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Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY!: American Crafts Zing! Embossing Powder

Reported by Morgan Novak

While visiting a local small toy store for my allowance-fueled Hello Kitty & Keroppi fix when I was in 5th grade, my mother and I happened upon a demonstration of embossing powder in a part of the store we had never really noticed before: the rubber stamp wall. One of the store’s owners drew us right in with the heat tool and magical powder; my mother and I were both enthralled. We left with stamps, (leaves, if I remember correctly), and some Autumn-colored embossing powders.  We were totally hooked! We didn’t even have a heat gun at first, we would heat the paper over the toaster (I don’t recommend it, haha!).
So, I guess you could say that embossing powder and I have a long relationship. It’s one of those techniques that phases in and out of my crafting repertoire, so you can imagine how the Zing! Embossing Powder line from American Crafts definitely piqued my interest! American Crafts has released 34 Zing! Embossing Powders in Opaque, Glitter and Metallic finishes, in those American Crafts signature colors that we all love like Cricket, Chestnut, Grapefruit, Mustard and even Clear. Sometimes the shades of embossing powders out there can be a little lacking, so I was really excited to get my hands on these awesome American Crafts shades.


American Crafts was nice enough to send me a bunch of fun goodies like papers, embellishments & stamps to use while testing out Zing!, as well as a few of their Pigment Ink Pads. I know that I’m here to review Zing!, but I have to talk a little about their ink pads because I was really impressed. The ink pads are pigment ink, really rich and beautiful when stamped. The design of the ink pads themselves is very smart; American Crafts has designed their ink pad cases so that the case looks like it’s right side up, while the ink pad itself is actually being stored suspended from the top in the upside-down position! Storing the pad upside down keeps the ink at the top of the pad. Simple, silly and brilliant.

Anyway, enough back story, on to the embossing! The first thing that I wanted to test was how well the Zing! works with different types of images and fonts. For these tests I used the Black Zing! Embossing Powder and I found it to be in line with most of the embossing powders that are out there. On smaller, or more detailed images, I did have a little bit of trouble getting a clean image, but I kind of expected that since these are a regular grade embossing powder, rather than a super fine or detail powder. As you can see, the thinner and more detailed images like the lantern and “celebrate sunshine” sentiment are still totally recognizable and usable, it just took a little practice to get the right amount of inking, sprinkling and tapping figured out.

Next up, I wanted to test just how opaque the Opaque Zing! colors are, and the Zing! passed with flying colors. I stamped the lantern on dark colored solid cardstock, both textured and flat, with the Mustard Pigment Ink and then applied the Mustard Opaque Finish Zing!. I have to admit that I was doubting its ability to cover the dark paper at first, but as soon as the ink and Zing! heated through completely, I couldn’t believe how awesome the color looked! The Opaque powders are very rich and the embossed texture is beautifully even.

The next step in familiarizing myself with Zing! was to get a closer look at the different finishes of Zing! and how well they behaved. I started with the Clear Zing! with a clear watermark pad and then sprinkled over an image stamped with color ink. It did an awesome job with both types of inks. Using Clear Zing! with colored Pigment Ink is a really great way to emboss something in a color that isn’t necessarily available in an embossing powder. It will not cover on darker paper the way an opaque embossing powder would, but still works great on a lighter colored base!
The Metallic Zing! has an amazing brushed metallic finish and I was impressed with the sheen!
The Glitter Zing! is true to it’s name and is truly a simple glitter embossing powder. You will not get the same consistent coverage with this as you would with any of the other Zing! finishes, but it still has plenty of uses. Also, if a more consistent coverage is what you are aiming for, try stamping your image in an ink color that matches your glitter color to help bridge the gaps in the glitter.
Last up was the Opaque, which I’ve already gushed about a bunch, but I do want to share a few quick tips for easy embossing with powder.

1.) To cut down on the excess powder clinging to your paper and making speckles in your background try running a dryer sheet lightly over your paper first. It reduces the static cling just like with your clothes!

2.) I like to heat my embossed images from underneath while moving the heat tool slowly back and forth. It allows me to really keep an eye on the image so that I can see when it’s “cooked” and don’t risk singing my paper!

3.) Be sure to let your Zing! “cook” completely through. If you move your heat tool away too quickly you may end up with a spotty, splotchy kind of finish.


