Tag Archives | Heather Strenzwilk

Black Ink Comparison

Reported by Heather Strenzwilk

In the past few years we have seen Copic, Big Brush and Memento markers become popular for coloring stamped images. Do certain markers work better with certain inks? Which inks are the darkest and blackest? And most importantly: Is there an ink which is really black that doesn’t smear when colored with markers?

In 2008 Craft Critique’s Technical Editor, Dana Vitek, did a very detailed comparison of black inks called, “The MOTHER of all black ink tests…“. As a follow-up to Dana’s well-researched comparison, I have created a similar but simpler test to compare some of the newer black inks. All of the inks (except one) used in the test are part of my stash of art supplies. The exception was the Jet Black StazOn ink (and cleaner) which belonged to a friend.

I printed the testing matrix on Georgia Pacific white cardstock and Stampin’ Up Whisper White cardstock. I stamped each type of ink four times on each sheet of cardstock (three for testing and one as a control). I started with the StazOn ink and afterward cleaned the stamp with StazOn cleaner. For the remainder of the testing, I used Ultra Clean Stamp Cleaner before changing ink sources. All of the ink air dried for approximately 14 hours before I tried coloring over the image with markers (I didn’t plan to wait 14 hours but life happened). After coloring each image with marker, I scribbled it on scrap paper to remove any black ink transferred to the marker tip.

Stampin’ Up Whisper White
Georgia Pacific White

Copic Y11 Pale Yellow
Faber Castell Big Brush Light Yellow Glaze 104
Tsukineko MementoPear Tart PM-703


Below are my results (click on the photos to make them larger).

It is important to note that Copic markers which are meant to be blended, so by design Copic over Copic will blend (aka smear). However, Memento over Memento and Big Brush over Big Brush did not smear.

Biggest Surprise- The Nick Bantock ink did not smear with Copic or Memento markers but there was some smearing with Big Brush markers. This ink was also very easy to clean off the stamp and did not stain. Secondly, the Stazon did not smear but the stamped images feathered and the black didn’t seem as dark as some of the other inks.

Overall- Stazon, Memento and Big Brush did not have any issues with smearing. Memento images were slightly crisper than Big Brush. I’m not sure if I had been comparing a black Memento marker to Big Brush if the results would stay the same.

Bottom Line- If I had to pick one ink that stamped crisply, had a rich black color and didn’t smear when colored with markers, I would choose Memento based on my results.

What brand of black ink do you use with markers? Please share your thoughts with our readers.

Vendor Spotlight: Silicone Release Paper by C&T Publishing

Reported by Heather Strenzwilk

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Silicone Release Paper from C & T Publishing was inspired by fusible applique artist Laura Wasilowski. The double-sided, coated paper comes in a package of ten- 8.5″ x 11″ inch sheets plus two- 17″ x 22″ inch sheets for larger projects. This versatile paper can be used for transfers, appliques and as a non-stick work surface for craft projects.

Because I am not a very accomplished sewer (I still refer to the instruction book to thread my sewing machine properly) I decided to make a very simple applique pouch. I began by ironing some Steam-A-Seam2 double-stick fusible webbing onto the back of the fabric and then removing the backing to expose the adhesive. I used a black Sharpie marker to trace the heart shape onto the silicone release paper. Then I put the design (Sharpie side down) onto the fusible web and I ironed the silicone release paper to transfer the Sharpie ink to the fabric.

I could tell when the transfer had occurred because the silicone release paper is nearly transparent. After removing the silicone release paper I was able to cut out my applique and adhere it to the pouch using my iron. This was a pretty easy process and it worked for me the first time. Although some of the Sharpie ink remained on the silicone release sheet, I think you could re-use it if you were careful.

After the success with my pouch, I decided to test some other craft media. I used my hot glue gun to create some embellishments. When the glue cooled, they easily popped off the silicone release paper. The paper could definitely be re-used, which was a plus. Later I wrote the word “Elmer” with some white school glue. Because school glue is very wet, the paper warped and curled badly as it dried but the letters popped right off the release paper.

