Hi everyone! You all know how much I love stamping. It is one of my favorite ways to get crafty. I stamp in my Project Life layouts, I stamp to keep myself organized in my planner, I’m even lucky enough to be part of the amazing Studio L2E Creative Team!
Stamping definitely did not come easy to me though. There are a few crafty techniques I was able to just pick up and go with, but stamping required a little trial and error in my experience. I remember being unsure of how to even use clear stamps. And even once I got that figured out, it was still a little while before I was able to consistently get good clear stamped images.
I wanted to share with you guys all that I’ve learned about stamping over the last year or so of my dive back into the crafty world. I have outlined all the basic information I believe you need to get started with stamping, no matter what crafty experience level you’re coming from!
*For this post, I will be focusing on clear stamps, but a lot of the tips I talk about can also be used with rubber wood-mounted stamps.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase one of the products I recommend using these links, I will make a teeny, tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps keep Label Me Merrit running 🙂
Choosing Your Stamps
The first thing I want to make sure you understand, is that not all stamps are created equal. They may all look relatively similar, but there are manufacturing differences that will affect the quality of your stamps and your stamped images.
Photopolymer vs. Acrylic
You have two choices of materials when buying clear stamps. The first option uses photopolymer to make the stamp. Photopolymer stamps are higher quality, will last a very long time, and will typically give you higher quality images when stamped. Acrylic is the other material used to make clear stamps. Acrylic stamps are lower quality, and can be difficult to get a perfect image from them.
If you’re ever unsure of whether a clear stamp is photopolymer or acrylic, it is probably acrylic. Most companies who produce and sell photopolymer stamps will specifically advertise their products as such, since it indicates a higher quality. You can also tell the different between photopolymer and acrylic by the feel. Acrylic stamps are much more pliable, and feel almost rubbery. Photopolymer stamps feel more sturdy. And while they’re still easily bendable, it’s harder to stretch photopolymer. Once you start building your collection of clear stamps and are regularly handling and using them, it will become easy to tell the difference in materials.
Just because photopolymer is higher quality, does not mean you should avoid acrylic stamps like the plague. I own a few sets of acrylic stamps as well in my collection, and fully believe they have their time and place. Acrylic stamps are much cheaper, so they can be perfect if you want a stamp you may only use on one project.
Just make sure you know you’re getting what you pay for, as I’ve heard of ladies who have actually ripped their acrylic stamps just trying to pull them off the plastic storage sheet for the first time. I would also not recommend using acrylic stamps on a project where you need the stamped image to come out perfectly on the first try. In my experience, acrylic stamps can sometimes be unevenly cut, giving the stamp varying thickness, therefore making it pretty difficult to stamp a full even image.
Overall, I believe there is room for both photopolymer and acrylic stamps in any crafter’s studio. I think the most important thing is being well informed about a product before you purchase it! Hopefully the information provided here will help in that regard :).
Best Places to Buy
Photopolymer stamp sources I personally use and love:
Photopolymer stamp sources I have been recommended by others:
Acrylic stamps I use:
Caring for Your Stamps
Storing your stamps
I always store my stamp in the original packaging. I know this is very important for at least photopolymer stamps. When you buy clear stamps, they are mounted on a thicker piece of clear plastic inside the packaging sleeve. For photopolymer stamps, this plastic is called acetate. To keep your clear stamps in the best condition over a long period of time, it is recommended you always store your clear stamps on acetate.
The exterior packaging is less important however, and you have the option of pulling your acetate sheet of clear stamp out of the original sleeve to store in another way if you’d like. One of my favorite ways to repackage your stamps for storing is moving them into Avery Elle sleeves. You can see this system in use in this video by Jennifer McQuire. I love the idea of all my stamps being stored in uniform packaging, and hope to eventually move into this system myself!
Other popular options for alternative stamp storing include binder systems, cd cases and drawer systems. You should choose a system that makes sense for you, your stamp collection, and the space you have available.
Cleaning your stamps
It is also very important to clean your stamps regularly. Neglecting to ever clean your stamps can result in ruining your stamped images due to caked on ink layers. It will also cause your stamp to loose its ‘cling’ over time, making it impossible to stick to your acrylic block.
You have a couple different options for cleaning your stamps. No matter which option you choose to go with, I recommend cleaning your stamps after each use. Getting into this habit will ensure you aren’t constantly telling yourself you’ll get around to cleaning your stamps “next time”. This will also reduce staining from ink. While staining will not affect the integrity of your stamp over time, if you’re like me, stained stamps are a huge pet peeve.
Your first option for cleaning your stamps is the cheapest, and is the method I personally use on all my stamps. After stamping your image, simply run your clear stamp under lukewarm water in your sink and rub with mild soap. Just be sure to close the drain when you do so, so you don’t risk loosing your stamp (especially smaller ones) down the drain! You can also use a small bowl of soapy water to rinse off your stamps. I personally have found it easier to get all the ink off by using running water from the sink, but a bowl would be a better option if you’re worried about staining your stamp by washing stronger inks. I have never had a problem with my chalk inks though.
