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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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