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Buying clear stamps from China…my experience

Hello stamping friends.  A couple of weeks ago I posted my experiences in purchasing metal cutting dies directly from China.  I ended up happy and have since purchased even more.  You can read my full blog post here.

While making those purchases I ended up looking at other craft supplies, including clear stamps.  I noticed that in the description of the stamps they were all made with silicone.  Even though I have had no luck with silicone stamps in the past the prices were very good and I saw a few sets that I liked.

So, I took the plunge and ordered several sets to compare against some of my favorite clear polymer stamps that I use regularly.

Here are my thoughts on the purchases and my ratings on these stamps.

Ease of purchase:

I had the same experience with stamps as I did with dies.  Using the Aliexpress site takes time and patience.  The stamp set names are either two generic or don’t make sense.  There are many sellers selling the same thing at widely different prices so it is best to shop around for the best prices.  Checking the sizes is also important. There are a range of styles and I did recognize a few sets as those I have seen in JoAnn’s or Michael’s as well as a few KaiserCraft sets.

Shipping:  With the metal dies I was able to get free shipping.  With stamps I ended up paying a small shipping fee.  I purchased duplicates of some stamps to give to friends and I noticed that once I changed my quantity from 1 to 2 a shipping charge was added.  In the end the cost not too bad.    Shipping time took between 2 – 3 weeks.  I ended up buying 8 stamp sets in a variety of styles.  Some simple line drawing, sentiments, some with a little detail and some with solid images.

What you really want to know is……how do they stamp??? How do they measure up against the high quality polymer stamps?

I’ll tell you right off the bat that I am a  bit biased when it comes to clear stamps.  I can deal with cheap paper, dies, and embellishments but when it comes to clear stamps I prefer those made with polymer.  I’ve been stamping for almost 20 years and have had my share of poor quality clear stamps (and rubber as well) and don’t want to hassle with a stamp. In the past 10 years 90% of my stamping has been done with polymer stamps. I consider myself an experienced stamper and know all the techniques to get a good image.  I’ve also used just  about every type of ink around – not every brand but every type.

Here is my rating criteria for these stamps and how they fared:

-Packaging – I don’t need a lot of fancy packaging but the set must have either an image sheet or have the images printed on the plastic sheet they are packed in.

-Ease of removal from the package.  Many of us have purchased stamps that  are next to impossible to remove from the sheet.  I’ve had a real workout on some of them.  There is no reason for this.  The stamps should cling to the sheet but be able to be removed with little effort.

-How do the stamps ‘feel” – are they thin or thick?

-How well do they hold ink and is the image crisp and clean?

I will be comparing the China stamps with the polymer stamps I currently own  I have  over 150 polymer stamp sets that work beautifully.  They are from a variety of companies like Power Poppy, Papertrey, Technique Tuesday, Waltzingmouse, Lawn Fawn and others.

My results:

Packaging – All  8  stamp sets I purchased came undamaged and in good shape.  All had the stamp image printed on the plastic sheet.  Rating:  Pass

Ease of removal from the package.     3 out of 8 stamp sets were hard – extremely hard – to remove from the package.  I ended up ripping one stamp, breaking a fingernail, bending a mini spatula and ended up with very sore fingers.  Once the stamps were off the sheet many of them did not lay flat on the acrylic block  And after all the work trying to get them off the plastic sheet, when I was finished stamping I placed them back on the sheet but many of them did not stick well.   Rating:  on the fence.  You can’t tell which stamps sets will be those that are hard to remove.  Frankly, this alone would deter me from making another purchase.    I just don’t want to work that hard to get a stamp.

How do the stamps “feel”?  For all 8 sets  the stamps are definitely thinner than my polymer ones.  Some were downright flimsy. And if they were the one that were hard to remove from the package the flimsiness only contributed to he problem of not lying flat on the block.   The larger the stamp is the more pronounced this is.  Smaller stamps seemed to be ok.    Rating:  Pass (just barely – mainly because the price point is so low).

