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What Chemicals are Used in Newspaper Ink?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

A number of different chemicals are used in producing newspaper ink, though the most prominent ingredient is typically soybean oil. This is called the “vehicle” in the ink and was previously usually made with petroleum oil, though recently has been made primarily with soybean oil. A number of other ingredients and chemicals are then added to this to produce the ink. These include dyes and pigments, which can be organic or inorganic in nature, as well as other additives such as paraffin or wax to help the newspaper ink dry faster. The other ingredients added prevent the soybean oil-based ink from being completely biodegradable, though it is somewhat easier to recycle than petroleum-based ink.

Newspaper ink is used in the printing of newspapers for daily distribution and reading. For decades, these inks were made using a petroleum-based vehicle that could dry fairly quickly and create quality printed images and text. As petroleum became more costly, however, efforts were made to find alternatives. This led to the development of several different organic oil compounds for use in creating ink, with soybean oil being the preferred vehicle that is now used by many of the major newspapers in the United States (US).

Soybean oil is typically the main chemical in newspaper ink.
Soybean oil is typically the main chemical in newspaper ink.

While soybean oil by itself would be fully biodegradable, the other chemicals added to the vehicle prevent the newspaper ink from being completely safe for the environment. These chemicals can vary depending on the ink being made, though the pigmentation typically consists of organic or inorganic compounds. For black ink, for example, the most common pigment used is carbon black, which is a carbon-based compound that creates a strong black color. There are organic pigments used in creating colored newspaper ink such as plant compounds and crushed shells from crustaceans.

Black ink may contain carbon.
Black ink may contain carbon.

Inorganic chemicals used in making newspaper ink are quite common and include a number of different minerals and combinations to create various colors. Common colored pigments include: cadmium yellow, which includes cadmium and sulfur; Prussian blue, which uses iron, carbon, and nitrogen; and chrome green, which includes chromium and oxygen. Titanium white is often used in creating other pigments or by itself to adjust the colors used in printing and it is typically made using titanium and oxygen. Wax and paraffin are often added as well, to help ink dry faster and to make it more stable once printed onto paper.

Discussion Comments


@anon342117: It may not be the ink. It may be the dust from the newsprint that irritates your nose. It's dusty stuff. I've worked for a paper for nearly 21 years. Newsprint causes a lot of dust.


Still doesn't tell me what in newspaper ink makes my nose run.

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    • Soybean oil is typically the main chemical in newspaper ink.
      By: spinetta
      Soybean oil is typically the main chemical in newspaper ink.
    • Black ink may contain carbon.
      By: Eleonora.Rossi
      Black ink may contain carbon.