While I was testing out the different Zing! finishes I started wondering about how mixing the different colors and finishes would work, so I put on my imaginary mad scientist lab coat and got to concocting! I just mixed the Zing! powders in little dishes so that they would be ready when I started stamping. My first mixture was 2 Opaque colors, Aqua and Cricket. I think this speckled affect turned out pretty cool.

Aqua Opaque and Copper Metallic make a really cool patina finish when mixed, and the Copper easily maintained its metallic finish. This is my favorite result!

Mixing the Black Opaque with the Red Glitter did make a cool distressed sort of finish, but it did lose a lot of it’s glitter. I could totally envision using this combination on hockey game layouts next season. I think it maintained just enough glitter to still be hockey tough!

The next combination didn’t go so well. I combined Clear with Red Glitter, but the color of the glitter just sort of melted and bled into the clear. It’s not what I was expecting it to do, but I still see some possibilities here!

Last up was mixing the Red and Green Glitters together. Just like with a single glitter color, the finished product is spotty, but might be remedied with a colored ink underneath if you are looking for a more solid finish.
Last up, real world testing! I made a few cards using a couple different Zing! types and, of course, those American Crafts Goodies that I’ve been dying to dig into!

For my first card I used a whole bunch of “Campy Trails” Paper, Bits, Stamps and a Just Write Journaling Card.

I used a clear watermark ink pad and the Clear Zing! Embossing Powder on Kraft Paper to create a tag similar to the Bits tags with the sweet little dear to go along with my, “Just A Note To Say I Miss You Dearly” sentiment.

Then I used one of the Journaling Cards from the Campy Trails Just Write set to give the interior of my card a little love.

For my “Celebrate Sunshine” card I clearly had to use the “Hello Sunshine” collection! For this one I decided to try out a different technique. I stamped my flowers in Chestnut Pigment Ink and then embossed them with Clear Zing!, which effectively sealed in the pigment. This allowed me to use my alcohol based markers, namely Copics, with Pigment Ink colors without the color running! (If you use alcohol-based markers with straight Pigment Ink or colored embossing powders, the colors will run.) This method of sealing the pigment ink in is one that I’m sure I’ll be using quite a bit, a happy discovery!

For my last card I used the “Peachy Keen” collection and the Silver Metallic Zing! to combine a retro color palette, saying and image…

… with a little bit of a more modern twist inside the card! I definitely enjoyed the Zing! Embossing Powders and Pigment Inks and had a lot of fun creating with them. As with every product I had a couple little issues, but they were pretty minor. It’s all just a matter of knowing the right product for your project and learning the tricks, right? Zing! has a nice, easy learning curve. I was pleased with them, and will be adding them to my go-to crafting arsenal for sure!
Pros:
  • When you combine pigment ink and the Clear Zing! you can emboss in any color.
  • Full and even coverage with all finishes, other than the Glitter, which I don’t think was intended to have a solid finish.
  • Plays well with others! Have fun creating your own mixes by combining colors.
  • Reasonable price ($4.99 for Opaque & Metallic and $5.99 for Glitter)
  • Lots of choices with a great combination of both trendy and classic colors.
Cons:
  • Glitter Zing! does shed its glitter a little bit.
  • Zing! can be a little blotchy with more detailed images, but it’s not advertised as an ultra fine or detail powder.
Zing! has brought the magic of embossing back into my life in exciting, modern colors! I’m sure I’ll be embossing on cards, layouts and more. I would love to see a clear watermark pad from American Crafts and maybe some matte embossing powders.

edited to add:
GIVEAWAY!
Our friends at American Crafts have provided a prize pack for one of our lucky readers! Just leave a comment on this post answering the following questions to be entered:

What are you adding texture to with Zing! ? What would you love to see American Crafts come out with next?


One comment per person, per American Crafts’ article, please. Drawing will take place on Saturday, August 13, 2011.

Vendor Spotlight& GIVEAWAY!: Ephiphany Crafts Shape and Button Maker (day 2 of 2)

Reported by Susan Reidy

Several years ago, I bought a bag of clear buttons with the intention of creating my own embellishments with patterned paper, cardstock, etc. It turned out to be a rather messy and time-consuming process, and my finished buttons always had ragged edges.

