Cardmaker's Guide to ink

Ink is a craft box essential for every cardmaker who loves stamping, but knowing which type of ink to choose can be confusing! Dulcie Jackson of Wild Rose Studio explains everything you need to know…



If you love making stamped cards or you fancy giving it a go, ink is an essential item in your toolbox. But not all inks are the same – so it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different types, as achieving a professional finish often depends on using the right type of ink for the job.

Stamping is a hugely varied technique. Firstly, there many different surfaces you can stamp on, from card to acetate, vellum and fabric, and then there are fun variations like heat embossing. You can also use inks without stamps; as a colouring medium to add colour to the edges of card panels, for example.

As a result, different ink types have been created to help you get the best effect with each technique. Each ink type and its properties is described opposite but don’t be afraid to experiment either! The more you practise, the more you’ll discover which mediums you like best. So take out your scrap paper and start stamping today!

Dye-based ink

Dye-based ink is quick-drying and excellent for basic stamping. It’s sold on a hard felt pad, which means it’s difficult to over-ink your stamp, so it gives clean, crisp images – perfect for stamping outlines and ideal for those new to stamping.

However, it’s useful to note that dye-based ink soaks into the fibres of the paper rather than sitting on top, so you will get the brightest effect if you use them on pale or white card, rather than dark coloured card where the colour will blend in. Some dye-based inks are waterproof when dry, some are not. If you want to watercolour over your stamped images, you’ll need to use an ink labelled as ‘waterproof’ or ‘permanent’. Alternatively, non-waterproof inks can be used as a colouring medium themselves – simply dab some ink onto a tile, or similar surface, and apply the colour with a paintbrush.

Also worth noting is that dye-based ink tends to fade over time. To avoid this, look for
ink pads labelled as ‘archival’ or ‘fade-resistant’.



Pigment ink

Pigment inks are slow-drying and ideal for heat embossing, as they allow enough time for the embossing powder to stick
to the inked area.

Unlike dye-based ink, pigment ink dries on the surface of the card rather than soaking into the fibres, so the colours often look more vibrant than dye-based inks. However, this means that they are not suitable for basic stamping on coated or glossy card as the ink won’t dry. Only use them to stamp on these surfaces if you heat emboss them afterwards.

Pigment inks are generally sold on a spongy pad so beware of over-inking your stamps with them (see the ‘Hints & Tips’ box for more advice). There are also lots of exciting variations of pigment inks available, such as shimmery
and chalk finishes, which are fantastic for stamping colour on your cards.


Solvent-based inks

Solvent-based inks are quick-drying, permanent inks. As they can be used on any surface they are ideal for stamping on all kinds of card, acetate, glass and even metal. Some manufacturers of clear stamps advise against using solvent-based ink with their products, as the solvent can attack the clear polymer
over a period of time.

StazOn is a popular brand of solvent-based ink, as it has a mild smell and is available in many colours.





Special inks

Some special inks have been developed that deserve a mention for their unique mix of qualities.


VersaMark ink

VersaMark ink is a very sticky, clear pigment ink. It’s ideal for heat embossing and other effects because embossing powder will stick to it and as it is clear you can add any colour of powder to it.





Chalk ink

Chalk inks are a pigment ink which have a powdery, matte
finish once dry. They have the vibrance of a pigment ink but can be blended like a dye-based ink, making them a popular choice with cardmakers.



Distress ink

These are dye-based inks with a higher concentration of colour and a longer drying time than normal. They are designed to flow when sprayed with water, and to be blended and worked into your project. They are ideal for altered art and distress effects.






Alcohol inks

These are special dye-based inks designed to give a pretty, polished-stone effect. They are
quick-drying and permanent, and can be used on lots of surfaces including glossy paper, acetate, shrink plastic, foil and metal.







Hints & Tips for perfect results

Always store your ink pads upside down, so the ink falls to the top of the felt pad. This will ensure your ink pad stays juicy when it’s needed.

Make sure your stamp is clean before you ink it up, so your ink pads don't become tainted with other colours.

To avoid over-inking your stamps, always take the ink pad to the stamp, tapping it gently onto the surface (instead of pressing the stamp down into the ink pad). This will help you achieve an even coverage of ink and a clean, stamped image.



I am brand new to cardmaking

6th August 2011

I am brand new to cardmaking and wasn't sure what ink to use when. Thanks for a great article on that very subject.

Refil Inks

9th January 2012


I am very new to this card making only been doing it for a couple of weeks whish I had loads of money to get everything, but Rome was not built in a day.

Just got some free stamps from this magazine and brought an ink pad but how do you refill the ink pad and where can you get the refill ink.  Thank you



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