Non-toxic Inks

Hello! I am setting up my letterpress studio in an shared artist community building where several fellow artists are highly sensitive to VOC’s, etc.
Can anyone suggest non-toxic inks I am able to purchase in Canada, preferably in western Canada?
Thank you :)

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Talk to Boxcar Press; they sell low VOC inks. Also, NA Graphics may be able to help you. Colorcon makes No-Tox inks, mainly used in food packaging and pharmaceuticals, I paid over $600 for my last 10# container. I would not recommend it for general letterpress use.

I heard this new finding on a podcast somewhere the other day…(I haven’t read this particular article, but it was about this):

This got me wondering, is it really that difficult to make your own ink? We had to make egg-tempera with eggs and pigments in college classes….

Is it really that difficult to make letterpress ink (figure it’s about viscosity and pigment densities right?) out of vegetable oil and pigments of your choice?

Has anyone tried?

Carbon powders and readily oxidizing oil… walnut oil???


Hello randomtype,

If I were you, before setting up my studio, I would determine just how sensitive to odors your fellow artists are. With some people, if they smell anything at all, it is too much. If that is the case, you might perhaps want to rethink where you are going to put your studio. Spend some time with the artists and see just how much of an odor the paints, cleaners, etc., are that they use now.

I don’t know, you might be able to find “odorless” inks, but just because they might be available, doesn’t mean they work well. I have tried a popular brand of water wash-up block printing inks on letterpress, and they were awful.

I hope it all works out for you.

In the UK the artists supplier Cornellisen sell pigment powders. I usually make my opaque mixing white with their titanium White and boiled linseed oil. There is a very limited range of colours. One can also get empty tubes to put it in. All a bit messy but its cheapo. However the powder is Titanium Di-Oxide and very likely bad for you to breathe, buy once bound into the linseed far less of a problem. (All decently white paper contains or is coated with ground up china clay by the way) In the trade there are
a vast range of pigments and lakes,as powders, many of which are very definitely not good for you, but vastly less so when bound with a vehicle. (pigments means ground up rock ( browns) or oxides like rust (some reds) lakes means a white powder dyed with something expensive to get a similar result. Back in the1i950s some inks were literally incompatible, print one over another and wierd things happened. eg Greens. (some from copper oxide) a chemical reaction was taking place. But a vast amount of research by eg ICI, Rohm & Haas and the rest in the years since then have given us things like Monastral Blue pigment
first developed for house paints and cloth dyes, but all that research spilled over into our inks, and life has got vastly better. and rather less poisonous. But like they said at school ‘don’t lick the brush dear’