I have been a great fan of stamping for a long time. It is very easy and quick to do and is suitable for many different types and styles of crafting. I first created my own stamps back in 2005 so I could choose designs that I liked and were versatile images that I thought would be suitable for many crafters.
 
Although it is usually quick and easy there are times when it can be frustrating if your results don't turn out the way you want them to. So I am going to give you a few pointers that have helped me get the results I wanted.
 
These tips are mainly regarding clear unmounted stamps, also known as acrylic, polymer or photopolymer, as they are easy to use, can be accurately positioned and use up very little space when storing. However, many of the tips can be applied to rubber stamps as well.
 
New stamps can have some residue from the manufacturing process which can cause beading of dye inks which produces blurry or incomplete images when stamping the first few times. Therefore, if you have this problem you need to 'prime' your stamps before using them. To do this you can try simply wiping the stamp with an alcohol-free wet wipe and then apply ink to them and have a couple of practice stamps until you are happy with the image.
 
Alternatively, you can dab on some Versamark ink, wipe off most of the ink with your hand, almost massaging it off, then add your dye and stamp. You can also try the Tim Holtz method which is to swipe over a thin layer of Ranger Archival ink and leave to dry. Both the Versamark and Archival inks leave a 'protective' layer on your stamp. However, the Archival ink will discolour the stamp whereas the Versamark is clear and will not. 
 
The stamps are self-clinging so easy to mount onto an acrylic block or one of the stamping aids such as Crafts-Too Stampeazee or Press to Impress. If they lose their stickiness, rinse them in warm water with a little washing-up liquid and then dry. Do not leave them in water otherwise they could become opaque, you can guess how I know that!
 
Most dye and pigment inks are water-based (NOT Ranger Archival or Tsukineko StazOn) so you can clean the inks off your stamp with just a wet cloth, alcohol-free wet wipe or use a Stamp Cleaning Mat and then wipe with a dry cloth. A microfibre cloth is best for drying as it will not leave any lint on the surface of your stamp or you can use a tea towel, towel or paper kitchen towel. When using a Stamp Cleaning Mat just wet the mat with tap water, rub the inked stamp over it and then dry. The mat will last for years and to clean it, rinse under the tap until the water runs clear. Then, if you have finished stamping, leave it to dry.
 
Some inks will stain the stamp but that won't affect using the stamp with other inks. If you really don't like the discolouration then you can try to remove it with stamp cleaner. The easiest way to do this is by leaving it on the acrylic block, dabbing on the stamp cleaner and then follow the manufactures instructions for removing it.
 
NOTE: StazOn is a solvent-based ink so won't clean off with either wet wipes or water. Tsukineko produces their own acid-free stamp cleaner for StazOn inks.
 
Store your stamps flat and out of the light especially away from sunlight.
 
Now for the stamping:
 
  • Your work surface needs to be level and stable.
  • Mount the stamp onto a block and place on a firm surface with the raised image facing you.
  • Ink the stamp by dabbing/tapping the ink pad onto the stamp, not pressing the ink into the stamp. This helps you to avoid over inking the stamp, getting the ink in areas that are not part of the image or on the acrylic block.
  • Look carefully at the surface of the image to make sure that the stamp is inked all over, especially with large and detailed stamps.
  • Clean off any ink that may have got onto the block.
  • Place the inked stamp straight down onto the card and without moving the stamp apply gentle pressure with your fingers or the flat of your hand over the entire stamp area. Sometimes it helps to get a better image if you are standing up.

Problems and solutions.

The image is blurry.

This can happen if you accidentally moved or rocked the stamp while applying pressure. When putting the stamp onto the surface hold in place while applying pressure with your other hand then lift stamp straight up off the surface.

The Image is blotchy, uneven or part of the image is missing.

This can happen if you use too much pressure, uneven pressure, use too much ink or your new stamp needs priming. Try to be directly over your stamp as this will help to avoid using too much or uneven pressure. Just use your fingertips rather than your whole hand, especially on smaller stamps. Standing up can also help with this problem. Make sure you apply pressure to the entire area of the stamp, be methodical when applying pressure, start at one edge and work your way across the entire stamp. Only add enough ink to apply the colour to all the lines of the stamp without pushing down on the ink pad. Over-inking applies more when using pigment inks as they have a spongy surface, whereas dye and permanent inks usually have a firm surface. Placing a pad of paper or a thin foam sheet under your surface can also help you to get a good image.

Heat embossing:
 
  • To ensure the embossing powder only sticks to the stamped image, make sure the card surface is dry and wipe the card surface with an Anti-static pad
  • Ink up the stamp as above using a slow drying pigment ink such as Versamark, Encore, Versacolor, Versafine or Distress Oxides.
  • Pour the embossing powder over the image and gently tap the excess into a Clean and Tidy tray or onto a sheet of clean paper. Brush any stray powder off very carefully with a small soft brush. 
  •  Use a heat tool to melt the embossing powder. Do not get too close to the paper or it will burn. Move the heat tool slowly over the entire embossed image. Don't wave the heat tool about as you would a hairdryer as this can move the powder before it sets and cause uneven or missing embossed areas. The embossing powder will look slightly different as soon as it is properly heated. For best results, heat from underneath the card. Heating from above can make the embossing powder spread blurring the image. If you overheat the embossing powder it will sink into the surface and will be flat instead of raised.
 

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