Get Started with Stamping by Katy Fox
For absolute beginners, a guide to getting started with stamps, including information on what to buy and a step-by-step guide to creating your first stamped image.
What you need to buy to get started will vary according to the type of stamping style which appeals to you – do you like to colour in large focal images, or do you prefer a collage style and making your own inked backgrounds?
As an absolute minimum, you will need a black inkpad, some baby wipes, and something to stamp onto (i.e. card or paper). It is likely you will also want some coloured inks or a colouring medium of some kind. If your budget is limited, purchase a few colours which will work well together as a starting point.
If there are any terms here which you don’t understand, refer to the Glossary for guidance.
Which stamps you choose will depend on what style of work you want to make. It may take a little time to find your comfort zone, so I would recommend not buying loads of stamps all at once until you’ve had a chance to play and find your niche.
If you are unused to mixing and matching styles, you can’t go far wrong with a co-ordinated set. Look for sets where the images complement one another – can you see combinations of images? Do the stamps work together? Are there elements you can use for backgrounds as well as focal images?
For a simple collaged card, something like Crafty Individuals stamps are easy to work with and look fabulous just stamped in black over an inked background or plainer patterned papers.
If you want to colour in a focal image, you could start with something easy like a floral spray such as one of the stamps by Penny Black or Magenta. Flowers are easy to colour and you don’t need to be too precise or artistic to get a pretty image. Colouring images of people with realistic light and shade takes a little more practice.
To create backgrounds there are several stamps which I used time and time again and are really versatile additions to any collection. A vintage text stamp is great for all kinds of backgrounds, not just collage-style. Other useful background images include: flourishes; crackle-effect; harlequin; polka dot or natural images like leaves.
If you want to make cards, then you might want to purchase some greeting stamps. I find I use Happy Birthday more than any other sentiment. I don’t bother buying occasional sentiments like anniversary or retirement greeting stamps – I print the greeting from my computer instead.
These are blocks of heavy duty transparent plastic which can be used as a stable mount for unmounted or clear stamps. You’ll get a better result by using a block that is appropriate to the size of stamp you are working with, so it is best to buy more than one. To start off I would recommend one reasonably large block (my most used is 4 by 3”) and one small oblong block, plus a longer thinner block for things like words or borders.
Unmounted rubber stamps can be attached using temporary spray adhesive or with a glue stick like Pritt (wash it off after use). Alternatively, you can mount your rubber (not clear) stamps onto foam which temporarily adheres to your acrylic block.– common brands are Kling-On, U-Mount and EZ Mount.
Most brands of clear stamp cling to the block without any glue.
A cushion is useful to place underneath unmounted rubber or clear stamps. It replaces the cushion which is already there on wood block stamps and helps to get a better impression. You can buy these ready-made but a couple of sheets of fun foam will do the job just fine. Some people alternatively use a mouse mat. Not everyone likes to use a mat, but I personally find it helpful.
A good black inkpad:
A good black ink is essential. Which is the best? If you ask a different stamper, you’ll get a different answer more likely than not! My favourite is Ranger Archival Jet Black. It gives a fabulous impression, works well with detail images, and is also water-resistant so you can use it to colour in using water-based colouring mediums such as watercolour pencils, Twinkling H20s and so on. Plus it’s a really strong, deep black colour so never looks washed out or greyish.
The other black inkpad I use a lot is StazOn. StazOn is a solvent-based inkpad, so it is permanent on non-porous surfaces such as acetate, glass and metal. It dries pretty fast and it too gives a good dark black colour. It is a solvent and does give off fumes, so use it in a ventilated area.
I use these to clean my stamps after using. Use them to clean inky hands and work surfaces too.
StazOn and Archival ink can stain your stamps. You might also wish to purchase specialist StazOn cleaner to get these inks off. Some inks will stain stamps (especially clear stamps), but they will still perfectly usable and are there to be enjoyed and made inky, so don’t sweat it!
