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Printing inks – Back in Black, the last chapter

The final dance for the Black Inks. Our last part to the review of Black Pigments cover the Miscellaneous Blacks. This has a sub-set of categories, and will have Mineral Black, Manganese Black, Magnetic Black, Special Blacks and Mixed Blacks. Their usage is rarely as a stand alone ink (with perhaps the exception for certain Mixed Blacks). They are more commonly used and needed as an admixture to other Blacks or other colors. Offering a combination of deeper color qualities, or better working properties of the composed ink.

As a reminder, the terminology and technical aspects used in the review have been explained in our first article of Printing Inks Reviewed.

A quick overview of the Miscellaneous Blacks:
Mineral Black.
This is a pigment that is clay based, holding about 30% carbon. The clay is washed and grounded into a fine and soft powder. Not really used as a stand-alone black – because its low carbon content offers a weak black – but it is a common component in Mixed Blacks for plate printing inks, either for a black or as a black to compose the darker colors.

Properties of Mineral Black:
A brownish black Top Hue, and a brown Under Hue. Fairly low Oil Absorption, and should be an impalpable powder. It flows good, with a fairly long Shortness. There is no effect to fastness of light and has no atmospheric influences.

It exerts no drying action. It does not make a good ink by itself and is only suitable as admixture. Quite abrasive, but it mixes with everything. In fact its principal usage is to be an admix to other blacks.

Manganese Black.
The precipitated dioxide (!) recovered from manganese gives a brownish black. Yes; this is a toxic heavy metal ink component. It is the core mix element for Bone and Vine blacks in their preparation for printing ink. A small admixture of it makes the Vine and Bone Blacks, as well as the Prussian Blue, work better and reduces the amount of gathering.

Properties of Manganese Black:
A brownish black Top Hue, and a brown Under Hue. Low Oil Absorption, and should be an impalpable powder. It flows good, with a long Shortness. There is no effect to fastness of light and has no atmospheric influences.

It exerts no drying action. Works up to a very smooth mixture that is not abrasive, and it mixes with everything. Principal purpose is to be used as an admix component.

Magnetic Pigment Black.
This is a finely divided black iron oxide, made into a fine powder. It also offers the prevention of ink gathering, and adds greater density, smoothness and an overall better working quality to the composed ink.

Properties of Magnetic Black:
A brownish black Top Hue, and a brown Under Hue. Low Oil Absorption, and should be an impalpable powder. It flows good, with a long Shortness. There is no effect to fastness of light and has no atmospheric influences.

It exerts no drying action. Works up to a very smooth mixture that is not abrasive, and it mixes with everything. Sees a main usage as admixture component to other inks.

Special Blacks.
The theory here being that any natural material’s ashes can offer carbon to deliver a black pigment. Various purposes and applications can use different ‘Special Blacks’, who’s pigments will vary greatly depending on carbon content versus other by-products it may have.

Reviewing properties here is not of interest because of the broad and various differences each of the Special Blacks may hold.

Mixed Blacks.
This is less a pigment but more the category of black inks that were made up from bone blacks of different kinds, vine blacks and the different compositions of all the blacks mentioned above and in the previous articles. For certain applications, the limitations of a classic Bone and Vine mix limits the outcome of a print, and would need supportive admixtures. You would, however, rarely see a mixed black containing Carbon or Lamp Blacks, as this would see an ink that is too difficult to wipe, with too high oil absorption.

Here too, a properties review is not applicable, because the performances will vary greatly depending on the particulars of a certain Mixed Black versus another composed one.

So there you have it – Black Pigments reviewed for what they really are, and what they bring into a black ink. It is the most used ink color on the planet, and you may be happy to take out of this review the notion that it is – with the exception of Manganese Black – one of the safest inks in usage. Most black pigment is a natural carbon base, so it has a good organic base. However, the manufacture of these requires lots of energy, and the burning needed to obtain the carbon sees a high demand for fossil fuels and their associated CO2 releasing issues.

Next up for the ink review; the Oranges.

Sources:
The Printing Ink Manual

Printing Technology

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