The more liquid the acrylic paint, the more warping as the paint dries

Next, I decided to make some acrylic paint skins, which I had never heard of before researching this article. For one set, I used Anita’s acrylic paint which is very liquidy. The paper warped as it dried but the dried acrylic pieces (which are very flexible) came off the page easily. For the second batch, I used some old Lumiere paint which had definitely thickened with age, with a touch of blue Anita acrylic paint. This batch had more body and didn’t warp the paper as badly, but the paper is definitely “single use” for this type of project.

Notice the warping after the acrylic paint skin is peeled

Finally, I decided to make some encaustic art with Crayola Crayons. I sprinkled fine crayon shavings on a piece of cardboard sandwiched between two pieces of silicone release paper. After briefly ironing to melt the crayon, I pulled off the top paper. The wax didn’t stick to the release paper but it did sort of bead up and leave a waxy residue. I put the sheet, residue side down on some white matte cardstock to try to remove the residue but some of it remained. I could use the sheet again but I would be concerned about muddying the next batch of wax.

My impression of the product is that it is a thinner, disposable version of a non-stick craft mat, a product I use constantly in my craft room. The texture of the paper reminds me of a cross between parchment paper and the release paper used to iron Perler Beads. Silicone release paper would be good to take to a crop or for kids to use because there is no messy clean up. I was a little disappointed by how much the silicone release paper warped when it got wet, but it is more of a one-time use product. The larger 17″ x 22″ inch size sheets are great for larger projects or for enlarging patterns. Since the sheets are nearly transparent, it is easy to trace and there is no need to reverse your letters because you’ll flip the sheet to do the transfer onto the fabric.

Mini book featuring an encaustic tree


  • Package has ten regular size plus two 17″ x 22″ sheets for large projects
  • Nothing sticks to it
  • Versatile- can be used with multiple media


  • Silicone release paper warps if it gets very wet
  • Not as durable as a standard, reusable non-stick craft mat

Have you tried C&T Silicone Release Paper? What products do you use to create appliques? Please share your thoughts with our readers.

Hot Foil Pen by Staedtler

Reported by Heather Strenzwilk

In the past, when I wanted to add a touch of foil to a project, my options were limited to bulky double-stick tape or messy foil glue. Then I discovered another option: the Hot Foil Pen by Staedtler. This easy-to-use product runs on two “AA” batteries, uses heat to adhere the foil, so it is neat, and doesn’t require any drying time. Hot Foil Pen + Foil + surface is all you need to foil.

Attempt #1 at writing on matte cardstock (I wrote too fast and didn’t press hard enough)

Aside from being less messy than foil glue, my favorite feature of the pen is that to use it you must press the small white button near the tip to turn it on. You will hear a click and the red light will light to show the pen is heating. As soon as you stop pressing the button, the pen turns off. I never had to worry about leaving the pen on accidentally.

Attempt #2 is better because I pressed harder and I went back and re-traced the letters

I can add foil to a project in under 30 seconds! Simply put a sheet of foil (pretty side up) over the surface to be foiled. On a smooth surface, the foil tends to slide; the manufacturer recommends taping the edges of the foil for stability. The Hot Foil Pen has a white plastic ball stylus tip. Pre-heat the pen by pressing the white power button near the tip of the pen for 5 seconds and start foiling by “writing” on the foil.

Attempt #3 is getting better as I wrote really S L O W and pressed hard. For this attempt my work surface was a self healing mat which gives more than the glass I used for my other attempts

The actual process of foiling has more of a learning curve. Like a marker, the amount of pressure or surface will affect the finished line. A harder work surface such as glass or a wood yields thinner lines than a softer, self-healing craft mat. Although the pen is easy to hold (similar in size to a jumbo pencil), I had to adjust my hold to make sure I was always pressing the power button. Writing is particularly challenging because you must write slowly and apply more pressure than you would with a ball point pen. The manufacturer said that writing “abc” should take about 5 seconds- this is an exercise in patience for speedy writers.

