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Author Archive | Rachel Johnson

Vendor Spotlight: Teresa Collins Stampmaker

Reported by Rachel Johnson


Custom stamps for my personal crafting needs have always been a wish list item for me, so I jumped at the chance to review the Teresa Collins Stampmaker. With the Stampmaker, you are able to make your own clear polymer stamps, stencils, and embossing templates using just about any image. It won First Runner-Up for the 2010 CHA Innovative Award!

The Stampmaker set sells for $169 and comes with the light unit, magnetic clamp, ten stamp pacs, two emboss and two stencil pacs, acrylic block for mounting your finished stamps and two sheets of Stampmaker Cling (for mounting stamp to acrylic block), wash brush, post exposure tray, CD with the imagepac artwork modifying program and many exclusive Teresa Collins designs, two sheets of negative film for inkjet printers, eight pre-printed samples of exclusive Teresa Collins designed artwork negatives, plus written and video instructions.

For my first session with the stampmaker, I created seven images to turn into stamps. Above is the set of negative images that I created in Photoshop. I love sending snail mail, so most of these first stamps are graphics that I can use over and over on my outgoing packages.

If you do not have Photoshop or a similar program, the Stampmaker comes with “Imagpac” imaging software for PC computers. Or, you can download free negative stamp images from the Teresa Collins blog.

I work on a Mac and am comfortable with Photoshop, so making the negative images was a breeze. You can scan, type, or design just about any black and white graphic and then invert the colors. I printed all seven of my stamps negatives onto one sheet of transparency film (provided with the Stampmaker) using my HP deskjet printer. You can see the resulting transparency below.


You want to be sure to print on the correct side of the transparency film (it is slightly sticky when touched with a damp finger) and the images must be printed very opaque black. If you are running low on ink and your negative images are streaky, they will not produce nice stamps.

Before proceeding, I watched the video instructions for stampmaking twice and then referred to the written instructions while creating my actual stamps. The procedure is a bit complicated, but by following the directions step-by-step I managed to avoid any mistakes (full disclosure: I made polymer stamps using a similar process once before in a print making class, so I was already somewhat familiar with the Teresa Collins Stampmaker procedure).


To create a stamp, you press a negative image on top of one of the “stamp pacs” in between the provided magnetic clamp, and then place the clamp into the light unit for three minutes. The clear areas of the image allow light to hit and harden the liquid polymer in the pac, creating the raised areas of the stamp. The strong magnetic clamp ensures that the liquid polymer is flattened into a perfectly flat surface for your stamp.


Once the stamp has been exposed, you must wash off any remaining liquid polymer. You trim the edges from the stamp pac and then rinse your stamp under warm water. You can use mild dish soap and the provided cleaning brush to clean out all of the details of your stamp. Once your stamp is totally clean, you re-expose it in the light unit and water tray to harden it once more.

Cleaning the stamps is my least favorite part of the stampmaking process. The polymer is a slight skin irritant, it has a strong odor, and it is messy. You must work diligently to clean out all of the stamp crevices, but not scrub too hard and damage your delicate stamp.


The cleaning step is totally worth the final product, though! All of my stamps turned out beautifully and created crisp clear stamped images. You can use the enclosed “Stampmaker Cling” tape to adhere your stamp to the provided acrylic block and start stamping immediately after cleaning and drying your stamp!


The return address stamp that you see above was more finely detailed and a bit more difficult to clean. I suggest using clear, adequately spaced text for your stamps. You can see that the bolded words “packaged with care by:” on the top line in my stamp are slightly harder to read. I would make that text more clear in a second attempt. Also, I had a very thin dashed line above and below my return address stamp design, but it was accidentally brushed off during my rigorous cleaning of the stamp.

Very fine design elements are harder to produce in the stamps, but they ARE possible. There are troubleshooting steps included in the Stampmaker instructions.


I have dreamed of creating the mailing label stamp seen above for years. I basically used to hand draw that same design on most of my out-going packages, which took way too much time. The stamp is a super-simple design, but I know it is one I will use over and over! (I mounted it on my own acrylic block.)

I love that the Teresa Collins Stampmaker has already made it possible for me to create things I have been thinking about for ages – all without having to place any complicated custom orders or deal with the price and shipping delay that would come with ordering these stamps from an office supply company.


I had a lot of fun making all of my stamps and then using them to pre-stamp multiple mailing envelopes. The stamps worked great on bubble envelopes and will make my mailing and shipping life much easier! There are so many more stamps I plan to make! And even though I do not think I will use them quite as often, I am looking forward to creating stencils and embossing templates with the Stampmaker next.


