Monday, December 15, 2014

Love Birds

My in-laws have an anniversary coming up, so I made this.

I just love the two shades of red (soft blossom and red royal from Hero Arts) and the silver border. Silver borders are da bomb.

Thanks for all your answers on yesterday's post. I learned about some stamp companies I'd never heard of before. Y'all are a bunch of shameless enablers!

stamps: Papertrey Love Birds, Mega Mixed Messages
ink: Hero Arts soft blossom, soft granite, red royal
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: dimensionals, silver metallic marker (PrismaColor), metal ruler

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Embossing with Winter Moon, or Why Juicy Ink Pads Are Important

It's been forever since I used pigment ink and embossing powder. Oh, I've embossed, but I've used either VersaMark ink or specialty embossing ink with opaque embossing powder, or with clear EP for resist techniques. But for Winter Moon, I wanted to use a silver pearl embossing powder and a deep royal blue pigment ink. The combination turns the blue into a lovely, soft, pearlescent blue.

Only it's been years since I used the blue pigment pad, and it was really dry. I dabbed and dabbed and dabbed the pad onto the stamp, but it never looked fully covered. I stamped it, and it just didn't have that rich, pigment ink look, and when I embossed, the results were sort of pebbly. See?

It's pretty, but not as pretty as it should be. Guess I need to go shopping!

Actually, I did do some shopping for my birthday a few weeks ago, but it wasn't for ink. I picked up my first Simon Says Stamps. Don't you just love the smell of high-quality photopolymer as you open a mailer envelope?

Of course you do!

These should give me some fun playtime in the coming weeks, along with all the Hero Arts and Papertrey goodness I bought.

Since my card's not great today, let's share good stamp companies with each other. Whose stamps have you purchased recently? What pre-holiday purchases have you made that made you really happy? What are you planning on purchasing? Inquiring minds, and all that....

stamps: Hero Arts Winter Moon, Papertrey Keep It Simple: Christmas
ink: ColorBox royal blue, Hero Arts soft silver
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: embossing powder (silver pearl, Ranger), embossing gun, silver cord, dimensionals

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Stepping Up a One-Layer Card

Thursday's post about saving a poorly-positioned design shows what to do when a one-layer card goes wonky, but of course I HAD to try again to make the design work on one layer...because, you know, I'm all about "less is the new more."

Let's start with the failed one-layer version of the reindeer card so the changes I made in the new design make sense.

As you can see, the scrap paper under the card shows how I experimented with the tree and reindeer stamps...various colors and types of ink, off-stamping, etc. The sentiments along the bottom of the scrap (which is just a low-quality copy paper I buy in bulk) are tests to make sure the clear stamps are aligned on my gridded acrylic block properly before I stamp them on a card. This extra step saves a lot in wasted card fronts!

Back to the matter at hand. This card uses Memento pistachio and Hero Arts wet cement inks. It's soft and dreamy, but also a tad boring. For the new one-layer attempt, I decided to go with darker colors, especially to create greater contrast between the reindeer butt and the tree, which sort of blend together in the first version. I really wanted the reindeer to be the focal point that draws you into the design.

Here's the revised version, perfectly placed on the card, using Memento Olive Grove and Potter's Clay

In retrospect, I wish I'd snapped a shot of the card before adding the bow so you could see the intermediate step in the design. Without the bow, the card was a big improvement on the first, softer version, but it still needed a little something. The color of the deer kept the eye on the deer, and the sentiment (in Memento Espresso Truffle) seemed stuck on as an after-thought. The design needed something to take the eye to the sentiment, and a twine bow seemed just the thing. I love how it anchors the whole design on the really makes a huge difference!

Color and embellishment...if you have a blah design, try stepping it up by changing these two things!

stamps: Hero Arts
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: twine, glue, post-it for masking

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Good Save

More with Winter Moon coming soon, but we're shifting gears today....

Every now and then, I feel compelled to take pictures of unsuccessful cards to share with you...because it's sometimes helpful to see how things go wrong and then, of course, how to fix them. Today's post is one of those posts.

