Now this is what I know about stamps and I hope it is useful to you. If anyone has anything to add, or other useful links please post a comment. (Please bear in mind I haven't finished yet, the other types of stamps are to follow. I would like to know if you think it is useful so far though.)
I am going to post in more detail later on different types of ink which are mentioned briefly below. I hope to put together a useful table to tie this information up also.
Overview of what is out there:
There are many types of stamps available to buy, or you can make your own. Remember carving potato stamps and stamping paint onto paper at school? Do schools still do this? I remember having to supply a half potato for my children to make potato stamps and proudly bring their creations home.
These days you can buy stamps made of rubber either mounted (on wood, thick foam, sticky foam cushion, cling back cushion, magnetic rubber sheet) or unmounted.
Stamps can be bought unmounted, and in kit form where you get the blocks and rubber stamps and you need to mount them yourself.
You can buy clear or tinted stamps made from polymer or acrylic materials that cling to plastic or acrylic surfaces for stamping, some come with a clear block to use.
Foam stamps can be mounted on acrylic sheets or on blocks of foam.
There are kits to make your own stamps, either from packs of polymer that you cure, or from special foam blocks you heat and press onto a surface then heat and reuse. Or you can pay to have your stamps made up for you, either to stamp the back of your cards with an "Cazzy made this" type of message and email or phone number, or your own drawn designs.
There are lots of budding new designers out there, and lots of new on-line ventures to make and sell their stamps.
If stamping really isn't for you then there are downloadable images you can buy and print, you use them just like images you would stamp yourself and cut, colour, layer and embellish as you wish. You can even try and heat emboss the images as soon as they are printed (I will talk about heat embossing in a later session).
Now about the stamps. 1. Wood backed rubber stamps.
These are very attractive and usually have an image of the stamp on the back, this is often coloured to give you an idea of how to colour your stamped image later or how the stamp will look completed.
The best wood mounts are made of thick wood which is shaped at the sides to provide a good easy grip, this is especially important if you have any kind of stiffness with your hands and fingers. The thicker the wood mount the less likely you are to plant your inky fingerprints on your newly stamped image I find too!
You can use rubber stamps with all types of inks, pigment, dye, alcohol based permanent ink. (I will cover inks and their use later and complete an easy reference table of what I have said).
You can use coloured pens instead of ink pads with these stamps to get a multi coloured image to begin with, but you can't colour the spaces between the raised edges until after stamping.
Wood backed stamps can be cleaned with a number of different cleaning solutions for different types of inks, and different scrubbing pads, but the cleaning method that was recommended to me over and over again and which I use above all other methods (unless I have a particularly tricky permanent ink situation) is alcohol free, perfume free baby wipes. These last a long time, and you can usually get them on buy one get one free, if you have babies it is a bonus - you have them already!
I was explaining this to my 8 year old niece a few months ago, I told her I may buy her some proper rubber stamps if she learned how to use them and care for them, when I told her about the baby wipes she said rather sadly "we don't have them in our house". Ahhh!
The main point is that you should clean your stamps as soon as you finish stamping before putting them away, although I have heard that Tim Holtz doesn't clean his stamps!
Wood backed stamps should ideally be stored on their backs with the rubber facing up, or they could be stored on their sides as long as there is no pressure on the rubber. These stamps also take up the most room, I store mine in A4+ Tuff Boxes which are around £4 each now, and have handles that you can label. The beauty of these is that you can store the stamps rubber side up, with the label right side up, then turn over to see what you have. You can buy the ones without handles for about £1 less.
I have so many stamps now there are over 20 Tuff Boxes and I have photographed each full box of stamp backs with a view to printing off a book so I can see what I have and where when I need a special stamp for a card. I have tried to organise them into themes, sentiments, trees, flowers, oriental, animals, fish etc.
2. Un-Mounted stamps, and un-mounting mounted stamps.
Some people prefer to un-mount mounted rubber stamps (by microwaving for a short time or heating with a hair dryer) then store and use them as unmounted stamps to take up less room, I feel that if I ever wanted to sell mine this will take some of the value away especially for the well known brands of stamps and I love the wood mounts. I am lucky to have my own craft room though, so I can see why others do this.
You can also buy unmounted rubber stamps either singly or in sheets and they are usually quite a bit cheaper than the mounted versions.Unmounted usually means the naked rubber, nothing on the back, but sometimes stamps are called unmounted but have double sided sticky foam on the back for permanently mounting onto your own wood or acrylic blocks. You can get this off as mentioned above for mounted stamps. Sometimes it will just peel off easily.
You can used the naked unmounted rubber stamps just as they are, by using some sticky washable glue to adhere them to your acrylic block or ink pad lid, then removing them and washing it off afterwards. Crafter's Companion sell spray on adhesive specially for this.
Stamps can be bought ready mounted on sticky back cushion to permanently mount onto your own blocks, or with cling back foam cushion which clings to acrylic blocks or even ink pad lids and these have to be stored on a shiny backing sheet so it stays sticky.
You need to trim the rubber close to the image so that you don't get unwanted marks from the edges.
If the stamps you want are on sticky foam for sticking to a block you can un-mount them and add cling mount instead or leave them plain.
You can buy the sheets to store the cling mounted stamps on but you can also make them yourself either with sheets of acetate used for printing, or if you have a laminator - laminate some card, stamp it before laminating if you like so you know where each stamp sits when you put them back. Then punch holes in the sheets or attach mounting strips with holes in them then store in a binder. It is best to use an A4 lever arch binder as they are strong and if you can punch 4 holes and get the 4 ring version that is even better.
