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Craft Ink Tips and Techniques: The Complete Guide

As a professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to turn family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Learn about different types of craft inks and tips for how to use them.

Learn about different types of craft inks and tips for how to use them.

Craft Ink Basics: How to Get Started

I love craft ink! No matter how many pads and re-inkers I have, I still want more. Every time I think I have enough, someone comes out with a new gotta-have color or product.

Of course, I love my pigment and dye inks. But I have to admit that my favorites are the distress oxide and distress inks. There are so many ways to use them!

If you are a new crafter, and you're in a craft store or online, you can get dizzy from the array of colors available. I suggest getting the basic or primary colors first like black, brown, blue, green, and red. You can add on to your collection from there.

Basic Guide to Craft Inks

Type of InkPropertiesUses

Dye Inks

This ink absorbs into paper and cardstock and dries very quickly. Because it is water based, it can be used like water colors.

Basic stamping, water colors, and alcohol markers.

Pigment Inks

Thick, creamy ink that is more opaque. It sits on top of the paper rather than soaking into it.

Stamping, home decor projects, and heat embossing.

Distress Inks

Water-based dye inks.

Blending and distressing paper on all paper surfaces.

Hybrid Inks

A cross between pigment and dye inks that work on all surfaces.

Layer other types of inks without smearing on almost any surface.

Solvent Inks

Generally considered transparent.

Scrapbook pages, greeting cards, journals, and other paper projects.

Chalk Inks

Similar to pigment inks but with a more “chalky” finish.

Scrapbook pages, greeting cards, and other paper projects.

Alcohol Inks

Acidic inks that are highly pigmented and fast drying.

Porous surfaces and can be diluted.

Oxide Inks

Water reactive ink and pigment ink fusion. Creates an oxidized effect when water is added to it.

Paper projects.

My three-ring binder showing the colors of ink I own.

My three-ring binder showing the colors of ink I own.

How to Organize Your Ink Collection

The best way to start out is to purchase basic colors and then add on as you go. But it is also important to keep your inks organized and cataloged.

You can organize by color, brand, use, or size depending on the best way that will work for you. You'll need to catalog your ink pads so you know what you have when you are working on projects. You can use a three-ring binder or a single ring to keep the charts or guides in one place. Many companies produce a chart or a guide showing you their colors as well as a chart that you can fill in as you add to your collection.

Keeping your inks organized helps you when you are doing projects, prevents you from buying duplicates, and gives you a plan for future purchases.

Types of Paper You Can Ink

  • Assorted card stock: Comes in different weights, textures, and colors.
  • Glossy-coated: High-gloss index weight card stock, very smooth
  • Matte-coated: Dull-finish, index-weight card stock, ideal for stamping, coloring, and heat embossing techniques. Excellent for brayer techniques. Matte-finish coated paper is often the best choice for blending and shading colors when using chalk, oil sticks, or colored pencils.
  • Vellum (also called drafting paper): A translucent paper that is excellent for stained glass techniques and is suitable for heat embossing, coloring from the back with markers, and mounting behind a window opening in your card.

Tools for Applying Inks

The right tools make a huge difference in your outcome.

  • Blending brushes: Provide a lighter touch and coverage. Works especially well when using stencils.
  • Blending tools: Give a more intense blend. They have wooden handles with velcro on the ends. They come in round or square shapes. The sponges on the end come off and can be saved for future use.
  • Ink daubers: Good when applying ink to smaller areas.
  • Cosmetic flat brushes: Used for blending. You can purchase a reasonable set for under $20.
Layering colors to make a textured background effect

Layering colors to make a textured background effect


The most basic technique of using ink is, of course, to distress. Distressing is actually applying ink to the edges of the paper. It softens the edges with a little color. Little chalk pads or those inks called distress inks are used to create this look. You can use just about any ink to distress your paper. You can also tap a foam makeup sponge on a dye ink pad and drag it along the paper for a similar look

You can also use distressed inks to create layers of colors on paper. This makes a totally unique background with little effort.

Color Blending

Color blending actually blends different colors of ink using a foam sponge. Start with one color along the edge and then continue to build more color intensity and wash it into the middle of your project.


  • Paper: To get an even blend, use a smooth card stock that is thick.
  • Blending tools: You need to use either blending brushes, finger daubers, or blending foam.
  • Inks: Inks like distress inks, distress oxide inks, or any pigment inks will blend seamlessly.
  • Craft mat: Keep a craft mat under your project so that you can blot the ink before you start blending.

