Using Rubber Stamp Inks in Visual Journals

June 26, 2015


Left: Page from my 2015 Fake Journal. I used a 6 x 6 inch square, wire-bound journal with grey Stonehenge paper. All the pages were masked and labeled with the date and related title in the same way. This image was a response to "Focus on Text." There is some heat embossing in this image as well.

When I posted my fake journal flip through for 2015 a reader wrote in and asked how I achieved the smooth backgrounds on so many of the pieces.

(You can see the rest of the images in that flip through, but I'll be posting and writing about my favorite images in the weeks to come.)

On pages like the one shown I was using rubber stamp inks.

There are a lot of ways you can use rubber stamp inks, depending on which type of ink they are (dye-based or pigment). 

If you are looking to get a smooth background like the one shown in this image (light blue) all you have to do is the following:

1. Use a great paper like Stonehenge. I think we can all agree when we look at the ink application in these sketches that the paper loves rubber stamp ink.

2. Hold your stamp pad fairly flat against the paper (there is some angling when you want to do tight areas, etc. but that comes later with a bit of practice).

3. Use a circular motion and even pressure as you move the pad face over your paper surface, going around and around the area you want to color. Keep working until you have the coverage saturation you want. The even pressure takes a little practice too, but not much. In this sketch I worked more passes at the edges, leaving it lighter in the center to create a bit of a "glow."

4. I also find that using a MAIN color, letting it dry, and then going in with another color of ink pad, helps make a very rich color. The two colors combine in ways to hide imperfections in application. Analogous color choices make a very rich and saturated look. The blended color leads the eye around the background in a subtle way. (You don't have to way for the first ink layer to dry, but if you don't you'll contaminate your second color's pad.)

If regular-size stamp pads are too cumbersome for you to hold, you can also use those little petal shaped ink pads. Many companies make them. There are dye and pigment versions.

I only use Brilliance Stamp Inks and pads now. They don't smell. They dry quickly. They give great coverage. They are available in an interesting range of colors (the Graphite black is fantastic and very densely rich). Best of all I can paint over them right away. And I can also write over them with my favorite pens (all the pens you always read about me using here on my blog.)

Brilliance is a pigment ink. I can't find them locally, so I buy them from Marco's Paper. (They came to a rubber stamp convention and set up a booth years ago and I went a little nuts buying the stamp pads. I've been a loyal fan ever since.)

I have used the same background technique with dye-based stamp inks, but there are some quirks to applying the different types of ink. You'll work them out on practice paper. It has to do with speed and pressure, and the "fullness" and "wetness of the pad, and the ability of the paper to take dye ink and not let it bleed through.

The main reason I don't use dye-based stamp inks any longer is that I usually want to add gouache on the top of my backgrounds and that makes it problematic—the dye-based inks will be picked up by the wet media as they are water soluble (and remain so even after drying). That might be something you want to experiment with, but usually I haven't got much use for a water soluble background. Additionally the dye-based inks are not lightfast.

I'll write about other fun ways to use rubber stamp inks another day.

  1. Reply

    So successful in creating a sense of depth…I never would have thought ink pads could do something like this! Kudos for PUSHING THE MEDIUM!

  2. Reply

    Rubber stamp fun. Great way to spend q blistering 100 degree day.

  3. Reply

    Nice page, Roz! You know I love your big letter and number stamps!

    Thanks for sharing all about your experience with rubber stamp ink. It is always good to hear what someone else prefers and their reasons for it. For some reason, the difference between pigment based and dye-based ink pads finally clicked after reading your post, so thank you!

    Smiles to you,

    • Sandra
    • June 27, 2015

    How much gouache do you go through in a year? Do you buy the small tube or are there large ones? I’ve tried it and like it but I think I’ve been using it thinly like watercolor and I think you use it thicker and I’m wondering if it can be used more like oils only better. Thanks for this post. I love the strokes on the fortune cookie and the idea for stamped background .

  4. Reply

    Sorry it’s so hot Margaret, but glad you can indulge in stamp ink!

  5. Reply

    Yes I do Briana! (And Dick knows it too!) And thank you. I’m so glad that things clicked for you with this post. I know that we can all listen many times to something from different sources and then one day it settles in. I hope you have some great fun with stamp ink. I know you always enjoy playing with stencils. I like the small petal shaped pads for working with stencils, rubbed on in the same way. I find that the surface of those pads gets a bit chewed up over time, but it’s a lot less expensive to replace a small petal pad than my large main pad.

  6. Reply

    I really don’t know Sandra. Less the last two years than previously, because I was unable to paint for most of the past two years. And when I get low on a color I just go to Wet Paint and buy some because they carry both my favorite brands.

    And then there is the issue of using up some colors more quickly than others. I probably go through several tubes of PB60 in a year, ditto Burnt Sienna.

    I don’t think about it. I think more about my chocolate consumption!

    If you are using M. Graham or Schmincke brands of gouache than you have the option of using them lightly/diluted like watercolors. I write about this elsewhere, and frequently a piece I post will be labeled “gouache” and look very translucent in its paint usage, that’s why.

    But it is made to be an opaque paint. You don’t want to slather it on because too much will crack (a danger if you’re slathering it on a bendable surface like a page in a journal) but you can get lots of texture out of it, much like acrylic and oil paints.

    So if I were you I would start diluting it a little less than you have and playing with it, and then if you think you can push it a little more, dilute it a little less, in that way you’ll find your comfort point. Have fun.

  7. Reply

    Thanks ellen. I do like to find the easiest way to do something and blending in watercolor, gouache, color pencil, would be a huge time commitment for a project like this.

    Brilliance ink pads are great! And so is Stonehenge. The perfect marriage. Brilliance has some sparkly inks and the blue I used is one of them. They also have some “normal” colors like red, black, green, etc. and I find those fun for stamping text.

    You have to be a little bit careful with the sparkly colors if you’re scanning as they tend to reflect the scanner’s light.

    • Debra Paper
    • August 16, 2015

    As always, Roz, I had a thought and a question, come to your website and the answer is here. Thank you so much!!!

  8. Reply

    Debra, so glad this was helpful.

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