How To Choose The Best Stamps For Card Making - Make Beautiful Cards | Card Making Made Easy with Andrea Walford

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How To Choose The Best Stamps For Card Making

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When you are just getting started making cards, trying to choose which stamps to start with can be overwhelming. In this post, I'm going to go over some stamp basics, and then I'll give you my suggestions for choosing the best stamps for your card making.
Make Beautiful Cards | Card Making Made Easy | Best Stamps For Card Making Featured Image | By Andrea Walford

Why Use Stamps For Card Making

If you’ve never made cards before, or you’ve made cards but have never used stamps, you may be wondering why you should consider adding stamps to your card making stash.

The biggest reason is that stamps open up a world of design possibilities that you just don’t get from other card making supplies.

Think about it. Let’s say you love to use patterned paper, stickers or pre-printed greeting for your cards. So, consumable supplies. Sure, they’re quick and easy to use…but…

You’re limited by the patterns you’ve chosen. One sheet of 12″ x 12″ patterned paper will allow you to make 6+ cards. However, all the cards have exactly the same pattern.

You’re limited by the colors you’ve chosen. Whether it’s paper, stickers, or greetings – whatever colors you buy them in – ALL your cards will be in those same colors.

You’re limited to the theme you’ve chosen. Let’s say you buy some beautiful Christmas-themed products. You’re pretty much limited to using those products for Christmas cards.

You’re limited by what pre-printed greetings say. One of the newest trends in the card making world is pre-printed greeting strips. Now I’ll admit, they look really cool. But what if you only like a few of the greetings? What do you with the rest?

But even beyond their design limitations, there is one big problem you run into when your card making is based on these types of products. And that is:

When you run out, you run out. The best example of why this can be a problem is with alphabet stickers.  They never have enough vowels. Or enough of the letter “s,” “or “l,” or “t,” or…well, I’m sure you get it.

So what happens when you run out of your most-used letters? You end up with a whole bunch of stickers that you can’t really use unless you’re into the whole mismatched look (which I’m not).

Stamps Give You Endless Card Design Options

All the things we talked about in the previous section? You don’t have ANY of those issues, when you use stamps as your card making starting point.

And not just individual stamps, but stamp sets (I’ll talk more about individual stamps vs stamp sets later).

You’re NOT limited by the stamp designs. Whereas with a patterned paper, you’re limited by the pattern itself, a well-chosen stamp set will give you endless design possibilities. It will also allow you to create totally different looks for your cards.

You are NOT limited by colors. When you use stamps for your card making, YOU are the one who chooses what color you want your stamped images to be. And you’re not limited to one color. There are techniques that specifically allow you to mix colors on a single stamp (I’ll share some of these techniques in future posts).

You are NOT limited by a theme.  Yes, you can buy stamp sets by theme, however, a well-chosen stamp set and a little creativity will allow you to go beyond that theme. You can use a flower set for Christmas Cards, or a Christmas set for birthday cards…you’re only limited by your imagination.

You are NOT limited by what the images look like or what the greetings say. This is one of the things I love the most about using stamps for card making. Using an easy technique called masking (I’ll talk about this in an upcoming post) you can alter what the final stamped image looks like.

It Costs Less To Use Stamps For Card Making

A lot of people will tell you that it’s cheaper to make cards using consumable supplies like the ones we’ve been talking about so far – patterned paper, stickers, pre-printed greetings, etc.

But that’s only true when you’re first starting out card making. In the long run…it actually costs less to use stamps for card making.

How can that be?

If you center your card making around consumable supplies, you have to keep buying them over and over again as you use them up. Or when get to the point where they are no longer usable (like with alphabet stickers).

Also, because you are limited by patterns, colors, greetings – if you want to make hand made cards for many different occasions, or in many different color schemes, then you’ll need to buy supplies for all of these things.

Not so with stamp sets.

Yes, a stamp set may cost more upfront (although not always)…but, you can then use it over, and over, and over again. For years.

So now that we’ve talked about why you may want to use stamps for your card making, let’s talk about how to choose the best stamps for card making.

How To Choose The Best Stamps For Card Making

Let me start by saying that when I talk about “best” stamps for card making, I am referring both to the quality and the type of stamps you choose.

Before we talk about how to choose the best stamps for card making, let’s talk about quality for a minute. Because not all stamps are of the same quality.

And that is why it is extremely important to make sure that before you buy stamps from any company, you look to see what material they are manufactured from, and where they are manufactured.

So let’s take a look at what the main types of stamps are.

Main Types of Stamps

Stamps are made from a variety of different materials: foam, rubber, acrylic, and photopolymer.