First of all, the cards today use several lovely stamps from Hero Arts: Pen & Ink Christmas Tree, Cross-Hatch Reindeer, and an old, discontinued sentiment. My original plan was to stamp the reindeer, mask his butt, stamp the tree, and add the sentiment. Here's the first effort:

Can you spot the problem?  The whole design is shifted unattractively toward the lower right corner. See how uneven the border around the main design is? That's because I stamped the reindeer too far down to start.

This problem is incredibly easy to fix. It's just a placement problem, so I cropped the card front using a couple of L-shaped pieces of cardboard to determine where to crop.

Then, using a quilting ruler and craft knife, I cut out the balanced design and made a white-on-white card with it, embellished with a bit of twine because it looked a bit plain.

Now, that's a nice, balanced card!

stamps: Hero Arts
ink: Memento pistachio, espresso truffle; Hero Arts wet cement
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: dimensionals, twine

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

More Winter Moon

Here's the image of Hero Arts' Winter Moon stamp I used for yesterday's cards:

Hero Arts Mounted Rubber Stamps-Winter Moon

As I said yesterday, this is a fairly "determined" stamp. It's modern graphic design and wintery scene limit how versatile this stamp is regarding meaning. It's pretty limited that way. But by using different supplies and techniques and layouts, we can still get plenty of different effects from it.

You'll notice the lovely curve at the bottom? Well, I decided to take advantage of that curve, cut the bottom of the scene along it rather than straight, and came up with two designs.

First up, I took advantage of Brilliance Ink's pearlescent shimmer and stamped Winter Moon in Lavender. The soft color and shimmer went perfectly with the Silent Night sentiment from Papertrey's Silent Night set, which is stamped in Memento Luxe Gray Flannel.

Here's a close-up of the ink...isn't that gorgeous!?!?!

I love the simplicity of the first design. It was so clean and simple that I felt I didn't need to add anything to it whatsoever. The shimmer was just enough!

The second card uses teal (can't remember the type of ink, though!) edged with silver metallic marker. It was easier than I thought to edge the curve, though it took courage to make the attempt. Good grief, the silly things that can scare us.

And check out that ribbon. Can you believe I used ribbon? What is that? Twice in one month? Go, me!

I don't like this card as much as the first, but it's still simple, crisp, and pretty. I just really wish I had white satin ribbon. A little wider satin would have looked better, don't you think? I do.

Combined with yesterday's cards, I think I'm doing a pretty good job showing how different inks and supplies and techniques can change the look of even a very determined stamp like this one.

More to come....

stamps: Hero Arts Winter Moon, Papertrey Silent Night
ink: see above
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: dimensionals, ribbon, scissors

Monday, December 8, 2014

Variations on a Big Stamp

Long, long ago, I read about "determined" art supplies in a book on book binding, and the lesson stuck with me even if the title of the book didn't. The author encouraged book artists to look for "undetermined" that didn't already convey a pre-determined meaning to the world. Highly determined supplies could become clichés after a while, like a red rose symbolizing love.

This got me thinking about stamping supplies. When I first started stamping, harlequin stamps (you know, court jesters in harlequin-print clothes) were everywhere. So were pears, vintage paper dolls, and the Mona Lisa. When you use these images, you limit the meaning of your creations.

Now, don't get me wrong; limiting the meaning of something is often a very good thing, until, of course it becomes a cliché and people start wanting to spray-paint BVDs on those obscene pears. (If you're new here, you might want to read this post to understand my, ahem, interpretation of pear images. And thanks, by the way, to those of you who continue to share particularly egregious examples of the phallic fruit with me. It's always good for a laugh!)

Where was I? Oh, yes, determined supplies. Okay. Less determined stamps are usually ones that don't carry a lot of meaning and thus can be used to create all sorts of meanings. Often, however, big stamp images can be difficult to use because they are often so determined. Getting different looks is harder when the image takes up a lot of real estate on the card, and it's easy to feel like you've exhausted the stamp's possibilities after just one or two cards.

