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HOME » Shop » Articles
Inks - Which Ink Does What?

Inks – Which Inkpad does what?


It can seem like a nightmare trying to decide which type of inkpad to use.  There are so many different ones available on the market and they seem to be added to on a regular basis.  They come in different sizes, different shapes and different colours.  Listed below you will see the basic necessary information required for buying and using your ink pads.


Most types of ink fall into the following categories:-


Dye based inks – Pigment Inks – Permanent Inks – Embossing Inks

Special Inks ( a growing category as more & more are being developed with special characteristics)


Dye - Based Inks

These dry by evaporation so are quick drying on all types of paper and card, including glossy.  Most will dry too quickly to use with embossing powders.  They are water-soluble, so will run if they get wet and unless the pad states that they are archival they fade over time.  They usually have a hard, cloth or felt surface.  Rainbow pads are ideal for using a brayer* onto glossy card.


Pigment Inks

These are thicker inks and slow-drying so are ideal to use with embossing powders.  As they dry by absorption, pigment inks are not suitable for glossy surfaces unless they are embossed.


Pigment inks can smudge easily although you can use a heat gun to speed up drying time.  They are available in a huge range of colours – more vivid than dye based inks, and as they are slow drying they blend together to create wonderful background effects.  Useful to use in scrapbook projects as they are fade resistant and pH neutral.  They have a foam pad and if you are slightly heavy-handed it is easy to over-ink your stamp.  Just use a gentle tapping motion to load ink onto your stamp.


Permanent Inks

Permanent inks dry quickly, don’t run, bleed or fade and are suitable for both matt and glossy paper, acetate, wood, glass, ceramics and terracotta.  They also work beautifully on shrink plastic.  These inks will give a good detailed impression and as they are not water soluble, images can be coloured with markers, gel pens & watercolours without bleeding.  This ink will stain your stamps, but, as long as you clean them thoroughly immediately after use, they should not cause a problem.  (Some inks need to be heat set to make them permanent.)


Embossing Inks & VersaMark™

Embossing inks are slow drying, glycerine-based inks which have been specifically designed for embossing.  These are available as a totally clear ink or slightly tinted, thicker ink, which enables you to see where to apply your embossing powder.  (Occasionally the ‘tint’ will show through a pale coloured powder.)


Versamark™ by Tsukineko creates a translucent watermark effect on paper & cardstock.  It creates a tone-on-tone effect for a subtle but effective look.  It dries if left after stamping, without the need for heat. However, as it is a slow drying ink it can be used with embossing powders and heated.  Chalk powders and pigment powders can be brushed over an image whilst the VersaMark is still wet and they will adhere to the ink.  ( May need to spray with a fixative.)  Both are available in a pallet of colours.  Please note: - Chalk powders should not be confused with the Fluid Chalk Inkpads.  VersaMark™ stamped onto glossy card with a dye ink applied on top acts as a resist ink, leaving a ‘ghost’ image.  Acid –free, non toxic, oil based.


Both ink types are available in pen form which is ideal for drawing your own designs or writing special messages.  They are an indispensable tool for correcting an image that has not been stamped properly.  Whilst embossing inks will not create a ‘watermark’ effect VersaMark™ can be used for embossing.


*Brayer – This is a roller tool with handle  for using to pick up ink by a rolling movement over  a dye based multi coloured ink pad, or to ink up a very large rubber stamp.


‘Special’ Inks

A brief overview of a few special inks on the market that have been developed for those difficult surfaces such as acetate, fabric, glass etc.


 ColorBox Fluid Chalk range dry to a matt, subtle finish.  These are water-based, archival quality inks which blend extremely well.  Permanent when heat set, they resist smearing, bleeding or fading, even when air dried.  Foam Pads. Available sizes - Large, ‘Cats Eye’ & Queues (little stacks).


 Stazon is a solvent-based ink pad which has been designed for stamping on non porous surfaces such as acetate, acrylic, aluminium foil, cellophane, glass, leather, metal, plastic & wood.  Not recommended for fabric.  Dries in 3-5 minutes.


 Brilliance ink pads are water based pigment inks which are acid free, archival and smudge resistant.  They dry to perfection on acetate, gloss card stock, photo papers, clay, shrink plastic, unglazed tile, vellum & wood.  If you are quick they can be embossed!  As the name suggests, the pearlescent colours are truly brilliant.  Available sizes – Large & small.


 Multi purpose ink pads such as Fabrico & Crafters, are available for stamping on fabric.


Many popular inkpad manufacturers also make refill to re-ink your pads so you do not have to buy replacements very often.


Now you know what they do…so how do you choose which to buy?


A good quality black permanent ink pad will see you through most situations to start with.  If possible add a black pigment ink pad to your list.  These will be used a great deal so buy them in the standard size pad.


An embossing inkpad is a must have…even if you do not want to heat emboss.  This pad is ideal for using as a ‘resist’ when you are creating backgrounds.  (For heat embossing you will need the essentials – gold, silver, black or  clear are the perfect choice).


A VersaMark™ pad would also be on my essentials list as it will also double up as an embossing pad if necessary.


To add some colour


It is worth investing in some standard size pads in a selection of your favourite colours. Don’t forget that you can create coloured embossing using coloured pigment ink pads and a clear powder, so include some coloured pigment inks in with your coloured dye base selection.  If you like co-ordinating stamping, then a light, medium and dark tone in a particular colour will work well for creating backgrounds and (over)-stamping.


Many ranges are available in small sizes, such as Cats Eye’s, VersaColor, Brilliance, Memories etc.  They are ideal for building up a varied selection of colours without spending too much money.  I would definitely go for a selection of pigments, chalks and brilliance to get started.


Rainbow ink pads are good value for money, as you get several colours on one pad.  There are several types – some such as Adirondack**, where it is difficult to differentiate between the colours on the surface of the pad and some comprise of strips of individual colours. Some with removable sections to use on their own as well as in a rainbow format. **Adirondack pads – made by Ranger Industries have the most sophisticated colour blends that create lovely rich tones, particularly when used to brayer onto glossy cardstock.  These pads can also be used to heat emboss stamp images on glossy cardstock.


Don’t forget….


Brush Markers -  obviously not an ink pad, are an essential for a ‘Crafters’ craft box.  They can be used for applying colour directly to your stamps, colouring in stamped images (using permanent ink pad) and applying a watercolour effect with the use of  a waterbrush or paintbrush.



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