So I was more than happy to try out the Epiphany Crafts Shape Studio and Button Studio line of tools. They promised a simple method for creating my own epoxy shapes and buttons. I’m happy to report, they delivered.
Using these tools pictured above I was able to make round epoxy shapes and heart buttons with patterned paper, cardstock, photos, tamped images, layered punchouts and even doilies.

Epiphany Crafts has 10 tools — six Shape Studio and four Button Studio. The shapes include Round 14 (about 1/2 in.); Heart 14 (about 1/2 in.); Round 25 (about 1 in.); Oval 25 (about 1 in.); and Square 25 (about 3/4 in.).

The Button Studio includes the Round 14, Round 20 (about 3/4 in.), Heart 20 (about 3/4 in.) and Flower 20 (about 3/4 in.). The primary difference between the Shape and Button studio is that the Button Studio tool makes button holes.

Coordinating with the tools are the same-sized epoxy shapes and clear, self-adhesive buttons. Other embellishments also are available; more on that later.

For those of you short on space and questioning the need for another tool, it’s worth noting the size of each shape tool. They are relatively small, as you can see in the picture below the Shape Studio next to a tube of flowers. I think they store nicely in a basket, given the round shape.

So how do they work? Basic instructions are included with each Shape and Button Studio tool, and more information is available online, including step-by-step written directions, videos and even a way to virtually try out the process.

I started with the Round 14 Shape Studio.

I was very impressed with the thickness of the epoxy shapes. These are much thicker and sturdier than the epoxy shapes that I found on the market several years ago.

I decided to try it out with a heart doily. I wanted to use the center part of the flower and some of the individual hearts.

The reach of the Shape Studio tool isn’t very deep, one of the cons I found with the tools. But, I solved that by trimming my doily so I could get to the part I wanted.

Next, I inserted the doily in the tool and lined it up.

I removed the sticky-backed epoxy circle from its backing sheet and placed it in the hole of the tool. Be careful handling the epoxies; I had one pick up a hair (or cat fur) and couldn’t use it.

Next, I put the insert tool on top.

And pushed down.

I repeated that process again on a different part of the doily, and here are my custom-made embellishments. It didn’t take as much pressure as I thought it would, and the edges came out clean in both cases.

Super cute added to the center of a flower:

And then on a birthday banner for my youngest daughter.

One tip I learned — if you are lining up a very precise spot, once you get the paper in position in the tool, apply a little pressure so it doesn’t slip out.

I did find some ruffling of the paper on the back of the shape, especially when I started using thicker papers/photos. But since I was adhering the shapes down onto something else, this didn’t bother me.

Epiphany also has a line of embellishments that coordinate with the Round 14, including three lines of plastic vintage-like settings and three types of felt flowers — star flowers, spring flowers and frayed flowers — each in three different color schemes.

Here are the Marina Frayed Flowers on the left and the Chocolate Strawberry Spring Flowers on the right.

These are the Vintage Settings in Clubhouse. The package includes two of each color. The Round 14 shapes nest perfectly inside the settings.

I was anxious to try these out, so I punched out a butterfly from black paper, adhered it to some Basic Grey patterned paper, and turned it into an epoxy shape. The tool had no trouble punching through the two layers. I adhered the shape into the green Vintage Setting, and attached it to a ring base.

Here’s the finished product on my finger. Epiphany does offer its own rings and charm settings that are sized for the Round 14 shape.

Next, I wanted to see how the tool would handle something as thick as photo paper. One thing I wish the tool did include was a template with the size of the shape. That would make it easier to move around your paper and see how much of the design will show. I solved this by using the tool to punch through a piece of paper, without an epoxy shape in place.

I used my template to see how my index print photo would fit in the shape. The photo was a little small, so I cut it out and attached it to cardstock before making my final shape. Once again, the tool had no trouble cutting through the heavier photo paper; my edges were nice and smooth.

And here’s my youngest again, all snug in a green Vintage Setting.

I used E6000 to glue a super strong magnet to the back.

Threaded some twine through a washer.

And made a necklace that I can change out when I feel like it (or when my other two daughters complain that I’m not wearing their photo).

I really had fun with the Vintage Settings. They take an already cool custom embellishment to the next level. These would also make great refrigerator magnets, thumbtacks, scrapbook embellishments — the possibilities are endless.

I next turned my attention to the button maker. This tool requires a few more steps, some of which I skipped the first time around.

Again, look at the nice thickness of these buttons.

