I decided to post about this because I get nearly weekly emails asking about inks and this is a great way to simply direct that question to a definite answer. Which inks are my favourite and why? Which inks are the best? Let's say that inks are like shoes. Some like sneakers, some wear sandals and others wear heels. Everyone has a preference. Therefore, what I love, may not exactly be what you love. But I can definitely say that a wide variety of my crafty friends in the industry have fallen in love with these inks. Finally something different. A whole other group of crafters are bound to certain companies due to brand deals, so they generally can't speak about their true feelings about certain inks, or maybe they haven't even been able to try them out yet.
What I Find Important
- Full coverage, even on solid stamps
- Being able to tap just a few times rather than slamming my ink pad onto the stamp
- Refills are available
- No splotchy coverage
- No contamination (when I stamp in red and then stamp in yellow that I don't get a residue after cleaning)
- A wide variety of colours so I can use my layering stamps
What I Use
Now that I am not on design teams and can reach for whatever inks I want, I reach mainly for my Catherine Pooler inks for general stamping. They are vibrant, juicy and fit all my above needs. The coolest thing is that they don't contaminate. I don't know if you've ever tried swatching your inks, or stamping in yellow after stamping in red. No matter how much you clean the stamp, residue happens. For some reason, with CP inks, it doesn't.
I love the CP inks because they are foam pads. There are more and more foam pads coming out because I believe people are realizing that they just simply stamp better. Concord and 9th and the Stamp Market have an excellent range of foam pads as well and I use these now and again as well, but I do notice that the manufacturer is different and the quality is better with CP inks (although it really isn't a word of difference). The upside about these two brands is they both have coordinating cardstock.
I love the fact that CP inks have full coverage. They can also do everything a water-based ink can. Ink blend, watercolour, and react with water.
I also still use my distress oxide inks for backgrounds. It's just a personal preference as CP inks can blend backgrounds also.
The Downside of CP Inks
There are a couple of things to take into consideration. Felt pads tend to last me years of stamping without needing a refill. That being sad, I'd rather have success with my ink pads like CP's than to have to stamp several times using my Misti stamping tool to get good coverage. CP inks definitely need to the refills. I'm ok with that, because you can use refills for so many techniques anyway.
Secondly, the black Midnight ink is archival. This means it is waterproof but also stains your stamps quite heavily. I prefer using my Versafine Black Onyx Ink or my Scrapbook.com Hybrid Black ink instead.
Lastly, it does take some time to get used to not slamming your ink pad onto your stamp. CP inks just need some love taps and they are good to go. It took me a few tries to get it right.
Which inks should I get?
I realize that if you're considering getting new inks, it's a huge expense. I believe the 68 colours including refills run over $700. That's a lot to invest in ink pads. Really take a moment to consider which colours you use most often. What is your style? Catherine has 3 collections of inks: Party, Spakju and Neutral. Neutral are you greys, blacks, browns. Spa and Party is where the real differences are.
Full Pads vs. Mini Ink Cubes
Mini inks are great because they are budget friendly. Keep in mind that although they are budget friendly, they contain about 1/4-1/2 of the amount of ink that regular pads do so refills are needed quicker. For foam pads, I prefer full size. I find that the edge of the pad leaves a harsh line when your stamp is bigger than your ink pad (which doesn't happen often). So I prefer full pads but I realize for budget and storage, mini inks are fantastic.
The Party Collection
These inks are for those who love bright, vibrant, happy colours. Here is a list of my recommended ink colours if you're considering investing in the Party Collection.
- Party Dress (Pink)
- Tiki Torch (Orange)
- Flirty Fuchsia (Purple)
- Limoncello (Yellow)
- Lime Rickey (Lighter Green)
- Fiesta Blue (Blue)
- Something Borrowed (Dark Blue)
- Mardi Gras (Teal)
- Samba (Red)
- Coral Cabana (Coral Pink)
The Spa Collection
For those of you that enjoy muted, more natural colours. The Spa Collection is for you. This collection I tend to use more during the fall and winter months (sounds weird I know…)
- Sauna (Yellow)
- Peppermint Scrub (Red)
- Royal Treatment (Purple)
- Sage (Green)
- Juniper Mist (Navy Blue)
- Spruce (Dark Green)
- Polished (Pink)
A quick note about stamp staining. If you're using clear stamps, they aren't going to stay super clean forever. I find that CP inks don't stain my stamps, aside from a select few colours. Reds stain and I mentioned the archival Midnight ink stains and that I prefer to use a standard black ink, instead. Rather than be upset that your supplies look dirty, just think, you used them and they are loved. You are an artist and art is not meant to look prefect and neither do supplies need to look pristine.
I store my inks in these cubbies. Mine hold 75 inks but they aren't currently available. This one holds 60. I have them hanging up on my wall to save some surface space 🙂 I have two of them for my CP and my Distress.
My Mini inks I store in these trays in my Ikea Alex drawers. I still have my Altenew mini inks for when I teach classes over there. I do love their colour variety!
My Experience with Other Inks
Keep in mind, these are just my opinions. You may find that you love your Altenew inks more than anything. I do a LOT of solid stamping and I need great coverage which I don't get (without a Misti) from felt inks. You may rarely solid stamp and that might not play a role for you. Maybe colour variety or coordinating cardstock is important. Everyone is entitled to love what they love and dislike what they dislike 🙂
- Catherine Pooler – changed my stamping game and everything I just described in this article describes my experience. Mini inks available.
- Concord and 9th – coordinating cardstock, refills available, great muted tones, love them! Mini Inks Available.
- The Stamp Market – unique palette, coordinating cardstock and refills, thin pads that need refilling more often, but overall I had a great experience with them.
- Stampin' Up – also a good experience. They last a long time but colours change often and refills become unavailable. Coordinating cardstock available. I find the pads difficult to open.
- Close to my Heart – I haven't tried their new pads but I had decent experience with their older pads. Some splotchy solid stamping.
- Altenew – excellent range of colours, great for layering stamping. Refills available. Splotchy solid images. Full pads seem to be juicier than mini pads. Mini Inks available.
- Gina K Designs – I like her amalgam inks a lot for waterproof and alcohol inks. Her inks I find are the best felt pads (even though many manufacturers provide ink pads for other companies as well, hers seem to be juicier?) Mini Inks available.
- Simon Says Stamp – wide variety of colours, no refills, splotchy solid stamping. They are “ok”.
- Scrapbook.com – wide variety of colours, great for layering. Splotchy solid stamping. They are “ok”.
- Distress and Distress Oxide – excellent for techniques. Regular Distress don't stamp well. Highly recommend for techniques. Distress Minis available (not in Oxide)
- The Ton – great for layering stamps
Just in case you want more, I have a few videos below that may help you make a decision 🙂
Affiliate links used in the links above.