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Searching for a New Rubber-Stamp Ink

April 19, 2017
Testing Page in a Shinola Sketchbook. I tested on a variety of papers, but most of my notes fell in this journal for the initial testing as some inks didn’t survive to round two because of odor.

I use pigmented rubber-stamp ink in my artwork.

It’s a crucial part of what I like to do—creating surface texture with stamped lines and words: a type of visual collage without glue. (Don’t get me started on my problems finding a new glue.)

It’s hard to believe I’ve been looking for a stamp ink replacement for over a year. If you look at the dates on today’s images you’ll see 3/19/16. I was in the thick of the search for a new rubber stamp ink then, because I’d just purchased some new Brilliance re-inkers in my favorite colors and they smelled of ROSES. That might be fine if one is walking through the rose garden at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, but the chemical concoction that passes for “rose perfume” is something far different.

And definitely not something I can work with in the art studio.

I was heartbroken.

And desperate! I was in the midst of filming my “Textures” class and rubber-stamp inks are a big part of my work. I wanted to include them in the class videos, but couldn’t include products I couldn’t use.

I contacted my friend Judi of Judikins (a wonderful rubber-stamp and accessories company that I whole heartedly recommend), to see if she knew what was happening with the Brilliance ink. She confirmed that it was indeed a change (not some weird batch I’d bought). She suggested some other options and sent me samples so I could smell and work with some different brands.

Additional testing notes for rubber-stamp inks. This is a journal I bound using Folio printmaking paper. While it looks like the Brilliance bled when washed over, that’s because I washed over a clump of ink that wasn’t dry yet. I’ve used Brilliance for 17 years and not had a problem in any of my mixed media work. I don’t know if the new scent means there are other changes in the product. I didn’t test any of the new scent formulation because I couldn’t stand to be in the room with it.

And so the testing began. I will let you look at the images in today’s post. There you can see things labeled and judge for yourself if they bled or not when water was washed over them. Look carefully to see the subtle changes in things like ColorBox Archival Dye and ColorBox Chalk Archival. The first didn’t bleed, the second bled every so slightly—you decide if you can stand the smells and the slight bleeding, it’s all individual.

I never did discover the difference between “Fluid Chalk” and “Archival Dye” in the ColorBox line. I didn’t ask or investigate because I immediately knew they weren’t for me. Life is short. I’m not trying to find out everything about everything any more—I’m just trying to find out what I can use to replace one of my essential tools.

(Big mental shift in that last paragraph, did you catch it folks?)

I Need the Following from My Rubber-stamp Inks

Pigment inks. I need the opacity that typically comes with a pigment ink, and its water resistance, which also typically comes with such an ink in rubber-stamping. (Note there are some hybrids now that are dye and pigment mixes and do interesting things with water washes because of the dyes, but are they lightfast?)

Here on the reverse side of a stamped page you can see the ink is bleeding through the page after a wash was made over the ink. Since I paint over my stamping all the time this is not a suitable ink for me. Bleeding issues are listed in the final chart. This test was in a Shinola sketchbook—however the bleeding tests were also conducted on thick art paper. I use a variety of paper types in my journals and I need a ink that can work on them all. Brilliance used to be that ink.

Water-resistance. I don’t need waterproof—but the inks I use for stamping do need to resist the watercolor, dilute acrylics, or gouache that I place on top of them.

Lightfastness. I like this in my inks because I use them in paintings that are hung and exposed to light. (Dyes will fade even in a journal and I use lots of fugitive stuff in my journals, but not in my paintings—and I don’t want two brands of everything in the studio, so I err on the side of lightfast.)

Odorless, or pretty close. No heavy floral scents like the current Brilliance formulation, and nothing really “chemical” in smell. It’s a difficult line to explain. If something has a noticeable smell in 10 seconds of work it usually won’t be something I can work with for 5 to 10 minutes without getting a headache that shuts me down for the day. I can’t afford to lose the time.

Fast-drying. I work fast. I like to stamp or otherwise use the ink (I have a number of ways I use stamp ink) and  then get to work with wet layers right away.

Color range—like everyone I like the colors I like. For me in rubber-stamp inks that means light tints that can work over heavy, dark backgrounds, or saturated colors that will cause text to pop. I need both. And I like sparkly colors as well sometimes.

No bleeding through my favorite papers—I use a lot of really heavy art papers so bleeding is not an issue. However dye based inks tend to bleed easily even through the heaviest of papers. Even some pigment inks will seep through paper. I used Ranger Archival Rubber Stamp ink in my “Minnesota Journal Project 2000” journal and it bled through the paper (a heavy weight card stock) in a couple weeks. It literally kept seeping. That’s what sent me looking for another ink back then. I found Brilliance which didn’t have fragrance when I first started using it in 2000.

My final assessment on this grouping of inks.

You can read the details about the inks I tested on my little chart in one of today’s images.

Since writing those notes I’ve used each ink again to see if the odor still bothers me. I find that the ColorBox inks actually bother me a little more than they did at that first test. I actually worked with them alone for a whole work session and ended with a headache.

Judi also sent me some Liquitext Acrylic Gold Ink. I found that it was more anemic than other gold inks I’ve used and I don’t care for it. (I can’t remember if it had a bad odor or not and I gave the bottle away.)

Anxious to help me discover another suitable substitute to Brilliance, and knowing I love sparkly things, Judi also sent me some “Mica Gloss.” It’s an acrylic product that is sparkly, comes in different colors, and can be used to stamp with. Simply put it out on a plastic plate and pounce your stamp into it. Be sure to clean your stamp afterwards as dried acrylic could clog the stamp design. If acrylic paints don’t bother you this might be a solution for you. I found the odor just over the line for my sensitive nose.

To keep my stamps clean I put a plastic plate containing a folded wet paper towel next to me when I work. I stamp the used stamp on the paper towel once or twice and then on a dry paper towel. The stamp gets put away when dry. That works for most inks I use. You might have to clean more vigorously with acrylic products.

What Did I Decide?

What brand am I going with? Memento Luxe for Mixed Media. There is a slight flora scent, but it is slight. Is it more than I would like—Yes. But I can tolerate it. Just barely. This is not a happy replacement, that’s what I’m saying. I have to stamp stuff and walk away, or blow dry it and walk away for a shorter time. I can’t be around it while it dries. That’s not how I like to work, but it’s the only compromise I could come up with.

But for now I will continue with the Memento Luxe for Mixed Media. I’m not using rubber-stamp ink as much as I would like because with the house is set up to shoot new class videos there is no place to put the work for airing out. Not using rubber-stamp ink as much as I would like makes me grumpy.

Dick is a very patient man.

I continue to keep my eyes open for alternative inks.

Or for Tsukineko to wake up and return to the old Brilliance formulation.

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