Looking for a new gold ink

I love gold ink. There, I’ve said it. I’m not a flashy person in personality or dress. But in my studio practice, gold ink is a necessity.

Is one gold ink better than another?

To answer this question, I put three inks to the test.

Hanschy RichGold (now Hanco) litho ink (Hanco CS-951 $26.55 Blick.com)
This was my first gold ink. I was taught to do relief printmaking with lithography inks, and I’ve had this one for about eight years. Until October, it was my go-to gold. Straight from the 1lb. can, it is strikingly green-gold and moderately thick. Little evidence of grainy pigments.

Update from Hanco: The can in the picture is about 10 years old and has been discontinued. You’ll want to try our Brilliant Rich Gold or our Rich Gold paste. They are much brighter than the old Metal Sheen metallic ink. 

I haven’t tried out the new Hanco inks, so if you have experience with them, please add your thoughts to the comments!

Handschy RichGold has been my go-to gold for quite a while.

Cranfield Traditional Relief Ink Gold (75 ml $15.21 Blick.com)
I just received this one, and I was looking for great color in a true relief ink. The color on the tube matches the ink itself — it looks like copper. When squeezed out of the tube, you do see evidence of some grainy pigments.

Cranfield gold looks like copper…

Charbonnel Etching Ink Gold (60ml $18.36 Blick.com)
I have been using this ink for a few months. Out of the tube, it looks the most like gold and is thick and stiff, with lots of grainy pigment.

Charbonnel etching ink is quite stiff.

Putting the ink to the test

I don’t usually use gold ink as a first layer. It would sink into my thick cotton paper and lose all of its reflective qualities. I wanted to see how each ink behaved when printed over previously printed colors. Luckily I had some unfinished bookmarks left over from this year’s Open Studios Tour that I could use. I modified each ink with a similar amount of Gamblin’s tack reducer, until each ink was viscous enough to be rolled out.

When similarly modified, each ink was rolled out and used for printing a bookmark. Left: Handschy, Middle: Cranfield, Right: Charbonnel.

When rolled out, the difference in inks is quite apparent. The Handschy ink on the left is not very reflective, and looks more greenish-brown than gold. The Cranfield in the middle is more reflective, but is still quite coppery and dark. The Charbonnel on the right was the most difficult to roll out. It never gets buttery when mixed on the glass and rolls out into a stiff rectangle.

The proof is in the print

When printed onto the unfinished bookmarks, the difference is even more clear. Both the Handschy and Cranfield and very dark and not at all reflective. By contrast, the Charbonnel is lighter, and its reflective surface contributes to a feeling of depth in the bookmark.

Which ink do you prefer? My heart is with the Charbonnel.

The Charbonnel is so superior to the others that I can’t see when I would ever use the other two. When you want a reflective surface, the ink with the most pigment is the one to use. Hands down.

6 Replies to “Looking for a new gold ink”

  1. Hi Elizabeth, I’m with Hanco Ink. You may want to take a look at some of the current golds we carry. The can in the picture is about 10 years old and has been discontinued. You’ll want to try our Brilliant Rich Gold or our Rich Gold paste. They are much brighter than the old Metal Sheen metallic ink. Give me a call at 847-952-1511 and we’ll get you fixed up.

    1. Hi Rod,
      Thanks for the update on Hanco inks. I will make sure to update my blog to reflect the new offerings!

  2. Hi Elizabeth,

    Great info about ink and the search for a great gold. Here’s my dumb question, can I apply the Charbonnel gold on to hot press paper that has not had any gesso applied? I’m always concerned about ink, oil and acidity. Thanks for any advice you can offer.


    1. Hi Jeffrey — Not a dumb question at all! I may be overthinking this, so forgive me if I miss what you are asking.

      It sounds like you would like to paint Charbonnel gold etching ink directly onto a hot press watercolor paper. I believe hot press paper is cotton, which is the same as the paper I use — Rives BFK. Oil-based inks are made to be put on paper in thin layers and absorbed into the paper. If you use it sparingly, you will probably be fine. If it is thick, it might crack and fall off. I’ve never tried printing on hot press paper. You might do a test application on a scrap before putting it on a finished work. You will be able to see how shiny it actually is – as I noted in my blog, inks can often disappoint.

      Your question about gesso and acidity made me wonder why it is that raw fabric must be primed with gesso before being painted with oil paints, but oil-based inks don’t affect paper. I have put out some information requests from some sources, and I’ll let you know what they say. Maybe a blog post!

      If you really want gold gold gold, you might consider actual gold leaf. I have used a Old World Art water-based sizing and have found this to work well.

      Hope this helps,

  3. Hi Elizabeth,

    It’s good to see your opinion here and would you please recommend some gold inks for relief print? It seems that Charbonnel gold etching ink presented stunning texture and gloss in your experience. I usually used traditional eastern printmaking (woodblocks, a printing pad, water-based inks and rice papers) for my works without printing press, while I’m not good at handling with highly viscous inks. Just love this gold texture and wonder how to create my future works bearing amazing effects.

    1. The challenge with any metallic ink is how much it sinks into the paper. I don’t have experience with water-based inks. I would either try several layers of the ink (a nightmare for registration!) or just use actual gold leaf with sizing (I use one made by Old World Art — you can buy it from Blick.)

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