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Black Ink Pad Comparison

Reported by Reyanna Klein

I’m one of those scrapbookers who hoards stamps and inks, but hardly ever uses them. Having an endless supply of inks got me curious… what’s the best one out there? Which inks are best for the projects I do? I would go to grab a stamp pad, and I honestly would not know which pads to use.

I thought it would be perfect to set up a little test… Testing the three I had in my stash: ColorBox (in Black), StazOn (in Jet Black), and VersaMagic (in Midnight Black). And from this test, I would figure out once and for all which inks would be the best for my needs.

First off, I should mention that ColorBox and VersaMagic are both pigment inks. Pigment inks use special pigments to improve fade performance, making them great for archival quality projects. Pigment inks settle into the tiny fibers of paper and fabric. Because of this, they don’t work so well on non-porous and semi-porous media (like acrylic and photos).

StazOn, on the other hand, is a solvent-based ink (basically, it’s not water-based). While still archival-safe, what sets it apart from pigment inks is its ability to dry quickly. Though pigment inks are easier to clean using just water (or baby wipes, like I use), solvent-based inks clean up best with cleaners (like StazOn All-Purpose Cleaner) made specifically for them.

The first test was to stamp the three inks on smooth cardstock. I used the Fiskars Stamp Press and one of my favorite clear stamps, TypeSet from Studio Calico, for each stamped image. I cleaned the stamp between each pressed image, so they’d all have the same starting point. (The name of the ink used is beneath each stamped image. And you can click on all images to make them larger.)

Now, I’m not a great stamper, so please excuse my stamping skills. But… my skill set aside, it’s easy to see that the StazOn is the darkest of the three, and it also creates the crispest image.

Next, I decided to test the stamped images to see how they react to slight smearing. You know… you stamp an image and then you accidentally brush your hand across it? (I hate that! LOL.) I held down the stamp press for 10 seconds for each image, removed the press, then lightly smeared two fingers down the stamp.

StazOn didn’t smear at all. And though VersaMagic smeared a bit more than ColorBox, it shows that VersaMagic is a bit thicker and darker. With this test, I would conclude that VersaMagic would make the best embossing ink. With thickness and slow drying time combined, I think it would do slightly better than ColorBox when embossed. StazOn probably wouldn’t be the best for embossing because it dries so quickly. However, *not* smearing and drying quickly certainly have their advantages!

Stamping on photos is becoming more and more popular these days, as is the use of stamping on acrylic and other media besides paper. So I thought it would be best to test these inks stamped on photo paper.


WOW! Sorry ColorBox and VersaMagic, StazOn wins by a landslide! Because VersaMagic and ColorBox are both pigment inks, they do not stamp well on this surface.

Do you want to hear something crazy? StazOn was dry within minutes. I let this sit overnight before touching the ColorBox or VersaMagic (they were noticeably too wet to touch when first stamped). Over 24 hours later, the ColorBox STILL came off on my finger when touched. The VersaMagic finally dried on the photo paper, but it dried much lighter than even this scan shows. The StazOn remained crisp when I ran my finger across it.

I couldn’t do an ink review without doing some distressing. There are times when clean and crisp lines look great, but then there are other times where just a touch of distress or age will add the perfect effect.

I ran the ink pads down the side of a small piece of cardstock first… just around the edges. Next, I lightly distressed the edges. I tried to do the same technique with each ink pad.

StazOn showed the smallest hint of a black line when it was run along the edges. This may be caused by the firmer surface of the ink pad. VersaMagic and ColorBox showed a more distressed (not as perfect) finish on the edges. And at the corners, I found the ColorBox ink much easier to maneuver (most likely this is due to the much softer pad), resulting in a more smoky appearance. VersaMagic gave a chalk-like appearance, which was stated on the packaging. This did not perform as well as the ColorBox, which is my distressing ink of choice.

My findings:

Colorbox (MSRP $5.95)
Good for: distressing (smoky-like finish); inking edges; embossing
Not good for: fast-drying projects; crisp edges; fine detail; stamping on slick surfaces (photos, acrylic, etc.)