Although you can use foam stamps for card making, the reason I don’t recommend it is that you just won’t get as nice and clear of an impression as you do with rubber or photopolymer.

Acrylic vs Photopolymer Stamps

You’ll often hear both acrylic and photopolymer stamps referred to as “clear stamps,” because you can see right through them. As the term describes they are clear. That, however, is where the similarity ends.

Acrylic Stamps

Acrylic stamps are generally less expensive than photopolymer stamps, but that cost saving comes at a price. They are lighter weight, become more fragile with time and tear more easily, yellow over time, and they also lose their stick over time.

The other thing I’ve noticed about acrylic stamps is that the ink tends to bead up on the stamp. So when you stamp, your image tends to be blotchy and uneven, rather than the crisp, clean impression we want.

Some of the big brands like Fiskars, Recollections, and Kaisercraft tend to be acrylic.

Photopolymer Stamps

Make Beautiful Cards | Card Making Made Easy by Andrea Walford | Photopolymer Stamps - Best Stamps For Card Making

Photopolymer stamps are of higher quality than acrylic stamps. You’ll notice the difference right away in your stamping if you compare it to stamping with an acrylic stamp.

They are heavier and more durable than acrylic stamps. They won’t yellow with age, or become more fragile or brittle. And the ink sticks and transfers beautifully – giving you a crisp, clean image.

How To Tell If A Stamp Is Acrylic Or Photopolymer?

There are three ways to know if a stamp (or stamp set) you are considering buying is acrylic or polymer.

  1. Look at the price. If a stamp is really cheap (as compared to other stamps) – that’s pretty much a guarantee that it’s acrylic.
  2. Look to see where the stamp is made. If it’s made in China, it’s usually acrylic.
  3. Look to see if it’s labeled. I have noticed that pretty much all stamps that are photopolymer, are labeled as photopolymer.

Rubber Stamps

Make Beautiful Cards | Card Making Made Easy by Andrea Walford | Rubber Stamps - Best Stamps For Card Making

As the name suggests, rubber stamps are made out of rubber. And the rubber can be in a number of different colors – pink, red, gray, and shades in between. Rubber stamps are sold in one of three different forms – wood mounted, cling mounted, unmounted.

Make Beautiful Cards | Card Making Made Easy by Andrea Walford | Rubber Stamps Side View- Best Stamps For Card Making

Wood Mounted

With wood mounted rubber stamps, the stamp is first mounted to foam, and then attached to a wood block The foam acts as a cushion, and the wood block gives you something to hold onto so that you can stamp your image.

The advantage of a wood mount stamp is that when you purchase a stamp – you have everything you need. It’s ready to go.

Some of the disadvantages are that because they come already attached to a wood block, they are more expensive than their cling or unmounted counterparts (more expensive than photopolymer as well). Also, they take up a lot more storage space.

Cling Mounted

With cling mounted rubber stamps, the stamp is mounted to cling foam. Cling foam is a foam cushion that has adhesive on one side and a “clingy” surface on the other side. The stamp is stuck to the adhesive side. The clingy side is what allows the stamp to be temporarily mounted to an acrylic block.

Notice how I mentioned an acrylic block? In order to get a crisp, clean impression with a cling mounted stamp, it has to first be mounted to an acrylic block. The block provides stability to the stamp, and gives you the stamper, something to hold when stamping.

Cling mounted rubber stamps . And of all the types of rubber stamps, they are the ones I prefer using.

Unmounted

An unmounted stamp consists of just the plain rubber stamp – with no cling foam or wood block attached to it.

In order to stamp with an unmounted stamp you either have to:

  1. Buy cling foam and mount it yourself.
  2. Apply a removable adhesive to the back (like Aleene’s Tack it Over and Over) so that it will stick to an acrylic block.
  3. Buy a product called “Tack and Peel.”  This is a double sided adhesive that has a bit of a cushion to it. You stick it (permanently) to an acrylic block, and then your unmounted rubber stamps will stick to the “Tack and Peel.”

Of the three types of rubber stamps, cling mounted are the most commonly used type of rubber stamps, and are my personal favorite to work with. Unmounted rubber stamps are my least favorite.

Photopolymer vs Cling Mount Rubber Stamps

So now that we’ve looked at the main types of stamps used in card making, how do you decide on the best stamps for card making?

Here are a few things to think about.

Rubber stamps are more durable than photopolymer stamps. As you develop your card making skills and start to explore different intermediate and advanced card making techniques, you’ll find that rubber stamps are just better for certain techniques.

