Printing Intaglio and Monotypes
with Water-Based Inks
By Susan Rostow and William Jung

The Three of Us by Susan Rostow & Jarrett Jung - Click for larger view.
The Three of Us by Susan Rostow & Jarrett Jung, 2002, viscosity monotype printed
with Akua-Kolor and Akua-2
on dry paper, 8" x 8 1/2".
This article is written as a follow-up to the article published in InPrint, Volume 10, Number 2, June 1999, Printmaking with Water-Based Inks. In that article Rostow and Jung wrote about printing monotypes and photocarborundum monoprints with Akua-Kolor water-based ink.

It's a new millenium and printmakers today are experiencing a rebirth; letting go of old toxic methods and embracing new alternatives to printmaking. Safer platemaking processes such as ImagOnTM, Solarplates and Resintaglio, to name a few, have all made the quality of our lives as printmakers better. The last holdout (oil-based) material has been the intaglio ink.

Being the creators of Akua-Kolor monotype ink, we were encouraged by printmakers to try and come up with water-based intaglio ink. Although there was water-based relief ink, there was still no water-based intaglio ink. We accepted the challenge and tackled the task much as we did when we began trying to create our water-based monotype ink, Akua-Kolor. After much trial and error we finally came up with water-based intaglio ink, which met all of our criteria, and called it Akua-2.

In developing Akua-2 we felt it was very important that, while fulfilling the need for a safer intaglio ink, it also worked well with the new and exciting alternative platemaking techniques like ImagOnTM, Solarplates, Resintaglio and Photocarborundum.

We worked closely with Keith Howard, Head of Non-Toxic Printmaking at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Keith Howard and his graduate students tested the inks on ImagOnTM plates while we perfected the formula. In addition, Dan Welden, originator of the solarplate, tested our inks on solarplates. Catherine Kernan, Co-Director of Mixit Print Studio, tested our inks on traditional etchings and monotypes.
Untitled by Peter Scott - Click for larger view.

Untitled by Peter Scott, 2002, engraving
printed with Akua-2 on
damp Hahnemühle paper, 3 1/2" x 6".

Richard Woodman, manufacture of Resintaglio plates tested our inks on his plates.

After getting positive feedback from our testers we began to manufacture the Akua-2 water-based intaglio ink. Finally there is an alternative to oil-based ink that turned out to be not only safer to use but also easier and more economical to use than oil-based inks.

Akua-2 water-based intaglio ink cleans up with soap and water, eliminating the need for solvents, fire proof containers and expensive ventilation systems. The ink will not harden or skin in the jar, so ink is never wasted. Akua-2 is water-based but not water-soluble. Water-soluble inks will run or bleed once printed. Akua-2 will not; it is waterproof immediately after printing. Therefore it is possible to soak a print if necessary. Tarlatan and rags can be washed with soap and water and re-used after printing with Akua-2.

We now offer two lines of water-based inks that are completely compatible. Akua-Kolor water-based monotype ink comes in a bottled liquid formula. It is available in 24 single pigment colors. All of our colors are made with single pigments. We do not mix colors. That is why the colors are so brilliant. Single pigment paints and inks offer the artist greater potential for achieving richer colors when doing their own mixing. A few drops of liquid Akua-Kolor can be added to the stiff formula of Akua-2 water-based intaglio ink or Akua-2 Transparent Base. Together the inks can be used to achieve exciting results for viscosity monotype printmaking. This unique method of printing involves printing with the use of inks of different viscosities, liquid and stiff. (Please see instructions for creating viscosity monotypes).

As artists, we understand the importance of using lightfast colors. We have conducted extensive lightfast tests and chose only lightfast pigments for our inks. To test the lightfast qualities of your inks, place a color swatch by a sunny window. Block off half the swatch with an opaque piece of paper and leave the other half exposed. Compare the covered with the uncovered swatch over a period of time for results. There are books available that give lightfast test results. Michael Wilcox's The Artist's Guide to Selecting Colors and Hillary Page's Guide to Watercolor Paints are good resources. In order to look up this information you will need to know how to identify the pigment by the color index name.

Color index names can be found on all labels of Akua-Kolor as well as on labels from other reliable manufactures of water-based and oil-based inks and paints. The color index name is the only true source for identifying the pigment. The name of the color may vary from manufacture to manufacture, so the color name is not a reliable source. Use the color index name for matching colors between manufactures. The color index name remains the same for all manufactures of pigmented oil-based and water-based paints and inks.

Understanding color index names is simple. The first letter will tell you whether the color is from a pigment (P) or from a dye (D). The second letter will tell you the color: B (blue), Y (yellow), R (red), Br (brown), etc. The number following the letter(s) will tell you the exact pigment used: 24 as opposed to 43, numbers given to specific pigments.

