Stamping 101 :)

If you are new to stamping and making cards, the techniques and products can be OVERwhelming, right? It was for me. So that you don't have to read everything here, feel free to use the search function on your laptop/computer keyboard: "ctrl" and "f" at the same time. When the little box opens in the upper corner of this page, type in the word you are looking for.

I'll try to share with you the very basics you might want in order to try this fun (and addicting) hobby. If you can, try to support your LSS (local scrapbooking store) for supplies, especially during their sales. If you don't live by one, you can pick up basics at WalMart, Target or online (shop for best prices online. Wait for sales and free shipping to save the most money). 

I am not affiliated with any company and these are just my own recommendations based on experience. I do not receive any compensation for recommendations. 


This is the base, the main part of the card. It needs to be strong, or "thick" enough to stand up to being held and displayed. Do not skimp here. In the beginning, it's best to just buy one color and I recommend white. What is "thick?" Anything over 90# or lb. (that's how they market the sturdiness, the strength/thickness of the paper). My favorite: I totally love 120# by Gina K. Designs. She sells Pure Luxury 120# white in packages of 25 sheets for $6.95, 8-1/2" x 11" and here is the link: GKD white cardstock 120 lb to USA (different shipping for international). 

Cardstock:  Best - 120# and 80# Pure Luxury Cardstock (Gina K. Designs); Very Good - Neenah Solar White Smooth Cardstock 110#; Good to practice or start out with: WalMart Georgia Pacific #110 really feels like 80# and is not even quality (but it's so easy to obtain). You can practice techniques and cutting card sizes with this but once you get the hang of it, try to advance to the premium cardstocks when possible.


Make it easy on yourself. Just get a black ink in the beginning.  My favorite: Memento Tuxedo Black dye ink. It's a very good black dye ink that is also easy to clean up after, doesn't stain stamps if cleaned when done using them, and alcohol markers do not cause the black ink to bleed into the marker colors. You can use color pencils and even watercolor pencils. Memento is a great all-around ink. *Note: recently (Dec 20, 2015) I have decided to try out Ranger Archival ink in Jet Black. I have read that this ink in completely waterproof. Occasionally the Memento ink has bled when I used a lot of water when watercoloring. I will update this if my brain cooperates with my plan :D

So, first learn what kind of ink you are purchasing. There are dye inks, chalk inks, pigment inks, and a whole lot more. Here is a useful YouTube video all about inks. (Link follows). One trick to learn is that the first letter of the type of ink will help you know how fast the ink dries. For example, a "c"halk ink will dry faster than a "p"igment ink because "c" is closer to the letter "A" in the alphabet than "p" is. Get it?

Click HERE for the fun YouTube video by SimonSaysStamp. She will explain the different types of inks for you. 

Another point you may want to consider is that you want an easy black ink that you can leave as is (uncolored or used for sentiments), color with pencils and markers, even paints. Memento Tuxedo Black ink has very good coverage, and is great as a basic beginner's ink. It's easy to clean your stamps off with - just use a baby wipe or just a moistened paper towel or old moistened rag. I give it about 5 minutes to really dry well, to make sure it's ready for coloring. 

When you are ready to move onto other types of inks, I recommend of going to the actual web site of the ink manufacturer, such as Tsukineko (tsue - kee - neck - oh). Starts with the same sound as tsunami. Here is their link for different inks they make: 

Click HERE to see more variety of types of inks available from Tsukineko. (They produce Memento inks and a whole lot more). Some people will only use Tsukineko VersaFine inks because of the crispness of letters in sentiments and intricately detailed stamps. I will tell you that recently Gina K. Designs has come out with an AWEsome line of her own inks. Her Black Onyx provides even more opaque, crisp coverage than Memento Tuxedo Black. However, the Black Onyx may smear when coloring with it, and it can permanently stain your stamps. Try "StazOn" ink cleaner by Tsukineko if you want your stamps to be really clean. It's another reason I tend to use Memento - all it requires is a baby wipe to clean the ink off. Other people love My Favorites Things, Hero Arts, and so many others. Remember, this is just for basics, not a big ink comparing post :)

STAMPS!: *see troubleshooting at the end of this section

Now here is where the party REALLY starts to move. Stamps are available in different processes of manufacturing. There are "clear" stamps, "cling" stamps, "red rubber" stamps and "wood mounted" red rubber stamps. Those are the main ones I will discuss for now. But always remember you can free hand draw your images and sentiments if you want, too! You can start with pencil and go over with Sakura Pigma Micron fine line pens (which are also great to have on hand if one of your stamps skips a spot and you can fill it in) because they do not bleed when coloring. 

