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Review | Close To My Heart Inks and Muslin Bags

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

Close To My Heart stamping project

I had never used any Close To My Heart products before I received this package of dye and pigment inks, My Acrylix stamps and a clear block, and muslin drawstring bags – perfect for making gift bags and tags. I couldn’t wait to get started!

Close To My Heart muslin gift bags and pigment inks

In the past I have used muslin bags for gifts, but was always hesitant to stamp on them. I was worried about stamped images that might not look clear or ink that would smudge if it wasn’t heat set. But after watching this video about the Close To My Heart gift bags, it seemed too good to be true. Could it really be that easy?

Close To My Heart drawstring gift bag

It really was that easy! I used the pigment ink pads as instructed in the video and got a great result on my first try.

Close To My Heart muslin gift bag

Before starting I slipped a strip of cardstock in the bag to prevent ink from bleeding to the backside of the bag. I hardly had to use any pressure before the ink transferred to the muslin bag. I think that the extra weight from the large clear block helped as well.

Close To My Heart pigment ink

And since the first one was so easy, I decided to try to use two ink colors on the second attempt. It was more challenging to ink up the stamp with two colors, so I was glad that the pigment inks were in the small one inch cubes.

Close To My Heart stamping on muslin bags

You can see (below) that there was a bit of a blue smudge in the green stamped area, but overall I got a very polished result from two minutes of effort. The Close To My Heart project video stated that you can either air dry or heat set the ink, so I just set my stamped bags aside for two hours and they were completely dry when I came back to them.

Close To My Heart stamping detail

The first problem I ran into was cleaning up the stamps after using the pigment inks.  It has a very sticky consistency (much thicker than I have experienced with other brands) and pretty much refused to come off of the clear acrylic stamps. I started with stamp cleaning solution and a scrubber pad without success, and then ran cool water over them in the sink.

Close To My Heart "My Acrylix" stamp set

Above, you see that the first stamp I used was still pretty inky after all that scrubbing. I gave up after they were mostly clean because I still wanted to make some gift tags using the dye ink pads.

Close To My Heart gift bag and tag

These inks were much easier to clean up and still left a nice, crisp impression on my cardstock tags. I am happy to have new gift packaging for all of the upcoming birthdays on my calendar!

PROS:

  • Close To My Heart products work together for a really quick and easy set of gift packaging
  • I loved the storage case that came with the clear stamps
  • Drawstring gift bags were easy to stamp and did not require heat setting

CONS:

  • Pigment ink was unusually difficult to clean off of the clear stamps
  • Drawstring gift bags come in a set of 3, but I could probably use 5-10 at one time

I am happy that I got to try Close To My Heart products and was very pleased with the final projects. You can locate a local consultant to try them out for yourself. The products used in this project include:

  • “For A Friend” My Acrylix Stamp Set $17.95
  • 4″x5″ My Acrylix Clear Block $15.95
  • My Creations Muslin Drawstring Bags (set of 3) $3.95
  • Exclusive Inks Dye Ink Pad $5.25
  • Exclusive Ink Mini Pigment Pads (set of 10) $19.95

Pen Comparison: Archival Ink

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

Disclosure: This site is a participant in the Amazon.com affiliate program.

I love pens.  Always have.  Probably always will.  And after buying hundreds of different kinds I know that some are (much) better than others.  Here is a quick comparison of just a few that I happened to have handy – I tried to narrow the selection down to dark colors with pigment ink.  First I’ll do a quick review of each pen, then describe a water test I conducted, and finish with summary of all the important facts.

Starting from the top of the picture:

Martha Stewart “Writing Pen” from EK Success

  • Acid-free and archival pigment ink
  • Available in 10 colors
  • 0.5 mm fine tip for writing and drawing
  • $1.99
  • Easy to hold, smooth writing, and color coded on both ends of the pen.  Have not had any problems with bleeding on different paper media.

Copic “Multiliner

  • Pigment ink that is waterproof and compatible with Copic markers
  • 4 nib sizes for colors and 7 nib sizes plus two brush sizes in black (0.05 black was tested)
  • Available in 6 colors
  • $2.95
  • This is like the Rolls Royce of pigment pens. Compatible with every medium, writes smoothly and easily. I plan to get more sizes and may look into buying the more expensive refillable version.