My ultimate opinion of the Teresa Collins Stampmaker? I love it. The stamps it produces are clear and crisp, and if you have a design already in mind, creating a stamp that you can immediately start using takes less than thirty minutes. The price may be restrictive for many, as will the fact that you only get ten stamp pacs and must then purchase additional pacs. But for serious stampers who have lots of ideas that they want to turn into stamps, it will be a valuable tool.

Pros:
  • Everything is included in the Teresa Collins Stampmaker set to immediately start making stamps.
  • Clear video and written instructions.
  • There is no limit to what you can turn into a stamp!

Cons:
  • Price of $169 is an investment.
  • When washing out your stamps the liquid polymer is messy and has an odor.
  • The stampmaking procedure may seem complicated to beginners.
GIVEAWAY
The great group over at Photocentric is giving away an 8 x 8 faux leather storage album to one lucky reader. This is a great way to store your new Teresa Collins Stampmaker stamps as well as all your clear and cling stamps or would be a great scrapbook. 

In order to be entered to win this prize, head on over to the Photocentric Facebook page to “like them” and let them know Craft Critique sent you and please add a comment in the section below this article answering any of the following questions


Have you tried the Teresa Collins Stampmaker kit? Have you always wanted to make your own stamps? Is this a product you would consider purchasing, why or why not?


One comment per person per article, please. Winner will be selected Sunday, June 26th. Good Luck!




Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Flip Pal Mobile Scanner

Reported by Rachel Johnson


Years ago, I worked for an art magazine, and scanning fine art images was a big part of my job. Since I had access to a professional grade scanner at work, I never got around to purchasing a scanner for home use. Since nearly all of my photography is digital, I mostly got by without one, but there were always instances when I wished I could scan an old photo or an illustration. It just never seemed worth it to go buy a huge, desktop scanner/printer combo for just a few projects or photos. It was a constant conundrum — I wanted to scan things, but I didn’t want to own a bulky scanner that would just take up room on my desk.

The Flip Pal Mobile Scanner solved my conundrum! The Flip Pal is a mini, battery-powered scanner that you can take anywhere. It is approximately 10 inches wide, 6.5 inches tall, and about an inch thick. It weighs about 1.5 pounds. It comes pre-loaded with batteries and a 2GB SD memory card. All you have to do to start scanning is take it out of its packaging. You don’t need to hook it up to a computer or plug it in; just switch it on, and press the scanning button! Magic!
The Flip Pal also comes with a simple instruction booklet and a handy thumb drive “SD to USB converter” that you can use with the SD card to load the scanned photos onto you computer. The thumb drive also contains special Flip Pal photo software that runs on Windows computers and can help you edit photos and stitch together large photos from multiple scans. However, I use Mac computers, so I was not able to access the software. Instead I used iPhoto and Photoshop to easily edit all my scans.

I got married long, long ago in the age of analog photography, and for years I have been meaning to scan some of my wedding photos. A perfect project to test out my new Flip Pal!
The scanning surface is 4 x 6 inches and can scan at a 300 dpi or 600 dpi resolution. Three hundred dpi is a standard print resolution, and scans made at that size can be printed at their original size. Scans made at 600 dpi resolution can be successfully printed up to twice their original size. Many professional scanners work at much higher scanning resolutions, but for nearly all hobby and craft purposes, 600 dpi is plenty large. Plus, each scan is very fast! I scanned over 80 wedding photos and didn’t even use up half of the battery power!

Each scan is displayed on the scanner’s small screen after it is completed. The digital display helps you make sure you positioned the scanned item correctly and allows you to review all of the scans you have made during a session.

Another great feature of the Flip Pal is that you can remove the cover and “contact scan” larger pieces or things that will not fit under the cover. Once the cover has been easily pulled off, you can flip the Flip Pal over and scan… well, really anything!

The clear back allows you to position the scanning surface correctly. I scanned a few of my large wedding photos and also a few older photos that are affixed to a scrapbook this way.
It was incredibly easy to import the scans onto my computer. You simply put the SD card into the USB converter and plug that into your computer. Then, you can import photos just as you normally would off of a digital camera. If you have an SD slot on your computer, you can use that instead of the USB converter. I imported my scans into iPhoto and did a little bit of cropping and editing. The whole scanning process was completely user friendly and easy.

I am thrilled that I finally got some of my old photos scanned, including the two above of my grandparents. I love my new Flip Pal!
Pros:
  • Small size makes it completely portable and easy to store.
  • User friendly and extremely easy to use.
  • No set up – simply open it up and start scanning!
  • Patented flip-and-scan technology – literally flip it over and scan anything!

