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Posted 01/02/2023 by

All about Inks Used in Offset Printing Machines

All about Inks Used in Offset Printing Machines

Offset printing machines have been in use since a long time. This technique of printing is quite common. The process involves transferring inked images from a plate to a rubber blanket. It is then transferred to the printing surface. Various kinds of surfaces can be printed using this technique. These include wood, leather, cardboard, paper and plastic to name a few. Different types of inks are used to print different kinds of surfaces. In this article, we shall learn about the different varieties of inks used in offset printing machines. We have also covered certain other aspects of offset printing machines in this piece of writing. Read on to find out.

A Brief about Offset Printing Machines 

An offset printing machine comprises different components including metal plates, water rollers, ink rollers, impression roller and offset roller. Initially, the printing plates were created using limestone. However, over time the need to improve their quality was felt and different kinds of metals began to be used in their making. Aluminum is mostly used to make these plates. Likewise, the quality of other components has also improved with time.

There are two different kinds of offset printing machines. These are sheet fed machines and web offset machines. The sheet fed machine is appropriate for short run printing tasks. Web offset machines, on the other hand, help in accomplishing bulk printing tasks.

They offer good quality print outs and that too at a fairly economical price. The machines are high on utility. Thus, you will see them in most printing agencies.

In addition to this, there is a third type which is a mini offset printing machine. This has been designed to carry out small printing tasks.

Types of Inks for Offset Printing Machines

Let us take a look at the different types of inks used for offset printing machines:

Heat-set – This type of ink is commonly used in offset printing. It is made using a solvent, pigment, litho and a wax compound modifier. It is applied using heat. It evaporates and dries quickly. While drying, the printed web passes through a high temperature dryer which aids in quick drying. This is one of the advantages of this type of ink. Since it dries quickly it does not spread unnecessarily. It is appropriate for printing catalogs and magazines.

Cold-set – This type of ink is made using resin wax which is melted to facilitate the printing process. In order to keep it in melted form and continue the printing process, form rollers, heated in rollers and plates are used. It is applied by absorption into non-coated stocks. As it is transferred to the paper, it hardens. Also referred to as hot melt ink, it is available at a comparatively low price. It is mostly used for newspaper printing. It is also used for printing books.

Energy-curable – This type of ink is set with the use of light energy. It boasts of high quality printing but is also the most expensive type of ink used in offset printing. It is further divided into ultraviolet curable and electron beam curable ink.  The UV curable ink is transferred using UV radiation. The print is dried before coming out of the printer. You can print different surfaces including glass, metal and plastic using this ink.

Letterset Ink – This kind of ink is mostly used in machines that make use of imaging plates with raised images and do not have dampening systems. Different types of pigments are used in formulating this ink. It allows printing without the use of water.     

Water-based Ink – As the name suggests, water is the main solvent in this type of ink. It is used to print different surfaces including cloth. It is ideal for surfaces that require the penetration of ink and takes time to dry. Big sized dryers are used for drying this type of ink. The ink is made to reach the cure temperature and is held there during the drying process. This helps remove the water. In certain cases, a catalyst is used to quicken the printing and drying process.

Waterless Ink – A layer of silicon is used when you choose to print with waterless ink. During this process, water is eliminated to free the non-image area of ink. It offers good quality printing. Since the ink is waterless, it dries quickly thereby accelerating the process. This is an eco-friendly option as it does not emit volatile organic compounds that cause pollution. 

Elements that Comprise Offset Ink

Let us now take a look at the different elements that come together to form different types of offset ink:

  1. Pigment – This element gives the ink its colour. How bright the ink is depends on the type of pigment used in its composition. Pigments can be organic as well as inorganic. Different kinds of inks used in offset printing include different kinds of pigments.

  2. Modifiers – These are additives that give the ink its smell. They are also added to the solution to control drying.

  3. Vehicle – It is the liquid that carries the pigment particles and fixes them on the surface that requires printing. There are two types of vehicles. These are organic vehicles and synthetic vehicles. The main ingredients that form a part of the organic vehicles are mineral and vegetable oils. On the other hand, synthetic vehicles mainly make use of resins that are chemical based. The quality of the print out depends largely on the kind of vehicle used as it determines the degree of fixation and ability to emulsify.


Various types of inks are used in mini offset as well as large offset printing machines. Some of its varieties include letterset ink, waterless ink, water based ink, ultraviolet curable, electron beam curable ink, heat set ink and cold set ink. Different inks work well on different surfaces. It is important to select the ink carefully to ensure good quality printing. The properties and other details of all these varieties of inks have been shared above in brief. The information should help you select appropriate ink for your project. Do let us know if you require further information in this regard.

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