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How to make Natural & Non-toxic Printmaking Ink

How to make Natural & Non-toxic Printmaking Ink

Mar 1st 2015

I recently met a local artist/ printmaker, Shannon Yost, and asked her if she's ever made non-toxic printmaking ink (because I know it's very hard to find). To my delight and surprise she had actually studied with visiting Japanese Master Printmakers and learned a very ancient and little-known technique called the Moku Hanga technique of making your own inks. This ancient recipe has always used all non-toxic ingredients and we had fun including natural earth pigments in the mix! This ink is for wood block prints but can also be used for linoleum cuts and mono prints.

Materials: Rice Paste (Nori), Natural Earth Pigments, Magnesium Carbonate -optional, Alcohol (Gin is best) – optional (makes ink more archival and durable)

Tools: roller or soft brush, palette, small container, metal paint spatula

  • Mix 1 tsp alcohol & 1 tsp. water (1:1)

  • Mix pigment with gin/ water mixture to make creamy ink consistency2 Tbsp natural pigment : 2 tsp. gin/water (adjust as necessary).Mix in small container with a chop stick. Scoop onto palette.



  • Add 1-2 tsp. Nori Paste (thinned a little with water)

  • If ink needs to be thicker add Magnesium Carbonate (Mag. Mix) – about ½ tsp. adjust as needed.

  • Continue to mix until evenly mixed in with metal spatula

  • Roll out until it’s evenly coating the roller (note: if it’s not sticking to the roller well, add more Nori)

  • Roll on Print

Note: the ancient Japanese technique is to actually brush the inks on the woodblocks with a wide, short bristled brush – rubbing it into wood vigorously. They also used wet paper to print on although dry is what we used.

  • Print with your desired technique – a press or rubbing with a barren



Notes: This recipe makes enough ink to make 1-2 prints. Mix more to make more prints.

All pigments have different absorption qualities and drying times so adjust recipe as needed.

Thank you Shannon! You can find her here....