Litho Print: Step Two – Applying Ink

Posted on: September 27th, 2014
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Mixing Ink 

Use a clean spatula for each colour (i.e. do not pollute the inks with a dirty spatula). Once you have selected your inks, mix the desired colour. Add a bit of magnesium powder to reduce tack and stiffen. There should be equal parts mag powder to ink. For lithography, you should also add transparent base to your ink for a more desirable consistency. You can add up to 50% trans base to your ink/pigment. Anything above 50% will make your ink transparent once printed. To test ink, lift ink into the air with your spatula and let it run. If it is the correct consistency, your ink will immediately break. The inks for lithography are oil based. Try to avoid getting the inks on your skin. You can wear gloves, or the barrier cream to reduce exposure.

Rolling Ink

Choose a roller that matches the size of your image. Make sure the ends are clean. Draw a line of ink onto the glass and roll the ink out. Roll ink in different directions until it is even. Once you hear the sweet, slightly sticky sound and the ink is even on both the table and the roller, you can begin to roll ink onto the plate.


Dampen the glass table using a wet sponge before you put your plate down. This will prevent it from moving around, while you roll the ink on. You also need a damp sponge to keep the plate wet so that the ink doesn’t bond to the plate and your non-drawing areas stay clean. The water won’t stop the ink from bonding to the printer’s toner or your drawing materials.

Applying Ink 

In short smooth motions roll the ink onto your plate (a figure 8 pattern works best). Make sure to keep your plate wet by passing a damp sponge over the entire surface. If you forget to wet your plate, or if it dries while you roll, the ink will begin to cover everything. This is called DRY ROLLING. Don’t worry, not all is lost. If you dry roll, try putting extra water on that spot and roll as quickly as you can back and forth. The ink will usually lift off. If there is a bit of ink left on the plate where you don’t want it, you can also use toothpaste on a small piece of wet felt to clean things up. Gently rub the undesired ink off the plate with the felt, followed by a damp sponge.

A way to tell if you have enough ink on your plate is too look at it from a horizontal angle. You should see the ink sitting on top of the plate; it looks slightly raised. If your plate has raised ink and you have cleaned up all the ink spots you don’t want, you’re ready to print!

Categorised under: Lithography