Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rubber vs. Clear Acrylic Stamps

I'm a member on several rubber stamping/craft groups. Recently on 2-3 of these groups I've noticed that there have been discussions about how difficult clear stamps are to use and how much people don't care for them. It's amazing how many rubber people have never even tried clear stamps but profess to "hating" them.... Many more people tried clear stamps many years ago and had 1 bad experience. They too refuse to use them. I was extremely surprised to say the least!

SO, I want to set the record straight with my own personal experiences on clear stamps....

*One complaint I read was that clear stamps get hard, turn yellow, or loose their stick after a while.

This in part has to do do with the manufacturing process. Clear stamps USED to turn yellow. This yellowing doesn't effect the stamp or final image but people think that there is something wrong with it. Recent advancements in resins have taken care of this problem for the most part.

There is some validity to the fact that some stamps loose their tack - please read....

"There are some imported stamps being made for the clear stamp market from silicon and vinyl compounds. While these stamps look great and are very clear, they have some problems. The compounds being used are not meant to transfer ink. They lack the porous surface structure of rubber or photopolymer stamps, which provide even ink transfer. You can improve their ink transfer by conditioning the surface with a nail file or eraser to rough up the smoothness. This simulates the porous surface and helps transfer ink.

There are also complaints that the imported stamps lose their tack and stop sticking. The silicon and vinyl materials are not sticky, so washing the surface doesn’t help. Photopolymer stamps are naturally sticky and should regain their tack with normal cleaning."

(now, personally I've never filed a clear stamp in my life....I'm not sure what mfg's buy their stamps over seas but if I've got some they work just as well as the others so far.)

*Another complaint of clear stamps is that they won't pick up ink?!?!?

First, all new clear stamps have residue on them from the mfg. process. You cannot expect a stamp right out of the package to make the first impression perfectly. You have to either wash the stamp off or stamp it off on scrap paper to remove this residue. Many people don't realize and/or do this. Therefore, the first impression isn't what they had hoped it would be. Clean your stamps BEFORE using! It will save lots of headaches!!

Now, I have never had any trouble with stamps not making proper images no matter what ink I used. Yes, the Distress Inks make lighter images but they are light with the rubber stamps as well. I use (all Ranger) Archival Inks; Dye Inks, Pigment Inks, Embossing Inks, Distress Inks and even Acrylic Paint without problem. If I get a bad image it's operator error. Either I didn't ink it up enough or I pressed the stamp down unevenly (because sometimes I hurry!).

*The next complaint was that clear stamps don't last.

Well, that is another mystery....I have been buying clear stamps for several years now (almost since they came out) and still own every single set I have ever purchased. None of them have deteriorated in any way shape or form. Yes, a few of them have yellowed but those are the very first ones I bought...they still stamp just fine. I buy stamps from all sorts of clear stamp mfg. including Fancy Pants, Autumn Leaves, Wildflower Stamps, Technique Tuesday, Fontwerks, Creative Imagainations; Crafty Secrets; etc. and they are all going strong!

*Several people mentioned that they can't get "clear" images from clear stamps...they seem blurred.

Pure and simple, this is operator error, this is not the stamps fault. Most people who are used to rubber stamps smoosh those babies down like they were killin' a bug. If you apply the same pressure to a clear stamp you are going to get the stamp impression plus half the stamp wall as well. You do NOT need to press down that hard to get a great image......we're making stamp impressions, not paninis. Gentle pressure is all that is needed...we're going for the peaceful method of stamping....kiss, don't kill your stamps. (ha, that's pretty good...I just made that up - LOL!!!)

I hope this has answered some of the questions people have about using clear stamps.

Also, please don't get me wrong...I love my rubber stamps too! I love ALL of my stamps equally and seeing how I have about 50% rubber and 50% clear stamps I am an equal opportunity stamper :)

Next week I plan on sharing side by side comparisons of the various ink types I mentioned so you can see with your own eyes that clear stamps really do work just as well as rubber stamps.
Have a great day friends!!
Go Get Inky!!!


  1. I linked your blog with a post about it at my blog. Outstanding post!!

  2. Terrific commentary!! I too have been reading all these sagas. Unfortunately many stampers seem to have made up their minds...but that is there loss. I really enjoyed your comparison "we're making stamp impressions, not paninis" too funny-you had me laughing out loud!!

