Tag Archives: inks

Metallic inks put the shine on

Art-making is compromise.  Those who say that you can make whatever you want are simply mistaken. Art making is a compromise between what you have in your imagination, and what you can accomplish with your materials. In reduction printmaking, this compromise has to do with the number of shades, colors or details you would like versus the amount of ink your paper is willing to accept. Apply too much ink, and you are finished.

What is an overzealous printmaker to do? In many of my linocuts, I turn to metallic inks to finish the piece, even if I wasn’t quite finished myself.

silver and gold metallic inks on a carved linoleum block

A blend roll of gold and silver metallic inks are the last layer on my latest cloud linocut.

Why metallic inks are different

Metallic inks are different from other printmaking inks. The pigments are not ground as finely as other colors so they can reflect light. Gold inks are simulated with combinations of copper and zinc (yielding a sort of bronze) and silver inks are made from aluminum. As these inks dry, the metals rise to the surface.

How shiny these pigments appear depends on the surface on which they are printed. On my very absorbent Rives BFK, the inks aren’t too shiny unless they are the last in a series of ink layers. With the above inked block, these inks are going over six other layers of ink, so the paper is nearly sealed. If you printed on a very slick surface, the results would be shinier. If a very reflective result is required, you would need to resort to foil printing — a fascinating technique with which I would love to experiment.

cans of metallic gold and silver printmaking ink

Cans of metallic inks can bring a shine to any situation.

Mixing brands of ink — apologize later

Gamblin –the maker of my other relief printmaking inks — does not make metallic inks. I have had my Handschy gold and Kohl & Madden silver inks for years. Straight out of the can they are very dark and strong, so I mix in some Gamblin Relief Transparent Base and some tack reducer to get the strength I need. So far my mixing of different ink brands has not resulted in a visit from the ink police.  I also use a bit of metallic ink to make an ink less transparent, without adding white — which can lead to too-pastel colors.

I just applied a layer of metallic gold and silver blend roll to my latest cloud linocut, and I think it is finished. It is a diptych, so I am working on just the right way to display it on-line.

In the meantime, consider if a little metallic ink might help you put your shine on.


What a difference a new base makes…

Although I am a relief printmaker, I work with transparent ink that is traditionally made for lithographers.  Inks when fresh from the can are very concentrated, and like other media, some are more transparent than others.  If you print too concentrated a color, it can be very difficult to cover that color over with a subsequent color, even if the color on top is very opaque.

When I talk about inks to non-printmakers, I explain that the transparent base in what holds all the pigment in.  Here is what two types of transparent base look like, with and without some pigment added:
Handschy transparent base (left) vs. Graphic Chemical transparent base (right)
My inks are by Handschy, purchased from Graphic Chemical.  I the past I have used Handschy transparent base as well (on the left), purchasing it in 5 lb tubs.  It has the consistency of honey (very sticky), and while it is very transparent, it has a tendency to impart its yellowish tone to my ink mixes.  So it was hard to get any delicate purplish-blue layers.  And it became difficult to purchase.