Saturday, April 5, 2014

What I Know about Using Kaleidacolor Ink Pads and Why CAS Isn't Easy

An anonymous commenter asked how I get such good impressions with the Kaleidacolor ink pads, so here's all I know about using them, gleaned from good ol' trial and error.

1. Kaleidacolor pads have five narrow ink pads with different colors on each pad. The ink is runny and water-based, meaning it will blend extremely well, but if the pads touched all the time, the colors would bleed and get muddy. For this reason, when you're not using the pads or when you just want to use one color, they are separated like this.

To use the pad for its spectrum effect, you just slide the five pads together, using the handle on the left of the pads to squish them all together like this.

2. If you try to ink an image just by pressing it once or twice on the pad, you'll not be happy with the results. The colors won't blend well, and you'll likely get lines where the stamp didn't even ink at all, as with the image on the left below. The image on the right was made after tapping the stamp on the pad repeatedly and moving the stamp right and left about one-quarter inch or so between tappings. By moving the stamp around a bit and repeatedly touching the pad, you'll blend the separate colors and get a smoother spectrum effect. You should be able to see the proper blending on the stamp before you press it to the paper, too.

The slight blotchiness on the right is probably because I
hadn't used an eraser on this new stamp yet, so the film
from manufacturing is still on it.

Here is another example of blending using a different Kaleidacolor pad.


Side-by-side comparison. The blended version on the
right is much, much better!

3. Yes, you will get some bleeding across pads as a result of blending, but that's okay. It will actually make the pad easier to use over time, so don't fret.

4. You can also spritz the stamp with water or glimmer mist after inking for even more blending and a lovely watercolor effect if you want.

5. I always stamp my first inking of an image on scrap paper to see how the blending is going, then ink again using the multiple-taps/moving-around method before stamping on my project. It pays to play it safe here.

6. ALWAYS remember to separate the five pads by sliding them apart BEFORE putting the lid on and storing the Kaleidacolor inks. ALWAYS. ETA: Reader Anne reminded me that you actually can't put the lid on properly if the inks aren't separated. So no worries there!

And that's what I know about Kaleidacolor pads. Get some. Play. Experiment for yourself. They really are lots of fun. See!!!

To make this card, I inked up the arrow border from Hero Arts Borders and Arrows set and stamped it on a scrap. Then, I inked the sentiment so that it would match the colors on the right side of the border, thus instantly connecting the sentiment to the border and enhancing the unity of the design. The sentiment, which is the focal point of the card, is about 1/3 up the raised panel, taking advantage of the rule of thirds.

And now let's talk about Clean-And-Simple (or CAS) stamping.

Sandy at Operation Write Home did a video recently on how to make CAS cards. You can watch it HERE. It's got some excellent advice for beginners and experienced card makers alike. Sandy points out several things that make a huge difference in CAS stamping, and I'd like to share some key points in my process as well.

Today's card shows that even with all that gloriously beautiful white space, each and every element was deliberately planned and placed to work together. There is nothing random about the design. Also, it looks incredibly simple and easy, but think about all the skill and thought that went into it:

1. Inking of stamps.  My husband once joked that stamping is easy...just plop the stamp on the ink pad, then plop it on paper, and you're done! Oh, if only it were that easy! I got lucky on the above card, and my first attempt turned out great, but I trash a lot of poorly inked/blotchy images or sentiments. I'll show an example of this tomorrow as proof.

2. Carefully placed, straight images and sentiments. There's no eyeballing going on here. I use gridded acrylic blocks for clear stamps and stamp positioners for rubber stamps. No exceptions. For this card, I stamped on a larger piece of card stock and trimmed it down with an Omnigrid Quilting Ruler and an exacto knife...a skill that requires lots of practice and attention to detail. I made sure there was exactly a quarter-inch of white on either end of the border stamp for perfect centering, and that the whole popped piece was proportioned to fit with an even border on a standard 5.5"x4.25" card. You can see my proportional matting chart on Pinterest HERE. The panel on this card is 4"x2 3/4".

3. Coordinated images and sentiment. Fonts matter. This serif font from Hero Arts Year Round Sentiments is crisp and angular and goes great with the style of the arrow border. A cursive or curvy font would look weird here. All the elements on a card have to work together to create unity...especially when there are so very few of them. So I make sure the fonts fit. (Which means a stamper truly can NEVER have too many sentiments!)

