On the one hand, stamping seems incredibly easy: press the rubber or acrylic stamp against an ink pad, and then apply on paper. However, it’s hard to get the ‘perfect’ stamped image. Many times, the image looks blurred, smeared or horribly askew. These tips may help.
1. Start with the best stamps.
Wooden stamps tend to give the clearest images. Acrylic stamps are cheaper and easier to store, but images can be ‘blurry.’ Foam stamps, on the other hand, can absorb too much ink and make a blotchy mess if you’re not careful.
Given this, pick a good brand for acrylic stamps, especially if you’ve picked a small and very detailed image. You can also use small scissors to ‘trim’ rough edges from the cheaper stamps to get a sharper image.
For foam stamps, press gently and do a couple of ‘test’ stamping to see how much ink it tends to absorb.
2. Pick the right kind of ink.
There are a lot of kinds of ink that give different effects or can be used on different surfaces. Chalk inks are generally best for inking the edges of paper and not ideal for stamping. Pigment inks are opaque (some are metallic) and are permanent, but take longer to dry. Dye-based inks are non-permanent and give a more translucent image. Resist inks are great for creating watermarks, while embossing inks (when used with embossing powders and a heatgun) create raised images. Solvent inks can be used on special surfaces like glass and tile.
That said, your image can smear or look blurry because you’re using the wrong ink for your project. If you want to stamp on glass, chalk inks will simply wipe off. Or, you’re using a pigment ink on a glossy sheet of paper—so the ink ‘sits’ on the smooth surface and smears.
3. Stamp with a firm hand.
Don’t ‘rock’ the stamp while you press it against the stamp pad. Instead, tap firmly yet gently, and don’t ‘load’ too much ink or you’ll end up with a smeared image.
4. Break in new stamps.
New stamps may have some factory residue on the surface that prevent it from taking ink evenly. ‘Break in’ a new stamp and test on spare scraps of paper.
5. Stand when you stamp.
Apply firm but even pressure when you stamp. Of course it goes without saying that you should stamp on a flat surface. But standing up further guarantees that your hands won’t wobble as you press down against the paper. You’ll also have a clearer view of the stamp, and whether or not your image is properly aligned and centered.
6. Stay put.
Don’t wriggle or readjust the stamp when you press down. You won’t get a ‘stronger’ image—you’ll actually make the imprint blurry!
7. Use grids or guides.
Some people use stamping guides to align rubber or foam stamps. Acrylic stamps are easier to position, but you may want to get acrylic blocks with lines.
8. Go straight up.
When you’ve stamped your paper, lift the stamp upwards, carefully avoiding any sideward movement that could leave behind a shadow image.
9. Let it dry.
Let the image dry before stamping another image nearby. Your hand may actually brush against the first image, and cause an ink smear.
10. Clean your stamps.
Dried ink reside can cause a stamp to pick up unevent amounts of ink. Clean wooden stamps and foam stamps with soap and water and an old tooth brush. Wipe acrylic stamps with diaper wipes or soak in soap and water (do this in a basin, not in the sink—those stamps are hard to find when they fall!). You may need to get special stamp cleaners to remove permanent inks.