  3. This is a great post, Roni! I agree with your comparison of clear vs. rubber stamps, with a few additional comments. I like being able to see through the acrylic block and clear stamp for precise placement, so I think this is an advantage over rubber, but I've lost a little word (when I was cleaning them)~the key word "baby" from a Baby stamp set~and a month from a month set (that blew away in a gust of wind when I was stamping outside). Once again, you could say that is operator error, but this operator is an older lady with glasses, and those little clear stamps get lost too easy! I don't have that trouble with rubber.
    I read that you can rub new clear stamps on a pair of jeans to wipe off the release agent that is used when making the stamps and rough up the surface a little so ink will apply evenly.
    I like "kiss your stamps, don't kill them", but I REALLY laughed at "we're making stamp impressions, not paninis" !
    Looking forward to your side by side comparisons of ink next week! Have an Inky weekend!
    Erin Glee : )

  4. I agree with you. There is no problem in stamping with clear stamps. It is just a matter of using the right ink for it and the right technique in using it. I can't wait for your next post abt different inks that works well with clear stamps.

  5. I love your comment... "we're making stamp impressions, not paninis"
    I chuckled to myself. I've seen many people practically stand on their stamps to get a good impression. I'll have to remember that next time.
    Great blog!

  6. Thanks for the great (reassuring) article, Roni, on clear stamps. The biggest problem I have is clear stamps are referred to as silicon, acrylic, polymer or photopolymer -- are these terms all interchangeable or there are actually different compositions? Also, have you used watercolor crayons directly on clear stamps and then stamped?

  7. I must make panini's because I seem to stamp hard on everything I do, although I generally get a good imppression. Will have to keep that in mind though, be gentle, don't make paninis!

  8. Roni I have been saying what you posted for such a long time but no one seems to listen. Even though I love my rubber I still have some clear stamps. I am not happy with Queen & Co though and that is only 1 company. But we all can have an opinion and I hope now more people will listen about what you said. I will again post it on my blog so others can come here to read it and see there are more people out there who are saying the same as I


  9. Oh, this post was SO timely! I, personally, love clear stamps because of the ease of placement, but I have been having a couple of the problems you mentioned, namely, ink beading up on the stamp. I tried scrubbing them, but still had a problem. So I lightly sanded with fine sandpaper and that helped. These were Fiskars brand stamps that I had problems with. Had to laugh about the blurry images because I was guilty of smashing down too hard on mine at first. Don't know why I did it, but yes, it blurred! Thanks so much for all the tips!

  10. Great commentary, Roni! I, too, like both rubber and clear. At the moment, I am more in love with my clear, though, b/c they are infinitely (IMO) easier to place.

    I confess that I've gotten a few duds, but overall, I am very, very happy with clear stamps and I will continue to buy them.

    Oh - the are cheaper, too, which is important!


  11. As an art stamp designer I had to make the decision between clear and rubber. I chose clear because my designs are versatile and often are used lined up to create larger patterns. I've found this very difficult when I couldn't see through the rubber or block. I have very detailed designs and they all stamp beautifully when stamped gently. Thanks for the encouragement and support that us high quality photopolymer clear stamp designers need!

  12. Thanks for posting this. I always need to be reminded about not pressing down so hard on my clear stamps. But I love the fact that I can see exactly where I am going to stamp. This was a great post!

  13. Thanks everyone! Glad you like! I have just posted the comparison of both types using several inks. I hope you enjoy that as well. It's amazing :)

    Sheryl - I'm working on a post about the various materials to help answer that question for you.

    HEY PHINNY!!! Good to see you woman :) Glad you're takin some time to get back on line sweetie!!!

  14. Great info! I host an inking/stamping Group at Bella Creations and was just asked about this topic from a member!

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  16. Thanks for this post. It addressed alot of my concerns with the challenges I have had with clear stamps. I look forward to trying your suggestions. I am going to Heirloom Productions Paper Arts Festival next week and now will be open to purchasing clear stamps, that I may have otherwise avoided.
    Thank You :)
    Julia, Tacoma WA

  17. Thank you for this very helpful post! I have bought several clear sets over the last few years and just been so disappointed with the ink beading up on the stamp and therefore not printing a complete image. It never occurred to me that the stamps would need cleaning! i just assumed that the surface of the acrylic was too slick to take the ink. So I am now looking forward to pulling out those stamp sets, cleaning them and giving them a go again! It will be nice to have ink stains on my fingers again :)


Thanks for your thoughts and comments!