Graphic Chemical & Ink Company is a world leader in the fine art field of printmaking. We manufacture our own time-tested inks for etching, litho and relief printing, as well as sell screen print inks, papers, tools, chemistry, plates and supplies for all of a printmaker's needs

My Photo
Location: Villa Park, Illinois, United States

I have worked for Graphic Chemical & Ink Company since 1968 - with a brief hiatus(almost 4 years) to travel the World courtesy of my uncle. Sadly it turns out it was my Uncle Sam, and I wasn't too thrilled about the places that he chose to send me. My wife and I have run Graphic Chemical for many years, and have enjoyed the travel that comes with the position. We get to meet our customers (and the occasional vendor) from all over the World

Friday, July 28, 2006


I had a couple of interesting conversations the other day that started me to thinking about pricing of our materials. The first was with a customer who was certain that another supplier's product was a higher grade than ours because they charged a hazardous materials charge for the product and we didn't charge for hazmat. The second conversation was with a good friend and customer for over thirty years who commented on the selling price of our Graphic Heavyweight paper. He said that he'd never tried it because of the pricing - it was too inexpensive to be as good as some of the other papers we carry.

I have long contended that the Graphic H/W was the best selling unknown paper around. In the average year, we sell between 40-50,000 sheets of this wonderful sheet. Why is it so inexpensive? The answer is very simple .....we have it made for us (currently in the U.K.). There are no middle men in the transaction, and as we do with every product we sell, we pass the savings along to you. Every single time that we have had to raise the price on this paper, sales shoot up! Graphic H/W was actually the brainchild of two printmakers, back in the 1920's.

F. Leslie Thompson was an noted aquatint artist, and long time secretary of the Chicago Society of Etchers. Ernie Melchert was a printmaker who worked for a paper company. In a late night bull session, the two of them talked about the mythical perfect paper (admittedly it was perfect for the way they worked!). Melchert supposedly decreed, after all of the qualities they wanted had been discussed, that such a paper could be made. The two of them had the paper made, and began selling it to their fellow printmakers.

In the early 1950's, Thompson approached my father about the possibility of Graphic Chemical handling the paper with the proviso that we keep in affordable for printmakers. We have lived up to that provision to this day. Originally the paper was 65% rag with a neutral pH. We changed the rag content about 25 years ago to 100% rag, but the pH remains neutral...a critical element for archival quality. If you haven't tried it, you could be in for a treat.

Now, the hazmat issue. Graphic Chemical & Ink Company takes very seriously its obligations for transporting hazardous materials. Unlike many in this industry, we have several employees certified in hazardous materials documentation and regulations. We know how to package, document and ship these materials better than almost anyone in the industry. Our goal is to insure that not only does our customer get their package in one piece, as fast as possible, but also as inexpensively as possible. If we don't have to charge for hazardous materials, we're not going to. It has nothing to do with the quality of the product. So, you can buy from them and pay more for the product and more for shipping, or buy from us and get it faster and cheaper....your call.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Every year about this time, we come to the sudden realization that the back-to-school rush is upon us. If you haven't prepared well in advance for this phenomenon, it's too late to get organized by the time you hit July.

Many schools work on a July 1 fiscal year, so the budgets don't open until then. Unfortunately that means that every school in the country (and many outside the U.S. as well) are trying to get their goods as soon as possible after that date. I suspect that we, at Graphic Chemical & Ink, are much like our fellow suppliers. We have geared up our production beginning back in April. Our purchases to our vendors have been on the increase since late May, and our staff has been reminded that there are no vacations between July 15 and November 1.

With the wide variety of products that we carry, there is a guessing game that goes on every year - what is going to be the "hot" product line this year? When we guess right (more often than not), you're products are on the shelf and ready for immediate delivery. When we're wrong....well, we just try not to be wrong.

What can you do either as a teacher of printmaking or as an individual artist? First let us know when you place an order if there is a specific time that you really must have the materials by. If we know that, we'll move heaven and earth to insure that you get your materials when you need them. Second, if you're teaching a class and know that you will be needing a specific product for your class - let us know well before you send your purchase order, and we'll make sure that product is in stock when you order.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


When all is said and done, it's ink that pays the bills, builds our reputation, and hopefully makes you want to read this blog from time to time.

The ink business has been through a trying couple of years recently, and it would be difficult to say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

First there was a serious shortfall in the flax crop in 2004-5. Flax, as you might know, is the source of linseed oil - a key ingredient in printmaking inks. Through a little bit of networking and some luck, we were able to minimize the impact of the price increases that followed.
This year there are a myriad of problems caused in part by inflation, and in part by what's going on with gasoline/oil prices. The shortened version of the story: container prices - up, pigment prices - up, freight charges - up, the Euro - up..up..up. While we can't say that prices won't rise, we've done a lot to minimize the impact on your bottom line. We've worked well with all of our suppliers to insure that we can purchase raw materials at the best prices possible.
The photo above is of a really old ink mill - one we use countless times a day in producing inks for intaglio, litho, relief and some letterpress inks - the same way that my grandfather, R.P. Faulkner, and my father, Vern Clark, did. The mill is old and slow (a lot like me), but that's what insures the quality that we strive for. The three rollers turn in opposite directions, at different speeds - creating a shearing type action. This shear is what makes sure that each particle of pigment is enveloped in vehicle - giving you a smooth, consistent quality ink.
Different inks use differing amounts of pigment load, depending upon the intended use. An etching ink, in general, has less pigment load than litho or relief inks, because an etching ink usually achieves its color with a thicker film of ink. That film provides more pigment to a given spot on the print, and insures that the color prints as intended. Litho and relief inks need a great deal more color load because the color must be achieved with a very thin film.
Take a look sometime at our color chart. The Perfection Palette inks show two colors on that chart. The darker color is what prints with an intaglio print, the lighter color is the same ink printed with a relief print.
In closing, I want to extend a very special greeting to the brains of Graphic Chemical & Ink Company - my wife, Susan, who took leave of her senses 32 years ago today, and married a poor ink maker. Thanks, honey.