Cons:
  • The included Flip Pal software only works on Windows computers.
  • The scanning surface is small – 4 x 6 inches.
  • Maximum scanning resolution is 600 dpi – some project may call for a higher res.

Giveaway!
The fine folks at Flip Pal are giving away a Flip Pal Mobile Scanner to one of our lucky readers. Just leave a comment on any Vendor Spotlight: Flip Pal Mobile Scanner article (there will be 2) answering the following questions:


Have you ever used a portable scanner, like the Flip Pal? What projects would you complete if you had a Flip Pal?

One comment per person, per article, please. You have until Monday, December 20th at 6pm CST to enter.

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & Giveaway: Martha Stewart Circle Cutter

Reported by Rachel Johnson

I often need to cut circles for use in my crafts. Previous to owning the Martha Stewart Crafts Circle Cutter, I used my two circle paper punches. For more specific sizes I resorted to tracing cups or other circular objects and then cutting the circles by hand. Needless to say, I was excited to try a more efficient method.

The Circle Cutter consists of a rotating measurement circle and a double-sided blade with a large, comfortable handle. I decided to test out my new tool by making cupcake toppers by layering various sizes and colors of paper circles. I gathered my materials (including my Martha Stewart Crafts Glue and Martha Stewart Crafts Cupcake Stickers) and got to work practicing my circle cutting.

The Circle Cutter comes with three blades, so that you can switch them out when they get dull. It is easy to insert the small blades into the handle using the wide plastic covers that are attached to each blade. The two-sided blades are extremely sharp, so you must be careful (obviously, this may not be the best tool for children to use).

You need a large cutting surface to work on. I used a large cutting board, but a craft mat (like this one) would probably work best. Do not cut directly on your kitchen table or desk. The blade easily cuts through even thicker paper and will scratch any surface it comes into contact with.

To begin cutting, place your paper on your work surface. I found it was easiest to cut from large pieces of paper, but if your paper is small, secure it with some tape or other adhesive. Then, place the measurement circle on top of the paper. You must hold down the outer ring of the measurement circle securely. Insert your blade into the hole that corresponds with the size of circle you would like to cut. You can cut circles from 1 inch to 5-1/2 inches, in 1/16 inch increments. I got the best results when the outer ring of the measurement circle was covering a good amount of the paper and also some of the cutting board. The trick is to hold the outer circle very securely, but to not press too hard with the blade. It takes a bit of practice to start cutting circles with perfect edges.

After some practice, I began to get some lovely circles. I just kept cutting lots and lots of circles of varying sizes so that I would have plenty to mix and match to create my cupcake toppers. Some of my first circles didn’t turn out so well and had to be trashed. Sometimes the paper shifted or the blade got caught up and I couldn’t budge it, but with practice it got easier and easier. I found that thicker paper was actually easier to cut because it didn’t get caught up in the rotation of the tool as easily as thinner papers did.

Overall, the Circle Cutter was not quite as easy to use as I was hoping, but it allows for increased versatility when compared to my previous circle cutting methods and it was quite fast once I got the hang of it. I was able to cut more than enough circles for a dozen large cupcake toppers in a short amount of time.

To finish the cupcake toppers, I glued layers of circles together in interesting color combos and then added a decorative element to the center of each. I cut a corresponding circle from patterned paper for the back of each topper, and glued them to the back of each while simultaneously gluing a toothpick in between the layers.


The end results are cute decorations for the mini cupcakes I purchased for my mom’s birthday. Fun! The Circle Cutter saved me a ton of time on this quick project and I know I will use it often in the future.

Pros:
  • Allows you to cut a wide variety of circle sizes — from 1 inch to 5-1/2 inches, in 1/16 inch increments.
  • Includes three double-sided blades.
  • Works on even very thick paper.
Cons:
  • Sharp blades may not be safe for young users.
  • Takes some practice to produce circles with perfect edges.
  • You need a large cutting surface to work on.
The Martha Stewart Crafts Circle Cutter is available online for $17.99 from the EK Success Brands website.

GIVEAWAY
The kind folks at EK Success Brands will be giving one lucky winner their very own Martha Stewart Circle Cutter. To enter, just leave a comment on one of the Vendor Spotlight: Martha Stewart Circle Cutter. Answer any one of these questions in the Comments Section right below this article on our website.

Have you used the Martha Stewart Crafts Circle Cutter? What did you think? Have you used other circle cutting methods or tools? What are your favorites?

One comment per person, per article, please. You have until Sunday, November 21st 6pm CST to enter.

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!