Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tools and supplies for beginners (part 2)

I'm continuing with my basic supplies for beginners series. Last time, I covered card stock, paper trimmer and adhesive. You can read the first part here.

4. Set of Clear Stamps & Acrylic Block

Clear stamps are very user-friendly. They allow you to see exactly where and how the stamped image/sentiment is going to be -- and this is awesome if you're like me and have a slight penchant for perfectionism. I do own a few red rubber cling and wood-mounted stamps. One of the wood-mounted stamps I own is of a Steampunk owl, so I do make use of it sometime. But overall, I reach for my clear stamps more often.

Like any other product, clear stamps can be made with a few different materials, and they have different properties (pros and cons, if you will).  

Acrylic clear stamps are soft and easy to clean. They also tend to be a little bit cheaper. They usually aren't stained by stamps. On the other hand, they can also make the ink bead up on them and stamp kind of splotchy and uneven, as well as occasionally not stick to the block properly. I prefer my stamped images and sentiments to be very crisp (think printer quality), so I get rather annoyed by the splotchiness.

Photo-polymer stamps are stiffer and offer a more precise stamped image. They leave a very crisp impression and they are sticky (so they stick to the block very well). They seem a lot more durable, and they don't usually have issues with ink beading up. However, they often will stain. Even after cleaning the stamp really well, it will end up with a slight tint. It's not something that affects the card itself, but it doesn't look as pretty.

I've found that I prefer photo-polymer stamps, overall. Many of my favorite companies use photo-polymer and I'm used to the best way to stamp with them (i.e. what ink to use, how much pressure to apply to the stamp, etc).

So, before we get into what stamps to get, I want to mention a really great  Lawn Fawn video that shows the basic way to use the blocks and clear stamps. One of the things you will notice they mention is that you will need a few acrylic blocks  -- and that you'll want several sizes because stamps themselves come in different sizes.

This is the blocks I use at the moment:
Inkadinkado Clear Acrylic Block: Small and Medium
They work well with all but my largest stamps.

And now the stamps... Just looking at all the gorgeous stamps out there is overwhelming. I have a ton of stamp sets, and I still keep finding more sets that can just fill in the gap or make a perfect card. But since this is about what to buy when you're just starting out, I'm narrowing it down to 4 must-have sets.

- Happy Everything from Lawn Fawn
This set has all the basic sentiments you might need for the major holidays and personal events such as birthdays, anniversary or graduation.
- Sentiment Sampler from Paper Smooches
This set completes the basic sentiments with messages that don't necessarily start with "happy" -- i.e sentiments like "miss you" or "get well".
- A Little Lovin from Paper Smooches
There's two reasons to get this set: a) It has the welcome baby sentiment, which isn't covered by either of the top sets, and b) It has character (i.e. animal) stamps. Not everyone likes using character/picture stamps (or coloring them), but they can make for some really amazing cards.
- Flower Stamp Set
This one is a bit different because there are a lot of different styles for flowers (not to mention lots of different flower types!). My personal favorite is Our Friendship Grows from Lawn Fawn, but it's a cutesy style that's not necessarily appropriate for cards that might make use of flowers (ex. sympathy cards). So, my advice is to find a good photo-polymer stamp that has the kind of drawing style you like.

5. Ink

Ink pads are another one of those areas where there is a HUGE variety of colors, types and formulas. I've gone through a couple of frustrating months where I thought my stamps were awful and defective, when it turned out that I was using the wrong ink. It took a lot of trial and error to finally figure out what brand of ink I should use to get the results I want.

Jennifer McGuire has a really good video that explains the different types of ink and their properties.

 As I mentioned, I like when my stamped images and sentiments are crisp and clean. Since I often use watercolor, I also like working with inks that are waterproof, as well as quick-drying and permanent. As a result, I gravitate toward dye inks. My favorite brand is Ranger Archival inks, as they are quick to dry and stamp very crisply. I'm also learning to like Shadow Inks from Hero Arts.

However, I also love the vibrant colors that pigment inks produce, so I have quite a few pigment ink pads as well.

My recommendations for ink pads are:

Dye Inks:
- Ranger Archival Jet Black Ink
This is the standard ink that's used on almost every card I make. Make sure you pick up some re-inker, as well, since it will be used often.
 - Ranger Archival Coffee Ink (and re-inker)
This is a great back-up neutral ink to use on cards where black would be too harsh or create too much contrast.

Pigment Inks:
- Hero Arts Unicorn White Pigment Ink
White ink is very useful for sentiments or images on darker paper. This ink is also fantastic for creating snowflakes. The drawback is that it's VERY slow to dry. I usually put the card away for a couple of hours to dry so the ink doesn't smear.
- Memento Luxe Love Letter Ink
A good red ink is hard to find, especially if you want a bright red and not something that leans too much toward orange or pink. So, I make use of Love Letter a lot when I want a nice punch of red.

6- Paper Scissors

I started out using any old scissor to cut paper and I didn't see anything wrong with that until I bought these scissors. Now, I can't imagine working on cards without them. Paper requires sharp and precise scissors, so you will want to have a pair that's dedicated only to cutting paper.

Not only are honey bee scissors very sharp (and I do mean really sharp... I've stabbed my palm with it on accident once and it was mucho painful), but they cut all the way to the very tip -- this is fantastic when you're cutting out complex shapes. The non-stick coating means you don't have to worry about scissors getting stuck to anything that might make cutting difficult.

That's all for now! I will continue on with the last 4 tools and supplies

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