StazOn (MSRP $8.29)
Good for: crisp edges; fast-drying projects; stamping on plastic/acrylic, photos, metal, glass, ceramic, laminated paper, coated paper, and leather
Not good for: embossing, stamping on fabric (I didn’t try stamping on fabric, but it says so on the packaging)

VersaMagic (MSRP $6.00)
Good for: embossing; distressing (chalk-like finish); stamping on wood, fabric, leather, metal, paper
Not good for: fast-drying projects; stamping on photos

As it turns out, I’m glad that I purchased each of these! I didn’t see that one coming! LOL. I honestly thought one would trump the others, leaving the others in its dust… or smeared ink trail…

I now know that I will always grab my StazOn for general stamping, VersaMagic for embossing, and ColorBox for distressing (love those little Cat’s Eyes too!).

So what about you? Do you use different brands for different projects? Or do you have one favorite brand you use for everything? I’d love to know!

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19 Responses to Black Ink Pad Comparison

  1. Avatar
    lisa truesdell November 6, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    stazon is awesome for stamping on fabric – if you’re not going to wash it. great comparison, reyanna!! =)

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    Emily Pitts November 6, 2009 at 5:02 pm #

    such a good thing to do reyanna. each ink has it’s purpose, i’m glad i have various types. thanks for posting this!

  3. Avatar
    H. November 6, 2009 at 5:28 pm #

    Thanks! However, I am not a fan of Stazon for clear stamps, plus in general it can be harder to clean up after using it and it has an odor. And of course, if you color images, a whole host of other factors comes into play… My personal fave for general non-coloring stamping is Versafine, and as a Copic user, my go to ink for coloring is Memento.

  4. Avatar
    Scrapthat November 6, 2009 at 6:44 pm #

    I love stazon…Love the smell too. But you can’t beat it in that it will stamp on any surface glass, acrylic, paper fabric you name it…easy to clean off with diluted Simple Green and simple Green is a non toxic cleaner, and it won’t hurt your stamps either. (And safer for cleaning if you have kids and pets around so that’s a bonus…though the smell leaves something to be desired LOL)

  5. Avatar
    Jill November 6, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    I use Tim Holtz Distress for my generally inking purposes then I use Staz-On for all my projects that TH’s wouldn’t work for.

  6. Avatar
    Anonymous November 6, 2009 at 10:12 pm #

    Colorbox is wonderful for heat embossing and for getting a good impression from a large, solid image.

    StazOn is wonderful for what you mentioned, but the cleanser will crack your acrylic block eventually (splinter and spider it) and it can possibly effect the results from your photopolymer stamps.

    Versafine is also good for heat embossing.

  7. Avatar
    Kathy in MN November 6, 2009 at 10:51 pm #

    Wow! Excellent review. Thanks-I use stazon for most of my general stamping too. Good to see your test results.

  8. Avatar
    Jen November 6, 2009 at 11:31 pm #

    Don’t get a stamper started on inks! Personally I use versafine as my go to black ink, and I know lots of other stampers use Memories. Staz on I reserve for specific purposes b/c cleaning the stamp is a pain.
    Versafine embosses well.

  9. Avatar
    lynnfrompgh November 7, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    One of THE best reviews…..thank you so much!!! Now if only I can find this info when needed! lol

  10. Avatar
    susanscraps November 7, 2009 at 1:03 pm #

    well on the first test I disagree, I think the versapad it darker and =crisper…look at the roller bar on the typewriter. but the rest you are right on. the pigment inks, have to be heat set to me that is a major con, if I am stamping, I get in a groove and want to keep moving, so having to stop and heat set, kind of messes that groove up. any time you have glossy or slick surface you need stazon, transparencies, ceramic tile etc, and yes it will be dry within minutes…HOWEVER, because the surface is slick you MUST be very careful when initially stamping because it is sooo easy for the stamp to slide.

    there are other tests that can be done also, test them for smearing with colored pencils, water colors, sharpies, copic markers. etc.

    I have Stampin’ up class black, craft black, stazon black, and hybrid palette noir black, and tim holtz’s distress black soot.

    They all seem to smear a bit with sharpies, unless I emboss the craft black. I do not own any copic’s so can’t tell you about that, i like to use prismacolor pencils with odorless mineral spirits for blending, and the class SU black and the hybrid palette noir seems to work best for them.

    but you know what, none of them seem to stamp REALLY BLACK except for the craft ink, and like I said that has to be heat set ( which fades it a bit) or embossed.

