The Battle of the Black Inks: Redux

And we’re back! The response to the original Battle of the Black Inks post was amazing, thanks to everyone that checked it out, liked it, and gave me feedback. If you haven’t read it already, go check it out — this post will make much more sense if you’ve read the original. Along with interest in the post & process, there was enough interest in buying a print -- so I reprinted it! That reprinting is what this post is about. So read on to find out what was different the second time around. If you’re just super anxious to buy the print — be our guest and Buy the Print!

I wanted to revisit the Battle of the Black Inks print for a number of reasons. First, people said they were interested in buying one and the initial run was tiny and didn’t really yield many extra prints for sale. Second, some of the methods used the first time around (e.g. frankensqueegee) yielded less than great results, I figured it was only fair to give them another shot. Lastly, I felt like the first print didn’t turn out exactly like I imagined and I wanted to make a couple of changes.

What Changed?

All of the inks were printed on separate 250 mesh screens: this slowed production in a major way (e.g. 5 black screens instead of two), but gave me an opportunity to address the quirks of each ink (e.g. corners drying in, ink being too thick) — this helped immensely. Each ink needs a certain type of finessing and this allowed for that.

I brightened up the color in the red layer, printed it through a higher mesh, and replaced the handwritten type with a more Letraset-style type: this improved readability and just cleaned up the vibe a little. The type is House Industries Dirtyhouse for those of you playing Name-That-Font® at home. The handwritten labels on the first print turned out ok, but I wanted something a little more clean and legible. To get a bright red, I used a straight up 50/50 mix of Speedball Dark Red and Medium Red — both were of the Speedball Permanent Acrylic family. This yielded a nice, bright red that popped off the paper and married well with the large amount of black ink that was laid on the paper. We printed the red through a 280 mesh screen. Some uneven spots in the perimeter of our table caused a little inconsistency with the pressure on the red layer, so the benefit of the higher mesh was lost on this run.

Thinned the Jacquard #117 ink: This ink drove us crazy in the original Battle of the Black Inks post. Per a recommendation from @jacquardproducts on Instagram, we thinned the ink. You can read below how that affected the printing.

I printed this on Cougar Cover White 100lb: This paper was a little smoother than the French stock and more readily available — this didn’t really affect too much. It may have absorbed less ink than the French stock, but its tough to tell. I still prefer French Paper, but I can’t quite put my finger on why.

We used a single durometer, harder squeegee: All inks were printed with an 80 durometer squeegee in favor of the 70/90/70 durometer squeegee used the first time around, the stroke sequence was flood/pull… just how we like it! Also, used the Ergoforce handle — love those things.

Other than that: all other things from the first run stayed almost exactly the same...

The Inks Revisited

Speedball Professional Poster Black

This one was the winner before for a few good reasons and it stayed that way. Super easy to print, easy to clean, nice finish, texture stayed consistent throughout the whole run. The finish tends more towards the chalky end of the texture spectrum, but we like that look *and* all of the other factors make it the top performer.

Ryonet Green Galaxy Pitch Black

This was a pleasure to print the first time around and the second time was no different. Actually, it was different... it was better! Great consistency, pulls extremely easily, clean print with a single stroke and cleanup couldn’t have been easier. It also never showed any signs of drying in. This has got to be right up there with the Speedball Professional Poster Black. I'll be leaning on this more and more for sure and there's absolutely no contest that this wins "Best Label Design" -- it's not even close.

Jacquard Professional #117

This is easily the most improved ink of the bunch. When I posted the original blog post, Jacquard contacted us and made us aware that the ink isn’t meant to be used straight from the jar and would need to be thinned with water. We took their advice and thinned it with water…and it made all the difference. It went from the worst performing ink to one of the best. It printed easy, yielded clean prints, has a nice semi-gloss finish and stayed open for the whole 80 piece run. Very pleased with this ink and look forward to using it in the future.

TW Graphics WB-5525

This one fought us a little bit during the first run, performed much better in the second run. We did notice some drying in around the registration marks, but the ones that were drying in were closer to the squeegee ends and perhaps not getting enough pressure. One weird thing we noticed was that the ink seemed really gummy by the end of the run, so gummy that we decided to scrap the small amount of leftover ink rather than dropping it back in the bucket. Cleanup was still a nightmare, the ink wants to dry in so badly that it's a frantic race to clean it up before the ink locks up completely. Getting the SO-34 cleaner from TW Graphics is a must, keeping a spray bottle of it handy is a double must. Definitely still more highly recommended for those printers that are moving real quick.

