Digital Stamps Series | Post #1: Printers and Papers | Alex Syberia Designs Release

At the risk of being typecast (or the crafting equivalent of that word), I’m going to attempt to do a series of posts about digital stamps. Initially, I thought I would just do a single post, but then I realized that I’d like to write about issues with printers, cardstock, adding glitz, color adjustment, how to artfully make 2 blooms into a field of blooms, ideas for mass producing, etc, etc. (Yes, I am fully aware that that sentence is not parallel, but hang with me here. I am not writing a dissertation; we are having a conversation! 😊) That’s when I realized that this either needed to be a YouTube episode ala Jennifer McGuire, or it needed to be a series of posts. And let’s be real here, I needed to have a post done within a few hours for the new Alex Syberia Designs June 2020 release, and I can only blog so much in a few hours!

I’ll start off with the issue that has caused me the most frustration when working with digital stamps. THE PRINTER. What is the issue? Oh, let me just count them. Literally. I’m going to count them:

  1. How do I get watercolor paper or bristol cardstock to feed through the printer without jamming or double printing?
  2. How do I color a printed image with Copics without the ink bleeding? What about watercolor?

OK, so that was only 2 (well, actually 3) questions. But not knowing how to deal with these issues really limited the types of projects that I could do with digi stamps.

Oh! I’m new to this blogging thing, but I’ve been told that I need to insert images in order to keep you reading. Here’s an image that I was able print out onto Arches Cold Press 140# Watercolor Paper AND I was able to do a wash of color (lots of water), then watercolor the image, then add some Copic color and some pencil details without smearing any of the image!

Alex Syberia Dog Rose watercolored with Distress Reinkers on Arches Cold Press 140# Watercolor Paper

Honestly, if you want to skip the experimentation and struggle ramble, feel free to scroll down to the cards for details on what I used with what.

Back to the struggle….

The Dilema

When I first started working with digital stamps (or clip art, as I used to call them), we had 3 printers in the house – 2 cheap laser printers that we use for work and an inkjet printer that I use for pictures. I quickly realized that while I could only color my inkjet images with my alcohol markers after allowing the ink to dry overnight, anything water-based would make my ink run. The ink couldn’t even handle a quick swipe of a Wink of Stella pen or a random drop of Glossy Accents without smearing! If I wanted to use water-based coloring mediums, I had to use the laser printer. However, if I used my laser printer, I had to be oh-so-careful when I tried to add depth or details with my color pencils, since any drag across the page would smudge the toner.

Also, based on the advise in the videos of the respected & seasoned cardmakers in the industry, I could only use cardstock or watercolor paper that was 90 pounds (coverstock) or less in a printer.

The amalgamated impact of all of these was that (1) I was using cardstock that I wouldn’t normally choose to use and that I had to purchase specifically for use with digital stamps, and (2) I often ended up with blobs and smears of black that I had to cover up with a sentiment strip and some sequins.

I basically gave up on using digi stamps at that point.

But, I didn’t want to give up, since digi stamps are so much cheaper than clear or rubber stamps, can be resized, can easily be masked, and can be delivered to your inbox lickity split. Lickedy split? Liketty split? I can’t find the correct spelling, but you know what I mean. Still, it was a pain in the a$$, and it was just easier to avoid using them.

Then came Alex Syberia Designs, Rachel Vaas Designs, and the addition of digi stamps to the usual offerings of stamp companies like Power Poppy, The Greeting Farm, etc. The images were so tempting. So, I worked with them and slowly learned a thing or 2 over time.

From studying the Instagram posts from designers such as Bonnie Crane and Natasha Vacca, it became clear that not all printers are created equal. Some artists seem to have no problems printing on watercolor paper, but the print out appeared to be from an inkjet printer. I have printed many of Alex’s digis on both types of printers (including those that I tested at my local office-supply stores) and have looked closely at the work of others with her digis. Very generally speaking, laser printers tend to produce a fairly pixelated image, since most of them are geared toward business and text printing. Inkjet printers have smoothing functionality that results in slightly thicker and more fluid lines. Here’s an example. The image on the left was printed on an inkjet printer, the right on a laser printer.