Your second option is using baby wipes to clean your stamps. This is actually the method I use to clean my wood-mounted and roller stamps, since those cannot be run directly under water. But it works just as well for clear stamps. Simply take a baby wipe and gently wipe at your stamp until all the ink is removed. To make it easier, wipe off your stamp before removing it from the acrylic block. If you choose to clean your stamps this way, make sure you use alcohol-free baby wipes, since alcohol will damage your stamps over time.
A final choice for cleaning your clear stamps is actual stamp cleaner. I would recommend this for harsher inks, like Staz On. I have never personally used a stamp cleaning solution, so I can’t recommend a particular brand, but I do know there are a couple out there that are highly recommended and used by regular stampers.
Using Your Stamps
Accessories for your stamps
Once you have your stamps, you will need a few accessories before you can begin stamping. The first thing you will need is an acrylic block. This is how you will actually be able to stamp with your clear stamps. Once you peel your selected stamp away from the acetate, place the flat non-patterned side onto the acrylic block. The block gives you sometime to hold onto when placing your stamp on a project, and it also ensure the stamp stays flat, and even pressure is applied over the entire stamp to make a full, clear image.
I highly recommend purchasing a few acrylic blocks in varying sizes if you’re planning on being a pretty regular stamper. The good thing about acrylic blocks is that I have found that the cheap ones get the job done just as well as pricier versions. My favorite acrylic blocks came in a set of 4 from Michaels, which has all the sizes you need to get started!
You will also need to purchase some ink to get started stamping. There is a huge variety of inks out there, with every color under the sun. You also have the option of chalk, pigment or dye inks (which I’ll go further into in another post). Just know that you do not have to buy them all right away!! I started out with a single black ink pad, which I used for months before I decided to invest in a set of colored inks.
My favorite inks are the VersaMagic dew drop chalk inks. They come in a ton of beautiful colors, and are nice and tiny so you can easily store a bunch of them. I have also found that they ink and stamp very nicely. I also have some ColorBox pigment inks, which give of a stronger color, that I don’t use quite as frequently, just out of personal preference. You may have to try a couple different types and brands of ink to see which you prefer for the projects you generally stamp with.
Inking your stamps
Now that you have all your supplies, it’s time to get down to the fun part and actually use your stamps!! The way you ink your stamp is very important, and can definitely affect how your image turns out. There is a happy medium with inking your stamps, and you want to be sure not to have too much or too little ink on your stamp before stamping. A lot of knowing how much is the right amount of ink will be trial and error. So pull out some of your favorite stamps, and a pretty ink pad and get to practicing!
If you ink up your stamp too much, you will be able to see beads of excess ink all over your stamp before stampong it onto your project. This will lead to an over-inked image, and the excess ink can spread out when you stamp and end up where there should be no ink in your image. Think of biting into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, that has too much jelly on it. Not good.
It is equally not good to under-ink your stamp. This will lead to a patchy and lack-luster image. You want a full solid image, so you need to make sure you have enough ink on your stamp to achieve this. When looking at your stamp before stamping it, make sure ink is evenly spread across the entire stamp, with no ‘bald spot’ without ink.
Stamping your stamps
And now it’s finally time to stamp down your stamp!! After inking your stamp, hold your stamp over where you’d like it placed on your project. The wonderful thing about clear stamps and acrylic blocks, is you can see right through them, making it super easy to place your stamp exactly where you want it!
Once you have your stamp positioned where you want it to end up, slowly lower it onto your project. You want to evenly place the stamp onto your surface. You want to touch it to the paper as flat as possible, so one corner doesn’t touch the surface way before the rest of the stamp. Firmly touch your stamp to your surface, so transfer the ink onto your project. Don’t press down too hard though, or you’ll end up with a fat image (same as if the stamp was over-inked).
I have also regularly heard the recommendation to never rock your stamps once it’s placed on your project. However, I take this with a grain of salt. I personally always like to slightly rock my stamp once its placed a little in each direction. I make sure not to press extremely hard when rocking, just enough to make sure the entire stamp has had a chance to fully touch down on my project. Again knowing if and how to rock your stamps will just come with practice and experience.
And that finishes up everything you need to know to start stamping your little heart out! Like I said before, stamping is one of my absolutely favorite crafty techniques. Especially because you can never ‘use up’ or run out of a stamp once you own it. It’s a permanent part of your crafty stash!
I have only just scratched the surface of information about stamping with this post, and I hope to do more posts sharing all the fun things you can do with stamps! Let me know what you’d like to know about stamping, or if you’d like a particular crafty tutorial!!
I hope armed with this information, you can start loving stamping as much as I do! And as with any other crafting technique, I’m still learning. So if you have a stamping tip that I didn’t mention here, make sure to leave it in the comments! Happy stamping 🙂