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Vendor Spotlight and GIVEAWAY: PSA Essentials (2 of 2)

Reported by Dana Vitek


I came across the PSA Essentials booth at the Summer 2010 Craft and Hobby Association Trade Show & Conference. They were literally the last booth I stopped into, on the last day of the show. I’m not gonna lie; it was the big posters of Hello Kitty that stopped me in my tracks. I love Hello Kitty.

After chatting the fine folks up for a bit, I got a quick demo. This system is super quick and easy. The stamps literally do “peel & stick” and the ink pads click in and out like a dream.

 I make a lot of bulk cards, (meaning lots of the the same one; invitations, birth announcements, etc.) so I’m always looking for something that will speed the process along. The PSA Essentials System is it! I never realized how much time I spend with traditional stamps, lining up the stamp on the block, tap, tap, taping the ink pad, inspecting the stamp for any missed areas of ink, tapping the ink pad again, lining up the image, and then, finally, stamping. With this system, it’s (almost) all done for me. Line up the stamp, press down, move along. Done.


I received a custom stamp (I chose the Gillian model), and got to pick the words that went around the outside. I’ll be using this stamp a lot; and I LOVE that I can switch out the middle if I want to. That outer ring fits right into my 1 3/4″ circle punch.

  
Ca-Chunk! Ca-Chunk! That’s the sound the stamper makes. So satisfying!

Today is my son’s 8th birthday (happy birthday, Max!), and we always give out something little and fun to his classmates on his special day. It took less than half an hour to whip these up, including the cutting and scoring.

I printed up a couple of sheets of cardstock that I cut up into ATC (2.5″x3.5″) sized cards

Ca-Chunk.

Back of the cards

This is the outer ring from one of the Hello Kitty sets. Don’t tell Max.

1 3/4″ circle punch

All done!

We made 20 in all.



My daughter didn’t want to be left out (naturally) so she got in on the game and helped me make a card and a little book to keep her stickers in. She did the background on the card below. She’s 4.

This is what a middle stamp looks like loaded in the handy stamp assembly guide. There’s a notch on the top of the stamp that lines up with a doohicky on the guide. Then you fit the stamper down on top, and ca-chunk. It really couldn’t be any easier.


Hello, kitty.

And then I quickly whipped up a card & party favor. I could knock out a bunch of these in no time. Not every project has to take 3 hours. Or 3 weeks. These took about 3 minutes.


PSA Essentials has lots of Peel & Stick stamps to choose from, and if you’re collegiate and/or Greek, it looks like there’s a few options, with lots more to come.

Pros:

  • EASY! Easy to change the stamps, easy to change the ink, easy to keep clean. Easy.
  • FAST! Whip out those bulk projects in no time. Valentines for 40 kids… hello! 
  • Ca-Chunk!

Cons:

  • The black ink comes loaded in the stamper, but there doesn’t appear to be a cover for the pad included, so when you swap out the ink, you’ll need to remember to swap the black ink back in when you’re all done.
  • Learn from my fail: don’t try to stamp an already punched circle. The stamp is sticky enough to snatch that bad boy off your work surface and transfer it to the ink pad. Ask me how I know. No, don’t.

I highly recommend the PSA Essential Stamps, and look forward to adding to my collection.

Here’s a list of where you can find PSA Essential Stamps in your neck of the woods. Or, throw your hat into the ring for our…

GIVEAWAY!
Our friends at PSA Essentials are giving away a set of stamps to one lucky reader. Just answer the following question in the comment section to be entered:

Which is your favorite line of PSA Essentials Peel & Stick stamps?

You have until Thursday,  January 27th at 10 pm CST to comment.


Disclosure

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

Vendor Spotlight: Wacom Bamboo Craft

Reported by Christine Ousley

Having had a large Wacom tablet that I got about 10 years ago, I was so excited to get the opportunity to review the smaller, newer Bamboo Craft by Wacom. Of course I knew that just because of the sheer number of years between purchasing my first tablet and receiving this new version that there would be differences due to technology advances, but I never thought that I would be so blown away about all the new options and ease of use.


The Wacom Bamboo Craft is an amazing tool for many different reasons. As complicated as it can be, it is also very user friendly for the beginner. Basically you can take it out of the box, install the software, and be up and running in no time. In the software bundle they also have included a training CD, free software, and special offers, all which makes purchasing this tool a fantastic deal.

