Monday, 12 March 2012

Design Practice II//Graze/YCN//Benefits of Soy Inks.

Researching more into soy inks and the benefits of using soy inks in print production, in environmental, economical and design terms. Evidence below supports the effectiveness of the product and more reasons to serious consider using it within our own designs, and proposing it to the company also.

Are soy inks really greener?

When it comes to recycling, do soy inks make a difference?

Q. What’s so great about soy-based ink? I didn’t even know regular ink was bad for the environment.  –Aimee, Tulsa, OK 
A. Soy-based inks do have a smaller environmental impact than do traditional, petroleum-based inks, says Sevim Erhan, PhD, a Department of Agriculture chemist who researched soy ink as part of the USDA's attempt to address a soybean surplus in the 1980s and 90s. Manufacturing traditional ink is a pretty dirty business -- it produces a lot of pollutants called volatile organic compounds, or VOC's. Soy ink produces a lot less. Plus, when it comes time to recycle, paper printed with soy ink is a lot easier to de-ink, and anything that makes recycling less energy-intensive and more cost effective is a good thing.  
It's worth noting, though, that most inks out there labeled with the "SoySeal" do have at least some petroleum-based oil in them, and that the actual soy content in some types might be as little as 6 or 7 percent, according to the labeling standards set up by the American Soybean Council. Newspapers can actually be easily be printed with a high soybean oil content ink; 90 percent of US papers choose it -- probably not because they’re particularly environmentally-conscious, but because it’s a practical, affordable option for them. Greeting cards, wrapping paper, and posters also lend themselves to soy-ink-printing. We've even heard tell of soy-based tattoos.
Magazine printing, on the other hand, is less soy-friendly. Since the magazine-compatible soy inks on the market today contain pretty high percentages of petroleum, Plenty has elected to forgo soy ink for our print magazine for the time being. We use soy-ink in the office, though!
But a good general rule of thumb is to choose soy-based inks over petroleum-base ones, whenever possible. Fewer VOCs will wind up in the atmosphere, and you'll be helping to make it easier to recycle paper.

Soy ink and the environment

Soy ink may be the solution to the environmental health and safety concerns of the printing industry. A new study confirms that soy ink can help to reduce the environmental burden of the printing industry. Soybean oil comes from a renewable source: soybeans. Soybeans beans are widely available at low cost. Soybean agriculture uses only 0.5 percent of the total energy needed to produce soy ink. Almost half of all soybeans produced in America needs no irrigation. As soybeans are growing they temporarily remove damaging carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. 

Soy ink is naturally low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds, chemical compounds that evaporate and react to sunlight) and its usage can reduce emissions causing air pollution.

Researchers at Western Michigan University have found that soy ink is removed more effectively from newsprint than petroleum ink during de-inking, resulting in less paper fiber damage and a brighter paper. In addition, the waste is not considered hazardous and can be treated more easily, completely and cost-effectively. Residue waste ink is considered a liquid industrial waste that requires proper disposal. Many newspapers and large commercial printers are recycling their ink by mixing black ink with unused color inks. This process reduces waste and results in a more cost-effective, efficient use of ink. 

Other benefits of soy ink

Soy ink is available for newspapers, magazines, commercial printing, packaging, business forms and many other uses. Each form of printing requires a different type of ink and manufacturers have made various efforts to meet with the demands of customers. Soy ink has following benefits:

  • Vibrant colors - Soybean oil’s clarity allows pigments to reach their full potential, resulting in deep, rich bright colors. In addition, used in newspaper ink, it shows an excellent outcome of pigments. Soy ink delivers a high quality print when you switch from petroleum-based ink to soy ink, and you may even see an improvement!

  • Lower rub-off - Soy inks show a greater rub resistance. This is especially of important for newspaper readers.
  • Soy ink is cost effective - The prices of soy ink colors are competitive with conventional ink colors since most of the cost in the colored inks comes from the pigments used and not the vehicle portion of the formulation. Because soy ink provides more intense color, printers may not use as much ink. As a result, more materials can be printed with less ink and thereby reducing their costs.
  • Laser proof - This is important when ink needs to be exposed to the heat of a laser printer or copy machine. As the boiling point of soy ink is lower, there is less chance of the ink being transferred to the machine parts instead of the paper.
  • Stability - Soy ink maintains its lithographic stability throughout the entire print job, so the press operator makes fewer adjustments during production and rejects fewer copies because of inferior quality.

