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The gears are meshing

For my father-in-law’s birthday card, I knew I wanted to include florals, because he’s a gardener. But I also wanted to make sure it was a bit masculine in colors. Since he’s a machinist, tinkerer, and inventor, I thought I might include some steampunky gears.

This week’s Flouishes Timeless Tuesday challenge was to use a non-rectangular shape. I don’t yet have any large dies for base layers of cards, so I had to improvise a bit.

I had an embossed, sanded and shimmer ink-sprayed piece of Core’dinations shatter card stock that I had done as my very first embossing experiment. That became my base, and it thought that the Tim Holtz Picture Wheel die would both reflect both the embossed gear shapes and the overall rounded shape that I wanted to use.

I really enjoyed watercoloring the stamping with Distress markers. It worked so well that I’ve decided to invest in the whole set eventually, so that I can watercolor on lunch breaks or on the couch. While it’s certainly possible to color, as I have been doing, with the Distress ink pads, a brush and some water, the markers are way more convenient and portable. I just hope that the water brush markers work as well as using a regular wet brush. We’ll see!

I’d like to try the alcohol inks like Copics or similar down the road, because of their broader range of colors, but right now I don’t need to invest in a whole separate technique because there is so much to explore in the world of water-reactive inks. Besides, I’ve always been drawn to watercoloring.

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Ingredients: Watercolor paper, Core’dinations Shatter card stock embossed with a Darice folder and sanded, flowers and sentiments from Flourishes (Passion flower and Tag Lines), Distress markers, Distress ink, Archival ink, Tattered Angels Glimmer Mist sprays

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Learning: I really need some better ways to cut a shaped card base. I drew guidelines and everything, but I simply could not cut a curve smooth enough for my satisfaction. Fortunately the recipient was more excited about the flowers and the gears – which lead to us experimenting with die cutting and embossing his basswood scraps – fun!

Given all the trouble I’ve had with Distress ink on acrylic clear stamps, I was very pleased to find that Distress inks and markers worked so well on Flourishes’ photopolymer stamps. I had fun blending colors using a Distress marker directly on the stamp for the inside of the card.

Loving: I loved the finished colors, the strong browns contrasted with the rich purple. I loved the way the picture wheel shows little peeks of the background. And I was delighted to find a use for the picture wheel die which I think I picked up as part of a lot. I was also happy to have finally found a use for the embossed gears sample I had made a couple of months ago.

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Time to send some cards

I’m afraid to ask what the deadline is to send cards internationally for Christmas. I suspect it’s already passed. So today I promised myself I would finish the final card for a geeky gamer’s card swap for which I promised ten cards this year. I’ll send them tomorrow on my lunch break. I used the fun sketch from Flourishes’ December release challenge to inspire me.

I’m quite excited to see the whole Flourishes December release. Being new to the world of cling stamps, there are a couple of companies that I have started following avidly, but Flourishes so far is the only one I’ve purchased from. In their last release of three designs, I was lucky enough to win one set. I liked the quality enough to buy another set from the November release as well as a couple of their holiday designs, and the third set is waiting in my wish list for a reasonable excuse to justify another craft splurge!

Anyway, I digress from tonight’s card. My initial plan was to use some of weird border stamps from my stash along with perfect pearls gold for the “sandwich filling” layer. After a great deal of careful work on this sandwich layer, something went terribly wrong in gluing that layer on to the background. The glue dried but left the paper blotchy and translucent. That glue has never done that before, I can only guess that it was because my craft room was chilly. I tried to age the paper with Distress inks, but it pulled off the perfect pearls making everything worse. So I set that one aside and tried again.

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Ingredients: David Tutera A7 Celebrations card, Recollections ribbon, My Minds Eye Lost & Found Christmas paper, I can’t recall who made the punch

Learning After the mess of the first attempt, I got a bit hasty with the top layer on this second attempt. I feel I should have background stamped it or something.

Loving: Of all the cards where I included a little gamer/geek motif, I think this is my favorite. I think it coordinates with and showcases the geeky bit nicely, whereas the previous cards mostly tried to work in the geeky in a less noticeable way. It’s a dragon drawing by Tolkien, in case you are wondering.

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Clear stamps: techniques and tips

In a previous post, I was lamenting the difficulty I was having in getting good stamp impressions out of some of my cling stamps.  I did some research across various forums and websites, and here are some tips I ran across.  I haven’t had time to try all of them, but my results are improving, and I am highly optimistic that after some experimentation I will find a method that works consistently for me.