4. High-quality materials. My card stock is high-quality, 110# cover stock, extra thick and wonderful to the touch. The ink is high quality, name brand, and juicy. The dimensionals are from SU...very sticky and uniform, and there are six of them behind that panel for extra-strong adhesion. If you use cheap supplies or skimp on quality construction, your cards will look cheap or fall apart...a lesson I learned from the amazing Julie Ebersole. It's absolutely worth the money to buy fewer, better-quality supplies than a bunch of low-quality supplies. You'll be so much happier in the long run! And to those of you who don't want to waste "good"'s not waste. It's use. Even if you screw up, you're learning what not to do.

In short, clean-and-simple stamping isn't easy. On a CAS card, your eye will notice anything that doesn't fit or isn't straight or absolutely perfect...and once your eye sees the mistake, it will see nothing else.

And this explains why my recycle bin is always full. I'm not perfect.

At all.

These are my standards for CAS because I'm AR/OC and weird and have been doing this for roughly 12 years. If you're just starting as a card maker or trying CAS for the first time after years of making highly embellished cards, don't be intimidated. JUST PLAY. Seriously! Be willing to make mistakes, embrace the mistakes, learn from them. Slow down and enjoy the process of creation and relish the details...even if they're only a quarter of an inch!

Jumping into CAS with a spirit of play and fun is MUCH better than aiming for perfection out of the starting gate. I've been at this for years and still make wretched mistakes each and every time I sit down at my craft desk. CAS isn't easy, but it is worth it.

I've got the white space to prove it!

Do you have any suggestions for good CAS design? Please share!

stamps: Hero Arts
ink: Kaleidacolor
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: dimensionals


  1. Oooh, must check my inks...I think they have been stored for a very long time without the space in between. Oops.

  2. These pads are great because you cannot close the lid without separating the pads. I like it when thought and care goes into a product! Thank you for the tutorial, getting back to the basics is so essential as bad habits creep in. And I am so glad that I'm not the only one who thinks that mistakes are not opportunities. My happy accidents are a wastepaper bin and a chocolate biscuit...with a cuppa Rosie-Lee of course! :O) TFS!

    1. I'd completely forgotten about that, Anne. Thanks for reminding me!

  3. Hi - Thanks so much for the tutorial on spectrum stamping! I loved the cards you didand immediatelywent out and bought some spectrum pads and pulledout ask my reverse image stamps but my results were terrible. Ready for take 2 now. Thank you so much.

    Caroline (Weird - not sure why I'm listed as anonymous)

    1. Caroline,

      I can think of two things that could be causing problems. First, is your paper a nice, high-quality paper. Poor-quality paper rarely takes images well. Second, have you used an eraser on the stamps? Stamps often have residue from manufacturing that makes ink pool on them. Take an eraser and vigorously rub the whole stamp, clean it well on a damp washcloth or stamp cleaning pad to remove all eraser residue, and try to stamp again. If there is still a problem, let us know!

      Hope this helps,

  4. Thanks so much, Susan ... what a great tutorial on Kaleidoscope ... they've been on my wish list for such a long time and I could never justify the expense ... p'raps I can now! Thanks also for the CAS guidance ... it's good to know there are others who measure to the nth degree ... mine's in centimetres, but it's the same principle ... i somehow 'know' when it's even a millimetre out! Anita :)

  5. Great post Susan! I agree quality supplies are a must, cheapies just bring heart ache. ( and a full bin of recyclable stuff )

  6. Thanks for the technique tips on using those ink pads. Very helpful for any type of multi-colour inking.

    Number 3 on your list explains what is wrong with a card that I can't quite put my finger on. And it justifies my sentiment obsession, er, stash.

    Do you ever sketch out your designs first? Or stamp them on copy paper first? Would this help reduce the amount of recycling? ;-)

  7. Thanks for more cool info, Susan. I can't wait to try the Kaleidacolor ink pad you sent me (thanks again). I have some good quality paper and some cheap stuff. There's a big difference. And I definitely need more sentiments. Font and size of the font are so important. I sometimes have trouble with the placement of the sentiment.

  8. I wish I could download your design knowledge into my brain! LOL

  9. What great information. I am new to the CAS style and very willing and eager to learn. I am convinced the CAS style is the hardest style out there and you ladies are also the most creative and talented out there too x Beverley x

  10. YES! I knew there was a reason I collect sentiment sets. Once can never have too many. I love the different fonts for different designs.


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