View Full Version : Water soluble inks for wood cuts

Liz E
09-04-2016, 08:42 PM
I have just started making wood cut prints (actually white line prints) and have been using Speedball inks (water soluble). I'm wondering about the quality of these inks. I have searched for other brands. Gamblin inks are pricey - would love to afford them. Can anyone give me other recommendations. Traditionally white line prints have been made with watercolor I believe. Maybe I should go that route.

Moqui Steps
09-05-2016, 06:09 PM
I had never heard of White Line prints until I read your post. A quick google took me to this page which I found interesting.


If you don't want to use watercolors, maybe acrylics with some kind of modifiers in them to either shorten or extend the drying time to what you want might work.

I am assuming you want water soluble inks mainly for the cleanup without having to use solvents? From the reading on that link it sounds like you need an ink or paint that dries on the paper fairly quickly. Is that what you are looking for? Most printmaking inks do not dry very fast.

For what its worth, I had used the regular Speedball inks years ago on some lino block prints and they seemed to work fine. The prints are 20 years old now and they look the same as when I pulled them.

My friend does quite a bit of Sintra block printing with Akua inks, which are, I believe, an oil based ink but they are water soluble for cleanup. Are the Speedball inks you are using their regular block printing inks or the Akua inks that were purchased by and now marketed by Speedball? The Akua inks would most likely take too long to dry for this printmaking method unless you aren't in a hurry or can find a modifier that speeds their dry time to an acceptable amount.

09-06-2016, 11:44 AM
Water based Speedball inks generally dry very rapidly (especially if it's very hot out). They do have decent light fastness though and should hold up over time as long as they are not hung in direct sunlight.

Speedball also has a line of oil based which are a little more expensive, but not as much as the Gamblin. They come in varying sizes of tubes and the smaller tubes have a larger range of colors than the bigger ones.

The Akua inks are generally pretty nice, but I do reduction prints and as they layered they take considerably longer to dry so I've steered away from them. I hear great things about Caligo Safe Wash inks, but have never used them. Both the pre-mentioned inks here are both capable of being cleaned up with soap and water.

I use water-based Speedball inks on small "test" prints. As in, I want to attempt a reduction print, but I'm not sure how it'll turn out....so....I'll make a 4x6 reduction print and use those inks since they dry very rapidly. If I like what I see I then re-develop the print to either an 8x10 or 9x12 (inch) print.

I know a lot of people are not fond of oil-based inks because they are a bit tougher to clean up. Soap and water, just don't do it and people don't want to work with harsh chemicals. To be honest though I only use odorless mineral spirits to clean my blocks. I use vegetable oil, Dawn dish detergent, Simple Green cleaner and paper towels to clean up my oils.

I basically scrape all of the oil ink off of my glass desktop and put a couple small drops of veggie oil on the surface. Use a couple paper towels to clean up the ink off the surface and then a couple more to remove the excess veggie oil off the glass. I then have a mix of Dawn detergent and water in a spray bottle and spray down the surface and wipe it off (I usually repeat this step). Then a quick spritz with simple green and it's all done. (I do these same steps with my brayers/rollers)

Hope this helps....though not heavily favored, the water-based Speedball inks should remain lightfast and retain their colors as long as not exposed to direct sunlight. Some colors are better than others and over a long period of time may change anyways.

Moqui Steps
09-07-2016, 12:15 AM
I have used Caligo Safewash black ink on some sintra block prints. Single color printing. I tried it on dry and slightly damp papers.

The ink literally NEVER dried. I live in the high desert so humidity was low to average. They stayed quite wet for weeks. Six to ten months later you can still rub color off on your fingertip with very little pressure. I used the ink straight out of the container with no modifiers. I am not sure if it is something I did wrong or perhaps I have a bad batch of ink? This was the only sample of the Caligo ink I have ever used. I gave up and went back to my stash of Daniel Smith and some old Graphic inks.

Liz E
09-07-2016, 08:53 AM
Thanks for all the replies - very helpful. In a nutshell: I'm looking for light fastness in water soluble inks. For the white-line prints I believe oil base inks won't work.

According to Doug Thomas my Speedball inks are ok for now. I'll stick with them while I'm honing my skills. Have only cut and printed one block. Am on my second one now. Thanks again.

09-13-2016, 08:45 PM
You might like to consider trying Graphic Chemical water soluble relief printing ink. It has a totally different binding agent into which pure hues are mixed. I found it had a longer open time when working in studio (up to 6 hours) and it cleans up easily with soap and water. The only thing to be aware of that aside from the black & white ink is that many of the colour hues have a transparent quality about them. You might need to add a small bit of white to create a heavier opaqueness if that is an issue.

10-23-2016, 08:10 AM
Sorry it has been a while since my reply was posted. I wanted to add the graphic chemical relief printing inks can also be thinned with water. However I am not sure about the light-fastness factor. Depends on the pigment I would imagine.

03-14-2017, 11:38 AM
DougThomas - this is good info to have at hand. Thanks for posting your clean-up process