The Art of Stamping
How to Choose Ink Pads
It probably comes as no surprise, but you'll need to acquire ink pads before you can stamp anything. Ink pads come in a bewildering number of sizes, shapes, and colors—but don't despair—we'll help you sort through the choices and pick the type of ink pads that best fit your needs.
Ink Pads For Letterboxers
Look for ink pads that have a raised surface. This will allow you to ink stamps that are larger than the ink pad, and also allows 'precision inking'—a technique where a letterboxer makes use of the edge or corners of the ink pad to color only some parts of the stamp. Frequently, you'll find it easier to flip a stamp over and dab the parts with the colors you want.
In addition, make sure that the ink is acid-free and archival-safe so you'll be able to admire your images for years to come.
Pigment vs. Dye-Based Ink
It's your first big decision: Pigment or dye-based ink? Pigment ink is popular for its bright, long-lasting colors as well as its ability to resist water damage. Dye ink dries quickly, but because it is a water-based ink, it may run or bleed while stamping in under wet conditions. Some letterboxers complain that dye-based ink pads dry out too quickly in dry, hot conditions such as in the deserts of Arizona. Other letterboxers have complained that pigment-based ink pads become too wet and soggy in humid conditions. Give both types a try, and pick what works for you.
ColorBox, a popular brand of ink pads among letterboxers, has recently started selling "chalk" ink pads. Their marketing makes it sound like a completely new, revolutionary super-ink, but in fact it's a reformulated pigment-based ink. Despite their slightly misleading marketing campaign, however, chalk ink pads share the bright, long-lasting colors and water resistant properties found in pigment-based inks, but dry quicker.
Ink Pad Sizes
Next, you'll have to decide on the size for your ink pads. For maximum flexibility, it's best to have a variety of sizes, but you'll especially want to focus on the smaller ones. Smaller ink pads have two practical advantages: (1) you can easily carry a large variety of colors while on the trail, and (2) allow for more detailed coloring of the stamp. The cat's eye ink pads are very popular among letterboxers for this reason, and their sharp corners at each end are ideal for very detailed stampings. Rainbow and pinwheel ink pads are popular because they have multiple colors that can be removed and used individually with one very sharp corner for details stampings.
Many letterboxers carry an assortment of markers—the ultimate in small 'ink pads'. Marvy creates a popular brand of LePlume markers, though many other brands may work just as well. If you want extremely detailed stampings with multiple colors, you'll want to include a few markers in your letterboxing kit.
What colors to carry or how many colors you should buy is purely up to you. Light colors—especially white or yellow—don't work as well on white paper since it's hard to see the color against the bright background. Many stamps represent plants or animals found in the great outdoors, so a couple of "outdoor colors" would be good. Black is a standard color that has many uses. Once you start finding letterboxes, you'll get more experience in what kind of colors you wish you had and should carry on a regular basis.
A quality rainbow pad could be a good starting point—you'll get a large assortment of small colors that can be easily carried in one nifty package.
So there you have it: Everything you wanted to know about selecting ink pads. Well, okay, perhaps not everything, but this should get you started in the right direction. Der Mad Stamper includes an even more thorough discussion of various inks and ink pads in his Complete Guide to Rubber Stamp Pads and Inks.