P: ensures that the color is a pigment.
B: represents blue
29: represents the exact blue pigment.

When several color index names are found on the label, that signifies that the manufacture mixed the color.

PR101 (Red Oxide) was mixed with PV19 (Quinacridone Violet) to create Van Dyke Brown.

For further instructions and samples of a variety of prints made with water-based inks please visit our web site at We are excited to be part of this movement towards a safer and less toxic printmaking environment.

Susan Rostow and William Jung are artists, educators and the manufactures of Akua-Kolor and Akua-2 water-based inks.

Akua-2 Techniques
Alternative Platemaking Methods for Printing with Akua-2 Water-based Intaglio Ink

Untitled by Gwen Impsen - Click for larger view.
Untitled by Gwen Impsen, 2002, ImagOn printed with Akua-2 on damp paper,
8 1/2" x 10".
ImagOnTM is a photopolymer film that can be laminated to copper or plastic plates. Keith Howard worked with DuPont to develop this film. For information, workshops and ordering Keith Howard's Non-Toxic Intaglio Instructional Video, "SERIES ONE: Using Du Pont's 'NEW' ImagOnTM ULTRA photopolymer film" call (716) 241-9888 or email

Untitled by June Kluglein - Click for larger view.
Untitled by June Kluglein, 2002, solarplate etching printed with Akua-2 on damp Hahnemühle paper,
6" x 10".

Solarplate etching, developed by Dan Welden uses sunlight and water instead of the traditional acids and grounds. The solarplate is a prepared, light sensitive polymer surface on a steel backing. For additional information, to schedule a workshop or to order solarplates and Printmaking in the Sun, by Dan Welden and Pauline Muir, call (631) 725-6087 or email

Untitled by Richard Woodman - Click for larger view.
Untitled by Richard Woodman, 2002, resintaglio printed with Akua-2 on
damp paper, 6" x 4".

Resintaglio is a hard epoxy plate that can be hand engraved and then wiped with ink in the traditional intaglio manner. A description of how to make Resintaglio engraving is presented in the inventors/manufactures manual Engraving on Resintaglio. Manual is available through McClain's Printmaking Supplies and through Renaissance Graphics.


Photocarborundum is a collagraph platemaking process developed by Rostow & Jung. The plate is constructed by applying a mixture of acrylic gel matte medium and carborundum grit to a plastic plate. The mixture is passed through a photographic silkscreen stencil onto the plate with the use of a squeegee.

Formula for Carborundum mixture:
8 ounces of Acrylic Gel Matte Medium
4 TBL of carborundum 150 grit
Note: This process works best when using a coarse 10xx or 12xx silkscreen mesh.

Printing Intaglio with Akua-2 Water-based Intaglio Ink

Wiping the plate
Print all plates with the traditional intaglio wipe manner. Note: Akua-2 water-based intaglio ink wipes from the surface of the plate with very little effort compared to oil-based ink.

Choosing Paper
Damp Paper is best for greater tonal values and deeply bitten plates.
Dry paper is best for high contrast prints and shallow bitten plates.

Cleaning Up
Hands: Wash hands with soap and water.
Glass Slabs: First wipe surface with a dry rag. Then clean remaining residue with liquid dish detergent and water.
Plates: Wash plates with dish detergent and water. Note: Clean solarplates with baby oil and store.
Tarlatan: Wash with liquid dish detergent and warm water.

Viscosity Monotype

This unique method of printing involves creating a multicolor monotype on a single plate using inks of two different viscosities: Akua-Kolor's liquid formula (high viscosity) and Akua-2's stiff formula (low viscosity). You will need a hand-inking roller, 35 durometer (soft rubber), large enough to ink your plate in one pass.

1. Paint directly on the monotype plate using Akua-Kolor right from the bottle.
2. Try painting with Retarder right from the bottle for areas of no color.
3. Using an ink knife, remove a portion of Akua-2 water-based intaglio ink from the jar.
4. Spread the ink on the ink slab in a line about 1" wide and the same length as the roller.
5. Roll the ink out until the roller is covered with a thin, even coat of ink.
6. Pass the inked roller with light pressure over the surface of the plate that was painted with
Akua-Kolor monotype ink. Akua-Kolor monotype ink and Retarder will reject the Akua-2 intaglio ink.
7. Print this plate with the use of a printing press on dry paper.

Offset Viscosity Monotype

After doing Viscosity Monotype steps 1-7 you have another option before cleaning your roller. You will notice that the image from that plate has offset to the roller. The offset image left on the roller can be transferred to another monotype plate for printing.

1. Roll out the image on the roller directly onto a monotype plate.
2. Print this plate with the use of a printing press on dry paper.