I stamped an image on my patterned paper first, and created my own template again to see how the final button would look.

I lined it up in the button maker.

Took the backing off the button and laid it adhesive side out on the inset tool prongs. You have to be careful not to push through the adhesive; just lay it on top. I was skeptical this would hold once I put the button in the tool, but it defied gravity and held on.

After the button is in place, and before punching, you’re supposed to remove the insert tool, and push down firmly on the button so it adheres in place. I skipped this step, and my paper scooted out of place.

Once the button is adhered down, put the insert tool back in place, close the lid and push down.

After my first punch, here’s what my button holes looked like. They didn’t go all the way through, and just made an indentation.

I put it back into the button maker, and pushed again. This is what I got the second time.

The holes were bigger, but I still needed to use my paper piercer to make the holes larger so I could get my twine through.

Here’s my finished button. You can see how it shifted a little, probably because I didn’t push down on the button before punching through with the insert in place.

Here I added it to my scrapbook layout. I made another Round epoxy shape, and added it to the top of one of the felt flower embellishments. I removed the brown layer, since I had no brown on my layout, and will save it for another project.

And here’s my finished layout.

I really had fun with the Epiphany Crafts Shape and Button Studio tools. The results were so much more professional, simple and fast compared to my attempts to make my own customized buttons without the Epiphany tools.

I can’t wait to get my hands on some more of the tools, especially in the larger sizes.

Pros:
  • Simple, fast way to make custom embellishments.
  • Works on a range of materials including cardstock, patterned paper, photos and layered paper.
  • Great accompanying embellishments including Vintage Elements and Felt Flowers.
  • Shapes can be used for scrapbooking, cardmaking, jewelry, home decor and more.

Cons:

  • Can get a little pricey if you want all the tools, which retail for about $19.95 each.
  • You’ll have to keep buying the epoxy shapes and clear buttons in order to use the tool. Epoxy shapes have various amounts per package, depending on size, and are $4.99. The buttons come 20 to a package and are $4.99.
  • The tools have a short reach, but you can cut your paper down to size if you want to reach a certain spot.
  • The button maker didn’t punch the button holes as large as I needed for threading twine, but it was easy to expand them with a paper piercer.

GIVEAWAY!


The great folks at Epiphany are giving away this amazing prize package to one lucky reader. Just answer any of the following questions in the comment section of this article on this blog to be entered:


Have you tried the Epiphany Crafts Shape and Button Tools? If you had one, what would you make? Which shapes do you love the most? We LOVE to hear from YOU!

One comment per person, per Vendor Spotlight: Epiphany Crafts article (this is the second of two).You have until Sunday, May 1st at 6pm CST to leave your comment.

Disclosure.

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

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY!: Epiphany Crafts Shape Studio and Button Studio

Reported by Jessica Ripley



I was first introduced to the Epiphany Crafts Button Studio and Shape Studio at Summer CHA 2010 (where it went on to be named one of Craft Critique’s Best of 2010), and was able to watch a demo to see exactly what these tools that seemed to take paper punching to a new level could do. As something that creates custom embellishments, they pretty much had me at hello, but still I wasn’t sure I needed yet another tool to add to my already overflowing allotted craft space. Still, I was excited to try them and see what they could bring to my crafting process.

Epiphany has created a variety of custom shapes to work with when it comes to choosing a shape or button tool. For each tool, there is a corresponding clear epoxy shape with an adhesive back which fits that particular tool exactly, and is ultimately the key to creating your own unique embellishment.


These shapes must be purchased separately. This may seem like a deterrent to some that you must continue to buy product once you purchase a button or shape tool in order to use it (which honestly was my first thought), however upon further consideration, the number of epoxy shapes which can so easily be customized in each packet is quite generous when compared to similar pre-made embellishments that we buy. Buttons of course usually come in much larger quantities than what Epiphany provides per pack, however the value of being able to coordinate them to fit any project is definitely a plus.

As I am primarily a paper crafter, what excited me most about these tools was the sheer ability to match embellishments to any project using patterned paper. The slot to place the material to be punched is about the same width as a paper punch, and strength of the “punch through” similar as well. Therefore, it seems you are limited to using paper with the tools. I tested thick cardstock which worked just fine. I also tried a thin fabric just for grins, but to no avail (not the manufacturer’s fault at all, just testing in the name of crafts).