How well do they hold ink and is the image crisp and clean?

This is the big test.  For polymer stamps, with the proper ink, I can take them out of the package and stamp without any conditioning.  And that’s the way it should be.  A stamp is supposed to hold the ink and transfer a clean image to another surface.  If you have to do extra prep work to get a stamp to ink up then I consider it a fail.  The type of ink is very important as well.  Not all inks are formulated to work with clear stamps – even the best polymer stamps will have trouble with some inks.  I will base my rating on the inks I own because I have no intention of buying a whole new line of inks just for these stamps. I made sure all my ink pads were freshly inked.

Inks that do not work well with either polymer or china stamps are:  Stampin Up, Marvy Markers, Distress inks.   The result is splotchy, uneven coverage and fuzzy.  A note on Stampin Up Inks (because I don’t want a bunch of SU demos on my case!)  – my SU inks are about 15 years old and still work great on rubber.  I understand that SU recently started offering clear stamps.  If they changed their ink formula to work with clear stamps then that may be an option.  However the SU inks I have do not work on any of my clear stamps.    If you are an SU demo please do not try and convince me otherwise.  I’ve tried too many times and the inks just don’t work to my satisfaction.

Inks that worked well on both polymer and china stamps are:  Memento and Palette brands.  Pigment inks work well but they tend to be slippery and will smudge easily and take very long to dry.    I personally don’t use pigment inks unless I am embossing.

Quality of image: Knowing a little about the process of making a stamp I know that it all starts with a high resolution image.  If the image is high resolution it is half the battle in the making of a good stamp. Sometimes images with a lot of detail do not translate well into a stamp without a good graphic designer cleaning up the image for processing.

I did no pre conditioning of the china stamps – you should not have to.

  I got the best results on images that were simple line drawings using the Memento or Palette inks and with pigment inks..  Those stamps with more detail ended up being a bit fuzzy and not crisp.  In looking at the detail of these stamps is was hard to tell if it was a problem with the resolution of the original image or in issue with manufacturing.

Sentiments – I’m picky about how I want my sentiments to look.  I want them crisp and clean.  The sentiment set I purchased had both simple line fonts and a few solid block words.  The simple line fonts worked fine but the solid block words were splotchy.

Solid image stamps – did not work well, again a splotchy result.  I will admit that some of my polymer stamps that are solid have the same problem. You really need to get a heavy coat of ink on solid images for it to look right.  The one exception to this are those multi-step stamp sets.  Since you are applying 3 layers of ink the splotchy-ness may not be noticeable.  And those sets tend to have a softer or watercolored look to them so you are not necessarily looking for a crisp clean impression.

Out of the 8 stamp sets I purchased, the inking went well with 4 of them.  2 sets were just too fuzzy for my taste and 2 sets had mixed results because of the type  of image. Rating:  half pass/half fail.

My conclusion?  Would I buy silicone stamps again direct from China?  My issue is that there is a lack of consistency in the product.  I know with all the polymer stamps I have purchased they will stamp well.  For silicone you cannot be sure.  My suggestions would be to limit yourself to simple line images and text as these have worked best for me.  You are still taking a chance on getting a stamp that does not work well, but the price point may be so low that you can live with it.

 

love blooms

Hello my creative and crafty friends!  I hope you are all doing well.  It’s getting to the end of January and that means love is in the air!  Everywhere you look there are hearts and flowers and all things related to Valentine’s Day.  My husbands birthday is only 9 days after Valentine’s Day so I have double duty in February for card making.

Now…how do you get the most out of your stamps?  How about taking a Christmas image and turning it into one for Valentine’s Day?  Here is my card where I did just that:

The image is from Power Poppy’s Simple Joys Christmas set, but I made a little modification to turn it into a Valentine.  Take a side by side look at the original image and my version:

 

When I stamped the original image I inked up everything but the round ornaments – yes it was a little difficult to work my marker in between those branches but I did it!  Once I stamped it without the ornaments I penciled in some hearts, then went over them with a fine point marker.  After that it was just a matter of coloring the image in – I used copics  – and putting everything together.  You can’t tell from the photo but I added a little sparkle to the white berries with a stardust gel pen.

