How Soy-Based Ink is Made, and Why You Should Use It

Soybeans Used for Manufacturing Soy-Based Ink

Soybeans are a versatile, earth-friendly product that have been incorporated into many industries.

The use of soy has affected a multitude of industries: food, health, plastics and clothing to name a few. Soybeans are used to create anything from crayons to cosmetics. Similarly, the benefits of soy-based ink (compared to other inks) have had a drastic impact on how we create newspapers, marketing collateral and other documents with a printed logo or information.

History of soy ink

During the oil crisis of the 1970s, petroleum was expensive and in short supply. The Newspaper Association of America reacted by seeking out a non-petroleum-based alternative to standard inks. New research into vegetable-based oils eventually led them to create a brand new form of ink made from soybeans.

In 1987, this cost-effective ink was finally put into practice by a newspaper in Iowa called The Gazette. Soy ink soon rose to fashion throughout the newspaper industry; it’s now used in over 90% of the nation’s newspapers. The popularity of soy ink has since expanded to magazines, packaging and many other types of printing. It’s a veritable staple for commercial printers as well as manufacturers of maps.

How is soy ink made?

The same soybeans used to make tofu and soy milk are used to create soy ink, but you definitely wouldn’t want to eat it. The beans go through an extensive process that makes them bad for eating but excellent for printing.

To produce soy ink, the soybeans are first cleaned, cut into flakes and processed into oil. This oil is then refined, cooked and carefully blended with pigments, resins and waxes (these are the inedible parts of the ink). The exact mix of oil and other “ingredients” can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Before long, what started out as a common bean turns into high-quality ink.

Benefits of soy ink

So what’s the big deal about soy-based ink, anyway? It has several noticeable advantages, both in its impact on the environment and the quality of your custom printing. Here are a few choice reasons to favor it over standard inks.

  1. Sharp clarity – Soy inks have a tendency to produce brighter and sharper images than regular inks. This is because soybean oil is naturally clearer than most petroleum-based ink. With soy ink, you can give your logo a vibrant look that’s just not possible otherwise.
  2. Cost-effective – The price of soy ink is comparable to petroleum-based ink. But since printing with soy-based ink produces especially high-intensity colors, it often requires less ink than conventional printing. This means that with soy-based printing, you’re getting the most out of your money.
  3. Eco Friendly Newspaper Printed with Soy Ink

    Soy ink is quite popular in the newspaper industry, but its eco-friendly nature makes it useful for many different types of printing.

    Low VOC levels – Using soy-based ink is great for the environment when compared to other inks; it’s particularly notable for its low levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), less than one fifth of the amount produced by petroleum-based inks. VOC’s are pollutants which evaporate in sunlight, and are unhealthy for both the environment and human beings. Using soy ink ultimately produces less air pollution and health hazards.
  4. Highly recyclable – When recycling paper, any printed ink has to be removed first. According to relatively new research from Western Michigan University, paper printed with soy-based ink has a faster rate of dirt removal during the de-inking process, which makes it easy to recycle. Additionally, soy ink is more than four times more biodegradable than standard ink, so even paper that isn’t recycled with have less environmental impact.
  5. Sustainability – Naturally, soy ink is made from soybeans, a renewable resource (unlike standard petroleum). What’s more, it’s actually made from a byproduct of soybean farming. This means that no new crops need to be harvested to create soy-based ink. Also, soybeans require very little irrigation and only a small amount of energy to cultivate.


Soy ink makes a low impact on the environment but a big impact on your finished printed product. Whether you’re talking about the health of the planet or your company’s budget, soybean ink is clearly the best choice for printing.

Posted in Printing Technology

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Printwand Staff
Author: Printwand Staff

Our marketing, design and printing experts are passionate about sharing their knowledge. We're eager to help make your vision a reality in print. Be sure to explore the rest of the Printwand blog for more reliable, easy-to-understand information.

One Response to “How Soy-Based Ink is Made, and Why You Should Use It”

  • 1
    Bernadette E says:

    I frequently purchase crossword magazines from a company that has just recently started using soy ink in their publications. I am not an expert solver so I do have to erase at times. The puzzles themselves are now erasing along with my pencil marks. The company will not respond to questions. Do you know of any solution, or perhaps an eraser that will not remove soy ink? Thank you for any help.

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