Pigma “Micron” Pens from Sakura

  • Pigment ink is acid free, archival, waterproof, and fade proof
  • 6 nib sizes (black 0.45 and 0.5 mm sizes were tested  – although my chart below has the wrong sizes listed)
  • 15 colors available
  • $2.79
  • This has been go-to pen for a long time. I have even been using some of the same pens intermittently for 10+ years without any sign of drying out. My biggest complaint is that the nib sizing numbers don’t correspond with the nib size – size 08 is actually a 0.5 mm nib.

Gelly Roll Pens from Sakura

  • Archival ink that is waterproof and fade resistant (not pigment ink)
  • The Classic Gelly Roll (solid cap) comes in two nib sizes and 11 colors
  • The five other varieties of Gelly Roll (clear and glitter caps) are avilable in 40+ colors with a variety of metallic and pearl finishes
  • $1.39 – $1.69
  • These are certainly the most affordable option in my comparison, and maybe even the easiest to find in stores.  But the roller ball gel ink does require steady pressure to get an even writing line.  And the Metallic Gelly Roll did not survive my water brush test (below).

Pigment Pro from American Crafts

  • Acid-free archival pigment ink
  • $1.99
  • This pen has been discontinued, but I wanted to include it because this was my first time using it.  I’m not sure if it had been sitting at the store for too long, or what the story was.  But I pulled it out to use it for the first time and it was all dried up!

Click the image below to enlarge see writing examples for each of the pens.

I figured it would be a good idea to test with a wet paintbrush to see which pens can be used with watercolors and markers.  Below is a writing sample for each pen on watercolor paper.

Then I used the water pen to get each line of writing thoroughly wet.  All of the pigment pens passed with flying colors.  But of the Gelly Roll pens, only the Classic version resisted the water – the other metallic varieties had a little to a lot of smearing from the paintbrush.

So what I discovered after this test, is that I really should stick to the pigment pens for my archival projects or anything that may get wet with watercolors, markers, etc. I still like the Gelly Roll pens, but I will only use those for certain projects and everyday use.

Taking price and color/size availability into consideration, the Pigma Micron pens are the best option for me. But if anyone wants to splurge and buy me a present, feel free to get me any combination of the Copic Multiliner sets.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a favorite pigment pen that I didn’t mention? Leave a comment and let us know!

Vendor Spotlight – Letraset AquaMarkers

Reported by Maria Del Pinto

Disclosure: This site is a participant in the Amazon.com affiliate program.

The Letraset AquaMarkers are markers with a water-based, acid-free pigment ink.  

The list price for one marker is $2.75 which is a lower price point than a Tombow Marker. They are also sold in a set of twelve colors for around $29.95. A Google search found several great deals on these markers, so the price can vary according to the retailer.

This AquaMarker Set includes 12 markers with the added bonus of a “Blender” pen. These water-based pigment inks are very vibrant. 

The colors in this kit are:

  • Flame Red
  • Sepia
  • Gold Ochre
  • Straw Yellow
  • Bamboo
  • Celery
  • Fern Green
  • Aquamarine
  • Twilight Blue
  • Royal Purple
  • Rose Carmine
  • Lamp Black

The kit also includes a handy guide that gives hints on how to:

  • blend with water
  • achieve color gradations
  • a handy color chart
  • how to use the blender marker
  • what types of paper work best with the markers
  • brief description of the nibs

The AquaMarkers have double nib tips like the other line of markers that Letraset carries.  However, these come with a fine tip nib on one end. 

On the other end, there is a medium brush like nib. 

These two nibs can be used to create a variety of effects with the inks.  The fine nib is used for drawing and small areas.

The medium brush like nib, is for filling in larger areas.

Because the inks blend easily, you can achieve similar effects to watercolor paints with color tone and washes as you would traditional water colors. You can also soften the bright pigmented colors by adding water with a paint brush or using the ProMarker Blender pen.  

There is more information on how to use the “Blender” pen on the Letraset website.    

