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Review | Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer with Zink Technology

The mobile printer market has been getting quite competitive lately, with several products gaining traction with scrapbookers, art journalers, and planner fans. After some initial reluctance to join the trend, last winter I purchased a Polaroid Zip Mobile printer, and decided to give it a first try-out on the road, as it was intended to be used. And this was no ordinary trip – it was a multi-country international trip involving planes, trains, and automobiles!

[Disclosure: Some links in this article are affiliate links that earn this site a commission at no cost to the reader when a purchase is made after a click.]

Traveling with the Polaroid Zip Mobile PrinterPolaroid Zip Mobile Printer

In the photo above, the Polaroid Zip Mobile printer sits on the tray table of my seat on a Deutsche Bahn train between Paris and Frankfurt. Since the printer didn’t come with a case, it’s bundled up in the Polaroid brand neoprene printer pouch that is sold separately for about $10. I found the soft sided neoprene pouch worked quite well for my travel use but there are also hard sided zipper cases available for the printer from other companies if that would make you feel safer toting it around.

All bundled up in the pouch with supplies, the printer was about an inch and a half thick and about the size of my hand, a very manageable size for slipping in a carry-on bag. With no paper inside, the printer alone weighs about 6oz. The total weight of the pouch will depend on how much paper and what accessories you carry.Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer

Inside the neoprene pouch, I carried the printer, thirty sheets of 2″ x 3″ paper (in packs of ten), and the instructions. If you have a phone whose charging cable is micro USB, then you’re in luck and won’t need to carry a second cable for charging the printer. But if you have an iPhone or other non-micro USB phone, you’ll need to carry the Polaroid micro USB cable for charging the Zip Mobile printer. In that event, you’ll need to find another way to carry either the paper or cable (since both won’t both fit in the neoprene pouch together) or buy a larger hard sided case.

Tip – The Zip Mobile comes with a micro USB cable that is about 30″ in length. However, you may want to invest in a slightly longer one if you plan on needing to charge in locations such as airport terminals, airplanes, and trains, as these outlets can be in quite hard to reach locations. A good Amazon Basics 6 foot Micro USB cable can be had for around $6, a small price to pay to eliminate the aggravation of the cable that just barely or not quite reaches an available outlet. You’ll also need a wall charger of some kind as the Zip comes only with the cable to charge via USB from the computer, and not a wall plug.

Of course, a key element in any mobile device’s usefulness is the battery life. Polaroid advertises that the Zip Mobile’s rechargeable built-in battery will last for 25 prints. In my real world testing, it lasted through 17 prints in one printing session and then when I tried to use it again 5 days later, the battery did not have enough charge left to print.

I actually found the first sign of the battery fading was that the Bluetooth connection to the software in my iPhone 6S became very buggy and was failing to maintain connection. Then, after a couple minutes of me trying to troubleshoot the Bluetooth, the pop-up finally appeared in the software for the battery being low.

Tip – If your Bluetooth starts acting flaky on the Zip Mobile, try getting some power hooked up to it to see if it resolves (especially if it’s been in use for more than a few prints or not charged for a few days).

Polaroid Zip Mobile printer

The printer worked very well for me in every setting that I tried it out – on the train (in the top pictures), in the hotel, and on the plane (in the photo above). There was plenty of room to work with it in all of those locations. With the Zip Mobile’s rechargeable battery, I didn’t need to worry about access to power (although several of those locations had power if I needed it).

Tip – The Zip Mobile’s glossy plastic case is extremely slippery. Placed on a smooth surface like a tray table in a train or airplane, it will slip and slide around extremely easily. I recommend adding a small piece of non-slip drawer liner to your packing for the printer and using it as a mat to secure your printer to the table surface.

Printing with the Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer

To print with the Polaroid Zip Mobile printer requires using a smartphone app to send the photos to the printer (similar to printing to from your computer to your regular home printer). Instead of WiFi, the mobile device connects to the printer via Bluetooth.

When I first used the printer last winter, the iPhone app that was required to run the printer was absolutely horrible – so horrible in fact that it had only a 1 star rating on the Apple app store. That didn’t stop me from using and liking the printer, but it was (to put it mildly) a major frustration. Thankfully, that app has recently been completely replaced. The new Polaroid Zip Mobile app, while still pretty basic in functionality, seems to have fixed the major things that were broken in the old one while adding some new functions.

Printing from the Zip Mobile printer is surprisingly easy. I taught myself how to do it while traveling, just from the mini instruction brochure that came in the package. Zink printers don’t use ink, just special paper, to print so before you get started you need to load paper. That’s as easy as sliding the panel that says “Polaroid” off in the direction of the arrow that is on it. Then you open one of the foil wrapped ten sheet packs of paper, and place the stack in the paper cavity in the printer with the blue bar code sheet on the bottom. When you replace the panel and turn on the printer, it will feed out the blue sheet automatically, reading what paper is in it.