Tips and Tricks

  • Start by blending off the paper and then slowly moving onto the paper, blending into it. You will get more even coverage.
  • Start light and build up your color gradually. It is easier to add color than it is to remove the ink.
  • Use a piece of scrap paper under your project and on top of your scrap mat.
  • Use a piece of scrap paper on top so that you do not mess up your project with inky fingers.
Ink splashes and splatters for a unique background.

Ink splashes and splatters for a unique background.

Splashes and Spatters

Adding splatters and spatters can add texture and dimension to all of your projects. For this technique, you will want to use a watercolor brush. This brush has a reservoir that holds water. Fill the reservoir before you start. You can use one color or many colors.

You'll Need

  • Watercolor brush (an old toothbrush will work, too!)
  • Acrylic block or craft sheet


  1. Place some ink on an acrylic block or craft sheet.
  2. Pick up some of the ink with the paintbrush.
  3. Flick the brush over your project to get the desired result.

You can use an old toothbrush if you don't have a watercolor brush.

A beautiful, hand-made greeting card that I embossed after I stamped

A beautiful, hand-made greeting card that I embossed after I stamped


You can bling up your stamped images with heat embossing. It creates a raised shiny coating to your stamped image.

  1. Ink the stamp with embossing ink or other slow-drying ink.
  2. Pour the embossing powder all over the stamped image.
  3. Tap any excess powder off and pour it back into the jar.
  4. Heat the powder with a heat gun until the powder becomes shiny.

Emboss Resist

Emboss resist is a technique that uses heat embossing and ink, after the project has already been embossed.

  1. Stamp and heat emboss your image.
  2. Apply ink over and around the embossed image. You can use a sponge or a brayer.
  3. Wipe the image with a tissue to remove excess ink.

Alcohol Inks

Alcohol inks go way beyond the normal uses of ink for simple stamping and papercrafts. You can use it to color paper, buttons, and candles.

You can also use glossy paper with these inks. You can also use them on shrink film, dominoes, glass, metal, and ceramics. Always make sure to use a clear sealer on any project where you use alcohol inks. It will keep the ink from smearing and fading.

There are special alcohol ink applicators that will get a perfect blend. You can also use a binder clip with a piece of felt attached. Felt is reasonably priced and can either be reused or disposed of.

You can also use a refillable alcohol ink pen for very detailed projects. Ranger makes a wide range of high-quality applicators.

Tips for Using Alcohol Ink

  • Use a felt applicator to get a marbled effect—add a blending solution to make the effect more precise.
  • Apply the ink on the project directly, then blend with your felt applicator.
  • Use a craft mat or glass mat for easier cleanup.
  • Use an alcohol blending solution to clean any ink off your hands or surfaces.
  • Use disposable plastic gloves to keep your hands clean.
  • Use a straw to move the ink around on your project.
  • Remove any stains on your non-stick craft mat with rubbing alcohol.

Distress and Oxide Inks

Distress and oxide inks are some of the most popular inks. They come in both a 3" x 3" size as well as a standard size.

Distress inks are a type of dye ink, which means they are quick drying. They allow the color of the card stock underneath to show through.

Distress oxide inks are a hybrid ink, having the properties of both dye and pigment inks. Because it is a thicker ink, it dries slowly, and they have a chalky-type finish when dry. They tend to cover up the color of the card stock they are on.

Both distress inks and distress oxides work harmoniously with water, creating visually stunning results.

When using water with these inks, it is important to test the paper you are planning to use. If adding water "doesn't work," it may be an issue of paper type! Some papers are more porous than others, making the aftermath of your water adventures not quite what you envisioned.

Spinning ink pad organizational trays

Spinning ink pad organizational trays

How to Store Your Ink Pads

There are several ways to store your inks. Many companies sell storage units for their products that are made to fit that particular product. Make sure that whatever system you use, the ink pad fits.

Always store your ink pads level and upside down. This keeps the pad inked and ready for use. Keeping it level makes sure that the distribution of the ink is the same all over the pad.

Refilling Your Ink Pad

Always use the same color ink from the same manufacturer. Always buy the corresponding re-inker when you purchase the ink pad. That way if your color is discontinued, you can extend the life of your ink pad.

The one thing that will keep me from buying a new ink pad is not having re-inkers available. I try to recycle as much as I can, so re-inkers are a must-have. I buy the re-inker at the same time I buy the pad, so I never get part of the way through a project and run dry.

© 2018 Linda F Correa