What’s the Difference between Raw Squid Ink and the Ink Used in Printers?


Raw Cephalopod ink (i.e. Octopus, Cuttlefish, and Squid) is a dark pigment that can range in color from dark red, to brown, to black or blue-black.

For this post we’ll be focusing and comparing Squid ink specifically, since it’s more widely used in cooking and printing.

A Squid’s ink is stored in sacs located between the gills. It is used as a defense/escape mechanism to elude potential predators such as spiny lobsters. The ink consists mainly of melanin. However it can also contain dopamine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid.

For cooking purposes (e.g. Squid ink pasta) the ink is primarily used for food coloring and/or flavoring. The ink is extracted from the Squid’s ink sacs, typically during the preparation process. Additional seasoning can then be added (but doesn’t necessarily have to be) to enhance the natural flavor. As you can see not much is done to modify the raw ink that is used for cooking/consumption purposes.

How does this compare to the ink that’s used in printers?

Ink that’s used for commercial printing purposes (from companies such as the aptly named Squid Ink) can be composed of many chemicals including: solvents, pigments, dyes, resins, lubricants, solubilizers, surfactants, fluorescents, along with other materials, depending on the manufacturer. Ink formulas can vary but usually involve two main components: colorants and vehicles (i.e. binders). While there are only two main formulas, there are generally four different classes: Aqueous, Liquid, Paste, and Powder. Printer inks and solvents typically fall under the first two classes, Aqueous and Liquid.

So could printer ink be used as a substitute for raw Squid ink?

No, definitely not. The ink that’s used in industrial printing (like the kind of ink we sell here on our site) is absolutely not for cooking or consumption. To give you an idea here’s the warning label from one of our Squid Ink products:

Squid Ink Warning Label

Needless to say, printer ink should never be consumed, under any circumstances. And if for some reason there is accidental contact with the eyes or swallowing that occurs, seek medical attention immediately.

So even though the names may be similar, there’s definitely a big difference between edible Squid ink and brands that make industrial printer ink like Squid Ink or Leibinger Ink.

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  • Matt L