To start printing, you just open the Polaroid Zip Mobile app on my iPhone. Then you can scroll through your photos to select the one that you want to print, or you can take a photo from within the app. You can also select from a drop down that gives the option to access photos on a Facebook or Instagram account, or in Dropbox, as well as to filter your photo roll display down to certain types of photos that are on the camera roll (like saved Instagram photos).

Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer app

Once the photo is selected, then you have a selection of some basic editing functions to use. First, there’s the ability to arrange the photo the way you want on the 2″ x 3″ print (cropping). Then there are filters that can be applied (just like on instagram), along with basic editing adjustments such as brightness and contrast. Or you can also embellish the photo with fun “stickers”, and decorative frames. A custom text tool creates text that can be placed anywhere on the photo in your choice of color and font.

Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer app

Once your photo is edited and embellished how you would like it, just hit the “print” button in the upper right of the screen. The photo will go right to the printer and print with no further set-up needed, as long as the printer is turned on and the Bluetooth is enabled on your phone. (I’ve noticed that even if I have just printed a photo that I still usually have to turn the printer back on to print. It shuts down automatically to save battery life after a short period of not being used. I can’t decide if this feature is annoying or helpful.)

The Polaroid Zip Mobile app, while workable, is pretty basic. To get prints out of a system like the Zip Mobile that live up to the standards of a photography nerd like me, you have to put the best possible input into the printer. My solution to that is to use my Lightroom mobile app to do most of my major editing on my images, and then I save them to my camera roll and simply print them from the printer. It takes a bit more time but the results are worth it.Polaroid Zip Mobile printsAbove, you can see the difference that editing in another piece of software makes. The top left photo, which was edited in the Polaroid software, loses a lot of detail in the dark areas. The middle right photo was edited in the free Lightroom Mobile app, and I was able to bring out detail in the dark areas while still preserving some of the glow of the lights. On the bottom, that print shows how the Zip Mobile can print black & white, which is a great option with a low contrast photo like this to get some detail and contrast.

Tip – Images that are bright, highly saturated and with a lot of contrast get best results printing from the Polaroid Zip Mobile. Low contrast and dark images can end up looking muddy.

Polaroid Zip Mobile vs Instax Share

The Polaroid Zip Mobile’s major competitor is Fujifilm’s Instax line of products. Although most people are more familiar with the Instax cameras, Fujifilm does have what it calls a smartphone printer called the Instax Share as part of that line as well. I looked hard at both the Zip and the Instax before making my purchase of the Zip Mobile and this is what swayed my decision to the Polaroid printer over the Fujifilm printer:

Better pictures. In my research, and in my experience using a Fujifilm Instax camera and now the Zip Mobile printer, I prefer the image quality of the Zip Mobile.

Image margin. The Instax prints have a very distinctive retro look with the white borders around them that may not always work with what I want prints for. The Zip Mobile app will let me create that look if I’d like.

Image size. The edge to edge prints on the Zip Mobile are 2″ x 3″ in size, but the Instax Share (using Instax Mini film) can only print images that are 1.8″ by 2.4″.

Sticky back. Since part of the appeal of being able to print mobile is to do things like journal or scrapbook on the go, I really like that the Zip Mobile prints have a self-adhesive back. This means I can stick them in my journal without having to carry adhesive with me when traveling.

Cutting. Scrapbookers like to use our scissors! The Zip Mobile prints are scissor friendly, whereas the Instax prints can’t be cut without taking them apart in a laborious process.

X-ray safety. This was a major factor for me in making my choice. Instax prints are film that is x-ray sensitive and so when traveling through airport security must be hand-inspected to be certain that it isn’t damaged. The Zip Mobile works via heat activated ink, so is not x-ray sensitive – avoiding a major hassle dealing with the TSA at security.

Chemical Safety. When unexposed or during the developing process, Instax film contains chemicals that means the film must be handled carefully. No such precautions are necessary with Zink paper.

Speed. An Instax print takes as long as ten minutes to develop, whereas a Zink print from the Zip Mobile is finished the moment it pops out of the printer.

Cost. This isn’t cheap technology to use no matter which printer you select, but the Zip Mobile is the decidedly less expensive of the two mobile printer options to buy and use. The Zip Mobile printer is about $50 cheaper to purchase, and the paper for it (even in the largest most discounted quantities for both) prices to about 10-15 cents a print cheaper than Instax Mini film on Amazon.com.