If I were a beginner, I would start with a basic stamp set of photopolymer clear stamps, a set with both basic images and basic sentiments. Why? Photopolymer Clear stamps are so easy to work with. And try to get ones produced in the USA - they are usually the best quality and do not need to be 'prepped' before stamping. You can SEE right through clear stamps - this makes it ultra easy to see exactly where your image and sentiment are going to be, a BIG advantage over the other stamps. Clear stamps will require an acrylic block or Stamp Press (explained a little later) - the stamps 'stick' to the block without anything other than making sure the block and the back of the stamp is free from dust or dirt or ink. Wipe both with a baby wipe and have fun. I keep the stamp sets in the original pkg for storing. 

Cling - basically these stick to an acrylic block (or Fiskars Press) like a clear stamp, only they are NOT see through. They are different colors of rubber, usually red but I've seen blue, teal and others. You will need a tool for precise line up such as a "Stampa-Ma-Jig." What is a Stampa-Ma-Jig? Click HERE  to see Gina demonstrate how to use one. Cling stamps are usually sold 'clinging' to a slick surfaced piece of cardboard in a bag or see through container. 

Red Rubber - ooooh, the precise and clean lines of red rubber is to drool over! Red rubber are like clear or cling stamps, requiring a block to stamp them with, and stored similarly as cling stamps are. However, the engraving is so much deeper than you get with clear or some cling stamps that for me, the best images come from these luscious red rubber stamps. Typically each set is stuck to the similar slick cardboard or clear acetate and in its own bag, making it easy for storage. For precise stamping, you will also need a tool such as the Stampa-Ma-Jig" and now, MISTI (The Most Incredible Stamp Tool Invented-- click HERE to watch a brief video on what a MISTI is) because we can't see exactly where the lines are like we can with photopolymers and clear stamps. 

Wood Mounted - these are easy to stamp with since they are already mounted and do not require an acrylic block. The down side is that they take up an enormous amount of room to store (if you get a big collection) and I always feel badly for any trees cut down for the wood mounts, even if they are planted just for this purpose. I say in our day and age, let the trees grow and clean our atmosphere and use an acrylic block or Fiskars Press to mount stamps onto. But that's just me. Some people learn how to remove their stamps from the wood mounts to decrease the storage space, but then what happens to all that lovely wood :'(   ? And just like the cling and red rubber stamps, wood mounted stamps will also require a tool such as the Stampa-Ma-Jig for exact placement stamping. 

*troubleshooting -- 

  • Stamps having trouble sticking to your blocks? Some unmounted stamps have a real problem wanting to stick to acrylic blocks or to the Fiskars stamp press. To 'cure' this issue once and for all time, clean the backs of your stamps with a baby wipe, let dry. Get some "Aleene's TACK-IT Over and Over" adhesive and dab a very thin layer, a see-through thin layer, (I use my finger tip) over the backs of your cleaned stamps. Let dry stamp side down (wet side up) over night, then you'll see how the problem of slipping off the blocks is a thing of the past. No more cleaning the backs required - just wipe off the ink from the front when you're done, and put back into its packaging until next time. The stamps will still be tacky to work for a long, long time (maybe as long as you own the stamps) to come. This is an invaluable technique to begin using right away.

  • Clear stamps not inking properly? Are they blotchy or beading up on the stamp? Some unmounted clear stamps, especially the cheaper ones not made in the USA, need to be primed first. Ink them up and stamp several times onto scratch paper. If that doesn't help, you will need an old nail file or fine sand paper. Rub gently a few times across the stamp. Clean with baby wipe and let air dry. Now try to ink it up. Better? You might have to repeat this process in the offending areas until they oblige with your inking. Try using chalk inks and see if that sticks better. Don't try to save $2 by buying overseas-made stamps. It isn't worth the grief of trying to fix them. Remember, everything you buy is an investment and you want excellent images, as well as re-sale value.


Many companies give away free images. But this article will not go into how to download, size or resize the images, how to store, locate or back them up in your computer, or the type of printer ink works best, etc. That's more for advanced stamping in my mind.  But it is there for those advanced enough to dig into it. 

  • (Just briefly: Ink jet printer ink sits 'on top' of paper and will likely smear and run when you use markers or watercolors. I have an HP All In One 6500 ink jet and even used a heat tool to force the ink to stick to the cardstock. I thought it would stop the ink from smearing, but it didn't work. Laser printer inks are heated 'into' the paper. This kind of printer is best to use if you are going into investing and using digital images. I have a Brother HL2270 DW laser jet and I have no problem with either cardstock being pulled in or ink smearing. You may need to really clean all your printer rollers if you experience difficulty with it pulling up paper or cardstock. It really helps!)

