It's a simple fact that you need to ink stamps before they'll produce images on paper. But while inking stamps might sound easy, it can be tricky. If you ink stamps too little, you end up with incomplete images. On the other hand, inking them too much can cause your images to look 'blobby'. Either way, you end up wasting paper and feeling frustrated.
So how do you find the balance? How do you ink stamps properly to produce clear, crisp stamped images? Here are some simple guidelines for how to ink stamps, plus a few tips for dealing with common inking problems, to help you out.
How to Ink Stamps
There are a few different ways to ink stamps, depending on how you plan to use them. However, the most traditional way is with ink pads (aka 'stamp pads' or just 'pads'). When you ink stamps with pads, the best method to use depends on the size of your stamps.
How to Ink Stamps That Are Smaller Than Your Ink Pad
If your stamp is smaller than the ink pad you're using:
1. Pick up the stamp by the mounting block, so that it fits comfortably in the cup of your hand without your fingers touching the image surface.
2. Lightly press the full image surface straight down onto the open ink pad, then lift the stamp straight up and away from the pad.
3. Turn your hand so that you can see the inked image surface, and verify that all parts of it are inked.
4. If necessary, repeat steps 2 to 3 until the stamp is fully inked.
How to Ink Stamps That Are Larger Than Your Ink Pad
If your stamp is larger than the ink pad you're using:
1. Lay the stamp on its back, image surface facing up.
2. Grip the open ink pad by the sides, keeping your fingers out of the way.
3. Tap the pad lightly and repeatedly over the image surface of the stamp until it is fully covered with ink.
Common Inking Problems & How to Solve Them
Besides technique, there are a few other factors that can contribute to how well you ink stamps. Here are some of the common problems stampers experience, and tips for solving them to get good ink coverage every time.
Ink Pads Are Too Dry or Too Wet
Dry ink pads -- ones that don't have enough ink in them -- simply don't ink stamps well. Similarly, ones that have too much ink in them can cause problems in stamping. So the first important step to stamp clear, crisp images is to make sure your ink pads are wet, but not too wet. To check, open the ink pad and examine the surface.
Your ink pad is too dry if:
- The color looks faded in spots
- When you press a fingertip to the surface, the pad feels dry, fades where you touched it, or your fingertip comes away ink-free
To solve this problem, simply reink the pad with the appropriate color and type of reinker.
If, when you examine the pad, you see ink pooling on the surface, then your ink pad is too wet. In this case, solve the problem by gently pressing the inked surface to a piece of scratch paper. Recheck the ink level and, if needed, tap the pad again on the paper. Typically you only have to do this once or twice to remove the excess ink.
Ink Not Sticking to Stamps
Because of the way they're made, new stamps often have a certain residue on the image surface. While normal, this can also prevent ink from sticking to stamps. So before you use new stamps for the first time, it's important to 'season' them. In other words, you need to remove that residue.
There are a few different ways to season stamps. You can:
- Ink and stamp them repeatedly on scratch paper, until you see that they're stamping clear, crisp images.
- Spray your stamps with stamp cleaner, and then scrub them with a dry rag or stamp scrubber.
- Work a pencil eraser vigorously over the image surface of the stamps, as if erasing stubborn pencil lines, and then clean the stamps.
- Tap and scrub the image surfaces against the back of your hand or forearm.
I find that method #3 usually works best for me. Whichever method you choose, be sure to test your newly seasoned stamps on scratch paper to make sure they're 'good to go' before using them for a project.
Ink Dries Before Stamping
Sometimes the ink dries on a stamp before you can stamp it on your paper. If this happens, you can usually reactivate the ink by 'huffing' on the stamp.
To do this, simply cup both hands around the stamp, and then breathe on the image surface by letting out a couple quick 'huffs' of breath. Most of the time, the moisture from your breath will reactivate the ink. If that doesn't work, you'll probably need to reink your stamp.
Ink Outside the Image Surface
Occasionally when you ink stamps, ink gets on other parts of the stamp besides the image surface. Then, when you stamp, you end up with extra lines you don't want. There are a couple of ways to prevent this:
- Be careful not to rock your stamps to the side when inking them. If you need to, practice lowering the stamp straight down to the ink pad and then lifting it straight up and away.
- When using rubber stamps (as opposed to photopolymer or acrylic stamps), make sure any excess rubber outside of the actual image is either trimmed away, or firmly attached to the mounting block. If necessary, use a firm, blunt object, like the handles of your scissors, to press that excess rubber down into place.
If All Else Fails
By following these tips and guidelines, you should be able to ink stamps well, and get clear, crisp images every time. However, if you still have trouble, consider investing in a stamp positioner, like the Tonic Studios Tim Holtz Stamp Platform or the MISTI. (Stampin' Up!'s innovative new Stamparatus will also be available June 1, 2018 if you're willing to wait!)
Although some are a bit pricey, stamp positioners largely eliminate certain problems, like incomplete stamped images and rocking stamps when inking them. Plus, there are other benefits to using them, such as stamping images exactly where you want them every time. However, stamp positioners only work with clear-mount (aka 'foam-mount') and photopolymer (aka 'acrylic') stamps, so they're not a good option if you only use wood-mount stamps.
Share Your Thoughts
Do you feel these guidelines and tips will help you ink stamps better? What other questions about inking stamps can I answer for you? Remember, I'm always here to help!