20131208-215358.jpgStamp Quality:

  • Not all clear stamps are the same.
  • Photopolymer process stamps tend to be easier to ink, and work with, but also more expensive (e.g., Flourishes, Simon Says Stamp brand, My Favorite Things).
  • Cheaper silicone or acrylic clear stamps might take more experimenting to get a good impression (e.g., Scrappy Cat, Inkadinkado).  However, not all “acrylic” stamps are equal either.  There are reports that a few brands (e.g., Penny Black, Recollections, Martha Stewart, Fiskars), are acrylic but are less squishable and less prone to image quality problems.
  • Photopolymer stamps often have a weird initial smell, in case that helps identify what you have.
  • Now that I know there is a difference, I realize that I haven’t had a problem so far with the photopolymer clear stamps, just the acrylic ones.  And I’m curious now to try the “better quality acrylic” stamps, like the Martha Stewart ones I have picked up, to see if they less troublesome than other acrylic brands.

Stamping Surface and pressure:

  • Many users recommend using a mousepad, a pad of papers, or some other cushioning under the paper for a good impression.
  • Make a test stamp on scrap paper, and try different paper types as well if image quality is a problem.
  • Be careful not to use too much pressure, as some clear stamps, especially smaller designs, can be squished out of shape causing a blurred impression.  I have seen this problem on some small snowflakes that I have!
  • There are some acrylic blocks that have foam feet that are meant to both give cushion and even pressure, although they seem like they would be annoying to ink to me!

Inks:

  • Of course, everyone has different favorite brands.  But it seems that the acrylic stamps do better with types that are pigment-based, or water-resistant “archival” inks.
  • Dye-based (e.g., Distress inks) tend to bead up on the surface of clear acrylic stamps, giving a poor impression.  I have certainly experienced this, as most of the ink colors that I have are dye-based.  I never realized there was so much variation in ink types!
  • Solvent-based inks (e.g., StazOn) are supposed to lead to deterioration of clear stamps, although I’m not sure if this includes acrylic as well as photo-polymer stamps.  It make sense to my mind that solvents would be bad on photopolymer, as I think it’s more chemically fragile.  I would be surprised if the acrylic stamps were as susceptible to damage from solvent-based inks.
  • A lot of people in forums specifically mentioned having good luck with Colorbox Chalks on clear acrylic stamps.  Although both Colorbox and Colorbox Chalks are pigment-based, the Colorbox Chalks are considered quick-drying while regular Colorbox have glycerin-extended drying times to make them better for embossing.  I suspect the glycerin would cause beading up just like water-based dye pads.

Cleaning the Stamp:

  • The manufacturing process may leave residues on the acrylic stamp.  Supposedly this is not an issue with photopolymer.  Washing clear stamps with mild soap and warm water may help and certainly won’t hurt.
  • After reading this tip, I used a strong light and looked at some of the stamps that I hadn’t used yet (and had never cleaned).  I noticed that the unused acrylic stamps did seem to have a bit of slightly yellowish residue on the surface.  Cleaning the stamps well did seem to help the impressions a bit, but alone did not seem to be enough to get a perfect image.
  • Beware of lint.
  • Avoid using solvent-based cleaners and cleaners meant for removing solvent-based inks, as these may lead to deterioration of clear stamps.

The Stamp’s Surface (*WARNING: none of these tips are universally recommended, use extreme caution because these methods may ruin the stamp):

I am providing these tips, with warnings, because sometimes it’s better to use a potentially tool-destructive method than not be able to use a tool at all.  I am optimistic that these won’t be necessary if some of the other methods are employed first.

  • SEE ABOVE WARNING*: Some users recommend scuffing the surface of the acrylic stamp with a pink or white eraser.  More recommended the pink.
    • UPDATE:  I have discovered that Bo Bunny Stamps recommend on their packaging to rub their stamps with a pink eraser before each use for better inking.  So maybe this is not such a dangerous idea after all.
  • SEE ABOVE WARNING*: Even more scary, some users had success scuffing the surface of the acrylic stamp with very fine sandpaper!  I would say this should be a last resort.
  • SEE ABOVE WARNING*:  Some users had positive results by inking the stamp first in an archival or solvent-based, letting it dry, and then inking in the desired manner.  As an added step, some of these users recommend never cleaning off that initial layer of ink.  Again, not recommended because of the risk of the stamp chemically deteriorating over time.

Stamps Losing their Adhesion to the Acrylic Block:

  • Double stick tape, or Aleene’s Tack it Over & Over will get the job done.

So that’s what I’ve learned over the past few days!  I’ll try some of these methods out over the next several days as I finish up my holiday card-making.  I have to say it’s a little frustrating to find that these acrylic stamps are so fiddly, since I have a few of them around.  Hopefully, I will get a good solution worked out.

Until next time, keep those fingers inky…