You can use any ink and any ink cleaner with rubber stamps, and don’t have to worry about damaging your stamps. With photopolymer stamps, when you use a permanent solvent ink like Staz On, you shouldn’t use the corresponding cleaner as it can degrade your stamps. With rubber stamps, it’s not an issue.

It’s easier to get a clear and crisp stamped impression with rubber stamps. As a general rule, rubber stamps are a firmer material than photopolymer. This makes it easy to get a crisp, clear impression.

While you can also get a crisp, clear impression with photopolymer, you have to watch how much pressure you apply. Because photopolymer is a softer material than rubber, it’s easier to apply too much pressure on your stamp. Which can then result in an unevenly stamped image.

Now this is easily solved by simply practicing with your stamps. Whenever you get a new stamp, before you use it on a card, practice stamping it onto scrap paper to get a feel for how much pressure you should apply to get a crisp, clean image.

Photopolymer stamps are more economical than cling mounted rubber stamps. So basically, you’ll pay less for photopolymer stamps.

It’s easier to stamp exactly where you want to with a photopolymer stamp. Because you can see right through the stamp, and the acrylic block that it’s mounted to, it’s easy to see where you are stamping.

With rubber stamps, because you can’t see through the stamp, it’s hard to stamp it exactly where you want it. There is a way to get around that though, and that is with a stamp positioning tool. And that’s something I’ll talk about in a future post.

Solid Image Stamps VS Outline Stamps

Another important thing to know about stamps is that there are two different types of stamp images – solid image stamps and outline stamps.

The easiest way to understand the difference is to see an example of each,

Solid Image Stamps

Take a look at the images in the Field of Flowers stamp set below.  Notice how they are all solid.

Stampin' Up! Field of Flowers Stamp Set

The only way to add color to these images, is to use a colored ink.

Outline Stamps

Now here is an example of an outline stamp:

Make Beautiful Cards | Card Making Made Easy | Example of Outline Stamp

You can think of an outline stamp kind of like the images you see in coloring books. All you get is the outline of the image and it’s up to you to add color.

You can of course still use colored ink to stamp your outline images, however, the inside of the lines, would essentially be “white space.”  In order to have an image with different colors or color variations, YOU need to color the image.

That involves purchasing additional supplies for coloring in your stamped images. I’ll talk about that in a future blog post.

Now, most stamp sets don’t fall neatly into one type. Often you’ll find stamp sets that are a combination of solid image and outline stamps.

Which type of stamp set you choose depends on your comfort level with coloring.

For beginning stampers and card makers, I recommend solid image stamps. Simply because they are easy to use, you don’t need special coloring skills, and you don’t need additional supplies beyond your colored inks.

Individual Stamps vs Stamp Sets

The very last thing I want to touch on in our discussion of the best stamps for card making is whether to buy individual stamps or stamp sets.

As a general rule, I would recommend buying your stamps in sets.  Why? Because you tend to get more bang for your buck (ie. you pay less per individual stamp). Also, the individual stamps in a set generally coordinate with one another and are designed to work together. So when it comes to card making, you end up with a huge variety of design options.

In Summary

So now that you’ve got a good idea of the different types of stamps and what the difference is between them, which should you choose?

For a beginning stamper or card maker, I would recommend buying a solid image photopolymer stamp set. It’s less of an up-front investment. You don’t need any supplies beyond your colored inks. More importantly, though, it’s easier to use as you can see right through it.

For intermediate to advanced stampers and card makers either photopolymer or cling mounted rubber is good. At that point, you are buying based on what you prefer, and the images that you like.

After having stamped for 15+ years, I choose my stamps based on the images themselves. If I like the images and greetings included in a stamp set are ones I love, I buy the set regardless of whether it’s cling mounted rubber or photopolymer.

So there you have it friends! If you have any more questions about stamps, please leave them in the comments below.

1 thought on “How To Choose The Best Stamps For Card Making”

  1. I am SO glad you are back and making some time for yourself – so others can enjoy your beautiful cards.

    I was sad to see you stop stamping but completely understood your reasons for doing so at that time. You had a lot going on and it seems like you still have a lot going on and you also learned how to make/take some time for yourself.

    I am looking forward to seeing your amazing work again.

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Hey there! Welcome to my blog! My name is Andrea Walford. I’m an artist and maker, mom of 5, caregiver to my 99 1/2 year old grandpa and a proud 1/2 Mexican 1/2 Hungarian “woman of color.” 

As a self-taught artist I have a passion for helping others discover and develop their creative confidence. And I have found that card making is a great way to do this.

When you make a card, your “canvas” is small. Yet it has so much creative potential. 

So if you want to learn how to make beautiful cards while developing your creative confidence – you’ve come to the right place!

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