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How to Make Homemade Mimeograph Ink

Some mimeographs are hand-cranked and require no electricity.
The printer image by vin5 from Fotolia.com

A mimeograph is a printing press that works by pushing ink through a stencil onto a paper. They are less common to find nowadays, making it difficult to find stores that carry mimeograph ink. Traditionally the ink used was oil-based, but with the advent of environmental friendliness and safety, water-based ink is now preferred. In addition, when left unused in the machine, oil-based ink loses its fluidity and solidifies. Water-based inks last longer and dry better on paper.

Wash the mixing bowls with warm soapy water. Dry them with a clean towel.

Clear off a work table or work area and lay newspaper down to protect your work surface. Place the mixing bowls on your work area.

Put on gloves. It is important to protect your hands from the chemicals being used. Ink can leave hard-to-remove stains on your hands.

Combine in one bowl 1-1/5 ounces of black carbon with 1/3 ounces of polyvinylpyrrolidone (K90). The black carbon works as the colorant and the K90 works as a pigment dispersing agent.

Add 4 ounces of distilled water to the mixture. Use a stir stick or a spoon to combine the ingredients. You will need a blender to grind and stir the particles together for even dispersion. Add your mixture to the blender and mix on high until you have an even liquid with no visible beads or separation.

Create your thickening solution. Combine in your second bowl: 3-1/5 ounces of distilled water with 1/10 ounce of polyacrylic acid. Add 2 ounces of a 2% aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide; this will act as a neutralizer for the solution. Stir together well using a clean stir stick or spoon.

Add the first mixture to the contents of your second mixture and stir. Add 3-1/5 ounces of triethylene glycol. This will help maintain the ink fluidity and prevent the ink from evaporating quickly if left in the mimeograph.

Add 6 ounces of water and mix thoroughly to yield 20 ounces of ink solution. Wash your work area and utensils. Store your ink in a glass bottle.

Things You'll Need:

  • Water
  • Distilled water
  • Black carbon
  • Polyvinylpyrrolidone
  • Polyacrylic acid
  • 2% Aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide
  • Triethylene glycol
  • Glass bottle
  • Stir sticks or spoons
  • Blender
  • 3-quart mixing bowls, glass or metal, 2
  • Towel


A beads mill will disperse all particles better than a blender.


  • Sodium hydroxide and polyacrylic acid are corrosive and can cause chemical burns on the skin, always wear gloves when working with these substances. Make sure to use mixing materials and containers that you can go without in the kitchen; it is not safe to prepare food with anything that has come in contact with chemicals. Use glass or metal bowls as the ink will permanently stain a plastic bowl. The mixture will stain clothing; wear an apron.
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