Thursday, 20 September 2012

Stamping 101: Basic Supplies: Inks and Stamp Pads

Welcome to the second instalment of my Stamping 101 Series. Today we’ll be going over the huge (and sometimes confusing!) variety of inks available to stampers.

With the explosion of growth in the paper crafting industry (due largely to the popularity of scrapbooking) there have been hundreds of new ink formulations to flood the market. I’m going to keep this article very basic and if you want to learn even more, I’ll have a few resources for you at the end.

To start, let’s talk about the pad itself for a few moments. Look for a case design that features a raised surface ink pad. You will likely want to ink a stamp sized larger than the case, and you don’t want the plastic getting in the way. If you’re the kind of stamper like I am, losing their supplies amongst the piles on her desk, you may prefer a hinged lid that stays attached to the case, rather than one that lifts off completely. Some cases are made to store the pads upside down so that the ink will run close to the top of the pad when you’re ready to ink. Double check with the manufacturer before flipping all your cases however, as some juicier inks may pool in the lid. The pad itself may be made from felt, sponge or firm foam. All vary in feel and in the coverage they provide. Experiment to discover what you like.

Stamp Pad

Should you purchase a full sized stamp pad or the little “mini” ones available? I personally prefer a full sized pad, as it makes inking quick and easy. The mini ones are great for portability if you head out to stamp, and for inexpensively sampling new colours or formulations of ink. Keep in mind that the mini pads will need to be reinked very frequently and take a longer time to ink large stamps.

That brings me to the subject of reinkers. These little squeeze bottles are usually available for purchase with your stamp pads. When your ink pads begin inking lightly or unevenly, a few drops of reinker will refresh the pad, allowing you to use them for years without replacement. I strongly encourage you to purchase the reinker immediately along with your pad. There is nothing more frustrating than needing to reink a pad only to discover that style or colour has been discontinued.


Now onto the ink! Stamping ink can be broadly divided into 3 main types; dye-based ink, pigment-based ink, and specialty ink. Let’s look at the characteristics of each.

Dye-Based Ink

This style of ink works by sinking in to the paper it is stamped on, in fact “dying” the actual fibres of the paper. They dry quickly and are the most common and inexpensive inks to purchase. These inks are usually water-based, which means they run or bleed if they get wet. Many stampers use this quality to their advantage, using this ink in place of watercolour paint or by misting their projects with water to create a deliberately mottled effect.

Dye ink is usually somewhat translucent. You will need to experiment and see what colour of paper and ink work best together. Generally, lighter coloured ink will not show up well on darker coloured paper.

There are two common stamping techniques that I would not use this ink for. Due to its fast-drying nature, this is not a good ink for embossing. The ink will simply dry too fast for your powder to stick. I would also avoid it with outline-style stamps you plan to color in with watercolours. Your outline will smear when it gets wet. It would be OK for a dry colouring medium like pencil crayons or chalks. 

 Pigment-Based Ink

This ink works by sitting on top of the paper it is stamped on. There is no “dye” to the colour, rather the colour comes from pigment particles that are suspended in a clear medium (like glycerine). This makes for a much more opaque, vibrant colour that will show up on any colour paper it is stamped on, even white on black. It resists fading and will not run, making it a perfect choice for scrapbookers who are worried about the safety of their albums. This ink dries much slower, and many stampers will keep a heat gun handy when stamping with pigment ink just to speed up the drying process. This slow drying is perfect for embossing techniques, as well as direct-to-paper techniques where you smear and blend the ink straight from the stamp pad on to your paper.

This ink is usually more expensive than dye ink. It is thicker too, which means you will use up more ink each time you stamp, making it necessary to reink the pad more often. It will also take a bit more effort to clean your stamps after using pigment ink. If you are the type that stamps only occasionally, you will discover these pads can dry up or harden quite quickly.

This is not the ink to use on glossy paper or things like plastic or ceramic. It simply will never dry!  

Specialty Inks

Like the name implies, there are a myriad of formulations out there for just about any stamping need. Do a little internet research (or call me!) before purchasing. You will discover many of the inks can be used for more than one purpose, saving you money and storage space.

Fabric Inks- These inks are made specifically to stamp on fabric, and other surfaces that need a permanent touch. Heat is usually used to set the ink.

Permanent Inks- Usually meant for tile, wood, glass and plastic. The ingredients are usually quite strong (solvent based) and should be used in a well ventilated area.

Watermark Ink- This ink creates a color slightly darker than the paper stamped on. Very effective on lighter paper, makes lovely, subtle backgrounds. Can also be used as a resist pad or as an embossing pad (see below).

Embossing Inks- These inks are clear or slightly tinted and quite sticky. They are designed to be slow drying so that embossing powder can adhere to the stamped image.

Embossing Pens- Markers that have tinted embossing ink in them, so you can emboss handwriting or any type of drawing. They come in a variety of styles.

Resist Pad- This is a fun thing to try if you are layering inks. Nothing will stick to an image stamped in resist ink, so you can have a bottom layer color show through a top one. You can achieve a similar effect with clear embossing powder too.

Chalk Inks- A new style of ink that is similar in formulation to a pigment ink, but when dry leaves a lovely chalk-like colour. Wonderfully subtle and very blendable.

Rainbow Stamp Pads- Can come in pigment or dye ink. With dye ink, the colors will run together, pigment ink will stay separate. Very fun for multi-coloured images.They come in a variety of color combinations, and are a great way to acquire several colors at once.

Washable Ink- Stamp pads made with children in mind! While some colours may not wash out of furniture or carpets, they are pretty good at coming off your kids and their clothes. I get my kids to ink their stamps with washable Crayola markers. Works great!

Hybrid Inks- As mentioned earlier, there are new ink formulations being released all the time. Many are an attempt to merge the qualities of dye and pigment inks together, claiming things like quick drying but with pigment-like coverage. You may want to ask other stampers if they’ve liked a particular brand before trying yourself.

Glue Pads- Not actual ink, but allows you to stamp your image in glue. Perfect for adding glitter or flocking. Some brands require you to heat set the glue, others just air dry.

Finally, as a Stampin’ Up! Demonstrator, I feel I should clarify the inks Stampin Up! carries. Our Classic Stampin’ Pads, avaliable in all colours, are a dye-based ink. This ink also comes in the small sized Stampin’ Spots and in a dual-tipped marker form. We also carry Craft Stampin’ Pads in black or white. These are essentially pigment ink, but have the additional quality of being permanent when heat set for use on wood and fabrics. For specialty inks there is the Versamark watermark pad and StazOn permanent ink in black and white.

Whew! Hope that helps clear up at least a little confusion in the ink world. Comments and emails are very welcome. If you want to read about inks even more, check out the article here: ttp://

Next time, I’ll have a short little article on paper. Until then, keep your whiskers clean!