So turning this image from Christmas to Valentine worked for me.  And you could even do an Easter theme by drawing ovals instead of hearts.

I’m submitting this card over on the Power Poppy monthly “warm up” challenge – details found HERE.

I hope you can take a look at your stamp collection and see what other possibilities they may bring.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Watercolor background with alcohol ink

I love the look of watercolors, but I also just love using my copic markers – which are alcohol based. Both have a place in my craft room, but I often wonder, can I get the vibrancy that I get with copics by using watercolor, and can I get a soft watercolor look from using alcohol markers?

Well, yesterday I tried a little experiment…and I am thrilled at the way it turned out!  When I use my copic markers I always have a problem with getting a nice soft background and often I just either sponging some color on, which I usually end up hating, or just going without any type of colored background, which sometimes makes the card look unfinished.  I wanted to get a watercolored background look with my copic markers – so here is what I did.

EDITED:  The video tutorial for this can be found on this post HERE.

I stamped my image on copic x-press it paper using memento tuxedo black ink. I filled my aqua brush with copic colorless blender and scribbled some dark blue color (B69) on my craft sheet. I picked up the color from the craft sheet with my aqua brush and began coloring the background – starting from the center of the image and working out. I continued picking up color and working my way around the image,  Because the aqua brush is adding the colorless alcohol you can get a nice variation of color – and if you want more intense color just add a bit of color to the tip of the brush. I love the look it created.  Just a note:  if you want to devote one aqua brush for alcohol just mark the brush with a label so that it does not get mixed up with other brushes that are filled with water.

So, then I thought…that colorless blender from copic is rather expensive, what if I use just plain rubbing alcohol?  Would I get the same, or at least as good results?   I figured what have I got to lose?   So I just poured some 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol into another aqua brush and went to work,   I used the same image stamped on the same paper , same copic color (B69), and used the same technique.

Here is what I learned:

-Both the colorless blender and regular rubbing alcohol worked and provided a watercolored look,  However, using the plain rubbing alcohol I noticed that it caused the color to change.  With the copic blender the color stayed true to the shade of blue, although less intense because there was much more colorless liquid involved.  Using rubbing alcohol the color was not as intense and had more of a purple hue than blue.  This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing except if you were really looking for a blue color.  Here are the two pieces side by side  so that you can see the slight variation of color.

-Using an aqua brush  – I found the aqua brush very easy to work with doing this technique and on this paper (copic x-press it)  I merely had to pick up color from the craft sheet when I needed it.  I will have to try this technique on other cardstock and on watercolor paper in the future to see how they react.

-Copic Colorless blender costs about $11 for a 200cc bottle (at Oozak).  200 cc is about 6.8 ounces.  A bottle of 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol, 16 ounces costs about $2.20 at Walgreens. In my area the colorless blender is not available in local stores, only online.  So there is a significant difference in price and that may be a determining factor for you.  In my test the plain rubbing alcohol changed the color and its intensity. This may or may not be a good tradeoff – it all depends on your personal preference.  You can use the rubbing alcohol and test colors ahead of time to see how they work.

Now that I was finished with my experiment it was time to make a card!  I used the piece I made using the colorless blender for the background.

 

Once I colored the background I worked on the flowers – these are paperwhites and are a winter bloom.  In order to get some dimension I used grey copics (C1 and C3) for shading, Y08 for the centers, and YG03 and YG63 for the leaves.  The rhinestones used were already a light green, but I needed them to be darker so I colored them with  a YG97 marker.  The ribbon is a silk ribbon from May Arts and is absolutely luscious!  If ever I was limited to just one ribbon it would be these silks from May Arts.  They are expensive and I hoard my supply using them only for very special cards (this card will be going to my mom).  The scallop was done with an EK punch.