Man, I got sidetracked again!!! Where was I? Oh, yes, I was determined to ascertain why watercoloring on inkjet-printed images worked for them and not for me. Afterall, if I could figure that out, I could use ONE printer for alcohol and water-based coloring mediums (media?! hmmmm….), rather than one of each.

The first thing I tried to figure out was the exact weight of the paper that my printers will accept. I was shocked to find that I had no issues with printing on any weight up to about 160 pounds coverweight or about 430 gsm2. After many hours googling and talking to techy people, I think I know the reason. All of my current printers have single-sheet manual feeding slots, so that one can print a single sheet of labels, a single envelope, a single sheet of letterhead stationary, etc. I have been careful over the years to purchase printers that have a manual slot that feeds paper all the way through the printer, from the front to the back or the back to the front. This may seem ridiculous, but I have found, in eons of working in offices, that printers that feed from a tray and back out to the front are forcing the paper to, in effect, make a U-turn. This isn’t a problem for 20# printer paper, but, for our 140# watercolor paper or 100# bristol? It’s a jam fest!

After figuring out that I can use the cardstock/papers that I enjoy, I turned to the issue of water and alcohol solubility. I contacted both Bonnie and Natasha. After some back and forth and quite a bit of research on my own, I figured out that “inkjet” refers to a commonality that such printers have in the way that they deliver the ink onto the paper. It does not mean that the ink has all of the same common ingredients in its recipes. (I’ve had sellers try to convince me that the black “pigment” ink in your inkjet is the part that’s not water soluble and that I should be able to watercolor on a black and white inkjet-printed image without issue. That is absolutely not true with all brands, since I had tried to watercolor on many images printed in grayscale, using only the black “pigment” ink.) One of the brands that I stumbled across in my research and was being advertised as both water-resistant and fade-resistant is the Epson DURABrite Ultra line of inks.

The problem? They are pricy inks. However, my awesome husband convinced me that I needed a new inkjet printer anyhow, and we can print most things on our laser printers. He convinced me that I needed an inkjet that’s dedicated to my crafting needs. Afterall, I have no issues with buying 4 new floral stamp sets. I shouldn’t have an issue spending the same amount of money to buy a printer that will allow me to work on hundreds of digi stamps!

So, I used up some of my Amazon points and got myself a new Epson printer that uses the DURABrite Ultra ink. And, of course, it has a back-to-front manual feed slot for those thick cardstocks that I insist on using!

The Cards:

Let’s start with the card from above.

Alex Syberia Dog Rose watercolored with Distress Reinkers on Arches Cold Press 140# Watercolor Paper

After resizing Alex’s gorgeous Dog Rose bouquet to one large gorgeous bloom, I printed it out on the rough side of a 4.5×6″ piece of Arches Cold Press Watercolor Paper. I left the print out to dry over night, because, after all, the Epson ink is water-resistant, not waterproof! I taped the printed panel down to a hardboard to prevent as much of the warping as possible. I was going after an ink-smooshed look, but I wanted control of the smooshing, so I then very loosely painted diluted colors from Distress reinkers. I used Salty Ocean, Wilted Violet, and a smidge of Tumbled Glass at the top of the panel only.

After I loosely covered the leaves and buds and sparingly swiped at some of the petals, I wet down the top half of the panel, tilted it downwards at a slight angle and slapped on a bit more color. I helped the color to move upwards in the water (or downwards, since the panel was tilted) for a misty effect.

