Jackson’s are happy to announce that we now stock two ranges of Akua printmaking inks, Akua Intaglio and Akua Liquid Pigment, both of which are available in a wide selection of colours. We wanted to look into the properties of both inks, so we got them over to the office, carved ourselves a little square of lino, and started to print.
Which Akua ink is right for my work, Akua Intaglio or Akua Liquid Pigment?
While Akua Intaglio ink was originally designed, as its name suggests, for intaglio methods, it is also suitable for many relief printing methods such as linocuts. It comes in a small pot and is a thick, buttery ink, though it isn’t quite as stiff as many oil-based letterpress inks, which are often described as having the consistency of a soft cheese. Nevertheless, it is sufficiently thick to hang in a long, spidery string if you dip your fingertip into it, and it is certainly stiff enough to roll well and to deliver a crisp print.
If you are using Akua Intaglio for intaglio printmaking or for relief printing from woodcuts or linocuts, you should use it like this, straight from the pot. Any of the Intaglio colours can be mixed on the slab, and you can use Akua modifiers to alter the properties of the ink. You can also use small amounts of Akua Liquid Pigments to tint the Intaglio Ink, which shouldn’t have an effect on its working properties.
These Liquid Pigments come in a squirty bottle rather than a jar, and are much more watery; they are primarily designed for monotype printmaking, though they can also be applied to Japanese woodcuts with a brush. They don’t have a suspending agent added, so the pigment can separate in the bottle. Thankfully, Akua put a small mixing ball in each bottle, so you should be able to remix the ink by shaking it before use (please make sure the cap is closed!)
The following tables go some way to explaining which Akua ink is suitable for each printmaking technique, and how to use each ink. The really important thing to remember is that while both inks are made using water, the Akua Intaglio is not water soluble (though you can clean it up with just water and soap). If for any reason you want to loosen the ink, use a few drops of Akua Blending Medium – water will cause the ink to lump up and become unworkable.
Testing Akua Intaglio and Liquid Pigment.
We decided to try both types of ink on a carved block of linoleum, using two colours of Akua Intaglio (Phthalo Green and Red Oxide) and tinting with the Lamp Black Liquid Pigment.
The outside of a tub of Akua Intaglio is really no guide to what the ink will look like in use. Both the Phthalo Green and the Red Oxide look dark in the tub, but are very vibrant indeed when applied to the block and rolled. Both inks rolled well and gave a reassuring, sticky hiss as the brayer passed over them.
Not having a sophisticated relief-printing assembly in our office, we burnished our lino landscape by hand (with a tablespoon!), but the ink still gave good coverage on damp printmaking paper (Arches Velin and Fabriano Medioevalis). While you can print on either damp or dry paper with Akua Intaglio, once you’ve tinted the ink with Akua Liquid Pigment it’s best not to print on dampened paper, as the Liquid Pigment is soluble and could bleed through the paper.
After a couple of pulls in red and green, we added a few drops of the Lamp Black Liquid Pigment to the ink to darken it. Strictly speaking, the Liquid Pigment should probably be added to the Akua Intaglio before it is rolled, so the rolling process also mixes both inks together evenly, but we didn’t encounter any problems adding a couple of drops onto already-rolled Intaglio ink then rolling over the top. As long as you make sure to lift the roller so that the ink is moved across the slab (rather than picked up and deposited in the same place) you should be fine.
If you are only adding a small amount of the Liquid Pigment, it shouldn’t alter the tack of the Intaglio ink, but out of curiosity, we did add a large amount of the Lamp Black just before we cleaned up. This did slightly alter the consistency and tack of the Phthalo Green, and if I was after a significant alteration in tone, I would probably try to mix two Akua Intaglio colours together rather than tint with the Liquid Pigment. Happily, the Intaglio inks come in a wide range of colours, so this is very possible.
The cleanup process after our tiny edition was printed was swift and almost painless. Akua advise you use water to clean the liquid pigment and water with some dish soap added to clean up the Intaglio ink. We used a scourer with fairy liquid on it.
We were really impressed with how easily both inks lifted off the slab, the roller, and the lino; just a small squirt of liquid soap and water, then a wipe with some absorbent paper and the slab was clean. The benefits of using Akua really did start to become clear when we reflected that we would have had to go through essentially the same process if we were cleaning up traditional letterpress or printmaking ink, but with white spirit instead of soap and water. Cleaning up Akua Intaglio takes much less time and effort.