I have been involved in digital scrapbooking for awhile now. I have created my own embellishments for years and love the versatility that I have when I create my own embellishments for my layouts or cards. Included in this Bamboo Craft package is a copy of Photoshop Elements 7. Wow, that is at least a $50 value and it is a fantastic program. I personally used Photoshop CS3, but I know from experience that it has all the bells and whistles that you need to create all the things that you would want plus make a digital scrapbook page. Also included in the software bundle is Corel Painter Essential 4.0 and Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 which are amazing programs to allow you to have even more fun with your pictures and your Wacom Bamboo Craft tablet.

Another feature in the software bundle is a library of digital paper and embellishments with more than enough to keep you very busy for a long time. There were 12 full scrapbook kits in all created in different styles and colors. The other extra on that disk is a library full of videos with step by step lessons on how to use the Wacom Bamboo Craft as well as the different software programs included in the bundle.


And, if that wasn’t enough, they have also included from some great sponsor partners, a free full year subscription to Scrapbooking & Beyond (I love that magazine), a free 20 page 8″x8″ Photo Book from Shutterfly, a free DSU Class, plus a great coupon to Cafe Press. Add all of these wonderful perks up and you are really getting the Wacom Bamboo Craft for free. What an amazing deal!
So let’s see some things that you can do with this tablet. Drawing and writing with the tablet pen is as good, with practice, as writing with a pencil on a piece of paper. This will allow you to create unique doodling and handwritten journalling directly on your computer without having to scan and then clean up.

Looking at this example, I realize that I have a lot of practicing to do to make my penmanship smoother but even on my first attempt it is so much better than using the track pad on my computer.
The next task I wanted to learn to do is to use the tablet to draw shapes and cut them out with my Cricut. I have a limited drawing ability so I asked my daughter to help me out. We found out that it was quite easy and fun. I asked her to draw something simple for the test. We had just gone to a baseball game so she decided to draw a bat. Since we are both are more familiar with Photoshop she drew it using that program. She is very familiar with this program so she quickly drew the shape and cleaned up the lines. This is what the Photoshop file looked like.

Then it was a matter of saving it as a .gif and opening it in a program called Inkscape. Inkscape is a free program for both Window and Mac computers that is very similar to Illustrator. After opening the file, you need to trace the bitmap and create a vector based graphic. Then save it as a SVG file and bring it into Sure Cuts A Lot to cut it on your Cricut machine.
Here is the card that I created with the bat diecut:

This is really so much fun and there are many things that you can draw and everything is made so much easier with the Wacom Bamboo Craft Tablet.
Another technique I discovered as I played with the tablet and my Cricut is that I could make diecuts that would be the same shape as my stamp. In this card, I used this technique on the butterfly. First, I stamped the image on a small piece of typing paper. Then I took the paper with the stamped image on it and carefully adhered a couple of edges to the tablet.

I set up my Photoshop file and, using my pen, traced around the stamped image. After this it is just a matter of filling in the shape and cleaning up the borders of the shape. Then I took this file and followed the same steps that I used in the previous card to cut it out using my Cricut.

Pros:
  • Fun to use
  • Takes scrapbooking to a whole new level
  • Makes digital journaling possible
  • Can be used in graphic programs as well as any other programs on your computer
  • The tablet and software included as well as the bonus programs are all Mac and PC compatible.
  • Multiple uses
  • Small and portable
  • Pens glides easily across the tablet
  • Customizable
Cons:
  • Even though the tablet is very easy to install and use right away, it takes some time and practice to understand all that it can do
  • The Bamboo Craft is one of the smaller tablets that Wacom offers.
  • While there is a lot of value to the tablet, the price tag (MSRP $129) may seem steep to some

Have you used the Wacom Bamboo Craft? What are your thoughts? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Disclosure

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

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Plaid Craft Products

Reported by Sara McKenzie

I had the pleasure of receiving some Plaid products recently for review. We all know these brands: Folk Art Craft Paint, Mod Podge, All Night Media stamps, Bucilla needlecrafts, and One Stroke (made famous by Donna Dewberry) to name a few. But you may not have realized that the company, Plaid, is responsible for all of these goodies.

Before I get too much farther, I do want to give a shout-out to the Plaid website. They have tons of great project ideas of all kinds, and the instructions are detailed enough that you can actually reproduce the projects without being an expert crafter. I also ended up signing up for the Mod Podge blog, Mod Podge Rocks – also because there are a slew of great project ideas to be found there (did you know Mod Podge has been around for 40 years?!?)

For my review, I focused on:

I also received a large (14-3/4″ X 11-1/2″) oval, ready-to-finish, wooden plaque. My personal list of projects included some new house numbers to hang out front, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to create that!

