Mementoes In Time

Stamping Basics Part 2 - Introduction to Inks



In this second part of our series on basic stamping, we are going to look at inks. Apart from your rubber stamps, inks are the next most important part of your kit when you start off in stamping. There are so many exciting inks around out there to try with your stamps and like the stamps themselves; this has been an area which has expanded in a big way over the last decade or so.


We won’t be able to cover every type of ink available but hopefully, give a guide to some of the more common ones you will come across and how you can use them.


So what type of ink do I need?

When you think about the ink you are going to use with your project, you need to think about the type of paper you are intending to use first. We discussed papers in the last part, so if you need to review that section, click here.


The type of papers you use will depend on the nature of the project you are doing, so all decisions really start there. It really is a good idea to have a practice with your stamp and your ink on a sample of the paper you are going to use, to make sure that you are happy with it and that the ink is the right one for the job.If you are in doubt, just look at the instructions on your ink pad, as this should tell you which surfaces you can use it on.

So here are the most common inks you are likely to hear about in regard to stamping.


Dye Based Inks

These are the most common types of inks you are likely to come across and they are used a lot in basic stamping, so you are likely to find at least one or two in most crafter’s collections. When you look at a dye ink pad, it has a firm raised-feltpad, which has been saturated with the dye ink. These inks are water-based and comprised of a dye dissolved in the carrier, so the ink has a thin consistency and is translucent.


The ink pad is firm felt saturated with ink

Dye ink pads will vary from manufacturer in terms of consistency, depth of colour and the resulting quality of the  stamped image. Some dye ink pads can be very juicy and can sometimes create quite a wet effect when used to stamp. They will often appear darker on the pad than they stamp out on paper because of their thin consistency, so you should always try to test stamp before using on your project.  


The key is to get to know your inks. I have lots of Adirondack dye inks from Ranger, which do tend to be a bit more watery than others, so I tend to keep them for background stamping, where a lighter, less bold effect is needed. For bold stamping, I find the Impress pads (Tsukineko), Archival (Ranger) and Memento (Tsukineko) ink pads, more effective.

Dye inks dry quickly and will work well on many types of paper but they will tend to bleed a bit on absorbent papers. They work well on glossy or coated cardstock due to their quick drying nature but you will need to wait a few  minutes depending on the ambient temperature. You can run a heat gun over the surface to speed up the drying time.


A range of different dye ink pads


Because of this quick drying nature, dye inks are not good for heat embossing, unless you are using a ‘wet’ dye ink pad (eg distressed inks).  Dye inks are usually not waterproof, so if you were intending to use your watercolours to colour in your images, the image is likely to run. The other issue with dye inks is that although the ink is permanent, this will often fade with time, although there are some specially formulated longer lasting dye inks about.


A really good ink that I use, with basic stamping, is Archival, by Ranger. This ink pad won’t bleed when painted over with watercolours or water-based markers and they are made with fade resistant dyes, which won’t deteriorate like normal dye inkpads. Other ones are Memento by Tsukineko and Ancient Page by Clearsnap which are also fast drying and fade resistant. If you are stamping in scrapbooks, this kind of ink is great but if you are just making cards, you might decide that longevity is not that important, so you can use cheaper inks.


Storage and cleaning - It is a good idea to store these ink pads upside down, so that the ink is near the surface of your pad, ready for stamping. I have lots of Adirondack dye ink pads and the ink can settle at the bottom of the pad. If they are a bit dry, I will refresh them with a re-inker. As dye inks are water-based they can be cleaned off stamps with a damp cloth.


Some Popular Dye Inks


Kaleidacolor – large range of colours

Memento - fast drying and fade resistant



Adirondack – acid free, fade resistant dye inks

Archival and Archival Jumbo –long lasting and permanent on many surfaces and gives a crisp image, that doesn’t bleed when water-based colouring methods are used.

Big and Juicy – ideal for large stamps and brayering techniques

Distress – acid free, fader esistant water-based dye inks, ideal for getting a vintage look (see separate section on distress inks below)

Inkssentials Watermark Resist– acid free, multi-purpose stamp pad for creating a watermark effect on coloured papers, as an embossing ink and as a resist for water-based dye inks on glossy papers (see separate section on clear embossing inks below).


Archival– fast drying,permanent and ideal for watercolouring

AncientPage – light-fast, waterproof, permanent and acid free. Ideal for water colouring, scrapbooking and other archival projects.

Vivid– acid free juicy dye ink with translucent colour in a fast drying water soluble dye ink.


Pigment Inks

Pigment inks are also water-based but have a much thicker consistency than dye inks, so do not dry as quickly. The opaque colour particles are suspended within the ink, rather than dissolved into it like a dye ink. This slow drying nature makes them perfect for heat embossing, as you have a much longer ‘open’ time in which to apply your embossing powders. The thicker consistency also means that the colour you see on the ink pad is similar to the colour that it will stamp out, which is useful. Pigment ink pads are made of spongy foam, instead of the hard raised felt pad found with dye inks.

Spongy foam pad used with pigment inks

Pigment ink doesn’t soak into the paper but remains on the surface until it dries. Scrap-bookers often like to use pigment inks as they are more fade-resistant than dye inks but, as we have already discussed, you can find some fade-resistant brands of dye pads.

Some different pigment inks

Pigment ink can be very unsuccessful on glossy or coated card as it often won’t dry. You can try heat setting it with a heat gun but the success of this will depend on the ink brand you are using. Some pigment inks will not dry at all on glossy cardstock, whereas others will dry if left a long time and others only dry when they are heat set.