A mobile printer like the Polaroid Zip Mobile isn’t going to replace your regular home photo printer, but for scrapbooking and journaling on the go, or for special events, it’s a fun tool that can help you get your stories recorded faster. Despite the frustrating start with the old version of the app, I’m happy that I have my printer and look forward to using it for many more projects!

What is the difference between original Distress Ink and Distress Oxide?

Tim Holtz recently announced that twelve new colors are being added to his new Distress Oxide ink line, bringing to a total of 24 the colors available in that line. But this new announcement of expansion in the Distress Oxide color palette may have some of our readers who haven’t tried the inks yet asking “what is the difference between the original Distress ink and new Distress Oxide ink?”

Let’s take a look!

[Disclosure: This article contains some affiliate or sponsor links.]

Distress Oxide ink pads

To run my comparison, I used the six Ranger Distress Oxide inks that I have purchased, along with their matching inks from my collection of original Ranger Distress Inks (some of which were provided to me by Ranger at the time of their release).

As an initial comparison, I stamped the inks side by side on plain white cardstock. I specifically chose these Tim Holtz silhouette stamps because their large solid stamping areas are the type of design that make it challenging to get a perfect impression. Plus they give a really good look at the color tones of each ink.

The male silhouette in each pair below is stamped in original Distress ink, and the female profile is stamped in Distress Oxide ink.

Distress Ink vs Distress Oxide stamping

At first glance, most of the pairs don’t seem that different. The color tones on most are fairly close to each other. However, one thing is evident after closer examination (and has been seen in my other use of the ink). The new Distress Oxide image is cleaner, with fewer light spots, than the original Distress Ink in most of the images. Because the Oxide ink is juicier, it is more forgiving in creating a good quality image with a challenging stamp design and on a less than optimal surface.

Distress Ink vs Distress Oxide stamping

Moving to stamping on manila tags, a better surface for the inks, and the difference in quality is somewhat less obvious between the two inks, but still slightly noticeable.

One of the key features that is being promoted for Distress Oxide is that it “oxidizes” when exposed to water. But what, exactly, is oxidation? According to Wikipedia, oxidation is “the loss of electrons or an increase in oxidation state by a molecule, atom, or ion.” Say what? What does that mean in craft terms?

Distress Oxide vs Distress Ink

Distress Ink (left) and Distress Oxide (right)

Above, these two tags have been dragged through ink that was rubbed on my craft sheet, and then had water dripped on them. Both tags end up with light looking spots where the drips were. But if you look closely at the spots, there is a key difference. When water was dripped on the tag with the original Distress Ink, the spots “bleached” and got light. It’s almost as if all color has been removed from those spots. In comparison, on the Distress Oxide tag, the spots still have plenty of saturated color in them even though they appear lighter from the water. That is what oxidation looks like in Distress Oxide ink!

Distress vs Distress Oxide test

original Distress ink (left) vs Distress Oxide (right)

Another major difference – translucency – becomes obvious between the two inks when I tried doing a direct-to-paper technique on a dark colored background on these animal cards cut from some idea-ology paper. You can see above how much more opaque the Distress Oxide inks are on the bear and the kangaroo cards than their counterparts in original Distress Ink on the pig and elephant cards. The difference is especially obvious on the Cracked Pistachio inked cards. On the elephant card, the original Distress ink is almost completely transparent, just tinting the card but not impacting the visibility of the image. This is a huge contrast to the Distress Oxide of the same color on the kangaroo card, which completely obliterates the image!

Distress vs Distress Oxide comparison

The more that you handle and manipulate these inks, the more subtle differences that you notice. For this test above, I rubbed the ink pads on my craft sheet, spritzed the sheet with water, and then dragged the tags through the ink. Both tags resulted in a marbled look with this technique. But if you look closely, you’ll see on the right above that the Distress Oxide ink pooled and flowed more, whereas the original Distress maintained more structure. You can even see striations in the tag on the left from where it was dragged, whereas the other tag is more shapeless in design.

Distress Ink layered tag

Distress Ink layered tag

Another of the things you will notice is how differently these inks layer. One of the big advantages being touted by Tim Holtz in his Distress Oxide demos since the product’s introduction has been that the product can be layered without getting muddy, and you can see in these examples I created how that works.

Above, I created a tag with five different original Distress Inks that were applied in three different layers, by swiping on the craft sheet, spritzing with water and then dragging the tag through. You can see that by the last layer, at least part of the tag had turned to muddy brown.

Contrast that to the tag below, created with the same five colors of ink but in Distress Oxide, and using the same technique. Although original Distress got muddy at three layers, this tag is still showing vibrant color after five layers of inking with Distress Oxide.