Using the easy to understand instructions on the back of the package, I was creating my own shapes and buttons in no time. There are 4 easy steps:

1. Insert paper (I found small detail patterns work best) and line up using the see through view finder. I love punches that you are able to see exactly what you are punching out, so find this part of the Epiphany design is just excellent.

2. Place the appropriate epoxy shape on top of the area of paper to be punched. (This was a little tricky for me at first. The epoxy shape is a tight fit and needs to be worked into that opening, and the flower button shape had to be positioned just so, but I quickly got the hang of it.)

3. Place the plastic insert on top of the epoxy shape then close the lid and press down. You must press fairly firmly, but not necessarily any harder than you would normally do with a press down paper punch. The rounded lid is also easy on the palm of your hand.

4. Lift the lid and remove your finished customized embellishment.

Epiphany also has a line of products which enhance the pieces even further, such as felt flowers and settings.


I created the layout below using the Round Shape Tool and the Vintage Settings.



So, if you are like me, my first thought was “gee that’s neat. But couldn’t I do the same thing by using a paper punch I already have and then using a 3D gel medium to create that “epoxy” look?” Well, yes probably, but one of the most valuable resources I ever consider in my crafting is time. This little gadget saves time, and in a big way. Not only in drying time if I were to go the gel medium route, but also in cases of mass production, I just couldn’t beat it. Plus honestly it is just plain fun, and a little addicting once you start. Suddenly my scrap pile was looking full of possibilities!

As mentioned above, another time saver Epiphany Crafts offers are felt embellishments that can add your customized piece to. In a matter of minutes and with a little hot glue I had whipped up these pins to add to one of my favorite purses (that always needed just a little extra something).


And they of course work great on paper projects too like in this card.


I even whipped up a pair of post earrings.


Speaking of jewelry, Epiphany Crafts has thought of time savers in that area as well. Rings and Charm Settings that can be attached to necklaces or bracelets which hold one of the round customized shapes perfectly are shown in their 2011 catalog. I was not able to find these yet online, however look forward to their arrival in stores. What a great way to create a custom gift these will be.

The projects above all use a Shape Tool, however the buttons are just (if not more) versatile. Buttons will never go out of style, and being able to add customized looks to sewing projects is so wonderful.

The Button Tool works in the same way the Shape Tool does, but has prongs on the insert that you place through the button holes before punching.

Creating several buttons takes only minutes, especially once I had the hang of the process. A minor issue, I did notice that though the punch has two little prongs to poke through the button holes, they don’t quite go all the way through the paper cleanly when punched. Because I planned to sew the buttons, this didn’t bother me as I knew a needle would just poke through, so I don’t feel it that big of a problem.

I just love that I can sew these onto projects! I made the pillow below and added several as a decorative touch.


After having a chance to try these out for myself, I have to say that I foresee myself reaching for both the Epiphany Shape Tool and the Button Tool many times. I’ve seen them listed for sale anywhere from $15 to $25 depending on the retailer’s price, and the corresponding epoxy shapes around $5 per pack. Though this is a little more expensive than say a paper punch would be, I will be adding another 1 or 2 to my stash. I just love the possibilities with them, and at their relatively small size, my fear of not finding a place for them in my craft area is completely gone. I know right where they’ll be actually, front and center on my desk ready to be used again and again.

Pros

  • A unique tool that is fun to use, small in size, but big on possibility.
  • Create custom embellishments and buttons for all sorts of craft projects using patterns and colors you love.
  • A precious time saver, using the tool is quick and easy.

Cons

  • You must continue to purchase the corresponding epoxy shapes to use the tools.
  • The highest price I found of $25 seems a little pricey, but I did find it for less also (and with a coupon, would be a bargain).
  • The use of the tool is limited to paper (or photos).
GIVEAWAY!

The great folks at Epiphany are giving away this amazing prize package to one lucky reader. Just answer the any of the following questions in the comment section of this article on this blog to be entered:


How would the Epiphany Button or Shape Studio change the way you craft? Do you find the possibility of being able to create custom buttons exciting? Or would you continue to work with whatever you can buy in stores? We LOVE to hear from YOU!

One comment per person, per Vendor Spotlight: Epiphany Crafts article (this is the first of two).You have until Sunday, May 1st at 6pm CST to leave your comment.

Disclosure

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