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Test | Best Ink Pad for a Bullet Journal or Planner

2017 is coming fast – where did 2016 go? Like many people, the new year coming means I’ve been working on setting up a new planner. You’ll be reading about my new bullet journal blog planner soon, but before I could finish it I had a lot of stamping to do. So I decided to do a test to see what was the best ink pad for a bullet journal or planner!

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black-ink-pads

In my search to find the best ink pad for my planner, I tested black inks in a wide range of types from Ranger and ColorBox:

Ranger Archival Ink in Jet Black – Scrapbook.com, A Cherry On Top, Amazon.com

ColorBox Archival Dye Ink in Wicked Black – Scrapbook.com, Amazon.com

ColorBox Fluid Chalk in Blackbird – Amazon.com

Tim Holtz Distress Ink in Black Soot – Scrapbook.com, A Cherry On Top, Amazon.com

ColorBox Pigment in Black – Amazon.com

Since all of the tested inks were black, that eliminated differences in the stamping test results from different color tones.

I also decided to test my favorite watercolor palette, the Sakura Koi 24 color Field Sketch Set, since watercolors are another way to add color to a bullet journal and I’m doing some color coding of headers.

Sakura Watercolors

To test the inks to find the best ink pad for a bullet journal, I just turned the last page of my new blog planner into a sample page. My new planner is a Moleskine Hardcover Classic Extra Large Squared journal. I stamped the ink samples onto the page with the new Hero Arts Calendar Pieces stamp set that I’m using to create my blog planner’s calendar pages.

At the bottom of the ink test, I did a couple swatches of watercolor to see how it would perform on my journal’s paper. I also stamped the winning ink from the tests at the top of the page on one of the watercolor swatches to see how they would layer.

ink-pad-for-bullet-journal-test

From the front, all of the inks gave acceptable results. But what about the back? Bleed through to the reverse of the page is a big concern with stamping inks when you are using both sides of a text weight paper page.

ink-pad-for-bullet-journal-test-2

The results from the back of the page were much more definitive than from the front. The top ink on the page, Tim Holtz Distress, bled through the page much less than the other inks. When stamped on top of the watercolor at the bottom of the page, it was barely visible from the back of the page.

The page also stood up well to the light application of watercolor – from the reverse of the page you can see that some slight wrinkling is evident but not enough to make the paper unusable for writing on. The watercolor showed through the paper only as a slight shadow. Compared to the more definite markings of the stamped inks, this makes it a good option for color coding headings and other items.

Below, in actual use, the difference between the inks becomes very apparent. The month/year header is in a bright blue ColorBox pigment ink, which is my go to ink when I want nice juicy color. But on this paper, the bleed through is very distinct, making it not a good choice for this application.

The Sunday and Monday headings on the top right of the page are in black ColorBox Fluid Chalk. Again, this is one of my favorite inks for when I want a nice matte finish look – but in this application it gives terrible bleed through.

The Tuesday and Wednesday headings in the upper left, along with the numbers on the calendar grid, are in black Distress ink. The difference in bleed through is quite apparent – a shadow versus the distinct, readable marks of the other two inks. The back side of this page is not perfect where those inks were stamped, but it is most definitely usable.

ink-pad-for-bullet-journal

So the clear winner of best ink pad for a bullet journal or planner appears to be Tim Holtz Distress ink based on my tests in my Moleskine journal. The Moleskine’s pages are quite thin compared to many planner calendars, so the ink should perform even better in many of today’s most popular planners.

The Tim Holtz Distress inks have another feature (besides low bleed through) that makes them perfect for use in journals and planners: portability. The entire Distress palette of inks is available in 1.25″ square Mini ink pads [available ACOT, Scrapbook.com, Amazon], a very practical size for using with most planner stamps. And they can be re-inked with Distress re-inkers!

Some other inks are available in mini pads, but the Distress Minis have a secret weapon that makes them extra portable.  The affordable Distress Mini tin case [available ACOT, Scrapbook.com, Amazon] is available that securely carries a dozen of the Distress Minis – enough to keep you supplied for almost any planner project.

tim-holtz-distress-mini-storage-tin

I’m assembling myself a custom color palette in my Mini Distress Ink Storage tin that will work for the color coding that I am planning for my planner. To do this, I’ve started by purchasing two of the Distress Mini four packs: Kit #1 and Kit #14. The other four colors (black, red, purple, and probably another green) will be filled in individually, since the Distress Mini Ink Pads are now available open stock. With all of those colors, I will have a full rainbow color palette, plus black, brown and gray, for versatile planning!

tim-holtz-distress-mini-colors

What ink do you use in your planner? What do you like about it?

CHA Summer 2013 | School Colors: Lion Brand, Clearsnap

If you are looking to create team color items, you have some new options now thanks to Lion Brand and Clearsnap’s product introductions at Create-n-Connect in Las Vegas.

Lion Brand

Fall means football season, and bundling up for games. With the new school color yarns from Lion Brand, you can make your own hats, mittens, scarves, and even sweaters to wear to root on your favorite college team! The yarns are the latest additions to Lion’s Hometown USA yarn line. The bulky weight yarns are 100% acrylic, and available in 12 color schemes.

Lion Brand Hometown USA school colors Continue Reading →

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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