Rubbadubbadoo make magnetic backed stamps and sets (as well as unmounted and foam mounted, or cling back stamps), and special magnetic blocks in different sizes to use with them. I haven't come across any other maker of these types of stamps (and oh dear I found they are having a sale as I popped over to get the link!).
3. Clear stamps
Clear stamps are made of polymer or acrylic. They are clear or tinted. They normally come in sheets or singles on a sheet of acetate type material. They are easy to store as you only have a thin sheet of material normally but some come mounted on acrylic blocks permanently. (for more about mounting the stamps see the next section).
They work out cheaper than wood mounted stamps, you can get a whole sheet of images for a little more or the same price as one or two wood mounted stamps of a well know brand, and some sets come with an acrylic mounting block.They are easy to clean with water or soapy water, and if they lose their stickyness warm soapy water is supposed to restore it, or you can use glue stick to give them a bit more stick on an acrylic block.
If you are washing your stamps under the tap or in the sink be careful not to lose any small stamps down the plug hole! You could wash them in a bowl then drain into a sieve or colander to prevent this.Baby wipes can also be used to clean the stamps if you want to.
Clear stamps should be stored in a cool dark place ideally to keep them from discolouring and hardening. These stamps don't last as long as rubber, but it is possible to get a lot of use from them if you do take good care of them.
There are a number of storage solutions on the market but I recently bought an A5 expanding file from Tesco which I customised and it is perfect, keeps out the light and was only £3.50.
I have paid a lot more for specialist storage for clear stamps.You could also keep them in a folder on sheets of acetate, or in the slim Tuff Boxes, I have some stored on the insides of the boxes.
Warning: It is not recommended to use alcohol ink such as Stazon with clear stamps because if you use the alcohol ink cleaner it will damage the stamps. I used Stazon on one of my sets and it melted them, though I know there are people who do use it!
4. Different mounting blocks for clear or UM stamps.You can buy acrylic blocks which you place the back of the stamp on and it clings to the block, you can also improvise using your ink pad lid or similar. Acrylic blocks come in different qualities, there are plenty of home made efforts out there for sale on Ebay, but they tend to be quite thin, as do the ones you get with your set of stamps generally I have found.The better ones are thicker with finger grooves in the sides, and the best ones I have seen, and I have one of these, have a grid faintly showing so you can line up your letters or images in a straight line.You can also get a new system of mounting blocks called Rock a Blocks, which come for about £15 a set and are supposed to be specially designed so you get a perfect even image every time, I have a very small one of these I got free but I can't really tell if this is true until I try the larger size maybe at a show. Shows are expensive to attend, you pay to go in after you get there, and then you buy stuff but there are opportunities to try things before you buy, there may even be workshops using the products.
I just bought a set of Rock a Blocks and the first attempt gave me a perfect result, so they look good.
SeeD or See Clear stamps by DoCrafts come into the unmounted rubber but mounted on cling mount category. They are used with clear blocks and you can see the printed image through the block, as it is printed on the mount material so you can see where you are placing the image and what it will look like.
They come in CD cases so are easy to store and you get a lot of stamps in the set.
4. Foam stamps
Foam stamps have made a come back. You can get foam mounted on foam, foam mounted on acrylic sheets or rubber mounted on foam blocks.You often get these as free gifts on craft magazines but can buy the acrylic sheet mounted ones which are very inexpensive from the craft shop. Also look in DIY stores in the decorating section, there are plenty there for walls that you could use on cards.Foam stamps can be used with paint or ink and washed off under the tap.
Here is a photo of foam stamps on foam, on acrylic sheet, and rubber stamps on foam blocks.
5. Making your own stamps
Foam stamps are easy to make at home by either cutting foam sheets into shapes by hand, and you can draw on them first, or if you have a die cutter you can easily cut shapes which you can stick to acrylic blocks with a glue stick, or stick to a couple of squares of funky foam.
Clear stamp making kits are available too, I have one made by Imagepac but haven't used it yet. There are the cheap versions where you get gel sachets and a design you printed on acetate which are clamped together under a light for a set period of time, after which you wash them in a solution and cure them under the light again. You can pay more for a machine to do all the curing.You can by kits that have rubber you can carve into your own designs.
There are blocks of foam that you heat and press on a textured surface of any kind and then use the blocks to stamp, and you can reheat them and use over and over with different patterns.
If you are talented at drawing you can have your designs made up into stamps and there are a number of companies that do this. In addition there are a couple of companies who make stamps and sell them from new designers such as Tanda Stamps and Spiral Whispers.
I have been card making since 2004, after being inspired by a friend who made her wedding stationery I came across Blade Rubber Stamps while working in London and bought a few bits, then I was hooked! Now I have a craft room full of stuff. I have always crafted things for nearly as long as I can remember - card making filled a need to make and finish things in very little time, and be able to give a little happiness to friends and family. I became a Granny in 2012, it is great! I am a qualified Management Accountant and I took early retirement from the Civil Service, and haven't looked for work since. I am challenge coordinator, DT member and point of contact for the Quirky Crafts Challenge blog, which is an unpaid job but fun.
By the way I moderate all comments so they don't appear right away!
I have started this blog to tell you what I have discovered about crafting. This is not everything there is to know as I am sure I still have a lot to learn and I find new ideas all the time, but I have been card making since 2004 so have picked up a bit of knowledge along the way and encountered pitfalls too.
If I get anything wrong please let me know and I will change it.
I wanted to keep this separate from my main blog so you don't have to search through any chit chat and trivia.
I have shown labels at the side of the blog so if you can't see what you want check and click on the label to take you there. I will be building this blog up on different topics gradually. I hope it helps someone and I would love to know if it helped you.
I have started gathering links to tutorials that I come across too, and forums where you can get information.