Wide world of inks
Expression, July-August, 2005 by Kathie Gillaspey
If I had written this article 10 or 12 years ago, it would have gone something like this: There are two types of inks--dye inks and pigment inks. Dye inks are thin-bodied, brightly colored inks that dry quickly by evaporation. They work well on absorbent papers but won't dry on non-porous surfaces. It's best to color images with colored pencils, as water-based markers or watercolors will cause the outlines to run and smear. Keep stamped images away from light, as they are prone to fading.
Pigment inks are thick-bodied, opaque colors that dry by absorption. They sit on top of whatever they're stamped on and will eventually dry on porous paper. They will not dry on glossy, coated card stock. However, because of their slow drying time, they are perfect to use with your favorite colored embossing powder or clear embossing powder. Their color is very stable and will not fade. Because they are water-based, unless first embossed, they will run if used with other water-based medium such as markers or paints.
There it is--an article comparing ink in the dark ages. If only it were that easy today. Back in those days, once we mastered when to use either of the two types of ink available, we were free to pursue more difficult tasks like "masking." Sure, life was easier, but we were terribly limited to the things we could stamp on. How did we live without being able to stamp on dominoes or glass?nt
Today, the six major ink companies (Clearsnap, Jacquard, Marvy, Ranger, Stewart Superior and Tsukineko) offer more than a whopping 1,500 choices combined. If you are anything like the typical addicted stamper, and follow the "Rules of Acquisition," you own a good number of these inks, whether you admit to it or not!
Along with dye and pigment inks, there are now chalk inks, heat-set inks, permanent inks, alcohol, fabric and watercolor varieties, to name a few, just waiting for us to get our inky fingers on. They are available in an endless supply of colors whose sample swatches could easily fill an entire paint chip rack at your local home-improvement store. How is the savvy stamper, scrapbook fanatic, fabric or book artist to know which one to use when? How do we know which ones are must haves and which ones you might never need? Okay, that last question was just to see if you were paying attention ... of course you need them all!
First: The Basics
Well, you already know about dye vs. pigment ink from my informative description that began this journey. What other types have the great Gods of inks bestowed upon us in the past 10 years or so? If memory serves me correct, one of the first great improvements in the ink arena was the introduction of a heat-set ink. An ink that could be stamped on a non-porous surface and then dried with a heat tool, thereby rendering it permanent. It still was categorized as a pigment ink, but it was so much more. It was offered in packaging that gave us eight colors that could actually be removed from the base, used individually or together, like a rainbow pad--a rainbow pad that could be configured anyway your little heart desired. We were able to stamp on non-porous surfaces without embossing, as long as they could take the heat.
After heat-set inks another revolutionary idea surfaced--dye inks that were semi-permanent. We not only stamped with them but when they dried thoroughly, we could use water-based markers or watercolors without the image smearing.
Then the choices started coming fast and furious. New metallic pigment inks were introduced. Some could be made permanent by heat-setting, others were just more fabulously sparkly pigment inks. New solvent-based permanent inks and non-solvent-based permanent inks were introduced. The old solvent inks were actually around in the "old days," but were so messy and unforgiving that only a few brave souls used them. All it took was getting it on your favorite Grateful Dead T-shirt one time to keep you away from it forever. And who could forget that head-spinning solvent odor! The new inks had little or no smell, stayed wet on the stamp pad and could easily be cleaned with new stamp cleaners and a little elbow grease.
In the meantime, the choices for colors in both dye and pigment inks seemed to explode. Unique packaging ideas were being introduced. The inks in the removable bases were being sold in wedges of eight coordinating colors that fit together to form a handy-dandy round package. No more guessing which color went best with which. Plus they were stackable! Which was a good thing, because they were offered in more than one color palette ... and we just had to have them all.
A new type of rainbow dye pad was introduced that allowed you to separate the colors when storing the pad so they wouldn't blend into each other and turn a muddy brown as was often the case with the older rainbow pads. Old standbys were available in smaller packing so that it was more affordable to collect them all and definitely easier to cart off to a stamp club, on a cruise or to a retreat.
From then on, it's pretty much a colorful blur as to who introduced which earth-shattering formula or technique next. We saw inks that dried to a subtle chalky patina and inks that were made especially for fabric. Companies began consulting with well-known designers and artists in the field and developed special brands of inks that best showed off these artists' special techniques. We were introduced to ink that didn't have any color at all--they left a lovely watermark effect when stamped, or were used as the binder for using other art supplies like Pearl Ex and Powdered Pearls.
Although they have been around for a while, alcohol inks are all the rage now. Their use in rubber stamping was pioneered by Suze Weinberg, who developed the "polished stone" technique that has become a favored technique in every serious stamper's bag of tricks. Ranger and Jacquard have fine-tuned the color choices, each as unique as the companies who make them.
In the past year or so there has been an explosion of super luxurious metallic inks that dry on just about any surface. The addition of super-fine mica powders to special ink formulas create effects that range from iridescent or interference sparkles on dark papers, to rich, deep metallic colors that are hard to distinguish from actual metal.
The other hot trend recently has been inks that help "age" a project. This has brought about terrific inks that help create instant antiques with stamp pads and ink sprays.
Whatever it is that keeps these companies striving for the next "new and improved" or "you're not going to believe this" ink. I hope they continue it for years to come. They've taken it from a few rubber stamps on the back of an envelope to the incredible art form it has grown into.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Care And Feeding Of Your Stamp Pads
What's the most frequent piece of advice offered by veteran stampers to newbies? My guess? "When you buy a new stamp pad in a new color or formulation, but the reinker!" Having the reinker ensures you will never be faced with a dry pad in the middle of an important project.
If you are a fan of the Direct-to-Paper (DTP) technique developed by the folks at Magenta along with Clearsnap, you know that aside from using a lot of ink, smooshing that pad directly to the paper can easily shred a dry or drying pad. Reink early and often.
After making the initial investment in the pad, buying the matching reinker is the thrifty thing to do. It's much cheaper than buying a new pad each time Depending on how heavily you use your pads, a single reinker can last years. To reink a pad, apply ink to the pad and work it in using the nozzle of the reinker, or the back of a plastic spoon or old credit card.
Another advantage to having reinkers on hand is that they can do much more than refresh a dry pad. They can be used like paint straight from the bottle. Try squirting some onto a pile of shaving cream, marbling slightly with a toothpick or skewer. Then lay a piece of card stock into the shaving cream. Pull the paper straight up, remove the shaving cream with a spatula or straight edge and voila--instant marble background.
You can even create custom colors or rainbow combinations by using a Cut n' Dry foam or felt pad and mixing the colors of your choice. Of course, it's best if you make up your colors from like products by the same manufacturer. Don't throw away the pad when you've finished with it. Place the pad in a resealable plastic bag and store it with your other ink pads. It's a good idea to label the bag with the colors and types of inks used.
To store your reinker bottles buy a parts-type box at the home-improvement store, or keep them by type in plastic bins that fit into an Iris cart drawer (or two or three). You can even keep them together in plastic bags. My personal storage system keeps the pads with the reinkers in the aforementioned parts box. The boxes are clearly labeled with the name of the inks it contains (i.e., ColorBox and reinkers, Pinata Inks, Palette Hybrid and reinkers, etc.). I must admit however, I am currently well on my way to filling my ninth box!
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