Sunday, June 9, 2013

Random Obsessive, Crazy Thoughts about Stamping Ink

The transition to summer has hit me hard and thrown me into a serious funk of non-creativity and severe ADD/OCD/OMG.

I think it has something to do with hearing the word "Mommy" five-hundred-eighty-six times a day.

Anyway, since I haven't felt particularly creative, I've fallen back on reorganizing and cleaning out stuff in my craft space. Perhaps you use the same trick. Often (though not always) a quick purge gets the creative juices flowing.

Not this time. Still, I try to look on the bright side and think useful things even when they aren't creative things. The creativity will come back eventually, when I stop trying so hard.

So here are some of my random useful thoughts and affirmations from the past week of OMG.

1. I am brilliant. You might remember when I suggested that, if you are afraid of purging, you should put stuff in a box in your basement or storage closet for six months or a year and after that time, go through it again and purge. That break really shows you whether you value those things.

I have two boxes full of stamps in my basement. When I went through them a few days ago, I pulled two stamps out to keep and was completely at peace with getting rid of the rest. This is about the fifth or sixth time I've tried this trick, and it works every single time. See? I am brilliant.

But it only works for stamps. The ink pads I'd put in the boxes made me put them back in my working stash. They demanded it, even though I haven't missed them even a tiny bit. Bossy little things.

2. Ink storage drives me crazy. I have a lot of ink. It's a hazard for us stampers who primarily use block stamps rather than outline stamps. We need lots of colors of ink. Of course we do. But how do we conveniently and neatly store all these ink pads?

Darned if I know.

The pads come in different shapes and sizes. Mini pads (pardon the phrase) are my favorites lately, but I still have a lot of full-size pads. The combination of two sizes offends my OCD so much I just replaced four of my favorite full-size pads with dew drops and really wish I could do that for all the pads but the expense seems stupid since those other full-size pads are not my favorite colors and likely won't be replaced when they run out of ink anyway. So why can't I throw or give them away now? I don't know!

This is crazy.

But I decided that sorting similar inks by color rather than brand/type makes sense. I combined my VersaColor, VersaMagic, and non-iridescent Brilliance inks because on Papertrey card stock, they really look the same and function identically. Here's what the two drawers look like now.

Aren't these drawers beautiful!!!

See what I mean about the mix of small and large pads? Crazy. But I love the look of all those colors.... Not sure what I'm going to do with all the other inks I have...pigment, water-based dye inks, waterproof dye inks, etc. For now, they are sorted by brand.

3. Ink types drive me crazy. They are so finicky. Each type does different things and works differently with different types of stamps. We can't just have one kind of ink...we need at least several different ones. For my full thoughts on all the types of ink I've used, please read the Ink section on THIS PAGE.

Disclaimer: The following ink reviews are based on my personal experience...individual results WILL vary. One thing I've learned over the years in this hobby is that one person's favorite product is another's trash....and visa-versa. Variables like paper type, pressure, stamping surface, and so forth will change from situation to situation and affect results. Try inks for yourself, and take others' reviews with a grain of salt...or embossing powder.

Memento inks used to be my favorites in the Waterproof Dye Ink category, but they've let me down. The first 24 colors worked great with all kinds of stamps, but the 12 new colors (which were disappointingly dark and/or dull in the first place) look blotchy and uneven when stamped, especially with clear stamps. I contacted the company and didn't receive any feedback or suggestions.

I still want a waterproof dye ink that works well with all stamps, so I decided to try Memories/Hero Arts inks again. Years ago, I used Memories and mostly liked them, but that was before I accepted photopolymer stamps into my family. Besides, Hero Hues look so gosh darn gorgeous in the catalog I want to eat them up. The four colors I ordered in full-size pads are absolutely beautiful together, a soothing ocean palette that relaxes me just to look at.

I wanted the small cubes, but they appear only to be available in 4-cube sets...and the sets overlap in colors, which is deeply annoying. Cement, for instance, appears in at least two of the sets. WHY?

The neon cube set came to live with me because Joan B said they were cool, and they are. So that's all her fault.

And yes, I'm annoyed the blue pad is rotated 90 degrees....

In the end, the Hero Arts inks work fine with rubber stamps but not as well with clear stamps.

So, in conclusion, inks drive me crazy.

4. Some Random Ink Samples with a Clear Stamp

Note: All my samples are stamped on Papertrey's Stampers Select White Card Stock. This makes a difference! Using different paper WILL yield different results.

The winner of the three...crisp, clean image, smooth
inking, no blotchiness. All the detail of the
pinecone is clear.

Blotchy, some feathering of edges,
clumps of ink on the pinecone

Better than Memento on edges...less feathering,
and overall smoother image, but loss of detail
on pinecone.

If you stamp with clear stamps, your best bet is probably thick inks like VersaColor, VersaMagic, Colorbox, and Brilliance. 

