Friday, February 12, 2016

One Ink, Two Ink, Red Ink, Blue Ink – A Guide to Ink Pads

Today at Scrappin' Peeps Winter Camp, I'm all about the inks!

When I first started out the only ink pad I knew about was the black felt one in my dad’s office that he used to stamp the return address on his business envelopes.  Little did I know how complicated the world of ink could be, and it’s only gotten more so as the years go on.  (For this reason, I’m going to focus only on ink pads today, and save spray inks, stains, reinkers, India ink, alcohol ink, etc. for another day.)  Here is a little tutorial on what the different kinds of ink pads are, and what are the best options for the different projects you might work on.

There are two basic kinds of ink: dye and pigment.  Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?

Dye Ink                                                             Pigment Ink
Translucent                                                        opaque
Dries quickly on matte paper                            dries slower on matte paper (good for heat embossing)
Dries fairly quickly on slick surfaces               may need to be heat set in order to dry on slick surfaces
Soaks into paper                                                sits on top of paper
Usually has a felt or linen pad                           usually has a foam pad
Most will fade over time                                    much more colorfast
Best on lighter backgrounds                               works well for both light and dark backgrounds

In the Dye Ink family you will find different subsets that work well for different applications:

1.       Waterbased dye inks – these are one of the most common inks available and the easiest to find.  They can be used for stamping as long you don’t plan on coloring the image with another water-based ink like markers.  Colored pencils work great, though.  These are not the best choice for scrapbooking because they usually fade over time.

2.       Waterproof dye inks – these can be used for coloring with markers and other water-based colorants without smearing.  Many people like to use either Ranger’s Archival Ink or Tsukineko’s Memento Ink to stamp images they plan to color with markers, especially alcohol markers like Copic and Spectrum Noir.  These inks can be more fade resistant than the regular dye inks – check the label to be sure.  These may need to be cleaned with a permanent/solvent ink cleaner rather than just water.

3.       Distress Inks – these inks have special properties that keep them wet longer than most dye inks, so you can blend them and use them for heat embossing.  The color also floats when sprayed with water, so you can create interesting effects.  These are great for inking the edges of paper with a makeup sponge or blending tool since they don’t dry as fast and you can get a better blended look with them.  I personally don’t like them for stamping because the image looks mottled, like the ink didn’t evenly cover the stamp.  That might be a look you’re going for though, if you’re doing distressed or shabby chic looks.  These are fade resistant, so more scrapbooking friendly.

This example of stamping done with Whispers (a waterproof dye ink) vs. Distress Inks shows the mottling Distress Inks give.

Here are a few other kinds of inks you might come across:

Chalk ink – these are usually a type of pigment ink that dries with a chalky, matte finish.  These are nice for inking directly on canvas and other textured surfaces.

Solvent Inks – (Staz-On)  these are non-water based and are usually waterproof, fade proof, and permanent.  They work great on non-porous surfaces such as glass, metal, and plastic.  DO NOT use solvent inks with alcohol markers (Copic, Spectrum Noir, etc.).  The alcohol will dissolve the solvent and may ruin your marker, as well as smear the image.

Hybrid Inks – these combine properties of both dye and pigment inks, so they fall somewhere in the middle of the transparent to opaque range.  They dry quickly, like a dye ink, but can be used on many surfaces like a pigment ink.  My Favorite Things is one manufacturer that makes hybrid inks.  I haven’t tried them out myself yet, but I hear from a lot of stampers that they love them.

Specialty Inks – watermark, resist, and embossing inks fall into this category.  Some, like the Ranger Inkssentials Watermark Resist, do all three jobs.  It leaves a watermark impression on dark papers, can be used as a resist for waterbased inks, and dries slowly and has a stickiness that make it great for heat embossing.

And now, a quick-reference guide to what ink to use for certain projects:

·         Stamping sentiments or images that won’t be colored – pretty much any ink can be used for this.  For dark backgrounds use a pigment ink.

·         Stamping for coloring – Any ink will work for colored pencils, but for markers choose a waterproof dye ink.  Do NOT use solvent ink (like Staz-On) with alcohol markers.

·         Edging papers and photos for scrapbooking – choose fade resistant inks like waterproof dye inks, Distress Inks, or pigment inks.  Check the label if you’re not sure.

·         Backgrounds – Distress Inks are great for making backgrounds since they blend well together and react to water in a unique way.  Check out some Tim Holtz videos on YouTube to see how versatile these inks can be.

·         Heat Embossing – There are specialty embossing inks that work great for this.  They dry clear to show off your embossing powder’s true color.  Pigment and Distress Inks also work well for this, and you can create some cool effects by using a colored ink under your colored powder, or colored ink with a clear embossing powder for a varnish effect.

·         Non-porous surfaces (glossy paper, glass, metal, etc.) – solvent inks work best on these, but some pigments and waterproof inks can also be used if you heat set them with a heat gun or blow dryer.

·         Kids’ crafts – any ink pad that says WASHABLE on it!  ;)

* Note: Some of this info comes from my own use of different inks, but much of it was gleaned from the internet on sites like and

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for putting this ink information together!