Thursday, 13 September 2012

Stamping 101: Basic Supplies-Rubber Stamps

Welcome to the first installment of my Stamping 101 Series. For the next few posts, I’ll be discussing the very basic supplies you need to create cards, scrapbooks, and other projects using rubber stamps.
The most obvious thing you will need to begin is…well...a rubber stamp! There are many different styles, and it’s good to know the pros and cons of each. Not all stamp styles will work in all situations. Let’s start by looking at the parts that make up a rubber stamp.
Most stamps have three distinct parts. The die is the rubber design. In this photo, you can see that the images are not raised very high from the background rubber. Poorly etched die
Ideally, you should look for a die that is deeply etched for the clearest prints. This stamp below is an excellent example of good etching. You can also see the background rubber has also been trimmed very close to the image to prevent “backprints.” Backprints are those annoying smudges of ink you get on your project when you’ve over inked a stamp (or pressed too hard) and you stamp the background edge along with the image. Deeply etched die
The second part of a stamp is called the cushion. It is the padding between the die and what it’s mounted to, usually made out of foam. A thick cushion will help even the pressure placed on the stamp for a clear image and elevates the die so the mount does not leave a mark behind on your project. Generally the thicker the foam, the easier it is to stamp a nice, even image. The cushion is the grey part in these next two photos.
  Foam cushion sample 1
 Foam cushion sample 2

The last part of a rubber stamp is called the block or mount. It is the handle to which the die and cushion are mounted to. Blocks are necessary to apply firm, even pressure on the die & cushion, resulting in a smooth, even image. Mounts are commonly made from wood or clear acrylic. Some blocks have finger grips or grids on them to make stamping easier.
Clear block
   Wood block

Now that you know the basic parts of a stamp, let’s briefly discuss some of the different styles of stamps, as well as their pros and cons.
Wooden Stamps- Traditionally, what one pictures when we talk about rubber stamping. Usually the best quality and variety of images. Also the most expensive. The die & cushion are permanently mounted to the wooden block. Can take up a lot of storage space. To stamp images with precision, a stamp positioning tool is necessary, since you cannot see through the wood block. Ink stains difficult to remove if they get on the wood block. Will last a lifetime if properly cared for.
wooden stamp
Foam Stamps- These stamps have the dies set on thick foam which serves as the mount. There is no cushion. Care must be used to not leave backprints. An economical way to build up your stamp collection. Wonderful for kids. Also used in home decor projects because the foam stamps accept acrylic paint well. Considered “throw away” style stamps because they are inexpensive and don’t last very long. Nearly impossible to fully clean because the foam is absorbs the ink.
foam stamps
Acrylic or “jelly” stamps- These stamps are used with clear, acrylic blocks and are made out of a clear jelly-like material which makes them excellent for positioning exactly where you want them.  They are much less expensive than traditional wooden stamps. Stampers purchase a variety of acrylic block sizes to match the stamp sets they purchase. Sets are usually stored on a thin sheet of plastic and placed in a binder, cd case or plastic envelope, making storage very practical. The die is usually deeply etched, but there is no cushion. Last a long time with proper care. The acrylic mounts can be washed in water, but the jelly dies get stained from ink very quickly. (Note that staining does not affect the performance of the stamp, just its look.) Personally, I have a difficult time getting clean, even stamp images with this style of stamp. I miss having the cushion. This style is very popular, however. Close to My Heart and Papertrey Ink are two successful stamp companies to carry this style.
jelly 2
jelly stamps
Roller stamps- The die is a long strip set on a wheel to achieve a continuous pattern. Great for borders. Some roller stamps are self inking. Some companies have interchangeable wheels and inks that you snap into the handle, while others are one unit with the wheel permanently attached to the handle. All-plastic rollers are easy to clean and will last a lifetime with proper care.
roller stamp
Clear-mount cling stamps- Although stampers have been using cling mount foam for years, this style of stamp has exploded in popularity since Stampin’ Up! introduced their version in 2011. The idea is fabulous. The rubber die and the cushion are adhered together just like a wood mount stamp, which allows for the same excellent quality image that a good wood stamp can create. Instead of being permanently stuck to a wooden block however, the opposite side of the cushion is treated with a special “clingy” finish that allows it to adhere to the smooth surface of an acrylic block for stamping. The result is an excellent quality stamp with a mount you can see through for easy positioning. These stamps also cost less than their wooden counterparts and take up considerably less storage space. Some people claim they have difficulty getting their stamps to cling to the blocks, but I’ve found as long as you keep your acrylic blocks clean, there’s no problem. I personally LOVE this style of stamp, and it’s all I really buy now. Lots of stampers (myself included) are now converting their wooden stamp collection to the cling style, since you can purchase the cling foam separately in sheets specifically for this purpose. I’ll write a post about that another time!
Clear mount

Hope that was helpful! Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. In next week’s Stamping 101, I will (hopefully) demystify the world of stamping ink. Until then, happy stamping and keep your whiskers clean!