You can blend the pigment ink colors by using either the ProMarker Blender pen or a water brush pen filled with water.

This can be done without leaving a hard edge which can be a problem with some of the water color pens on the market today.  The colors can even be blended after they have dried.  

The manufacturer recommends using a hot-pressed watercolor paper. More information on the types of papers to use are available on their website, along with some quick tutorials.  

I decided to test the markers on cold-pressed watercolor papers to see what type of results I would get.

Here are the results I got from testing five different types of cold press watercolor paper:

1.  The first paper I tried was Canson cold press 140lb fine grain paper (XL Series).

The inks worked well with that paper and spread without any problems.  Here is what the project looked like.

2.  The second paper I tried was Strathmore Watercolor cold press 140lb paper from the 300 Series.

I got a fairly decent watercolor effect with these, but I did have to wet the paper a lot.  

Here is what the project looked like with this paper.

3.  The third paper I tested these inks on was Biefang Watercolor 140lb paper by Speedball.

The color soaked into the paper. The best way to work with this paper was to wet it well first.

After wetting, then add the inks (working quickly before it had a chance to soak in again).

I would not recommend using these inks on this paper.

4.  The fourth paper that I tested the inks on was Arches Watercolor cold press 140lb fine grain paper

The inks spread well using just the brush (wet with water).

It was an easy paper to work with and the inks were easy to control just by controlling the amount of water I used to create the watercolor wash effect.

5.  The fifth and final paper that I tested the inks on was Strathmore watercolor cold press 140lb paper (400) series.

Once again, I encountered no issues. The watercolor wash looked great and was easy to do on this paper.

I should point out that getting the stamped image to come out dark was a bit of a challenge. The Staz-on ink virtually sunk into the paper and faded out a bit. I had to go over the stamped images with the Aquacolors to get in dark enough to photograph.

My first project which was a tag worked well for testing out the inks on cold press paper. You cannot see it in this picture, but I added some Jacquard Pearl Ex powdered pigment to the water I used, to give the watercolor inks some shimmer.  They shimmer beautifully in person.

For the second project, I decided to demonstrate how to do a “Watercolor Wash” with these inks. The project came out looking like this.

For my third project, I wanted to decorate a gift box.  Since the AquaMarkers are a pigment ink, they can be directly applied to rubber stamps.

Just remember to work fast.  I was given a hint by an avid stamper to blow on the inked stamp to keep the ink moist.  It may sound odd but for some reason the moisture from one’s breath keeps the ink moist. 

The ink will not stain the stamp, if you clean the stamp immediately after using it. I used the stamp above and applied the ink directly to the stamp to stamp the image onto the box. The AquaMarker pigment inks showed up great on this cardstock. The box came out great. I glued some buttons and rhinestones to the box. Then used some of my favorite ribbon to finish wrapping up the gift box.

The Letraset AquaMarkers are very versatile and fun to work with. These markers are perfect for using on quick and easy craft projects. They are easy to pack and do not take up much space, so taking the with you to do outdoor watercolor craft projects is convenient. Additionally, the Letraset website states that the Aqua Markers ink is acid free, so they are considered to be safe to use in your scrapbooking. I even think they would be fun to use to introduce watercolor wash techniques to older kids as a fun kids craft or art project.

Tips:

  • Work fast, these pigment inks do dry up quickly.
  • Use a paint brush if you want to control the amount of water you get on your project.
  • There are some great YouTube videos on how to watercolor using the AquaMarkers and other similar markers. You can compare results with other brands while watching these great videos.
  • You can take the small circle stickers they sell at the office supply stores and place them on the nib covers and color them in with the corresponding nibs to make spotting the right color easier.

Pros:

  • These colors are completely portable, which is a plus when you want to work outdoors or to take traveling for those last minute inspirations.
  • Easy to use.
  • Can be purchased as individual markers or in sets of 5 or twelve on the Letraset website.

Cons:

  • They are addictive and you will want to play with them a lot.
  • They are not easy to find.
  • You have to be mindful of the type of paper you use these on.

What types of markers do you like to work with in your stamping and scrapbooking?  Please share any tips you may have for our readers.