Disress Oxide layered tag 2

Some of the differences are subtle, and some not so subtle. But they add up to Distress Oxide being an ink that is an excellent complement to original Distress ink. Used together, the two inks give paper crafters and mixed media artists the ability for almost granular control over the properties of the ink at each stage of their project. Do I want my purple to blend or pool? Do I want my green to be transparent or opaque? Do I need my colors to layer, or not? You can decide the look, and select the appropriate ink – while staying inside the Distress palette.

Distress Oxide ink pads

Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide ink pads have an MSRP of $5.99. Twelve colors were released in Winter 2017, and an additional twelve colors have just been announced and are currently shipping to stores. Distress Oxide is available at Scrapbook.com, A Cherry On Top, Amazon.com, and other crafts retailers.

Review | Lawn Fawn Stamp Shammy

Every so often, a craft tool comes along that is so simple, yet so useful, that I wonder how I ever got by without it. The Lawn Fawn Stamp Shammy is one of those tools.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Lawn Fawn provided the Stamp Shammy that was used in this review to me for a separate project outside of this site, but I loved it so much I decided I wanted to share it here. Some links may be affiliate links that pay this site a commission when a purchase is made after a click, or advertiser courtesy links.]

Lawn Fawn Stamp ShammyAt first glance in the package, the Stamp Shammy (Amazon, Scrapbook.com, ACOT, Simon) is quite unassuming. In appearance it’s just a piece of turquoise cloth that is slightly under 5″ by 7″ in size. But once out of the package and soaked in water, it shows its true magic.

After being soaked in water, the Stamp Shammy turns into an all-in-one stamp cleaning solution. In my tests, it cleaned rubber and clear stamps of all inks – leaving no color behind on the stamp – except for solvent based inks such as Staz-On and Ranger Archival. Even with those solvent inks it left the stamp clean enough for the stamp to be re-used, but just left behind staining on the stamp. This included tests of pigment, dye, chalk, and hybrid inks from multiple brands.

Cleaning stamps with the Stamp Shammy does leave behind marks on the shammy cloth, but those are just cosmetic and do not mean that area cannot be used to clean another stamp. The staining may be an irritant for neat freaks, however.

Using the shammy is a simple, single step process. Just tamp or wipe your dirty stamp on the cloth until the stamp is clean. Then the stamp can be put away or immediately reused. The Stamp Shammy can also be used to wipe off my stamping block if I get ink on it while using a stamp.

Because of how simple it is to use, and the fact that it uses no consumable supplies, the Stamp Shammy is perfect for large scale repetitive stamping projects. The first project that I used my shammy for was to swatch some inks, leaving behind all of these small circles on the shammy. The shammy makes it ridiculously easy to switch colors for a project like that where you are stamping multiple times with multiple colors with the same stamp. Just stamp, swipe on the shammy, and then ink with your next color!

Lawn Fawn Stamp ShammyAnother project that the Stamp Shammy is perfect for is bullet journaling or planners. I just used it while setting up a new bullet journal, which meant stamping nearly 1000 impressions for calendar dates and events. When I was done, the cloth was quite stained from the black ink, but my shammy was cleaning fine. (The picture below was taken partway through the stamping.)

The shammy really decreased the amount of time it took to complete the calendar stamping versus my last time doing it to set up a new journal. And it made it so easy to do the special events on the calendar in a variety of colors!

Stamp Shammy Bullet JournalSince the shammy is wet while being used, I usually keep it on a thrift store plate (or a foam one) on my work surface to keep the table surface and other items from getting damp.

Lawn Fawn Stamp Shammy

Since getting my Stamp Shammy I have drastically cut back my use of baby wipes to clean my stamps – great for both my budget and the environment. I use them only rarely now!

Its size and simplicity makes the Stamp Shammy the perfect stamp cleaner for stamping on the go at the crops or while traveling. It’s small, lightweight, and there’s no containers of liquid to haul (and potentially spill). Just find a sink to run some water on it and activate it, and you’re ready to go. One shammy could serve the stamp cleaning needs of an entire table of croppers! When you are done, throw it in a zip bag to take home. (Don’t keep it sealed up too long, though – be sure to lay it out to dry so that it won’t mold while sealed up wet!)

So what is the cost of stamp cleaning miracles? The price of the Stamp Shammy – an $8 MSRP – is affordable enough that prolific stampers can buy several and stash them where they use them most – their planner kit, their stamping supplies, their crop bag, or wherever they need it. I’m already plotting to add a second one to my supplies for my planner stash!

Pros:

  • Affordable ($8 MSRP)
  • Easy to Use
  • Portable

Cons:

  • Ink stains the shammy (but it still works)
  • Won’t take out solvent inks entirely

The Lawn Fawn Stamp Shammy is available in retail stores and from online retailers (Amazon, Scrapbook.com, ACOT, Simon) for an MSRP of $8.