Collecting Ink Test Swatches

I have started collecting swatches. Making and collecting them.

3-color test swatch

Three color test swatch: Nova Color Paints (Quinicridone Magenta, Natural Organic Orange, and Hansa Yellow). The first two are mixed with Golden Silkscreen Medium

I first wrote about The Big Swatch Book of Silkscreen Printing Inks and Papers back in January. I haven’t finalized what swatches will make the cut. Instead I’m making it up as I go. I don’t have the materials (or much time) to work on some of my other print ideas at this moment, but I have been itching to print something, anything. And even though I’m broke and clear out of emulsion, I still had a burned screen of 3″ circles at my disposal and I still have some 100# Cougar to spare.

My first swatch used three colors I had never printed before.

  • The first was Nova Color Paint 147 Quinacridone Magenta. It was mixed 2:1 with Golden Silkscreen Medium (and 0.6% distilled water by volume) for what I thought would be a higher pigment load and less mottling.
  • Second color was Nova Color Paint 110 Organic Pyrolle Orange mixed 3:2 with Golden Medium. There was less mottling with this color. Is that because I used less of the Golden Medium? Also, this paint color had a stronger smell to it than others I’ve used. I’m not so sensitive to that stuff, but there you have it.
  • Third color was 107 Hansa Yellow Light, again from Nova Color Paint, straight out of the jar. It doesn’t appear mottled at all on the paper, but look at where it intersects the previous inks. When viewed at an angle in the right light, it appears that some crystalline structures have formed.
Closeup of yellow swatch

Some shiny bits appear in the yellow in certain lights at the right angle.

Future tests of these colors might include switching up the amount of medium and possibly adding some magnesium carbonate, which I’m told will help thicken the ink and may result in less mottling.

I can’t remember who turned me on to Golden Silkscreen Medium. Daler Rowney has a similar product (although I hear it is water soluble). Golden Silkscreen Medium is made to be mixed 1:1 with Golden Acrylic Paints (Heavy Body, High Flow, most of the stuff that they make). Have you priced their paint, though? 4 ounces of Alizarin Crimson Hue will set you back nearly $20. Meanwhile, a whole quart of Speedball Red probably won’t cost that much.

Swatch #2

My second swatch was much less interesting:

Four color process colors from Speedball

Speedball Acrylic Screen Printing Inks. Three process colors and black, straight from the jar.

Although it’s pretty enough, there isn’t much experimental about it. It’s more of a standard for comparison. These are Speedball Acrylic Screen Printing inks in process colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) straight from the jar. I had four unopened 8oz jars that came in a kit a while back. Some notes:

  • Cyan was the thinnest (least viscous) of the four. It still printed pretty well.
  • Yellow and magenta were thicker than I remember (having used these colors in the past)
  • Black was kind of crappy. It seemed to have an uneven consistency and I worked it with the pallet knife on the screen before the first pull. Maybe (though it was sealed) the ink was old. I have heard complaints from others in the past that Speedball’s black can be inconsistent, but the last full jar I had seemed to be fine (if a little thick). Note: This is not Speedball’s Professional Black Ink.

Future Swatches: Wallpaper Paste to TW Graphics

This weekend a gentleman commented to me that for 15 years he’s been screen printing with Roman 880 wallpaper paste from Sherwin Williams. It is apparently pure methyl cellulose (with a mild food additive) and only about $15 a gallon. It can be colored with paper making pigments (aqueous dispersions) and possibly other methods. At the low cost I’m going to give it a try (another printer commented to me that it’s fine for some things, but loses some flexibility when getting into multiple layers; perhaps an issue if you’re going to roll prints to ship in tubes).

On the other end, I’d still like to try some TW Graphics. I understand it can be tricky for manual printers, but I would likely try it with a retarder to keep it from drying in the screen. A gallon of the black is about $80. That’s considerably more than I’ve spent for other inks.

Right now I will continue to print swatches on my own time with whatever materials I can scrounge up. After some more experiments perhaps I will think about doing a larger collection and maybe put together a Kickstarter campaign to fund it for interested parties. That way I don’t make 10 swatch books and not have enough, or 100 swatch books and have far too many.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *