattended on press, and this can cause rollers to be damaged and can take a long time to clean.
It also depends on what type of paper you print on. Rubber based inks dry lot through absorbsion, and if you print on coated stock, the ink may never dry properly. Oil based dries through absorbsion and air drying, and will dry when printed on coated stock. For most letterpress these days, either ink should be fine.
Both types wash up just fine with California wash. I have not seen any rubber based inks in mettallic either. I use Van Son, oil based, and it is fine, but it is true that the luster is often dissapointing.
Good luck!

I use oil based ink, Van Son SONAPRINT, great color, good ink holdout, stays on the press good, easy clean up with mineral spirits, a bit less expensive than the CML Plus.

I don’t use Rubber Base inks at all. When I do posters I have large area I cover with ink and I need the ink to dry not stay wet/damp or otherwise.

Just my thoughts.


If you want the POV from a tiny, tiny shop, I started out using VanSon rubber based inks, but I ended up switching to oil based. The drying time was just too long on the paper I use.

I’ve been using the oil-based ink from NA Graphics and I really like it. I do pretty short runs and often more than one color in a day, so leaving the ink open on the press is not an issue for me. Also, it’s available in smaller 1/4 lb. tubes, which is convenient.

I use the California wash with no problem.

In my experience, I have always had problems with the rubber based inks not drying so I prefer to use oil-based inks. Though it would be nice to keep ink on the press overnight, I have always been too afraid to do it!

This is a great thread so I have another newbie question: Can I use the California Wash on my Kelsey instead of Mineral Spirits?

I like to work with oil based inks. Rubber based inks seem easier to clean and you can leave it on the press/rollers with no problems, but In my opinion oil based seems to dry better. I would recommend trying both for a time to see which fits you……. on a side note I bought 230+ 5lb cans of oil based for $50 at an auction this morning. :)