5. My Bottom Line on Ink.
a. Good rubber works with most good inks. If it doesn't, use a white eraser on the rubber to remove any residue from the manufacturing process. The dye inks might still be a bit blotchy on large expanses of rubber, but generally speaking, it all works out.

b. Photopolymer works best with thick, creamy inks like VersaColor, VersaMagic, Colorbox chalk or pigment inks, and Brilliance. The old Memento colors also work reasonably well, but the thick inks are just better with clear stamps, unless you like blotchy, which makes sense for vintage/shabby styles.

c. I have no experience with other popular inks, such as Ranger, Tim Holtz distress, and A Muse. Perhaps those of you who use those will comment on their performance.

I hope this post has given you something useful to think about and inspired you to experiment with your own inks or try out new inks.


  1. Fascinating post Susan - thanks for sharing your findings with us, like you, I have tons of inks! AND a storage nightmare!


  2. Thank you. This was very interesting to read. And I agree on your conclusion that thicker inks like Colorbox and VersaMagic do work better for clear stamps. :)

    I also think it's worth pointing out that I do the same when I'm in a creative funk: go through everything, purge and re organise.

    Re organising ANYTHING just makes me feel so much better. My clothing drawers HAVE to be organised in rainbow order for example and I am INCLINED to purchase things if there are gaps! Makes me happy now to open those drawers and just stare... Ahhh... Anyway, I digress!

    No need to worry- the creativity will come back when it's good and ready (and often inspiration comes from the strangest places).


  3. Nice drawers (pardon the phrase). Organizing and purging my craft supplies is on my long list of to-dos. I may have gotten a little encouragement to move it up the list by this recent post I ran across about donating art supplies to victims of the Oklahoma tornado:

    Thanks for the overview. You may have saved me some future spending dollars. Luckily, I don't live near a Michael's or Joann's or Hobby Lobby. My LSS store, where I spent lots of money, has gone out of business. That's good news for my bank account, but bad news for them.

  4. you crack me up. sorry the kids are messing with your mind.

  5. Thank you, Susan ... such an interesting and informative read. I don't have many ink pads yet and have been putting off getting more because I haven't found a make that works for me ... although that could just be a lack of experience/expertise. I have a couple of Memento ones and thought it was something I was/wasn't doing that was causing my stamped images to be blotchy ... glad to hear it's not just me. I can feel a small spend coming on to try your recommendations! Anita :)

  6. TFS, Susan. I have a little of this and a lot of that and I am with you on inks drive me crazy. I find some colors of certain brands work well with some of my stamps but not other. I guess I just have to live with it.

  7. Thanks for the ink info...very helpful:)

  8. Thank you Susan, this has been both interesting and helpful

  9. So funny and so helpful at the same time. You ARE brilliant!

    Inks....such an annoying but necessary part of our craft. I was fine when I first started out. I was all SU all the time. Being a demo, kind of dictated such dedication. Then I dropped as a demo and my heart ( and my craft dollars ) began to wander. Suddenly I am confronted with clear stamps, some great quality, some not so tried and true SU inks bead up on all of them! Thus began my journey through Memento, Chalk inks, Brilliance, and on and on.

    I've recently purchased the GinaK black...we ALWAYS "need" another black ink pad right? So far so good. Though I haven't given it a thorough test drive, through all my various quality clear stamps and on my rubber; but I will when I have time! I may take the leap and buy a few colors next.

  10. Susan, I needed to read this BEFORE I went to the craft show yesterday, LOL! I just bought six distress inks (my first), so I'll test them out for stamping soon. I have mostly Stampin' Up!, but their new stamp pads have totally lost me (they're AWFUL - wet and blotchy). I also have Hero Arts, PTI, and Memento. I might try Brilliance next, or Versa Magic. I do like a nice crisp image, and I use mostly clear stamps. Thanks for the review!

  11. Very interesting and informative post, Susan. I have a lot of Close to My Heart inks. They work perfectly on CTMH stamps, but they are terrible with other clear stamps. I have Memento inks, dye, chalk and brilliance. They work well with all my stamps. I also occasionally use distress inks for stamping - I have about six inks. would love to try some Hero Arts inks, but haven't bought any. I definitely need some new colors, but I also need Memento refills :)

  12. Thank you for posting this. After investing so much in SU pads and reinkers (why did I think I needed every reinker I will never know) I have been hesitant to spend more money on more inks. I use mostly clear stamps and realize I need to try some new inks. Too often I get blotchy results with the SU inks. I will try some of these and see if if it helps. Thanks for enabling.
    And I can certainly understand how hearing "Mommy" repeatedly all day long can crush your mo-jo. There are days it makes me want to pull my hair out. How many more days before school starts back?