Because I used a “winter bloom” on my card, I am playing along with Power Poppy’s Winter Blooms Power and Spark Challenge. Details can be found HERE.

Thanks for stopping by today!

 

baby onesie card

My niece and her husband are expecting their first child right around Christmas.  I won’t be able to make it for the baby shower (I live too far away) so I decided to send her a gift card – enclosed in a cute card shaped like a onsie!

onsie

The card is from the silhouette design store and you can make it any size you want – mine ended up being about 6 inches tall.  The truck on the front and the edging on the arms, legs and collar were all cut from the same patterned paper.

When I first cut the onesie shape in blue cardstock it looked a bit flat so I embossed it with a cuttlebug folder called Oxford.  It’s my latest favorite embossing folder!  In fact I liked it so much that I ended up buying a second one because I forgot I had already purchased it!  And now I am trying to sell the extra one on one of those de-stash facebook sites.  Take a closer look at the embossing.

onsie-closeup

 

Once the card was put together I did not have a regular envelope to fit it, so I just grabbed a sheet of scrapbook paper from a baby themed pad and made my own.  I made a tag using a file from the silhouette design store (baby boy) and adhered that onto a scalloped circle cut with a spellbinders die.   Here is what the final package looks like. Thanks for stopping by today!

onsie-envelope

 

 

 

 

 

 

diy designer paper

Now that I’ve been exploring what the Silhouette can do, I find myself thinking more about making my own designer paper.  For the tag and background paper used on yesterday’s card I created the patterned paper on Photoshop Elements 11 using digital stamps, text, and features found in PSE.  If you don’t have version 11 of PSE you probably still have all the features needed to do this.  It took a little time since I was using some features for the first time but I am getting better at it.  Here is the pattern I created:

 tulip script bg in crystal tones

Here is how I did it.

Open up a blank file in PSE.  I made mine 6 x 6 but you can make it any size that you typically work with.  I set it to 300 dpi.  Now change it to whatever color you want it to be.  Use the color swatch and paint can tool to fill the page with color.  Now add a gradient to this color  – in the “draw” section select the gradient tool and choose the gradient style you want. I used a gradient that goes from the upper left to the lower right.    This adds a little more interest.   You can play around with the gradient features quite a bit in PSE if you want.   At this point you may want to print out this file to make sure the colors on your screen are properly represented on what comes out of your printer.  I did not do this and the color was a bit off.  I’ll have to look into how I can get my printer to match up with the colors on my screen.

 crystal tones gradient

This is nice, but it still is a bit flat.  Let’s add some texture by selecting the filter drop down menu then selecting “texture”, then “texturizer”.  In the “texturizer” option select “canvas”.  You can then adjust the “scaling” and “relief” buttons until you get the desired effect you want.   PSE comes with a handful of textures but there are also  many available on the internet.   Here is the texturized paper at this point.

 crystal tones gradient with texture

 

Next I brought in the digital tulip image from Power Poppy. When you bring in a file like this it comes over nice and crisp!  But for this paper I wanted a softer look so   I changed the transparency of the tulip by using the opacity tool, lowering it to about 30.  The photo below shows the image before the opacity was lowered.

crystal tones gradient with tulip

I made a copy of the tulip and added it below the first at a different angle.  Finally I added some text to the upper right.  The font is called Jellyka Gare de Chambord and is a free font from Dafont.com.  It’s a great script to use for backgrounds.   I typed some text from a French poem.  I also changed the transparency level on this as well and set my text color to white.

 tulip script bg in crystal tones

And there you have it!!  With just a little effort you can get so much use out of your digital images. This combined with the Silhouette makes for so many possibilities.  Think of coordinating embellishments with your paper!!

Thanks so much for stopping by today!