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:
- How do I get watercolor paper or bristol cardstock to feed through the printer without jamming or double printing?
- 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!
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….
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!
Let’s start with the card from above.
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!
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!