Once I was able to achieve the look that I wanted, I zapped the panel with a heat gun to freeze all of the colors in place. I then added more color with a light blue, a yellow-green, and a yellow Copic marker. (Remember, though this particular inkjet ink is water-resistant, it is, like most inkjet printer inks, fairly Copic safe.) I used an N3 marker for all of the shading and a navy and black Faber Castell Polychromos pencils for all of the details

I added a 4-layer sentiment die, cut using Penny Black Heartfelt. I colored the top layer of the die cut with the same yellow and yellow-green Copic markers. Once the sentiment was adhered, I mounted the panel onto a Neenah Classic Crest Duplex Epic Black and Solar White (it’s white on the inside) 120# A2 card.

That’s it for the first card. Can you believe it? Not a bit of shimmer or glimmer or glitter or glitz!

For my second card, I used Alex’s Tulip digital stamp from this release. The stamp itself only has 2 tulips in it. I managed to coax a few more out of it by cutting and cropping and repositioning and resizing, using Microsoft Word. More on that topic in an upcoming post!

Alex Syberia Tulips Watercolored with Zig Art Graphic Twin on Arches Cold Press 140# Watercolor Paper

All of the printing procedures were the same – Epson inkjet printer, same watercolor paper, same overnight waiting.

Working one petal or leaf at a time, I started by applying a solution of Ink on 3 Liquid Pixie Dust and water to wet the targeted area, using an empty waterbrush. While each area was still wet, I applied my Zig Art & Graphic Twin markers in swiping motions. I swiped a darker or contrasting markers strategically over the areas that I wanted to either highlight or shade after all of the watercolor had dried a bit. Then, after all of the watercolor and marker ink had dried completely, added fine shading with color pencils.

It was a shimmery, shiny panel, but I didn’t like it. I was bummed that it really needed a background color. Had I thought of it earlier, I could have brought in a background digital paper before I printed the panel (another benefit of using digi stamps) and saved myself the trouble. I had already emptied my water container and cleaned my brushes, so I just used a few Copic markers to fill the background!

I love knowing that I don’t have to worry about which coloring medium I’m going to use! This ink is like an amalgam ink for digital stamps!! Every project is now a mixed media project!

That’s it for today. Please visit again for more projects from Alex’s June release and for more posts about using digital stamps!

30 comments

  • HOLY Cow WOWWW! This is a great post Enna!
    I do admire your ability to convey your thoughts in written form :))
    Super informative post on the struggles with printers and digi stamps, which is exactly why my digi cards are so simple;(
    You have a BRIGHT future in the card making realm dear. Looking forward to seeing you rise to the top, like the fabulously unique STAR that you are!

    • You got through that whole thing?! Now THAT’s a true friend! Even I was falling asleep by the end of it! πŸ˜‰ And I figured, if I’m struggling with it, others must be as well…

      Thanks so much for your kind comments and your support, LJ! You never fail to brighten my day!

  • I have a Brother laser printer and I also struggle with it because it can’t print on watercolor paper and it gives a pixelated image as you also said in your blog post. So I’ve been looking for a while for a good printer and might consider an Epson. Which one do you use?

    • Hi Nancy,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      When I was shopping around, other than the water-resistant and paper handling issues discussed in the post, I also needed something that would allow me to scan wide-format images (I have some gorgeous coloring books that have been neglected, because the paper didn’t allow for watercolor or for alcohol-ink), so that limited my choices in my price range. I also needed it to be wireless.

      Ultimately, I opted for the Epson WF-7710. It was about 50% off at the time (around $120). I have found that the software is a bit clunky, but I’m able to forgive that, given that it met all of my other requirements. I did a bunch of test comparisons today, printing the same image on different papers on different printers (blog post to follow). One thing that I noted is that the Epson DuraBrite Ultra, in addition to being water-resistant, is also noticeably brighter than my other inkjet when the same image is printed on the same paper. However, it loses a bit of fine detail, like tiny ink splatters or blemishes in ink blending….just more for you to keep in mind as you shop for a new printer.

      Good luck, and please let me know how it goes!