Environmental Considerations

Petroleum-based inks contain relatively high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are regulated by the updated Clean Air Act, as are the alcohol in fountain solutions and the solvents used to wash up presses between jobs. Soy inks will reduce VOC emissions in all three cases to a greater or lesser extent, because they contain less than half the VOCs, require less alcohol, work easier with alcohol substitutes, and can be washed up without solvents.
On the other hand, disposal of leftover soy ink is still a problem. All soy inks still contain some petroleum oils, and the pigments my contain heavy metals such as copper or barium. Therefore the inks may have to be disposed of as liquid hazardous waste, depending on local law. Whether the soy oil is biodegradable or not is therefore almost irrelevant.
The soy ink that gets printed on paper is harder to remove in deinking operations, according to an August 1990 article in Coating ("Effect of Different Printing Ink Formulations on Deinking"). The abstract says, "Binders containing linseed or soya oils or alkyd resins worsen deinking behavior."
Dick Drong, marketing r for sheetfed offset ink in Sun Chemical Corporation, wrote in to give some information on printing and environmental aspects. He emphasized as major advantages the reduction of VOCs and the fact that soy oil is a renewable resource grown domestically. When it is used in sheetfed offset inks, however, there is no particular advantage, because in these inks it only replaces another domestic renewable resource: linseed oil, which comes from the flax plant. So customers who are cultivating a "green" image on their publications cannot actually do anything for the environment by specifying soy-based inks for sheetfed offset work.


Soy ink is very similar to "regular" printing ink, except that it contains varying amounts of soybean oil instead of petroleum oil. Soybean oil is non-toxic and used in cooking oils, margarine and salad dressings.

Soy ink can be used on virtually any lithographic press with no modifications or special cleaning agents. It can be used on most printed pieces, and is available in all Pantone® and process colors.


Soy ink is available in several formulations, including news, sheet-fed, heat-set, cold-set, business forms and some flexographic. It is not available for ballpoint pens or laser printer and photocopier ink cartridges. There is limited use in the gravure and screen-printing markets.


Soy ink is high-quality. The soybean oil in soy ink allows pigments to reach their full capacity. Soybean oil is derived from U.S.-grown soybeans, an abundant and sustainable resource.

Ink containing soybean oil is low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which react with other atmospheric pollutants to form smog. In addition, soy ink is recycling-friendly: it is removed more effectively during de-inking, and the resulting waste is not considered hazardous and can be treated more easily, completely and cost-effectively.


Yes. When you switch to soy ink from petroleum-based ink, you won't see any loss of quality. In fact, you may even see an improvement! The soybean oil in soy ink allows pigments to reach their full potential, resulting in deep, rich, bright colors.

Whether you're convincing your client or your printer to switch to soy ink, we can help. We've developed two side-by-side, identical picture comparisons of soy ink and petroleum ink. One comparison is printed on a sheet-fed press, the other on a heat-set press.


Soy ink for commercial printing is comparably priced with petroleum-based ink, as is color news ink containing soybean oil. Although soy ink costs about 25 percent more than petroleum ink in the black news ink market, some newspaper publishers have reported they can print more papers with less ink, making it more competitively priced in the long run.


Many newspapers and large commercial printers are recycling their ink by mixing black ink with unused color inks. Such a process results in more efficient use of ink, reduces waste and is more cost-effective for the printer. Soy ink has proved compatible with this waste-handling system.


Today, there are about 100 U.S. ink manufacturers producing at least one soy ink product. Chances are, your ink representative carries a line of soy ink. 


Yes. Soybean oil's boiling point is much greater than petroleum oil's. This higher boiling point means the oil does not volatilize when exposed to the heat of a laser printer or copy machine. Soy ink sticks to the paper instead of being transferred to printer and/or copier parts.


* Soy inks and vegetable ink printing can be achieved through lithographic printing, this would, of course, mean very high production costs, though it could be proposed and mocked up easily. Printing companies such as Generation Press (Brighton) currently provide vegetable-ink printing production.


  1. Excellent blog. Thanks for sharing informative information. Soy Ink Printer

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