    I am trying to find an ink pad in black that REALLY stamps BLACK and dries quickly.

    Tim Holtz’s black soot is pretty darned black, but does not dry quickly, and I have not tried using a coloring with it, so not sure on that end.

    thanks for the info, I would appreciate seing further ink testing, and using other inks and products. 🙂

  11. Avatar
    susanscraps November 7, 2009 at 1:05 pm #

    dear “H” and anyone else…you should NOT use stazon on your clear acrylic stamps, as it is solvent based, it will over time damage those stamps.

  12. Avatar
    Anonymous November 7, 2009 at 2:28 pm #

    you should check out the Versafine Onyx Black or PaperTrey Ink True Black for acrylic stamps
    crisp, fast drying and dark true black

  13. Avatar
    RosieP November 7, 2009 at 3:40 pm #

    As somebody just getting into using various inks this review is so helpful! Thank you.

  14. Avatar
    Mari November 7, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    I absolutely use different ink pads for different occasions!
    I really love my Black Soot Distress Ink pad – my go to pad for sure! I also love the Memento Tuxedo Black pad – great for fast drying/non smearing/acrylic stamps. I also find that I really like my Brilliance pad for larger stamps (along with Versa Fine). The large archival black pad from Ranger is also nice.
    I don’t like the SU! pads – they’re too purplish for me. When colorbox came out with black pads that had a hint of under color to them I thought it was a little strange that anyone would *want* that (but of course I bought them anyway – just in case!).
    All in all, I think I have at least 10 different black ink pads. Sheesh. I think I might have a problem! 😀

  15. Avatar
    Rebecca Ednie November 7, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

    I have used so many black ink pads I could have written this review too. Next time, try comparing Memento black ink as well. With Copics being so popular, it is a stamper’s favourite and is recommended for use with Copics. Also, to be fair, were your pads inked up well? I find that some pigment inks need regular reinking to perform well and often need to be stored upsidedown to stay juicy!

  16. Avatar
    Cyndi November 7, 2009 at 8:50 pm #

    I reserve using Stazon for stamping on surfaces that it’s made for. I did not know that Stazon would destroy acrylic stamps over time. Thanks to the commentor who wrote in that piece of advice. I don’t do a lot of embossing so I will keep your findings in mind when I do. Aside from that I use stamps according to the color I need. I will grab a few, stamp out a sample and then choose the color that will work best for my project. I have many many different brands.

  17. Avatar
    Scrappin Cheryl November 7, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    I use Stazon for stamping (I just clean with the Stazon cleaner – it cleans up great if you use it immediately). It gives crisp clean stamps every time, and you can use it on most anything!

    If I am embossing, you cannot beat Versamark to hold on to the powder – it’s the best!

    For inking edges and distressing, nothing beats Tim Holtz Distress inks and his inking tools with the teflon mats. They are awesome!

  18. Avatar
    ChangedbyHim November 8, 2009 at 1:47 am #

    You had the perfect opportunity to bring out the E-Z Tool Cleaner points as that article follows this one. That product works great on Stazon Ink and other stubborn inks. Several panels of expert crafters have tested it and found it worthy. http://www.scrapfriends.us/inspired_crafts_cutterglide.html Also, Judikins Fabric and Permanent Ink Cleaner also has been proven effective for years now. http://inkydinkydoo.blogspot.com/2006/10/stamp-cleaners-which-one.html. Jennifer McGuire swears by Ultra Clean as do many others, and there is one other one that has proven effective on polymer stamps and that is, Easy Duz It Ink Cleaner. As for destroying polymer stamps, there is absolutely no proof that this is the case when you clean your stamps with the products listed above as directed. The acrylic blocks must be cleaned as well. No cleaners should be left on the stamps for long periods, etc. Common Sense must be used and proper cleaners. However, if we become afraid to use the Stazon Ink, we will be missing out on the qualities of product that it will produce for all of us who are using high grade photopolymer stamps.

  19. Avatar
    susanscraps November 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    I am still looking for someone to recommend a really BLACK, non pigment ink (as I want it to dry w/o heat setting or embossing)

    and what is the best way to get your acrylic stamps clean? and what about when they won’t stick anymore?