  • This blog post is fabulous and your work is gorgeous! I have the Epson workforce and I’m curious about it because I’m sure it has a mind of its own its supposed to print everything under the sun but it only prints what it feels like and when it feels like it and definitely does not like Arches! πŸ₯°πŸ€“πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Rebecca, and leaving me a sweet comment. Does your printer have a mind of its own or is it haunted? 😳🀣🀣🀣!

      I’m curious – does your Epson Workforce have a manual feed that goes straight through the machine or does it do the U-turn thingy that I mentioned? I returned a couple that turned out to have the U-turn thingy. My current one goes straight through. A couple of things of note: I’ve had some issues when I try to get greedy and print something on my mixed media paper, which is 184#. Not only did it jam, it cursed at me and choked a bit. πŸ˜‰ I also noticed that, if I don’t feed the paper in properly (if you feed the paper in properly on mine, the printer sucks it in automatically an additional 2 inches), my Arches can get jammed. If the suction thing doesn’t happen, I simply pull the paper out and try to re-feed before I end up wasting a perfectly good piece of WC paper. Sometimes, it can go through a series of errors when I pull the paper out (e.g., no media available, feed through error, etc.), but I let it do its thing and start the print job again. Once I figured that out, the only errors have been user errors.

      Oh! Arches will also get jammed, even through the manual feeder, if I don’t bother to change the printer settings properly. Mine works best on “heavy cardstock” setting. My other printers are the same – they have settings called, “thickest paper.”

      I hope some of that helps!

  • Wow!!!!!! Such an AMAZING post Enna!!!!!! So informative!!!!!!! Your cards are so BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!! Thank you for tagging me too!

    • Hi there, Natasha!

      Even though you elected to not receive notifications of responses to your comment, I decided to email you anyway!

      Thanks so much for stopping by on the first day that my blog is available to the public. It means so much to me to have friends stop by and provide feedback!

      Hugs!
      Enna.

  • Great blog and info too Enna, thank you so much! I know the struggle to get it right only too well. I manage using digi’s and my Canon injet printer by printing, letting it dry a bit, using a heat gun briefly (leave overnight if possible), then going over it all with an eraser before watercolouring. I can’t get it too wet though and blot in between to keep it dryish. Nice to know what really works though
    as your cards look amazing πŸ˜‰ Viv xx

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and supporting me, Viv! I really appreciate it!

      Achieving the bright, bright, vivid colors that I love often requires many layers of ink/paint & the Brother toner & Canon ink that I was using just wasn’t enough for me any more. I am way too heavy handed and everything always ended up with a gray cast, no matter how long I let it dry! πŸ˜‚

  • Enna, this is a fabulous and informative post! I do look forward to your future posts too! Of course, I think your cards are totally gorgeous! (As always!). Many hugs!

    • Thanks so much, Carol! Your support means a great deal to me.

      It’s so hard to figure out how much to write on a blog. I just figured I’d lay it all out there and people can skip whatever was boring them! 🀣

      Thanks again!

  • Let me be really honest and say I rarely read a whole blog post that’s this long but this was so well written and full of so much great information! I have always been an admirer of your stunning cards and now I’m a fan of your blog. Looking forward to that next post. Now I’m off to look at printers.

    • Thanks so much, Melinda, for taking the time to stop by and leaving such kind words! Your comment really just made all of this hard work worth it!

      Believe me, I stopped reading blogs altogether a while ago – I just looked at pictures, then searched for the info that I wanted, so I know exactly what you mean. It’s much easier to just watch a video, since I can listen to that and work on something else at the same time. So I really appreciate the time you spent here!

