The amazing way that paper and ink work together is the basis for stamped art. The possibilities seem endless with all the great varieties of ink now available. Each ink has its own characteristics and thus its own character when rubber hits paper.
This brief article is meant to be an overview rather than an exhaustive discussion of the difference between this ink and that. While each ink can have some fabulously arresting effects, I thought we could start with the simple facts - all that's fit to print!
Dye inks are water-based and most are acid-free. They color paper by staining the surface and so work best on light colored cardstocks and papers.
Dye inks tend to dry fast and work on both coated and uncoated papers. Images on coated papers generally appear crisp. Impressions on uncoated or absorbent stock may be slightly muddied and may smear. One drawback to dye inks is that do fade over time especially if left in direct sunlight.
With a wide range of colors available in lines from manufacturers such as Stampin' Up! and Ranger with their Adirondack Dye Ink line, it's easy to see why these inks are so popular. Easy clean-up is another point in the favor of dye inks.
If you want to over-color your image with markers or other inks, you will need to use a waterproof dye ink such as Tsukineko's Memento line and Ranger's Archival inks. Non-waterproof dye inks may smudge and smear if over-colored.
Wonderfully thick and rich textured, pigment inks sit on top of the paper creating a more vibrant color and crisper image. Most pigment inks are suitable for use with archival materials and resist fading. Pigments are used best on uncoated paper as they tend to not dry well on coated surfaces such as glossy papers.
These inks have a moderate to slow drying time which makes them wonderful for blending colors and as a medium to hold embossing powder.
Due to the thicker nature of the ink, cleaning stamps is best accomplished by running the rubber under water.
Among the most popular pigment inks are Clearsnap's ColorBox line and Tsukino's VersaColor line.
Solvent inks are permanent and fast-drying. They are designed to work on a variety of non-porous and semi-porous surfaces making this a great ink for mix media artists and stampers alike. Solvent inks can stamp on such surfaces as cardstock, specialty papers, plastic, canvas, wood, letther, aluminum foil and tile.
Due to its wonderful fast-drying nature and permanent impressions, solvent inks are great for stamping images to be colored with ink, markers or watercolor pencils onto watercolor paper. Those same great qualities also mean that this ink is a little trickier to clean off your stamps. Luckily, there are special solvent ink cleaning solutions that make clean up a breeze.
I would suggest that you keep your ink pad closed whenever not in use, will dry out quickly if exposed to air. One of the popular lines of solvent inks is Tsukineko's StazOn line with its growing ranger of colors.
Alcohol inks are acid-free, translucent permanent dye-based inks usually sold in bottles instead of pads in a variety of colors. They have a very fast drying time and are useful for coloring a variety of mediums such as glossy paper, metal, plastic, glass and dominoes. While alcohol inks aren't used for inking stamps, it can be used to create backgrounds and to colorize charms and embellishments.
For most uses, Alcohol ink requires special pads and applicators. It is easy to blend and a variety of effects can be achieved by diluting it with blending solution.
While alcohol ink works best on non-porous surfaces, a thin coat of gel medium can turn a porous surface into one which will accept alcohol ink. The best line of these inks is Ranger's Adirondack line.
Distress inks are water-based dye inks. They are most often acid-free and fade-resistant. Their moderate drying time allows time for blending of colors. It works best on paper, photos and decorative fibers. These inks can be used for distressing, weathering,antiquing, blending, photo tinting, grunge style and direct-to-paper techniques.
While great for aging and distressing, their weathered look means that your impressions will have softer edges.
Another great aspect to their longer drying time and blendable nature is that these inks can also be used for adding color to images with a waterbrush for a sophisticated watercolored look.
Ranger's Distress Inks and Hero Arts Shadow Inks are examples of this type of specialty ink. Both lines have ever increasing color options.
There are a growing group of specialty inks which have been entering the market over the last decade. These include inks such as:
- Fluid chalk inks - pigment ink which dries to a matte finish
- Misting inks - ink which can be added to projects via a mister
- Embossing inks - ink specifically designed for holding embossing powder
- Watermarking inks - translucent ink which leaves an image slightly darker than the cardstock beneath
- Hybrid inks - designed to work on a variety of surfaces, non-solvent-based
Here's a quick look at how these inks work on 3 common types of paper - standard cardstock, glossy cardstock and watercolor paper. As I am an incredibly impatient stamper, I did a smudge test after a few minutes to see how each ink reacted on each paper. Check the smudge factor on each face.
On standard cardstock, the dye inks give the crispest impression. The pigment ink needed more time to set so smudged slightly on the absorbent stock, however, its color was nice and bright!
Once you play with what ink works with what types of images and paper, you can bring different inks together. Combining inks utilizing each of their best qualities will allow you to achieve endless variations and looks.
In this card, I used solvent ink to stamp a nice crisp image onto watercolor paper. I then picked up a variety of dye inks with a waterbrush and added color to the image to achieve a soft watercolor look. While the inks do blend slightly, I really like layered look of the ink to achieve shadowing. Had I wanted a more subtle blending of colors, I could have colored the image with distress inks. Image from Rogue Redhead Designs.
In the next card, I have dragged a piece of glossy paper through three colors of distress ink stamped on a craft sheet and misted. It has produced a light color wash look onto which I stamped my image using brown solvent ink. To finish, I added extra distress ink with a sponge to bring up some more vivid color in selected areas. Image: Lost Coast Designs.
For this bright card, I added alcohol ink to a piece of glossy paper with a felt pad and applicator using the polished stone technique. I over stamped my images with solvent ink onto this lush background. I love the variations in color that can be achieved with alcohol ink blending. Image: Beeswax Stamps; sentiment: Invoke Arts.
On this last card, I used a distress ink background of three different cool shades on glossy paper to which I added a border of alcohol ink. I dribbled this border with blending solution which made the ink spread and dilute more than in the polished stone example. Adding the border created a soft colored panel in the middle of the card. I stamped the central image of the fairy into the open area and added smaller elements around the edges with archival ink. Images from Paperbag Studios; sentiment: Invoke Arts.
Once you understand how these inks react to paper and each other, the only thing left to do is experiment and play!