Digital stamps are increasing in popularity and there are lots of different digital images out there to choose from. Whether you are a fan of them or not, there is no doubt that a lot of designers are producing their images this way and so you might end up wanting to use them at some point.
We actually have a growing range of digital images on this site and so we thought it would be good to do a blog post all about digital stamps, advantages and disadvantages and how to use them.
What are digital stamps?
Digital stamps or digistamps are electronic images which you can download to your computer and manipulate to use on your papercrafting products.
Images are in black and white to give you the scope to colour them in, either using graphics or photo software or by printing out and using traditional stamping colouring methods such as watercolour pencils, inks or marker pens.
The idea is that digi stamps are supposed to be more or less exactly like a traditional wooden or acrylic stamp to use but with the added benefits of being able to manipulate them before you print them out.The printed images are usually cut out before adhering to the card or other project but it is possible to manipulate digital images to create whole scenes and quite complex designs if you know what you are doing!
Aren't digi stamps the same as clipart?
They are similar but not the same. Clip art is downloaded as well but is usually sold in a finished form and often coloured so that you can just insert the image into your project. Digi stamps are aimed at stampers and are really just outlines like a normal stamp and therefore in black and white.
Digi stamps are also usually supplied as a high resolution image (300 dpi - dots per inch or higher).The higher the resolution the bigger the file so images don't tend to be higher than 600dpi but I have seen some quite detailed ones at 1300 dpi! Clipart on the other hand can vary and some very low resolution clipart images are found on the web as smaller files are easier for use on the internet.
There is no reason why you cannot use clipart on your projects but if you are a stamper, you will find the flexibility and quality of digi stamps more useful. Look out for clipart which is high resolution to get the best results.
Why are digital images available in different formats?
Digital images are usually available in different file formats. Which format your file is will be shown by the file extension. Sellers will usually offer digital images in two of the most common formats so that you have the choice when you use them. The most common ones in use are:
JPEG is probably the format that most people have come across and is the one that photos are usually saved as. JPEG files are used because they can be compressed to reduce the file size and therefore make it easier to send and receive and use on websites. The issue is one of balance because as you compress the files you do lose image quality and this can easily be seen when comparing JPEG files with an original graphic image. The biggest problem with them however is the fact that a JPEG file will always have a white background, so it makes it difficult to overlay images and arrange them, especially when you come to printing them as you can see the white background on the screen but the printer does not print white.
PNG format can be saved with a transparent background which is useful when your are overlapping images or when you need to arrange text or use stamps around a border.
Note that not all digi images will be supplied as transparent PNGs as they have to be saved in that format using the graphics package that the seller uses so if it is not clear from the description you should check with the seller to confirm before you purchase.
Transparent PNGs can be thought of a bit like printing on a sheet of vellum, whereas JPEGs are like printing onto a sheet of white paper. Here is a nice comparison of the differences taken from the site rubberstamping.about.com
If you just want to print out your image, colour and cut it out then either file will be ok for you. If you want to move your digital images about and overlay them, you will do better with the PNG as no part of the image is obscured as shown in the picture above.
The transparent PNGs are still limited in that you can't mask the image quite like you can with traditional stamping. In the illustration above, this would not be too much of a problem if you were colouring the top flower darker than the one beneath.
JPEG and PNG are the more common file formats for digistamps but there are others that you might see. ABR is a PhotoShop Brush file and is used when using Adobe Photoshop and other limited software. The easiest way to check if your computer can open such a file is to double click on the file. If you are unable to open the file you will need to investigate converting it or contact the seller for help.
TIFF or TIF files can be compressed but can also be saved without compression which means that the original quality of the image is retained. The background is also transparent which means that they can be overlapped like transparent PNG files. PDF formats are not normally used for digital images as they are usually just able to be printed out and not manipulated.
There are lots of benefits of using digital stamps.
There are some drawbacks but most can be overcome
How to acess your digital stamps
When you have purchased your digi stamp you will usually be directed to a link page where you can download your file. Some sellers prefer to email files and often they will arrive as zipped files. Digital images can be quite large and this makes it easier to send and receive. You can easily unpack the files and this differs according to the version of windows you are using so you will need to refer to the download instructions given by the seller.
Once you have downloaded your digital image you should save it to your computer, making sure that you reference it properly as you might end up with so many of them that a cupboard full of wooden stamps seems quite appealing!
Now you can go to work! You can print out your digi stamps using whatever software you have to print your photos with. If you don't have photo software, you can use Microsoft Word, Publisher or a graphics program. You should open the image using the software that you are familiar with and manipulate it as you wish. Depending on what program you are using you will be able to resize, move, combine, overlay and colour your image before printing.
As an example, if you are using Microsoft Word, open up a new document and insert your picture from the saved location. Then you can click on it and drag the handles on the sides to make it bigger or smaller. You can then print your image. Note that transparent PNG files will not overlap in Word but you can still do basic manipulation.
What type of paper to print on
You can print your image onto any paper or cardstock that will go through your printer but if you are intending to colour your image with watercolour pens/pencils, you should use a good quality cardstock or watercolour paper to stop the paper from warping when you colour it. This is much the same as for traditional stamping.
Colouring your digistamps
You have plenty of choice with colouring your images. You can use wet media such as watercolour pencils and crayons with brushes but you need to heat set your image first so that the printer ink doesn't smear. Use a heat gun after it comes from the printer to set the ink and this should help. You can also use spray fixatives to seal the ink. Many people use Copic markers, which are a high quality marker that contains dyes suspended in alcohol. This means that you can blend and layer easily on the paper without ruining your paper.
Heat Embossing your digi stamps
It is possible to heat emboss your images. With some glossy papers and vellums you can add the embossing powder immediately and you should have some success but you need to work quickly. The old dot matrix printers used to keep the ink wet longer but most modern printers are dried as they print so are not likely to be very successful. Trial and error is the key!
Alternatively, you will need to outline your image with an embossing pen, Tsukineko make pens with a thin and thick tip. You can then add embossing powders and heat as normal.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and that it has given you some pointers with regard to digital stamps.
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