Paper Trimmers:

Of course scissors are quite basic but for cardmaking, you will want to invest in a good paper trimmer. My favorite for thicker cardstock is a guillotine type trimmer where you raise the lever up, line the cardstock where you want it cut, then carefully lower the lever and it slices the paper crisply, cleanly. My favorites are by Purple Cow (kid safe) and Tonic. Tonic is my absolute favorite. It has a plastic, see-through finger guard and a nice big surface. Plus it isn't heavy (neither is Purple Cow).

For thinner papers and pattern papers, I use a rotary type paper trimmer.  (Thick cardstocks may dull the rotary paper trimmer sooner; hence, I use guillotine trimmers for heavy cardstock.) My favorite is Fiskars with the 6 inch base and extendable arm for longer papers. It's very easy to replace the blade - just lift out the old, press in the new :) Takes about 2 seconds and these are inexpensive (the trimmer AND the replacement blades). 

Score Tool:

A score tool is both a board full of indented lines and a handheld tool that creates the crease that your cards will need to fold into a professional looking card base. It also does decorative scoring, too. But to choose one could mean a War of the Worlds. You will need to try one of the most popular ones out yourself - either Scor Pal, Martha Stewart's or Stampin' Up's Score Board. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Martha's and Stampin' Up's score boards. Ask me why. Why? They have score lines every single 1/8 of an inch. Try that with Scor Pal. Nope. As you get into the scoring of papers, you will learn that you need access to all areas of the paper. With Scor Pal you are going to have to flip and turn your papers a lot to get the lines exactly where they need to go. Scor pal, for the life of me, does not have lines every 1/8 of an inch. With a Martha Stewart and SU score boards, no flipping, no guessing, no wondering, no turning, no drinking. You know you have a line every 1/8th inch. period. 

On the back of the Martha Stewart board is the easy to follow tool to make an envelope the size you want with it's own measuring tool. I have both her regular size board for the days I am going to spend hours scoring cardstock for card bases. I have the smaller one for quick score lines, decorative lines, etc. Yep, I be a happy Martha score board camper. What I love about Stampin' Up is that their score tool is easier to hold and score with. It has a rubber type round grip which is much easier to hold and press down with. But you try all that you can out and choose for yourself. If you pick Scor Pal, I will still be your friend. Promise.

Acrylic Blocks:

I prefer the thicker types of blocks, the ones where there is a smooth cutaway on the sides for your fingers to easily rest inside of. But better for achieving a great stamped image, try the Fiskars compact stamp press.  And now (as mentioned above) the MISTI stamp tool is reviewed as #1 for all it can do when stamping. Both the Fiskar's and MISTI appear to be best for stamping with clear, cling, and red rubber stamps. If you try to save a few pennies on acrylic blocks, and you purchase the thinner variety, you run the risk of bouncing your finger tips onto the card as you stamp because the blocks are not thick enough to hang onto, but some stampers do prefer the thinner blocks. If you invest in acrylic blocks, which are fast and easy for the smaller images and sentiments, then you do not need 20 sizes lol. 

All you need is a small for sentiments, a medium for both larger sentiments and the average image, and a bit larger for larger images. For really big images or background stamps, use the technique of turning the stamp over onto your work surface (image facing up), ink it up, carefully lay your cardstock on top, (some like to lay a piece of typing paper over this), then gently press your hands over, slowly sliding to capture the image on the underside of the cardstock. Now slowly lift up. See? No need for gigantic acrylic blocks. 

Coloring Images:

You probably ALREADY have something to color with. Look around. Regular color pencils? Water color pencils? Do your kids have markers or crayons or chalks? Do you have any acrylic paints, or sharpie markers of different colors? Old eye makeup, both creamy and mineral powder types? Then you have a wealth of products to color with already. If not, that must mean you are new to any art? and you will need to choose a basic way to color your images. Watercolor markers and other water mediums will likely pill regular cardstock. You will need watercolor paper for those. Alcohol markers might bleed through thin cardstock. I love Gina K. Design's 120# Pure Luxury cardstock (white and ivory) as alcohol markers do not bleed through hers. 

You can use a wet glue, but just use a tiny bit and very thin lines, like along the borders of your paper to adhere the layers. Otherwise you will cause huge buckling problems. Most stampers use a tape runner such as My favorite: Monoadhesive regular and dot tape "runners," and then get refills for when it runs out. These are dry, double sided tapes that slide out as you run the plastic holder over the paper. Marvelous inventions! I love mine.
Scor Tape 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch are also superior to hold papers together when you want the most serious of all adhesives. These are also dry, double sided tapes. But talk about permanent LOL. I love them for watercolor papers + layers, or when my layers have ribbons in the way or other embellishements like brads and eyelets that make the layers uneven. Scor Tape solves that. Also available are "glue dots" and foam adhesive. Glue dots are great for adhering cloths and ribbons (behind bows) and come in a variety of sizes. Foam adhesive comes in squares, dots or you can get larger rolls and cut into strips. Foam adhesives add lift and pop to sentiments and layers. 