The wooden plaque only needed a light sanding to begin. I mixed up a teal green with Folk Art Acrylic paint, and painted front and back. First observation: The Folk Art paint is not all that opaque. I always have to use at least two coats, and this project was no different. ALSO, if you are mixing a color, be sure to either 1) measure as you go (and who does that??) or 2) mix a quart of paint (I exaggerate only slightly!). Almost invariably, when I mix a color, I don’t mix enough, and then have an impossible time trying to mix exactly the same shade again. SO thank goodness there are so many shades to choose from. If you can, buy the shade you want, rather than mix it.
I applied two coats, front and back (it dried very quickly) – I was able to get both coats on easily and smoothly, and allowed the recommended 1 hour between coats. Then I decoupaged on some 7 Gypsies paper that I had on hand (‘Capri Journey’) using plain-old Mod Podge.

Ready to stencil!! The 3″ alphabet stencil I used (second observation: I cannot find it on the website-although there are plenty of others) consisted of a package of 48 individual stencils. The package included the full alphabet, numbers 0-9 and a variety of punctuation marks. They are called paper stencils, to distinguish them from plastic, but they are actually a very light cardboard so they are not too flimsy. I tacked them onto the plaque with masking tape to hold them in place while I stenciled.

I used the Stencil Decor Brush Set to apply the Folk Art paint. I’ve used these brushes for along time, and am happy to give them a big thumbs up. They come in multiple sizes, and have just the right amount of stiffness. I’ve used them with acrylic paint, as well as ink and stencil medium, and have never been disappointed. Mine have all gotten stained over time, but if you wash your brush after use, that stain will not affect your next project (if you are worried about it, you can maintain a set of brushes, one for each color family).

Again, however, I found that I had to apply two coats of paint over the patterned paper to completely cover the paper design underneath. Bummer.

The stencil held up very nicely. I had to work a little bit to get into some of the corners, because the stencil is thicker than the plastic type. But it was not a burden. The stencil left clean lines and crisp corners, which is what you want. The Plaid recommendation is to remove the stencil while still wet, and to let the paint dry on it. You can then presumably re-use it. (Observation three: not sure how comfortable I’ll be with reusing these…)

I used a decorative element from the Home Decor Stencils to add just a little more to the design.
Finally, I used a good old Sharpie pen to outline my numbers and the decorative tulip- I found there was enough height to the painted elements that it was easy to maintain a straight line.


Well, not finally. I had to apply a finish to it. Following the directions, I applied 10 (yes, ten!!) coats of Hard Coat Mod Podge to the front and to the back. You can apply additional coats after only 20 minutes, so this part can go somewhat fast. But I did mine over a series of days, just because that ended up being more convenient. I ended up using 3/4 of an 8 oz jar of the Mod Podge. I tried the wet sanding in-between, but did not see any difference in the surface texture (maybe it wasn’t wet enough?). And you can see the brush strokes on the close-up image. They are not as noticeable in real life from a reasonable distance. BUT, and here is the main drawback: You have to allow 4 weeks (FOUR WEEKS!) to let it cure. YIKES!!! Clearly no project can be done quickly with this product.

Not only that, and this is my own fault, I probably used the wrong Mod Podge for something that is going outside. I should have used the Outdoor Mod Podge. If anyone has any experience in a spray finish over Mod Podge that won’t discolor and will protect from moisture, I am all ears!
Pros:

  • Talk about easy to find! All of these products are readily available at big box craft stores, at your local craft stores, on the internet.
  • The prices are reasonable. Folk Art Paint averages about $1.79 per bottle. The alphabet stencils range from $4.49 to $7.49, and are reusable.
  • There is a huge selection of colors in Folk Art paint. There are stencil designs for all kinds of projects (kids, home decor, alphabets). There are a ton of different types of Mod Podge.
  • The stencil brushes are sturdy, do the job, clean up well, and last a long time.

Cons:

  • Folk Art paint does NOT cover in one coat (to be fair, it doesn’t claim to).
  • The Hard Coat Mod Podge is REALLY stinky. I mean REALLY stinky. Make sure you are in a large, ventilated space when you use it (although it does dissipate when it is dry).
  • Maybe there are too many types of Mod Podge? I thought I had made the right choice for an outdoor item, but now am not so sure.

GIVEAWAY
Plaid is generously giving one of our readers a gift pack full of these great Plaid products! Just leave a comment on one of the Vendor Spotlight: Plaid articles. For this article, we want to know…


How about you? Have you played with any of these products yourself? Please share your experiences!!

One comment per person, per article, please. You have until Thursday, June 17th 6pm CST to enter.
Disclosure

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