I was asked for advice by a beginner card maker; I spent ages writing her a long, long email with advice for her. She was thrilled with it and suggested that I publish it for others who might also be starting out. We bloggers often assume that others understand not only our short forms for terms but basic card making techniques and supplies. So this is Part 1 of a beginner card making series.
Before you can buy patterned paper or stamps, you need to analyze what your style(s) is/are. There are too many stamps out there to just grab what is pretty to your eyes at first glance! The best way to waste money is by buying stamps that are gorgeous but you end up not using. Think about your style in other areas of life. What is your decorating style? Not necessarily what you have but what you wish you had! What about your clothing style? Bohemian? Sophisticated? Vintage? Retro? Cute? Tailored? Casual? Outdoorsy? Include not only what you wear on a regular basis but also what you would wear if your lifestyle allowed it or if it was popular. I love heirloom clothing but it would make me look like I was dressed as an extra in a movie! What type of art do you like? What type of jewellery do you go for? Where do you vacation? Beach? City? Country? Camping? Historical tours? That will often help you figure out what type of stamps you should buy. Not that you will only have one style or only buy one type of stamps. Because of that, you might also want to look what you don’t like! There are gorgeous stamps out there that appeal to me at first but when I really think about it, I just know I won’t use them. One nice thing about stamps is that you can buy ones that are in a style you like but aren’t brave enough to wear or decorate in!
Now, remember this is advice for beginners, striving to creating a collection of stamps you will use most. Experienced (or wealthy!) stampers will always have some images they LOVED and HAD to have but they don’t use much. But when you are starting, every stamp has to be one that will get some serious use because you don’t have many to choose from.
When you look at a stamp, ask yourself the following questions: What type of cards would I make using this stamp? When I use this stamp, who am I creating for? Can I use this for a variety or cards or only for a single holiday/occasion/person? For example, if you make manly cards, think of outdoorsy, animal or vintage images. Flower images are very versatile and can be used for most occasions. If you have a lot of parties, get a set for invitations; lots of new babies on the way-pregnancy and baby sets; little kids parties-cute cartoony images; lots of older ones in your family or those of your friends-sympathy or get well sets… you get the idea. As a beginner, never buy a stamp if you can only think of one or two ways to use it. I’d go for a combination of at least 5: people to use it for, occasions it suits or techniques to use with it. If you are buying sets, you need to like/need at least half, if not more, of the images.
What techniques or colouring mediums do you like best? If you like to solid stamp or make your own specialty backgrounds, get silhouette images. Love markers, water colouring or pencil crayons? Get outline images. Love paper piecing? Get simple shapes. (Paper piecing is when you stamp an image on coloured cardstock or patterned paper and you cut out part or all of the image and glue or foam dot it to the same image stamped on neutral cardstock. Often used for clothing or furniture. See HERE for an example.)
One other consideration in buying stamps is the type. There are two basic kinds of stamps. Ones that come on or with wooden blocks (generally rubber) or ones that do not. They can be clear or rubber. Wood block stamps require nothing but ink to get started unless they come unmounted. If they do, follow the directions to apply the stamps to the blocks provided. Clear stamps (AKA photopolymer) require acrylic blocks but nothing else, they stick to the block on their own. I recommend at least two sizes of blocks, one at least as large as your largest stamp and one about 2-3” square. If possible, at least one block should have a lines or a grid etched into the plastic so you can be sure words and sentiments are straight. (Click to enlarge photo)Unmounted or ‘Naked’ rubber requires some type of adhesive to stick them to the acrylic blocks. Some people use double-stick tape or certain kinds of liquid, repositionable adhesive but I prefer a type of foam cushioning called EZ mount. You buy it in sheets and permanently apply trimmed rubber stamps to the adhesive side, then cut them from the sheet. The other side is referred to as cling in that it clings to acrylic blocks. With either method that doesn’t use foam cushioning (clear or rubber and adhesive), a cushion of some type is recommended. Close To My Heart (CTMH) stamps come with a cushion in every stamp set. A mouse pad works well too but I don’t often find it need it as both rubber and clear stamps have some give to them anyway. If your stamping surface is possible even slightly uneven, always use cushioning. One other category of stamps is foam mounted but there are few sets like that, they are cheap though.
Pros and cons? Unmounted of either type is WAY cheaper than wood mounted, about 50-75% of the price of wood mounted. Rubber will last longer than clear (several lifetimes if cared for) and although they have improved the clear technology lately, no one really knows how long they will last. If you get unmounted rubber provided with wooden blocks, you can choose they way you mount them (centered or to one side, sentiment attached or separate) but it takes good scissors along with time and patience, especially with alphabets, small stamps or ones that need to be mounted very straight like borders. If your stickers aren’t on straight, later placement can be difficult. I prefer mine like the
photo above because as a right-handed person, I can see the edges of the rubber helping me get the image in the right place. Wood mounted takes about 4-8 times more room to store but is convenient because you don’t have to place them on acrylic blocks. Clear stamps are easy to lose because they are hard to see once dropped but take little room to store. Shipping is usually cheaper for clear or unmounted rubber stamps. Some companies provide storage panels, tins or cases for storage including index stickers for their stamps so check that out ahead of time if it matters to you. You can sometimes buy unmounted rubber stamps extra cheap if you buy a whole sheet of rubber as manufactured and cut them apart yourself. Unmounted rubber very rarely comes in any kind of envelope, case or plastic sheet so storage requires some thought. EZ Mounted stamps take up about double the storage space compared to plain rubber or clear but no cushioning is needed. Most of my stamps are rubber and EZ mounted; I store them on laminated storage panels in zippered three ring binders stored by theme-nature, flowers, vintage, masculine, girlie, animals, words and verses etc.
Paper is a bit easier to choose, not only because it is cheaper and therefore less of an investment, but also because you don’t have it forever like stamps. Still, try to think of how you will use it. I recommend that you buy cardstock and paper that coordinate to start (and ink but I will cover that in Part 2) because it wastes time and money to have to buy paper in the middle of a project and it is impossible to match/coordinate colours online. I strongly recommend that you choose a single company to buy from to start. Like www.stampinup.com (my fave but no affiliation anymore) www.ctmh.com or www.papertreyink.com . I strongly recommend you buy packs of CS because it is MUCH cheaper, and ALWAYS buy good quality CS rather than from the dollar or discount store. Bad cardstock can ruin all your hard work, you go to stand it up and it falls over! Good quality CS in a pack is usually cheaper than bad CS by the sheet. If you stamp solid images a lot, go for Stampin’ Up! white and vanilla CS because it is coated which makes for smoother solid stamping. It helps other images to stamp cleanly but is NOT good for Copic marker colouring. They all sell coordinating paper, cardstock and embellishments. Don’t get carried away with embellishments at first (Part 3!) because there are tons of ways to save money so you can start buying tools (Part4) that will make your life easier and your cards more fun!
This got way too long, sorry. I hope this helps some newbies. Enjoy, Rebecca