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Old 01-21-2020, 01:14 PM
blackandwhite blackandwhite is online now
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Mars black pigment in etching inks

Hi!
Recently I have been browsing various etching ink recipes and became curious about the pigments used in the inks. Various kinds of carbon blacks are the most common pigments used in the traditional inks (linseed oil based). In multiple sources it has been mentioned that mars black is generally not suitable for use in etching inks, but none of the books mentioned the reason for that. Does here anyone know why mars black would not be suitable for etching inks?

I happen to have pile of mars black that I was planning to use in my own tung oil + soybean oil based ink recipes, since it is usually the easiest black to mix with oil. I am bit leaning towards assuming that the unsuitability of mars black is just ancient legend that none have questioned, but I would love to know if there is something that really makes it not suitable for etching inks.
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Old 01-21-2020, 05:46 PM
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Jeffro Jones Jeffro Jones is offline
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Re: Mars black pigment in etching inks

Quote:
Originally Posted by blackandwhite
Does here anyone know why mars black would not be suitable for etching inks?
What an interesting question, I had no idea.
But you are right, the "Complete Printmaker" says to avoid Mars Black, and the "Thames and Hudson Manual of Etching & Engraving" omits its as a suitable pigment powder.
How intriguing, and no reason is given.
However, Speedball makes a general purpose water soluble range, for intaglio and relief, the "Akua" range, and they list a Mars Black.
I'm sorry I can't offer any reason for this situation, there surely must be something!
Please update us if you get any more info


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Old 01-22-2020, 12:53 PM
blackandwhite blackandwhite is online now
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Re: Mars black pigment in etching inks

I have used the Akua Intaglio mars black somewhere in the history and there wasn't anything strange happening with the pigment, so I suppose it should work with other oils too.

I have been also thinking that could the mars black pigment be so abrasive that it could wear down the plates if used in traditional inks that require more wiping than Akua. Goldsmiths use red iron oxide as abrasive when polishing gold, which led me to think that the black oxide could be abrasive too.

It will take some time before I can make my experiments with the DIY ink. First I'll have to sun-thicken the oils, which may take some months. I tried boiling the oil to thicken it, but wasn't careful enough so everything burned. I had about a pint of 50:50 mix of tung oil and soybean oil in a kettle on a portable camping stove. I heated it to 250 deg C (about 500 F) that should be "safe", and when the temperature was steady, I left it unattended for few minutes and when I came back everything had burned. Must have been quite violent fire, but luckily there was no other damage. At least I learned why in the old times the ink makers had to boil their oils outside of the cities and away from anything valuable.
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Old 01-22-2020, 10:59 PM
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Jeffro Jones Jeffro Jones is offline
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Re: Mars black pigment in etching inks

The idea of abrasiveness is an interesting one...
I believe the particle size of synthesized iron oxide pigments is relatively small, smaller than their natural counterparts.
But they could be very HARD particles, do you think?
But how many prints would you have to pull before any abrasiveness associated with wiping affected the plate?
Hmmm, I'm doubtful...
I mean, the most popular print I've done, I've sold 10 copies, not 10,000
Here's another suggestion: There is an article at handprintDOTcom about the nature of various blacks, their aesthetic suitability etc.
So, Vine Black is described as warm, Lamp Black as cool and versatile, etc etc.
Mars Black is described as unsatisfactory in various aspects, hard to manage, not suitable for shadows, and so on.
Maybe it has been judged as having not quite the right look, compared to other blacks?
Hmmm...

As a student I experimented with making my own ink, there was a can of plate-oil in our studio that I used as the oil base.
It was "OK", but didn't wipe as well as our commercial ink, and it took time etc, so I didn't perservere with it.
I do like the "artisan", DIY path though, so all the best


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Old 01-24-2020, 04:26 PM
blackandwhite blackandwhite is online now
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Re: Mars black pigment in etching inks

Yes, I think the mars black is pretty abrasive. I did some experiments by mixing some pigment to acrylic medium using a palette knife, and I could see some fresh wear marks in the steel knife. But many other pigments, such as earth pigments, are similar or even worse in their abrasiveness, so that cannot explain why mars black would not work in etching inks.

I definitely agree with what handprint site says about mars black. I think their evaluation focuses on watercolor usage, where the mars black can be bit problematic. The pigment particles can be magnetic, which causes them to clump together that produces grainy look. Naturally that can be opportunity too, for example, the wet watercolour paint can be manipulated with magnet without physically touching the paint.

One point with mars black might be that it can make oil mediums dry way faster than carbon black pigments. Carbon blacks are known to absorp the oxidation products of the oil medium, which increases drying time. Mars black doesn't have this property, so it can make oils dry faster and maybe too fast.
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