Rubber stamping is a brilliant hobby that can work really well on its own and when used with other crafts such as scrapbooking, card making and coloring. You can use it to decorate greeting cards, gift wrap and tags, stationery, favor boxes, bookmarks and more. Special inks can now work on materials other than paper too.
Starting out with this craft is often confusing and particularly when it comes to the inks that you need to use because there are so many available. Learn about the main types of inks along with the tools, materials and supplies that you need to begin rubber stamping and take it just a bit further.
1: About Rubber Stamps
The most common variety of rubber stamps are those that are wood backed. They are easy to grip, hold on to and use and, for that reason, they are good for children as well as adults. Wood versions usually come with an illustration of the stamped design on one side and the rubber impression for stamping with on the other. You can get them singly or in sets.
For children, I can recommend the sets by Melissa & Doug which my daughter loves to use. They have many themed sets available to appeal to girls and boys and they come complete with ink pads to use straight away.
You can also get foam backed as well as transparent or clear stamps. Clear stamps are see-through as the name implies and they are great when you need to see exactly where you’re placing the image. Clear varieties normally come as part of a sheet and you then peel or cut each design from the backing sheet and stick them to a clear acrylic block which they cling to. So, although clear stamps have an advantage that you can see through them, the main disadvantage is that you also need to buy acrylic blocks if you want to use them.
Try to get your stamps from a manufacturer with a good reputation who specializes in making them. These are more likely to give better printing impressions and last longer. Companies I've used which tend to have good quality designs include Stampendous, Penny Black, Inkadinkado and Hero Arts. 
2: The Main Types of Inks for Printing
Inks come in many varieties which can make it confusing to know what you should choose. I have outlined the main types below but you may want to read more extensively on these before you decide on what to try. Luckily you can purchase many types individually which means you can test a number out before committing to buying a whole set.
Some inks are quick drying and the main advantage of this is that you are less likely to smudge them as you work. However, slow drying inks have the advantage of being useful when it comes to embossing your prints with powders. Certain types need special cleaning fluids for keeping the stamps in good condition to use again while you can clean others with water or baby wipes.
Dye Based Inks
Dye based varieties, such as Memento Dew Drops, are sometimes also called water based or soluble inks. These are often quicker drying, easy to clean from the stamps and good for beginners to start out with.
Memento Dew Drops come in these colorful sets of small tear shaped inks for stamping. These are compatible with Copic marker pens so you can stamp up an outline and color in the image with the pens afterwards.
You can clean them with water or baby wipes if they are quite oily. Because these inks can bleed when they are wet, do not color in the stamped images in with any wet techniques such as watercolor paints or pencils.
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Pigment Based Inks
Pigment based inks such as VersaColor and Brilliance Dew Drops are slower to dry and can also be used with the technique of heat embossing. As they are slower to dry, you need to take more care over the risk of smudging your printed design. VersaMark ink is particularly recommended if you want to do heat embossing. 
Solvent Based Inks
Solvent based inks such as Staz-On are good to use on a wide range of surfaces including glossy card and other non-porous surfaces. The ink stays put on almost any material and this makes it a very versatile choice. It’s quick drying and permanent which is ideal if you want to color over the finished design with watercolor paints or pencils. However, you do need to also buy a special cleaner to clean the ink from your stamps.
Although it is nice to experiment with many different colors when you begin rubber stamping, solid black tends to give the best outline to a print. Black looks particularly effective when stamped over brightly colored paper such as the pink on this handmade shoe card I made.
If you’re not sure about the unique properties of an ink, please ask the retailer what type it is before you buy it or read up about the brand first. There are simply too many inks on the market to supply details on all of them so I recommend doing some research before committing to buy depending on what you need. Once you've got your inks, try to store them face down so the ink flows to the top and they are ready to use when you need them.
3: Marvy Le Plume Pens for Stamping and Coloring
A nice and easy alternative to using ink pads are these Marvy Le Plume pens which feature both brush tips and fine tips. There are other similar types of doubled-ended marker pens on the market that work in a similar fashion but I like these because they're what I used when I began rubber stamping.
These pens are perfect for coloring in images that you have stamped but you can also use them as an alternative to an ink pad as well. Use the wider brush tip to ink up your stamp in as few or as many colors as you like. When you’re done, breathe all over the stamp to revive the ink before making your impression on paper. You can decide whether to ink up the entire stamp or simply pick out smaller areas like text and parts of an image. The pens are easy to use with the stamps and can offer a good alternative to messier inks.
Although there are now other brands of double-ended marker pens that work in a similar fashion, I really like these ones because they're what I started with. Use the brush tip for stamping or for coloring in with the fine tip for detail.
4: Embossing Powders for Raised Designs
As you develop more with your rubber stamping craft, you may want to try heat embossing. Embossing your stamped designs adds a raised but subtle three-dimensional effect which can look very professional. You may have even seen this technique as it is often used on wedding stationery and special invitations. 
You will need some special embossing inks or pens (try VersaMark) as well as some embossing powder and a heat gun. Stamp up your design with the embossing pen or pad on paper or card as normal. Shake embossing powder over the stamped image until it’s thickly covered. Pick up your image and tap it gently over a craft tidy tray to remove any excess powder. You can also carefully remove any stray bits of powder with a thin, dry brush. Then heat the design with a heat gun to set the powder and make a raised effect.
VersaMark pigment ink is what you need if you want to use embossing powders with your stamping. You will also require a heat gun.
5: A Heat Gun for Embossing
A heat gun is necessary if you want to start heat embossing your stamped designs. Once you’ve applied your embossing powder, switch on the heat gun and move it around in a circular motion a few inches away from the design until you see the powder start to bubble and rise a little. Take care not to over emboss or you’ll lose the shine that you get. You may need to experiment with this technique a few times to perfect it. This is a really fun technique that adult beginners often enjoy. Children should not use heat guns due to health and safety reasons.
Experiment with Rubber Stamping Supplies to Discover what Appeals Most to Your Style of Crafting
I especially love to use rubber stamping along with card making where I will use the design as the central motif. I like the fact that I can then easily repeat this motif to create a matching tag, envelope and even gift wrap by repeating the image at set intervals over a large sheet of paper. Stamping is great for quickly repeating images and even wording on your crafts.
Ink pads for this craft are very versatile. You can use them to stamp out designs and images as intended and more. I like to use small pads to add some color and definition around the edges of punched out shapes and letters in card making. Adding color around the edges can make these items stand out more on a handmade card.
When you are beginning this hobby, it is hard to know what you need in terms of supplies and especially with inks. Look to buy a few ink pads, stamps and maybe even water based pens with a brush tip to start with. Then you can experiment and soon discover what works best for you.
Image Credits: The introductory image belongs to the author, Marie Williams Johnstone. All other images (unless watermarked with the author’s name) are product photos from Amazon.