I have always found my Ranger inks to dry slowly on glossy papers if you leave them alone and you can speed this us with the use of a heat tool. You should always refer to the manufacturer’s website and if necessary do a test with your brand of ink and papers to see whether it works for you. Once you have heat set your pigment ink, it will be pretty well smear resistant, so you can use your water-based colouring methods freely.


Storage and cleaning – There is mixed advice about how best to store pigment inks but it is generally felt that storing them upside down is unnecessary. For my own experience, I have found that when I have stored them upside down, that the ink has leaked out of the cases, so I do tend to just store them right way up. If your pigment pads get dried out, just refresh with re-inkers or you can spray them with a mini-mister to reactivate the ink. Pigment inks are suspended in a water-based medium so can be much easier to clean off hands and equipment.


Some Popular Pigment Inks


Brilliance - fast-drying ink in pearlescent coloursfor use on shiny papers, vellum, mica,acetate, photo papers, clay and shrink plastic.

Encore – quick drying metallic inks

Opalite – a reflective interference ink

Emboss – clear and lightly tinted embossing ink(see section on clear inks below)

Splendour - sets of pigment colours

Versacolor – basic inks with huge colour range and with ultra-dense foam padfor crisper stamped images.

Versafine – long lasting inkpadwith natural oil-based pigment ink which dries instantly on matte cardstock andwon’t bleed.

Versamagic – chalk inks (see section on chalkinks below)

Versamark – clear watermark and embossing ink(see section on clear inks below)



Adirondack– opaqueink that air dries on matte paper and heat sets on gloss, vellum, shrinkplastic, metal and glass. Can also emboss with this ink.



Colorbox Archival Dye - Fast drying and permanent, ideal for watercolouring.

Colorbox Classic – acid free, fade-resistant juicy inkpad in good range of colours

Colobox MetaleXtra - burnished colori n subtle two-tone hues, great on dark papers


Distress Inks

These inks have to be on the list of my all-time favourites as I love the lovely soft colour range and the wonderful and unique effects, you can create with them. Distress inks are a little unusual, as they are in fact water-based fade-resistant dye inks but you can emboss with them too.


The inks are wet and stay ‘open’ quite along time, allowing you to add your embossing powders and do other things too. You can achieve wonderful aged and vintage effects from rubbing, smudging and blending the ink on your project. Other things you can do are to rub the pads across your paper (direct to paper technique) and then spritz with water, which will cause the ink to run and blend to create beautiful effects, ideal for backgrounds.

Distress Inks


Chalk Ink Pads

Chalk inks are lovely opaque inks, which will dry to give a matte lustre on all kinds of surfaces, including vellum, shrink plastic and foils as well as other kinds of surfaces like wood, fabric, leather and metal. The inks are fade-resistant and archival (acid free) and the ink will show up well on dark and light papers.The drying times will vary according to the material you are stamping on. Brands include Versamagic (Tsukineko) and Clearsnap Colorbox Fluid Chalk.

Chalk Inks


Embossing Ink Pads

These are either translucent colourless or lightly tinted slow drying inks which are used for embossing and watermarking effects. The clear ones are great for stamping directly onto your cardstock to create a very subtle watermark effect. You can use them for heat embossing too but the image is clear so if you want to be able to see where you have stamped your image, go for a tinted one.


I use Versamark all the time for embossing and watermarks and as the ink is sticky, you can create some lovely background effects by stamping and then brushing over the stamped area with chalks or pigment powders. You can get a nice resist effect by stamping and embossing in clear powder and then braying over the whole area with ink. The inks will be resisted where you have stamped. We’ll look at these techniques later on in the series.


Clear Embossing and Watermark Pads

Examples of colourless inks are:

Tsukineko Emboss,

Versamark Watermark,

Ranger Distress Embossing Ink

Inkssentials Watermark Resist

Clearsnap Top Boss (clear and tinted).

Solvent Inks

Where a permanent stamp is required on a range of difficult surfaces, then solvent inks are the solution. Stazon (tsukineko) is a very fast drying, acid free, archival solvent ink and can be used on plastic, metal, glass, acrylic, cellophane,folil, ceramic, laminated and coated papers and leather, in fact any of those semi and non-porous surfaces that other inks struggle with.


The ink is dry within about 3-5 minutes and will not smear or smudge once it has dried, making it ideal for use with watercolour techniques. This was one of the first ink pads I ever bought and I still have the same one with me now.

Stazon Solvent Inks

Storage and Cleanup - As long as you make sure you put the lid back on straight away, thisink pad will stay ready to use for a long long time. The solvent nature of this ink, does mean that it will dry out the pad if you leave the lid off between stamping, so it is best to take the time to pop the clear plastic insert over the pad after each stamp that you make. You can buy re-inkers to refresh your pad as necessary. Tsukineko produce a special cleaner for use with Stazon inks. For more information about cleaning stamps, have a look at our article on rubber versus acrylic here.


Alcohol Inks

Alcohol inks are acid-free, super-fast drying transparent, fade-resistant dye inks and are the ultimate ink for using on non-porous surfaces. These inks don’t come as ink pads, instead they are stored in dropper bottles. You can create some amazing backgrounds and finishes using these inks on glossy card. They can also be used to colour other materials like glass, metal and shrink plastic. The colours can be blended together using alcohol blending solution, which will dilute the inks and lighten the colours to create a range of different effects.

Alcohol Inks by Ranger

I hope you have found this article on stamping inks interesting and informative. We haven't covered every type of ink here, there are other types of inks used for stamping on fabrics and other materials but these are the main ones you are likely to come across in papercraft. If you have any queries or comments, please do post them in the section below this post.

In the next part of this series on Stamping we will be looking at basic stamping, fading out, masking and basic embossing and in part 4 we will be having a look at colouring techniques so watch out for those!


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