Cannot roll ink evenly onto plate.

Hi all. I’m using an L Letterpress style set up (i.e. hand rolling the ink onto plates) and I cannot seem to get an even inking onto the plate, which results in pretty splotchy prints. Parts bleed and other parts are too faint. To be fair, I’m trying to print 11pt text (it’s a poem). Here are the details of my set up:

Ink is from Amazon, We R Memory Keepers ink. I’m not sure if it’s rubber or oil based (it doesn’t say). I am using a We R Memory Keepers press. I’m using K152 plates from Boxcar press. I have two rollers, a 4” soft speedball roller and a 4” hard speedball roller. I’ve never been able to successfully ink the soft roller, it simply will not pick up much ink. I roll my ink out on a sheet of acrylic. I use roller bearing strips when I roll the ink onto the plate. To get the most even inking I often roll again and again over the plate, sometimes trying to pick up more ink from the plate in the middle. I clean everything up with rags and then with some mineral oil. You can find more detail about what I’ve tried, including pictures, here:

Am I doing something wrong? Or is it simply impossible to get very even prints by hand rolling with these kinds of tools?

image: IMG_5073.JPG


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I think you should have better luck with the softer roller. I have used the soft Speedball rollers for inking a second color on press and have had no difficulties. Try a good cleaning with Mineral spirits (not mineral oil). It could be that there is a residue of the oil on your roller and plate surface which doesn’t allow the ink to transfer properly. Mineral spirits is a standard paint thinner you will find in a paint or hardware store, and will do a much better job of cleaning your tools and plates. Just use as little as possible on your rag and the fumes will not be too great. If you are sensitive to the fumes, then you could try other solvents (see Briar press discussions for what other people use), but I think the mineral spirits are readily available and would get the job done.

There will be little difference in performance between oil and rubber-based inks for this application.

John Henry

has printing through the “machine” on the left actually worked before………..does impression show…………etc

I do all hand inking using a little 1 1/2 inch wide, soft speedball roller. I can get more satisfying coverage with the smaller width.

When you print, are the light spots always in the same places? If yes, it’s possible that something is a little warped and so the paper is not all getting the same pressure. Depending on how your machine works, it might be possible to compensate, adding extra thickness where more pressure is needed.