Nazdar 2724 All Purpose Screen

This one performed about the same. Less drying in, mostly due to being printed on a single screen with an appropriately sized squeegee. Did notice with that the longer run, the ink really seemed to tighten up. It got really gummy near the end of the run and seemed to make the screen want to stick to the paper even with the vacuum and adequate off-contact. However, that gloss would make some of the trouble worth it. For the right projects, I will definitely be using this.

The Awards

We did 'The Winners' the first time around, it seems only appropriate that we switch it up this time. These awards are based on things that were discovered in both of the Battles


The Speedball Professional Poster Black continued to be our favorite, but! The Ryonet Green Galaxy Pitch Black ink performed so well that we will likely use both as our go-to inks. Perhaps Speedball for posters and Green Galaxy for shirts. Either way, you can't go wrong with these two have a container of each and you'll be ready for any job -- as long as it only needs black ink.

The Most Improved Award

This easily goes to the Jacquard Professional #117 ink. We pretty much hated this ink apart from its finish in the first Battle print. Once @jacquardproducts talked some sense into us on Instagram -- we saw the light. The same great finish that we'd seen before, but with much less frustration. Jacquard #117 is an ink that I can confidently say I won't shy away from using. Very happy we gave it another chance and found a great ink hiding under the hyper thick texture.

The 'Better, but Still a Minor Pain' Award

I said that TW Graphics WB-5525 is 'Best for Fast Printers' in the first Battle post, I definitely stand by that even after the second go at it. A wider, harder squeegee definitely seemed to help. Dry in was only a small issue, but cleanup was still a pain. With more experience I'm sure I'd figure a way to make the cleanup easier, but I'll probably wait until I'm on an automatic press to lean on TW as my go-to.

The 'I Need Some Gloss' Award

Much like the TW 5525 mentioned above, the drying in of the Nazdar 2724 All Purpose was a much smaller issue this time. It was just difficult enough to work with that I'll keep the container, but I'll only be reaching for it when I need some gloss on what I'm printing.

What I'd Change

I wouldn’t have minded making this print bigger, maybe 18”x18”. My space isn’t really set up for printing on a larger scale and yes, that’s large for my space. Also, due to my washout booth being in the same room where I’m drying prints — the humidity fluctuating proved to be a real headache. The expansion and contraction of the paper made registration a minor problem. I ended up eyeballing the registration, in favor of depending on the registration marks, on the last 3 black colors and luckily the way the art was created, it is barely noticeable. I would definitely like to not have to worry about that -- having a larger studio would definitely solve that problem. I'll put that on my "List of Things to Get", I'm sure I'll get to it in no time.

The Closing Thoughts

Going through this process again was mostly positive. It was definitely nice to be able to make a few changes I had a few false starts where I'd get into printing another edition only to run into a major issue. I'm very happy to be done with it, I'm also very happy to have my opinions of one of the inks change due to using it properly, the Jacquard #117 in particular. Printing with 5 different brands of the same color ink on one sheet is something that I've always wanted to do and I'm happy that I got the chance to do so in this context. The lesson that I've taken away from both posts is that these inks are all capable and there are so many factors that contribute to their success or failure -- try as many as you can and find what works for you. Also, don't be afraid to contact companies and distributors direct and ask for a sample. Worst case scenario is they say, "no." Best case scenario is that you can try inks with no risk to you.

The Print

Ok, that was a good amount of words and we'll end on this -- the print is now for sale in the Floodpull store! There are 60 copies available for purchase. It is $20 plus $5 shipping to anywhere in the contiguous United States. It is unsigned, unnumbered edition of 80 prints total - 12”x12”, 6 colors (red, 5 black inks) and it ships flat in a screen printed mailer with some really fun hand printed packing materials that I really hope you’ll enjoy! To keep Floodpull going (and not just funded out of pocket forever), projects like this will probably be a necessity and we appreciate anyone who buys a print, anyone who tells their friends about us, anyone who leaves a comment on Instagram...basically, we appreciate everyone and can't say thank you enough for all of the support and encouragement you've offered throughout this process.

What's Next?

We'd love to do more prints like this and put together a small series. The Battle of the White Inks will probably be next. However, it'll be a while until we get the nerve to take on another project like this, just know that we're thinking about what comes next. In the meantime, we are going to work on some simpler prints and more product reviews. Thanks for following along!


Just as cool with a few new layers of difficulty.