(Above: Trying out different art mediums on four types of white paper. Coloring is rough to get a feel for how the paper accepts the medium rather than working for careful shading. Art mediums include regular colored pencils, watercolor pencils, pastel pencils, watercolor markers – both Marvy and Distress- and Copic alcohol ink markers. Stamp: Time to Stamp)
I’ve been thinking about paper for stamping lately. I’ve been stamping for a long time and over the years have collected a wide variety of paper for stamping and/or layering. The stamping paper I reach for today is not necessarily the same paper that I reached for when I started stamping over twenty years ago.
At the time that I started stamping, most stampers used water-based dye inkpads for their stamping, typically coloring the stamped images in with watercolor markers. We did also use some clear embossing ink or pigment ink with embossing powders and sometimes we colored our stamps directly with the watercolor markers. Our paper of choice for cards was very often glossy white cardstock, although some of us who were into mail art would also stamp on uncoated cardstock postcards and envelopes.
Fast forward to today: The art mediums that we stampers use for stamping, coloring and adding text have expanded to include colored pencils, chalk, pastels, watercolor paint, acrylic paint, powdered pigments, pigment inks, solvent-based inks (including alcohol inks), Gelatos and more. The papers we originally used were great for the type of stamping we did then, but all of these additional mediums we have added to our tool kits mean that we need a wider range of papers too.
I still have a stack of glossy white cardstock. It continues to be a great surface for making colors pop. Stamp with a good black dye-based inkpad on glossy cardstock and you get great contrast. Colors tend to sit on top of the cardstock’s coating rather than sink into the paper, so they are usually look brighter and bolder. So it can be great for stamping images in bright colors as well. However, some inks (like pigment inks) won’t dry on glossy cardstock (unless you heat emboss them) and it can be tricky to do shading and some types of color blending on glossy coated papers. And frankly, I don’t always want a glossy bright surface. So while I do occasionally use glossy white cardstock (or even glossy black), it is usually a cardstock I reach for when a specific technique calls for it. It is no longer my everyday cardstock. (Above: Here I’ve stamped using black Memento ink on white glossy coated cardstock. The yellow moons are Marvy watercolor marker. The tan moon is Distress marker. The shoulder and orange moon is Copic alcohol ink marker. I did not use any colored pencil or pastel pencil on this cardstock as it really is not suited for these mediums.)
In recent years, I’ve been doing more of my coloring with colored pencils, both watercolor and regular types. You can use colored pencils on regular cardstock, but I’ve found that they often blend better when used on watercolor paper. I also like the slightly toothy textured look of colored pencils on watercolor paper. Watercolor paper is also a great paper for watercolor stamping techniques and other techniques that require a sturdy paper that is designed to handle getting wet. I like smooth cold press 140 lb watercolor paper from Canson that I can buy in pad form. I find that it accepts stamped impressions very well and yet can be colored beautifully with colored pencils, chalk, pastels and watercolor paints. This type of paper can be thirsty though, so I find that I need a juicy inkpad when working with pigment inks that I plan to emboss. (I prefer not to emboss on it actually.) It’s not a good paper for alcohol ink markers because it tends to suck up a lot of ink. (Above: Here I’ve stamped on cold press watercolor paper using black India Ink dye ink. The yellow moons are Marvy watercolor marker. The tan sun is Distress ink. The yellow sun at top left is Conte pastel pencils. The blue is Derwent watercolor pencil. The shoulder is Prismacolor regular markers and Lyra skintones. The brown strand of hair and orange sun is also Prismacolor. Please note that coloring is rough and unblended.)