The heat from the pen removes the foil from the sheet and imprints it on the surface below. As you foil, the sheet will have clear areas as the foil is removed. This can be helpful because you can see which areas need to be gone over again with the Hot Foil Pen. But because the foil is opaque, it is next to impossible to see where you are applying the foil. When I was writing words on scraps of cardstock it was no problem, but trying to apply a thin foil border to a digital image was impossible for me (I gave up after ruining 5 images).

As you can see from my samples, writing with this product doesn’t yield the smooth foiled look of professionally printed invitations. For my projects, I preferred to add a touch of foil for interest and this I think is where the product excels. The company website suggests adding foil to cards, scrapbooks, leather, wood and ribbon.

It is easy to add a touch of elegance to satin ribbon

I had never considered foiling ribbon but it made perfect sense- how often do we see blue award ribbons with gold foil lettering? For my samples, I used satin ribbon from Offray.  It took me several yards of ribbon to produce what you see here. I started using a glass cutting board as my work surface before switching to a self-healing craft mat. The ribbon moved around more than cardstock, and since it was narrower, it took some practice to get my freehand flowers near the center of the ribbon and then to get them foiled completely (by pressing hard and drawing slowly). There is a definite learning curve which I still haven’t mastered.

Silver rainbow foil (replaced by rainbow foil) makes dramatic backgrounds

I also used the pen with a cheap vinyl stencil of polka dots which I put on top of the foil which was taped to some black cardstock. By placing the stencil OVER the foil, I was able to see where I was drawing. This was a lot of fun and surprisingly the heat from the pen didn’t damage the stencil at all. However, the black cardstock made it more difficult to see any places I had missed while foiling. But I loved the dramatic look of the foil on the dark background.

I wrote my name above on wooden craft stick

The manufacturer’s website suggests adding foil to wood and leather. I didn’t have any scrap leather, but I did find a wooden craft stick. The wood was very forgiving. After only one false start, I was able to write my name (lol). I can see this as a great way to add details to a wood-based project.

The foiled ribbon is distressed a bit by unraveling the ends

I purchased my Hot Foil Pen several years ago but the product remains relatively unchanged. The pen comes with several 3″x 4″ sheets of foil and sometimes bonus cardboard stencils. Refills of the acid-free gold, silver, red, blue, green and rainbow foil are also available separately. I have foil sheets from another manufacturer in my stash and I have also had success using them with the Hot Foil Pen. The manufacturer casually mentions that different colors of foil behave differently and I had to agree. I found silver rainbow (discontinued by the manufacturer and replaced by rainbow) and silver to transfer the best. The red foil was the most difficult to work with, and the results appeared a bit tarnished.

To be honest, I have probably used the Hot Foil Pen more to doodle on scrap paper more than I have on finished projects. But it is fun, it isn’t messy, and is relatively easy to use. I allowed my at the time eight-year old child to use the pen (with adult supervision) and she was able to use it as well. Then pen retails for around $12.99 and refill packs with 12 sheets of foil are around $2.99.


  • Lightweight, battery-operated, and the power button must be pressed for it to generate heat so you can’t leave it on accidentally
  • Available in chain craft stores, scrapbook stores, discount department stores and online
  • Foil is heat-set so no messy glues or tapes are needed. After the foil is applied the project is ready to use- no drying time.


  • The accompanying foil sheets are a bit short for longer lines of text
  • Definite learning curve
  • Heavily burnishing the foil to apply it, may cause the edges applied foil to appear ragged or uneven

I was initially purchased my Hot Foil Pen because it was on clearance for $5 and I was able to acquire a lifetime supply of foil for it for another $5. I love that it is no mess, doesn’t require set-up time and doesn’t require drying time like foil glues. The product is fairly easy to use but does have a learning curve to find which work surfaces and amount of pressure work best for various media, such as paper or ribbon. The pen requires two “AA” batteries so it is portable and it has a small footprint so storage is easy. If you are looking for the precision of professional foiled printing, this tool won’t give you that but it is a quick way to add a touch of foil and elegance to your project.

Have you tried the Hot Foil Pen by Staedtler? How do you add foil to your craft projects? Please share your comments with our readers.


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