  • Enna dear, I love everything about this post! It’s super informative and helpful for everyone from the novice digi crafter to the seasoned (πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚) alcohol, watercolor or mixed media crafter too.
    I too figured out I need a single feed printer, but that’s just not in my budget right now. So I’ll just have to stick to my copics. But I learn so much from your way of using color and your projects are GORGEOUS!! 😍😍 I can’t believe the dog rose is “as simple” as distress reinkers 😱 And you know I LOVE that shimmer rainbow 🌈😍
    Oh, and you tiara buying, digi-crafting printer encouraging husband is definitely a keeper 😘

  • Thanks so much for being my guest here! And for reading the entire LONG post! Your encouragement on IG has always helped me, and it’s no different here! It really lifts my spirits. Thanks, my dear friend! Please come back for the next post – heat embossing digis.

    P.S., Yes, I always opt for the reinkers over using the inkpads. The colors are so much more vibrant!! πŸ’œπŸ’™πŸ’šπŸ’›πŸ§‘β€! And why watercolor with clean clear water when you can watercolor with Liquid Pixie Dust?! Only 2 drops of the Liquid Pixie Dust and 2 drops of water lasted for this entire project! That whole bottle is going to last forever!!

    • Aw, you’re so welcome, my dear. I mean every word. You’re so talented! I’m mind blown by your ideas. And envious too, wishing they were my ideas πŸ˜‰
      I need to try the reinker thing. And you finally convinced me to get the pixie dust. I’ve been avoiding it, muahahahaha πŸ˜‚
      OK, off to read on your heat embossing. I’ve actually done that, although not very successfully. Big hugs πŸ€—πŸ˜˜

  • Wow! I have learnt so much by reading this post Enna, so much useful information! Even though I almost only use Copics and not so heavy cardstock. And your coloring is absolutely amazing, these cards are pieces of art, really!

    • Thanks, Tina M! I hope the info is useful to someone, even if it’s just a little bit. It’s so hard to write about digital stamps when we aren’t all on a level playing field – everyone has a different printer and want to use different cardstock with it for different techniques!

      You know how much your projects inspire me, even if our styles are very different!

      I hope to see you back here again! XOXO!

      Enna.

  • Enna, this post is exactly what I was looking for about a year ago when I first tried out digi stamps! This is so comprehensive and SUPER helpful! I eventually gave up on finding alternative printing methods but now you’ve got me thinking. I will be referring back to your post when I’m ready for a new printer! Your cards are gorgeous, as always, and I hope that sometime you’ll share how you get such luminous colour blends. The vibrant colours just blow my mind every time!
    PS: I bet this post will get lots of traffic. Better get an Amazon affiliate link if you don’t have one already!
    PPS: This was an absolute joy to read! You are a fantastic (and funny!) writer!

    • Thanks so much, Teri. Your comments really made my evening. I set out writing the blog post, thinking that I might help someone. Usually, by the time I’m near the end, I’m thinking that no one is going to read it anyway and I should just write one long massive run on sentence through to the end. No one would notice. 🀣🀣
      P.S. The color blends – mostly, the vibrancy it is coming from the fact that I rarely dilute my colors very much. On the first card, I used Distress reinkers, which is so much more pigmented than using the ink from the inkpads and so much more vivid than oxides. On the second, I only used the Liquid Pixie Dust to help blend the colors. The vibrant colors are coming from the markers. Also, I’ve found that adding bright yellow to anything makes everything POP! πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›

  • Thanks for doing all the experimenting, figuring it out and most importantly sharing with us. Such good information. You are fantastic at coloring!

  • OH MY GOODNESS!!! All goodness!! I have asked many many people and researched printers for digi stamps and always hit a wall. Im jumping for joy (add backflip) for this post!! When I saw the title I thought β€œNO”, finally!! LOL. Thank you for your research and informative results. Just amazing. You’ve changed everything for me. ❀️ Also, your cards are gorgeous! You have some intense talant

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a kind comment, Woendi! I know how much I struggled and how I was unsuccessful in finding the info that I needed, so, when I finally got things to work for me, I absolutely HAD to share! Thanks again for the encouragement! Hugs!

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