So for many stamp projects, I will reach for white non-glossy cardstock. I’ve gotten a mix of it from a variety of sources over the years and so can no longer identify the brand I’m using. (I choose pieces by feel from the assortment I’ve currently got.) Please note that while stampers will sometimes refer to “coated cardstock” to specifically mean glossy cardstock, coated cardstocks, especially those designated as “cover stock” can also include matte, dull or silk finishes that don’t look glossy. Completely uncoated cardstock tends to absorb more ink than coated cardstocks and also is more likely to allow ink to bleed and feather. So often the “regular white cardstock” we stampers use actually has some type of finish coat on at least one side. (Above: Here I’ve stamped on white cardstock using black India Ink dye ink. The yellow moons are Marvy watercolor marker. The tan sun is Distress ink. The yellow sun at top left is Conte pastel pencils. The blue is Derwent watercolor pencil. The shoulder is Prismacolor regular markers and Lyra skintones. The brown strand of hair and orange sun is also Prismacolor. Please note that coloring is rough and unblended.)
My supply of white cardstock was starting to run a little low, so I thought I’d treat myself to a new pack of paper recently. While I have at times bought white cardstock at the local office supply store in the past, I’ve had varying degrees of luck with stamping on cardstock purchased there. The place where I really prefer to purchase paper for stamping is Marco’s Paper. Their retail store is in another state, but I’ve bought paper from them at stamp conventions over the years as well as via mail order. One nice thing about Marco’s Paper is that they cater to stampers, so that they can recommend paper that will work well for stamped projects. So that is where I decided to get my cardstock.
I was looking for Beckett Expression, which I had heard was a good paper for stamping as well as for colored pencils and alcohol ink markers. On the Marco’s Paper website, I learned that Beckett Expression was discontinued last year, but that the manufacturer suggests Strathmore Premium Cover as a replacement. Apparently Marco’s Paper demo artists are still testing this replacement paper to see if it indeed works the same as Beckett Expression. But I took a chance and bought a pack of fifty sheets to try.
I picked the Ultimate White version, which is supposed to be the same as Beckett Expression Radiance. It doesn’t have any recycled content, which isn’t as good for the planet, but it is a beautiful whiter white cardstock than what I was using. You probably won’t be able to see the difference in these pictures, but my previous regular white cardstock has a very slight yellowish cast to it. The Ultimate White is whiter, making it a nice choice when you are looking for a good contrast between the paper and the ink and other coloring mediums. It is also smoother than my previous cardstock and takes stamping particularly well. When I color over it with regular colored pencil, the Ultimate White is smoother, with a less grainy textured look. (Above: Here I’ve stamped on Strathmore Premium Cover using black India Ink dye ink. The yellow moons are Marvy watercolor marker. The tan sun is Distress ink. The yellow sun at top left is Conte pastel pencils. The blue is Derwent watercolor pencil. The shoulder is Prismacolor regular markers and Lyra skintones. The brown strand of hair and orange sun is also Prismacolor. Please note that coloring is rough and unblended.)
I found that I like this cardstock for use with alcohol ink markers. The smooth surface takes the alcohol ink well. (The other cardstocks that Marco Paper recommends for Copic and other alcohol ink markers are Neenah Classic Crest Solar White and Curious Metallics Cryogen White.) I got the 80# version of the Strathmore Premium Cover, so the alcohol ink does bleed through to the back side of the cardstock, but I tend to layer everything, so I like the lighter weight as it helps keep my card’s final weight down a bit. (It also comes in 130#. Heavier weights typically have less bleed through.)
I also like this cardstock for watercolor markers. I think the color pops nicely and goes on smoothly. I’m not as crazy about it for colored pencils though, which seemed to slide a bit on the smooth surface. It may be due to my own coloring style, but I like a little tooth for colored pencils and found that it tends to be streakier and harder to create soft transitions than on my watercolor paper. So, I think I still favor my cold press watercolor paper for that.
I don’t think it is possible to find a single perfect white cardstock for stamping that will work for all types of stamping ink, all of the art mediums we use and all of the techniques that are possible in the stamping world. If you work with a lot of art mediums and play with a lot of techniques, I think that you’ll need more than one type of paper. (And we’re not even considering specialty papers like translucent vellums, duplex papers, colored cardstocks and preprinted decorative paper, canvas and textured papers, etc.!)
What are your favorite go-to stamping papers? Is there a type of white cardstock weight paper that you find that works for most of your stamping projects that require white cardstock? Or do you too have an assortment of papers that each work well when used with specific art mediums?