Recipe: Natural, Water-based, Relief Printmaking Ink

Recipe: Natural, Water-based, Relief Printmaking Ink

This recipe is based on the very ancient and little-known Japanese process called the Moku Hanga technique of making your own water-based relief inks.

This ancient technique has always used all non-toxic ingredients. The ink is for wood block prints but can also be used for linoleum cuts and mono prints.


Optional Ingredients:

  • Magnesium Carbonate


Step 1: Mix 1 tsp alcohol and 1 tsp. water (1:1).

Step 2: Mix pigment with gin/water mixture in a small container to make creamy ink consistency.

Step 3: Scoop ink onto palette.

Step 4: Add 1-2 tsp. Nori paste, thinned with a little water.

Optional: If ink needs to be thicker, add Magnesium Carbonate (Mag. Mix- optional), about ½ tsp., adjusting as needed.

Step 5: Continue to mix with a palette knife until the ingredients are evenly combined.

Step 6: Roll out until it’s evenly coating the roller (note: if it’s not sticking to the roller well, add more Nori).

Step 7: Roll onto your printing surface. 

Step 8: Print with your desired technique, either with a press or with a barren.


  • The ancient Japanese technique is to actually brush the inks on the woodblocks with a wide, short bristled brush, rubbing the ink into wood vigorously. They also used wet paper to print on, although dry is what we used. 
  • 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 the recipe as needed.

Recipe from printmaker Shannon Yost.

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