Cruelty-Free, Vegan Printing

Yep, your printing can be kind too.

It’s Veganuary, a month to challenge yourself to adopt a vegan, cruelty-free diet and lifestyle. When you’re new to the vegan scene it can be hard enough trying to work out what food you can and can’t eat. Let alone looking into all of the other aspects of your day to day life. So you’re forgiven for not realising that printing can be a contributor to animal exploitation too. But, that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your vegan journey because there are options for cruelty-free vegan printing.

When looking for vegan printing there are two key areas you need to consider and they are the inks and the glues.

Vegan Printing Ink

Modern mass-market inks are generally petroleum oil-based. They can also contain glycerin from animal fat, bone chars, gelatine from hooves, and beetle shellac (crushed beetles) to give it colour.

The vegan alternative to these inks are vegetable derived. Vegetable inks are not only cruelty-free but they also have some other pretty cool benefits:


The vegetable and soy that is grown as ink crops help to fix nitrogen into the soil they’re grown. Meaning that the fields stay healthy and fertile for the next crop.

Recycling Process

Interestingly, vegetable-based inks are also easier to remove from packaging and labels. Meaning that the end product is easier to recycle at the end of its life.

Less Pollution

Inks release something known as volatile organic compounds when they dry which are detrimental to the environment and human life. Petroleum-based inks emit around 25 to 40% of VOCs whereas vegetable and soy-based inks emit rates as low as 4%.

Petroleum-based inks also need harsher chemicals and more water to clean them off the presses between print runs.

No Nasties

Petroleum-based inks not only create more carbon emissions when they’re manufactured, but they also contain heavy metals including lead and mercury. Both of which are harmful to humans and the environment. Guess what, vegetable inks don’t carry any of these nasties.

Better Quality

A study of vegetable-based vs petroleum-based ink published in the Journal of Applied Biomaterials and Functional Materials found that linseed-soybean oil-based ink is the most vibrant. And vegetable inks containing linseed oil are glossier on all types of paper.

The report finished with a recommendation that vegetable-based inks should replace petroleum-derived mineral oil-based inks due to their quality, environmental and health benefits, and comparable costs.

A final note on vegan inks. Printing inks were originally made with vegetable oils but by the early 1970s vegetable oil was in short supply so manufacturers switched to petroleum-based oils instead. But, eco-conscious people such as yourself are helping to change this and push the market back to vegetable-based, vegan inks.

And with that, we move onto…

Vegan Glue

Historically glues were made from fish and animal derivatives, such as skin and bones. If you’ve read animal farm you’ll know that Boxer the horse was sent off to the glue factory when he was no longer of use. But thankfully, most modern glues no longer require poor animals to go to the glue factory as they’re now synthetic and vegan.

Modern synthetic glues are petroleum or plant-based and are the norm rather than the exception today. That being said, animal-based glues are sometimes still used in printing processes, such as in bookbinding, laminating and stationery. So it’s always best to ask your printing supplier if they use synthetic glues.

Lastly, if you combine vegan inks and glue with recycled or FSC-certified paper you’re on track to produce the most eco-conscious product you can.

Here at Kakadu, we’re proud to report that we work with several printers to provide a wide range of vegan, cruelty-free and environmentally friendly printing products, including:

Brochures, Booklets & Catalogues
Leaflets & Flyers
Stickers & Posters
Business cards, Letterheads & Compliment Slips
Signage & Display Boards
Outreach literature and more…

Written by Kayleigh Nicolaou

Co-founder of Kakadu Creative, Kayleigh has worked in the media industry since 2007, managing projects and campaigns for clients ranging from independent high street stores, to music festivals and international brands.
January 8, 2021

Explore more like this...

Want to make sure your business’s next print project is vegan and cruelty-free?

Get in touch with the form below and let’s have a chat about what you need and how we can help.

Plus, if you found this useful be sure to subscribe to our quarterly newsletter for tips, advice and insights to help your business.