As a scrapbooking/stamping instructor, I get a lot of questions from my customers about inks. There are many different types of ink out there....and they each have different properties, they each have their own features and benefits and perhaps most importantly, they are each formulated for a specific purpose or to achieve a specific effect. Let's start with the two most basic types: Dye Inks and Pigment Inks. Dye Inks Dye inks by composition (that is because they are 'dye' based), dry very quickly when stamped on a porous surface like paper making them easy to use - even for the beginner stamper. They are thin-bodied and are made with soluble colouring agents which penetrate the paper's surface and stain it. As such, they resist smudging - the ink is completely absorbed into the stamped surface. Dye inks work well on all paper types and weights - but you may notice that an image you stamp today may be a slighly different colour tomorrow once it is completely dry and absorbed. This is normal and you needn't be concerned by it - the colour variation will be only slight. If your paper is extremely porous (like watercolour paper), you may notice colour 'bleeding' as well. Because dye inks dry by absorption, they do not work well on coated or non-porous surfaces like glazed ceramic tiles. When stamping with dye-based inks (using a good quality stamp), you will achieve crisp, clean images every time. A potential downside to dye-based inks is that most will fade somewhat over time. Colour stability depends on a number of factors, including the type of paper used, but is most influenced by the display conditions of the stamped work ---- and the degree of exposure to light, water, humidity, ozone and other elements. If you use inks in your scrapbook, this propensity to fade may at first concern you, but when you consider that scrapbooks spend most of their time 'closed' rather than 'open' for viewing, you needn't be terribly concerned about the impact of light on your ink's longevity. With respect to the other elements that cause fading, you will likely wish to protect your book from these harmful things anyway - to minimize damage on a grand scale. (I'll talk more about proper scrapbook storage in another thread). Pigment Inks Pigment inks are thick and slow-drying. Rather than being absorbed by the stamped surface, they sit on top of it. They are fade-proof, permanent, water resistant, and smear proof (once completely dry). The colouring agents in pigments are relatively stable, insoluble, and non-reactive with other materials. When working with pigment inks, a crafter must be careful to leave ample drying time for their stamped work before colouring, layering, or adding stamped images to their scrapbook. To speed drying time, pigment inks can be 'heat set' using a craft heater. Pigment inks are also ideal for embossing. Because they stay wet longer than dyes, there is time to add a layer of clear embossing powder to the image before heat setting (heat setting is required in order to 'melt' the powder). Embossing the image will leave your image with a beautiful 3-dimensional or raised appearance - making your artwork more tactile. Pigment inks do not clean up off of the stamps as easily as dye based inks. You will however find that the colour selection available in pigment inks is more vivid or saturated than that available in dye. So that's the basics of dye vs. pigment, but there are a plethora of additional options out there for the stamping enthusiast. There are clear inks, chalk inks, acrylic or craft inks, alcohol inks and solvent inks just to name a few. So let's look at each of these briefly. Clear Inks: Clear inks come in a variety of forms - including watermark, embossing and resist varieties. Actually, there is a great article about Clear Inks in the current issue (August 2006) of Creating Keepsakes magazine - and I highly recommend it as a must-read. There are plenty of tips and ideas of what you can do with them. Clear inks are probably one of the most versatile additions to a stampers toolchest. When you stamp with clear inks - the image is transparent (unless the clear ink is tinted) - and creates a watermark or tone-on-tone pattern, adding interest to otherwise plain cardstock. It doesn't dry overly quickly - so you can apply embossing powders or chalk to an image to achieve a variety of effects and if you apply dye inks or acrylic paints over a clear ink stamped image, the clear ink will block the dye/paint from being absorbed into the paper - and thus the area that is coloured is the image 'negative'. Chalk Inks: Chalk inks are available in both dye based and pigment ink types. They stamp and blend like dye inks, and dry quickly on most absorbent surfaces. Stamping with chalk inks gives you a very flat, muted finished similar to the look achieved with when using chalk pastels. They are pemanent when heat set. Chalk inks work well even on dark surfaces. Acrylic Inks: Acrylic inks are similar in function and appearance to acrylic paints, but are not quite as thick. They are great for stamping on fabric, paper, wood, unglazed ceramic and shrink plastic - and many other stamping surfaces. When stamping on fabric, fabric should be pre-washed to remove sizing. The colour is vibrant and opaque - and images stamped with acrylic inks are permanent once heat set. Clean up is relatively simple. Many colours are avaialbe to the crafter, however the selection is not near as plentiful as that available in dye or pigmnet inks. Alcohol Inks: In the spectrum of inks, alcohol inks are maybe not the the most recent introduction to the market, but are certainly all the rage. Alcohol inks are dye-based and thus share many of the same benefits as traditional dye inks, like fast drying time, but unlike dyes are designed specifically for use on non-porous surfaces (e.g. plastic and metal). They dry to a smooth shiny finish. Although they are acid-free and thus safe to use in your scrapbooks, hand protection should be worn and your workspace well protected when working with alcohol inks as they will stain. Solvent Inks: Solvent inks are permanent and are suitable for stamping on a variety of surfaces, both porous and non-porous. They are relatively quick-drying and heat setting is not required for permanence. Images stamped with solvent ink can be coloured in wtih coloured pencils or chalks or even dye inks or water-based markers once stamped since the stamped outlines will not bleed. Solvent inks are likely the most difficult to clean-up, and special solvent-ink cleaners are required. Stamp staining is likely to occur. Staining will in no way affect the usability of your stamps for future projects, or the crispness and clarity of future images using solvent or other types of inks - however some stampers avoid using solvent inks for this reason. So while there is much more to tell - that is the basics of inks. Just know that the type of ink you choose to work with will depend foremost on the surface you wish to stamp on - and from there will depend on what 'look' you wish to achieve.