Look around at "cards" on Pinterest. You will see all kinds of ways to add interest to cards by adding ribbons, bows, twine, buttons, sequins, glitter, gauze, tapes, clips, flowers - let your imagination soar. And remember, it's all a learning process. We still bomb on our projects, but that is why cardstock as two sides - turn it over and start again. :)

Pattern Papers:

You can either purchase a pack of pattern papers (usually available in 6" x 6" packs) or you can even print free ones, or make your own. Watch videos of others creating their own pattern papers. There are plenty of videos both on YouTube and at StampTV (Gina's website). In fact, Gina has the absolute VERY best how-to videos in the stamping business. (My humble opinion, of course). But most everything I've learned by watching Gina's video tutorials. Just click on "Videos" on her website HERE and begin your journey on learning the basics through advanced techniques of cardmaking!!!

As you progress, make sure you try out heat embossing with VersaMark and sprinkle with metallic and different colors of powders, (you'll need a heat tool such as Marvy heat tool, NOT a hair dryer), as well as sponging ink colors such as Memento inks or distress inks (megaopolis of FUN), and dry embossing with an embossing folder and a CuttleBug or a Big Shot embossing/die cutting machine for the ultimate in fun-fun-fun (but will cost you more $$$ - watch for sales and WAIT until you are past a beginner so you don't get overwhelmed).  And just "google" any lingo that you may not be familiar with. It will likely pop up some very handy dandy videos for you to watch and learn ♥


Some people are really adamant about which scissors to get. But I have those super duper expensive ones and learned - just get the 3 pack of craft scissors from Costco, Walmart, Target or Amazon - eventually all scissors get dull. I have a sharpening stone and that lengthens the lives of the scissor edges. But even if you get the most expensive scissors out there, seriously, you are going to need one for ribbons and the rest for papers and other stuff. For some reason, ribbons really need sharp scissors so do try to keep one pair just for them. Tie a ribbon onto the handle to remind yourself not to use that pair for anything else. 

Important Hints:

You will want to know how to cut a basic card size out without ruining your expensive cardstock by (gasp) cutting it the wrong size!!!! Write down the measurements that follow, and tape it to whichever paper trimming device you purchase. 

Starting with an 8-1/2" x 11" cardstock, you will be able to make two A2 size cards (5-1/2" x 4-1/4" when folded in half). If you cut the sheet of cardstock lengthwise, you will have two slender pieces of cardstock that when folded, will stand with the crease at the top. If you cut the sheet midway, thru the 'belly' of the sheet, you will end up with two more square shaped size pieces. When folded in half you will have the crease on the left and the card will open like a book. Or you can use the crease at the top for a landscape look card. 

This is what I have written & cut out, then taped to both my paper trimmers:

A2:                   5-1/2" x 4-1/4" total front card size
1st layer          5 -1/4" x 4"
2nd layer        5" x 3-3/4"
3rd layer        4-3/4" x 3-1/2"

A4:                 5" x 7" total front card size
1st layer        4-3/4" x 6-3/4"
2nd layer      4-1/2" x 6-1/2"
3rd layer       4-1/4" x 6-1/4"

These "cheat sheets" automatically tells me the size to cut the layers that go onto the front of my card. You don't need to have layers on your cards, but as you progress, you will no doubt want the depth and interest that adding different layers brings.

This gives you an idea what I mean by layering: The father away from the base card (first layer), the "higher" the number of the layer gets. I posted a picture of a card with layering right below for you. If you count from the blue base, first layer, you will count toward the image which is 4 layers.

The top or 4th layer has the main stamped image. However, I cut the layer right behind it (3rd layer from card base) very, very closely to the top layer, which does not follow the above measurements. You see, you can pick any size you want, but for beginners, you may want to go by the scales above at first. I just wanted a smidgeon of color peeking out from behind that front layer, so it's about 1/8th of an inch larger. The farthest pattern paper (1st layer on card base) does match up with the measurements above either.  This is an A2 landscape or horizontal card, with the crease at the top. It has 4 layers: Cardstock base, pattern paper, dark blue layer, stamped image.

Thank you for looking, for trying to understand, and if you have
 any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me!!! I'll do my best to help you out.

Otherwise, try googling your question, watch videos on the techniques 
and ENJOY your new ADDICTION!


  1. This is a great article! You covered all the basics. Well done!

  2. I realize this comment is late, but what an excellent post! Thank you for going to the trouble to share all your knowledge, much appreciated!


Your kind comments really encourage me a TON! Mahalo nui loa!