Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Color Layering, Part 1

Many stamp companies are coming out with color-layering stamps...images with two, three, four, or 14 separate stamps to give a life-like and vastly more interesting look to flowers, animals, scenery, and such.

These used to be called (by StampinUp, at least) two-step stamps, back in the day when all good-quality stamps were red rubber mounted on wood. I hated two-step stamps. Even when I used a good stamp positioner, the images NEVER turned out right. Two-step rubber stamps were (for me) an exercise in frustration and wasted paper.

Then photopolymer stamps became all the rage, the idea being that they would be EASY to line up for multi-step stamping because you could see right through them, and golly gee, isn't this amazing?

Except they weren't. Well, they were better than red rubber but not good enough. My hands are pretty steady but not steady enough to line up many two-step stamps perfectly enough to satisfy my perfectionist eye. More frustration. More wasted paper.

Until brilliant stamping gurus invented the MISTI. NOW it's supposed to be easy to do multi-step stamping.

Well, sort of. Again, it's an improvement, but it's still not perfect. Either I'm loosening up in my old age, letting go of my insidious perfectionism, or I've just stopped caring so much.

Lately, however, with Altenew's amazing floral layered stamps and Hero Arts' layered animals, this whole concept of color layering is reaching new levels of complexity and crazy.

So I thought I'd weigh in on the subject as I'm certain there are other stampers out there whose experience parallels mine...and they will feel vindicated and comforted by my bumbling mistakes on this front in my war to be creative.

Because it's war, folks. War between my Wish List and my Checking Account. Two sides in horrible, horrible conflict that leaves me bloody and bruised and wondering where everything went terribly wrong in my life.

I knew things were nuts when I ordered the Color Layering Sea Turtle from Hero Arts. We'd been to Hawaii and snorkeled with a sea turtle, so the set called to me.

Until I realized that the thing had not two, not three, not five, but THIRTEEN individual stamps to line up. Or, as I liked to call it after making a lot of trash, THIRTEEN OPPORTUNITIES TO FAIL.


With a MISTI, it took almost 15 minutes of futzing for me to stamp a sea turtle...and it still wasn't perfect. The color-layering peacock isn't much better at seven stamps, and the rooster has eight stamps. The sea horse, however, only has three, and the octopus a delightfully simple two.

Guess which sets I have kept.

Oh, yeah.

This octopus makes me so very happy, especially stamped in Hero Arts dark quartz and Papertrey's terra cotta. He's waving that tentacle to say hello, and darn it, he makes me smile. TWO STAMPS, people. And with a MISTI, he's incredibly easy to line up almost every single time.

Also, the branching coral in the set is one of my favorite stamps ever. Not sure why, but it is so very pretty and the coordinating die makes it incredibly versatile, too. It looks great with the Hero Arts ombre inks, too.

To make the water background, I rubbed an acrylic block with Tim Holtz distress inks (tumbled glass and mermaid lagoon), spritzed it with water, and stamped it onto Hero Arts handmade watercolor paper. The top panel uses a die (unknown) to create the window and is popped up using craft foam. The octopus is glued to the top panel and has dimensionals under him as well. The coral is popped using very thin dimensionals.

So my first piece of advice as you consider purchasing color-layered images for stamping is this: don't buy sets that have tons of layers to create an image unless you have a high tolerance for imperfection and/or a lot of time and huge paper stash for making mistakes and starting over again.

Just sayin'.

stamps: Hero Arts Color Layering Octopus
ink: Hero Arts dark quartz; Papertrey terra cotta; Archival black; distress tumbled glass, mermaid lagoon
paper: Hero Arts handmade watercolor paper, Papertrey white
accessories: frame die (Simon Says Stamp, I think but am not sure), craft foam, glue, coordinating dies, dimensionals


  1. I am amazed at your patience for attempting this, I wouldn't.

  2. Thank you for sharing your frustrations with laying stamps. I totally agree. I'm still searching from my style, but I know multi-layering isn't it.

  3. 13? Holy moly! Not for me. Like you I struggle to line up images adequately even with a Misti type positioner.

  4. It's like you can see into my soul... :) totally agree!!

  5. I totally agree with the frustration & I'm only dealing with Altenew flowers & 3 layers. Posted a note to this effect on a card yesterday & another person kindly directed me to Altenew Academy's FREE class on layering!
    Another frustration are the coordinating dies, which I find sadly lacking. I personally HATE the white border that most leave. And your octopus has so much white it's distracting.

  6. I'm so happy to hear that I am not the only one who is frustrated with layered stamps. A year or so ago I ordered a layered flower stamp set from Hero Arts. I spent countless hours over the course of a week trying to get them to work and gave it up. Later got a Misti, which I love, and it helped a little but still did not end up looking like something I'd send on a card. Now it lives at the bottom of one of my drawers -- in case I ever want to be completely frustrated again. So, I feel better knowing I'm not alone with my frustration.

  7. YES!! especially the ones that it isn't clear which way they go. I turn and turn and turn trying hard to see which way they would stAmp best on the previous stamped part. I think i have it but then no, it's not right. But oh how the experts make it looks so pretty!

  8. I agree. I have trouble lining up sentiments too...I'll look into a free class on layering. Thanks.

  9. I'm with you on the many-layer question. Two layers is my limit.


Thank you so much for taking time to comment!