Consider Hero Arts Winter Moon stamp:

This stylized night scene is just over three inches wide and four inches high. It's also quite lovely, and I bought it for my birthday last month. What meaning does this convey? Well, it's a winter scene, perfect for peaceful winter-holiday cards, and perhaps thinking-of-you cards. It's a little serene for a happy birthday card, and it might be weird with a thank you sentiment. (Cold, snowy nights don't conjure thoughts of warm gratitude...unless you're inside by the fire! But hey, do whatever you want...all this is just stuff to think about, not rules to follow.)

I bought Winter Moon specifically for holiday cards. But I was worried that I'd make one card and not really be able to vary it enough to make lots more.

Of course, if you have tons of different inks, embossing powders, and embellishments, you can certainly do more with even the most determined large stamp. As I will prove in the next few days.


I started with a light blue ink from VersaColor called Atlantic. It's such a soft blue! (That makes it hard to photograph, actually, and hence the dark background.) I edged the raised panel and filled in the moon with my new clear Wink of Stella brush pen (too subtle to show in the photo, though it's lovely in real life). To position the panel, I placed it unconventionally toward the bottom of a standard A2 if it were softly falling like the snow. The italic Christ in the sentiment contributes to the overall softness of the card.

The second version takes a darker turn, for a higher-contrast scene. Here, the image is stamped in Hero Arts Navy ink, and the raised panel is edged with silver metallic marker. I also switched the sentiment to a more stylized font to emphasize the graphic nature of the design. The moon is punched from a piece of white cardstock colored with the silver marker, so it stands out a bit more and ties the border into the design.

For some reason, this looked odd placed the same as the first panel, so I cut a bit from the bottom of the card for an even mat all the way around.

Note how color tone alone changes everything about this stamp!

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at a few more uses for this very determined stamp!

stamps: Hero Arts Winter Moon, Papertrey sentiments
ink: VersaColor, Hero Arts
paper: Papertrey
accessories: Wink of Stella pen, silver metallic pen (Prismacolor), dimensionals

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Silent Night Revisited...And Tips to Adapt a Design to Stamps You Have on Hand

One thing I love about Papertrey is that their design team periodically makes new stuff with old sets, which makes you feel like it's okay to use old stamps for new things...something few companies choose to do, at least that I've noticed.

One of the earliest Christmas sets I bought from Papertrey was Silent Night, a beautiful religious set with lots of Christmas-related Bible verses. I make cards with it every Christmas because it's just so perfectly designed.

Sadly, the set is now in Papertrey's vault and ridiculously overpriced. As a former marketing person who understands a bit how business runs and the necessity of inventory/cash flow regulation, I get the whole vault thing, and it is better than simply discontinuing stuff. But still. I love this set, just not $48 worth of love.

Perhaps you have a bigger stamp budget than I have, though.

The good news is that you don't need to buy this set to do something similar to the card I made this weekend. Explore your stash for a cool swirl, a nice holiday sentiment, and a star stamp. Then play around with them using my card as a jumping-off point. You might come up with something way better than I did!

As you play with your different stamps, focus on UNITY. My card uses all stamps from one set carefully designed to complement each other, so achieving unity was easy. Notice how my swirl is dainty and delicate, and so are the stars. The sentiment is curvy and italic, with a flourished capital letter S. They were made to go together.

You might have a set from another company that has swirls, stars, and holiday sentiments...companies do imitate one another or develop similar sets independently. But if you're pulling a swirl from one company and a star from another, and a sentiment from yet a third company, you need to be strategic in your choices. Not any ol' combo will do.

If your swirl is bolder and has heavier lines, look for a star stamp that is bolder and heavier to match. Ditto the sentiment. If you use a dainty sentiment with a bold stamp, it will likely be lost in the design.

If your swirl is smaller or larger, look for stars and sentiments that will match its scale. Downsize or upsize the raised panel to fit your smaller or larger stamps. You can use the chart I posted about proportional matting to make sure your stamped panel is a size that results in even matting, but really, the scale of my raised panel was determined entirely by the size of my stamps.

Don't be afraid to experiment and make mistakes. As you do so, you'll be learning what NOT to do. That's a good thing, not a bad thing at all!

After all, it's only paper.

Happy stamping!

stamps: Papertrey Silent Night
ink: Kaleidacolor, Brilliance starlight silver
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: metal ruler, silver Prismacolor metallic pen, dimensionals