Heat gun (also called heat embossing tool):
A heat gun is a really useful tool. It can be used to set embossing powders and for shrinking shrink plastic. I use mine most to heat set inks (the heat makes inks permanent) and speed up drying times of inks. Although some brands of gun look like hairdryers, they are not the same! A craft heat gun is a specialised tool and gets much hotter than a hairdryer. A heat gun costs approx £15 to £20.
If you want to buy a range of colours for stamping without spending a fortune, then I would recommend the Versamagic DewDrop inkpads which cost around £1.60 each. I love these because unlike some dye-based inks, they give a beautiful result with clear stamps. The range of colours is excellent, and the soft chalk-like effect is really pleasing on the eye. You can also watercolour with them and heat emboss onto them.
Embossing powder and ink:
Start your collection with a clear powder – this can be used over any colour of pigment ink and the ink colour will show through. If you like a bit of bling, perhaps also invest in crystal powder which adds a beautiful shimmer but also embosses to a clear finish and white powder, which can look gorgeous embossed onto darker card. To use embossing powder you will need a heat gun and suitable ink. I use Versamark (a clear ink) when embossing with coloured or white powder and Versamagic when embossing coloured ink.
Inks for blending:
My favourites for blending are Tim Holtz Distress Inks. Start off by purchasing two or three complementary colours.
Distress Inks are very wet inks so they blend easily for a beginner and most of the colours will work together. To blend inks well you ideally need some Cut n’ Dry foam and a craft mat to work from as well (start the blending process on the craft mat to take off any hard edges, working onto the card to be inked from the mat). You can blend using any dye-based inks such as Adirondack, Nick Bantock or Memento inks.
Distress Inks are also colour stable so they are fabulous as watercolours too.
If you are colouring in stamped images, the media you choose will depend on your personal preference and budget.
Pencils which are blendable with Sansodor (mineral spirit) are popular and brands include Prismacolor and Derwent Coloursoft.
Alcohol-based markers such as Copics and Pro-Markers are also popular choices: these are blendable pens (note that you need to use them with a water-based dye ink that will not dissolve on contact with them, such as Memento ink).
At the cheaper end of the market, watercolours or watercolour pencils can give a lovely effect and can be purchased on the high street relatively inexpensively. Brush markers are also reasonably priced and can be applied to your work directly like a felt tip pen, or scribbled onto a plastic palette and applied with a water brush for a softer look.
For double the value, Distress Inks make great watercolours and you’ve also got the benefit of all the other techniques they can be used for too.
1 Select a stamp and inkpad to use. I have chosen a Hero Arts stamp and Archival Jet Black ink.
2 Lay your stamp face up on the table. Take your ink to your stamp (rather than pressing the stamp to the pad) and apply the ink all over using a light patting motion. If you tilt the stamp into light you should be able to see if you have good coverage.
3 I like to turn the stamp around on the table as I ink to get an even coverage.
4 Press the inked stamp onto smooth card or paper. With a wood stamp, you have to apply a reasonable amount of pressure – use one hand to keep the stamp steady and use the other to gently press down all over the wood block.
5 Lift the stamp away quickly in a vertical motion to prevent slippage and blurring.
Notes: With a clear stamp, you need to apply much less pressure – it’s quite easy to stamp too hard and get ghosting around the edge with a clear stamp, but a couple of practice runs on scrap paper should be enough to get a sense of how much pressure to apply.
I always do a test stamp before using an image on my main project. I also find it I get a more even impression if I stamp standing up. Don’t give up if it isn’t perfect first time – a little bit of practice and you’re sure to be stamping anything that stays still long enough!
The easiest way to get started is to find an image you like in a magazine or online and copy it or use it as inspiration. This might not feel very creative, but it is a good way to try your hand at something when making a first attempt. An ATC (Artist Trading Card) is a really small area and can be a good starting point when stamping as the tiny canvas isn’t too daunting!
When I get a new stamp I like to repeatedly stamp it onto scrap paper to get a ‘feel’ for it. I might try shading or colouring the image; I might stamp parts of the image only to see how I might use it in different ways; I might cut parts out; I might stamp it in different colours. I find that playing with the stamp in this way usually sparks my creativity. Everyone’s creative process is different, so go with what works for you! And remember to have fun!
Updated: 25 April 2010