Saturday, 26 September 2015

I try a new ink product for printing

I ought to say right at the start, that I'm a complete printing novice. I don't have a press or any specialist equipment and have mostly stuck to lino prints in the past. Having said that, I'm very interesting in learning more and making better prints to use in my sketchbooks.

Linda recently did some printing for her sketchbook challenge, and I'd made some plates up using card, but hadn't had enormous success in using them with acrylics, inks or oil paints.

I'd been looking for an oil based printing ink which was easy to use and clean up afterwards and didn't cost the earth, and I came across Caligo Safe Wash etching ink. (no affiliation!) It's widely available but if you can't find any go to their website. A pdf about how to use it is on the website, but here's a direct link.

A pdf download is available here

I started by squeezing a bit of ink from the tube about 2 inches long.  It's very sticky and thick, but was easy enough to move around with the brayer, which I loaded up with a thin even covering.  Initially I squeezed the ink onto a sheet from my Tear Off Palette, but something more fixed like a sheet of perspex/glass would work better as it wouldn't move around.

I then inked up the card plate using 2 or 3 swipes across it in all directions until it was covered.  It was easy to see where the ink had taken and where it hadn't.  I used paper to pat the excess ink off of the plate, but found rubbing it gently was better and obtained a smooth shiny finish.

I used dry paper first of all, because I knew the ink was washable and didn't want it to blur by adding wet paper to the mix.  It worked very well!  I placed the ink plate on the table and put a piece of dry copy paper on top (different papers presumably give different results, but it was all I had to hand) and burnished it with the back of a large spoon. The dry paper was strong enough to deal with this and I got quite a good print. (left)

I then tried it with slightly damp paper to see if I could improve the results. I didn't soak the paper, but sprayed it gently with water from a fine spray pump.  I left it to soak slightly whilst I inked up again for the next print.

Burnishing the paper this time resulted in a tear because it wasn't strong enough. So, for the next print I used the damp paper but before burnishing put another piece of dry paper over it and rubbed through both.

The ink dried to the touch within the hour, and the brayer cleaned very quickly and easily with cold water and washing up liquid.

Why is an oil based product good? Because when it's fully dry, (don't know how long that will be - a couple of weeks?) I'll be able to paint over the print without the ink moving. My results I suspect - in print terms anyway - leave a bit to be desired, but it's exactly what I wanted for my sketchbook as I like the "noise" and imperfections. Yep, quite pleased!!

Here's the same print with dry and wet paper. I think it cost about £7 for my tube which is expensive but not out of the way. Now I'll go on and try a slightly different method of printing!  I'll let you know if the ink dries sufficiently to allow me to paint over or if there's any problems.


  1. Brilliant and useful tutorial there, thank you. I print onto tissue paper so much ( bonkers! It's a pig to handle) and use acrylics with retarder but it can all be a bit clunky. This product seems a perfect alternative and as much as a I love monoprints I want to try building cardboard print plates. I think that has a posh name but don't ask me what it is. So I really appreciate this info. Thanks muchly. H xx

    1. Hi ltw, I'll do an update in a few days when the oil paint has had a chance to go off and let you know if you can do an overwash. A x