  13. I just attended an LSS garage sale and got rid of a ton of unloved goodies. Feels great and now I have some $$ to chew down a few wish lists. Love the info on the inks - have been eying the Versa Magic for some time. May have to buy one to check it out - thanks for the tips/comparisons. As for summer, hang in there. Usually takes me a week to adjust to kids being home full time!

  14. Susan, I LOVED this post! I am totally stealing your "ADD/OCD/OMG" phrase. I use clear stamps a lot too, and one trick I learned from Tim Holtz is this: put archival black ink (I like Ranger) on them and let it dry. Then wash off what will come off which won't be a lot. Now those stamps will "hold" other inks better. Try it--it really works! And btw, ALL the Ranger archival inks are gorgeous if you want to feed your OCD by getting them all. Just sayin'. lol.

  15. I second what Toni said about putting archival ink on clear stamps first - it's a great tip from Tim Holtz. You asked about his inks - I have bought a lot of them as I love the Distress colour range and the inks work beautifully for sponging, for inking up an acrylic block for a shadow background, for inking up stamps and then spritzing for a watercolour effect, etc. And if you work quickly, you can heat emboss them even though they are technically a dye ink.

    As for inks in general, I know I have too many but they are one of the basic elements of our craft so I don't begrudge the money I spent or the space they take. I use an old audio cassette holder my Dad was clearing out for all of them except for the couple of SU inks I own (I hate SU containers - I always get ink on my fingers when I open them!) which sit on top and the dew drops which are in a small box. The ones in the cassette holder are sorted first by dye or pigment, and then by colour.

  16. Well, I definitely don't know enough about inks to make comparisons, so I'll just comment on what you said about how annoying it is when companies sell "sets" of things and then duplicate colors from one set to another. I recently purchased a pack of 5 distress markers at Michaels. I checked CAREFULLY to make sure it was not a package I already had... a different name and SKU. Since the markers were placed in the package so that I couldn't see the color names printed on the side of each marker, I still had confidence I would be getting 5 markers that I didn't yet have in my collection since I had checked the collection name and SKU. Then I got home and opened the package where I could finally read the colors of each marker and I was very aggravated to find that they had repeated 2 markers that I had already purchased in another 5 pack. Of course, there are other marker colors out there that they have never included in these sets of 5, so it's not as if there weren't other colors they could have chosen so that those of us who have tried to collect all the different colors would have been happy campers. I thought about writing to the company, but now days so few companies care about customer service I figured it would just be a waste of time. I may take this set back to Michaels, or I may just keep it and use those extra markers to try some new techniques. But, whatever I end up doing, that company has gone down a few notches in my eyes.

    Thanks for your comments about the Hero Arts inks with clear stamps. I've been wanting some of their beautiful colors, so I'm sad to hear that they don't perform well with clear stamps. One would think since HA makes tons of clear stamps they would work to provide a line of inks that would stamp well with their clear stamps. While I can't say that I have ever had a lot of the problems with clear stamps that I hear about others having, I guess I'll think twice before spending money on the Hero Arts inks.

  17. Colorado Crafter, I should have said that I THINK Hero's inks probably work much better with their own paper and clear stamps. I use Papertrey Ink's card stock most of the time, and it's VERY different from Hero's paper, which is smoother. I'll give the Hero inks a try with Hero clear stamps and Gina K's card stock, which is much smoother than Papertrey's for a comparison.


  18. Great article/rant. I like Distress inks but I don't think they will suit your CAS style and think they will be a source of irritation to you. I like Versafine inks for clear, crisp images and I have a few Impress dye ink pads which I used often. Inking clear stamps with archival ink first works really well and helps prevent beading of ink on clear stamps. Ink pad storage is a pain and I have yet to find a sensible way of storing them.

  19. As always, Susan, your post was funny and informative. (ADD/OCD/OMG!) And inks...can't even begin to express some of my frustrations at them. I have two HA Neons--the pink works like a dream, and the green is nothing but blotches no matter the stamp. I bought a couple of the $1 Studio G inks for my 5yo granddaughter, and they're quite lovely! Big surprise that! So far am liking the Colorbox minis, and still like my old SU for the most part, and found a Jenni Bowlin for Ranger that never fails. Someday it would be nice to be down to a veritable rainbow of matchy-matchy inks...they would look so nice in my drawers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and allowing us to comment too. I think this helps so many of us. Bev

  20. I'm OCD/OMG without the ADD (though my husband might disagree on the last). I love this storage unit for inks :
    If you use Tim Holtz Distress inks (which I do), they also sell inserts that will pop in the ink slot to keep the smaller Distress inks pads from sliding too far back in the slot. If they won't fit on your craft table, you can hang them on the wall. You can also get marker holders that will Velcro onto each side to hold slim markers like Sakura Gelly roll or atyouSpica Glitter pens.


Thank you so much for taking time to comment!