Getting Started with Inks

Getting Started with Inks

Hi All!

I spent a lot of time thinking about what ink pads I would recommend to someone getting started or someone who wants to build a collection. Popular wisdom says “get a good set of dye inks to start”, so that’s what I decided to recommend. After my post was all done, I just felt uncomfortable with it. I didn’t want to post it. I decided to sit on it for awhile and give it some thought.

I know I’m going against the grain, but I don’t think dye inks are the way to begin. For several reasons, I think it makes more sense for beginners to invest in a collection of pigment inks. View the video below and scroll below it for more text detail and ink color recommendations. Enjoy!! 🙂


Note: If you are reading this post in an email, you’ll need to click on the post title above (“Getting Started with Inks”) to go to my blog and play the video.

Video Supplies:

Memento Luxe Pigment Inks
Memento Luxe Pigment Inks
Avery Elle Pigment Inks
Avery Elle Pigment Inks
Stampin' Up!Aqua Painter
Aqua Painter
Sponge Daubers
Sponge Daubers
Strathmore Watercolor Paper
Watercolor Paper
Neenah Solar White Cardstock
Neenah Cardstock
Types of Ink: Pigment and Dye

The two primary ink choices are dye and pigment (I’m simplifying, I know, but just go with it for now). The main difference: Dye inks absorb into the paper and pigment inks lay on top of the paper. I would compare pigment inks to paint and dye inks to well, dye. Pigment inks apply to paper like paint applies to your wall at home. Dye inks apply to paper like dye on your hair or dye on a fabric. They soak in. Both are permanent, but pigment inks need time to dry.

Why Pigment Ink?

Reasons why I recommend pigment inks over dye inks to start:

  • Pigment inks work on ALL stamps. When I started stamping, I purchased a bunch of cheap clear stamp sets. Dye inks do not work as well as pigment inks on these stamps. The ink is resisted by these stamps… it balls up like water on your car windshield. As a result, you get a bad image on paper. Pigment inks lay on top of the stamp like paint, giving you a great image every time.
  • It’s easier to make your own colored cardstock with pigment inks than with dye inks. With good quality pigment inks, you can cover your white cardstock with color easily. Pigment inks give you time to blend your color around to an even coverage. With dye inks, the inks are drying into swirls of light and dark as you apply it because it dries so quickly.
  • Because pigment inks lay on top of your paper, you can use light inks on dark paper. For example, white pigment ink on dark paper looks great. If you use a light dye ink on dark paper, you will not see it. It soaks in and disappears. This characteristic makes pigment inks more flexible.
  • What you see is what you get with pigment inks. What your ink pad looks like is what your stamped image will look like. There’s a bit of guessing with dye ink pads because most pads are dark in color and don’t resemble the stamping color at all. To get around this, you need to create color swatches for your dye inks, so you know what it will look like when stamped.
  • Most people think you need a dye ink for watercoloring and ink blending. The right pigment inks will do both. These are lessons for later, but just know you can grow with experience and pigment inks.
  • Pigment inks can be heat embossed. Dye inks cannot. As a beginner, you may not know what this means. But trust me, you’ll love this later on.

So what is the downside to pigment inks? With all the benefits of slower drying time, there’s a disadvantage… it takes longer to dry. You have to be careful not to smear images. Personally, I think it’s worth the benefits you get from pigment inks.

Pricing and Brands

Believe it or not, pigment inks generally run the same price as dye inks. If you already own pigment inks and want to start investing in dye inks, see my Dye Ink Comparison post.

Several companies have recently hopped onto the pigment ink bandwagon. Interestingly enough, Stampin’ Up! hopped off a year or two ago. Not sure why.

I have tried Memento Luxe, Avery Elle, and Colorbox (to a lesser extent). Honestly, all three of these brands worked great for me. When I decided to invest in a line, I went with Memento Luxe and am extremely happy. However, if you like the colors of other brands, mix it up a little!

When it comes to black and brown, Versafine has been my go-to for a long time. Memento and Versafine are both made by Tsukineko.

Colors to Start With

Black and white are a must. I use Versafine Black Onyx and Colorbox Frost White. I have heard wonderful things about Memento Luxe Wedding Dress, but I have not personally tried it.

Brown is another color I recommend purchasing. I use Versafine Vintage Sepia. It sounds like it would be a light brown, but I find it to be the perfect shade.

Regarding color, I suggest getting one ink pad for each band of the rainbow. Here are my favorites:

Love Letter
Love Letter
Pear Tart
Pear Tart
Bahama Blue
Bahama Blue
Lilac Posies
Lilac Posies
Versafine Black Onyx Ink
Versafine Black Ink
Versafine Vintage Sepia Ink
Versafine Vintage Sepia Ink
Colorbox White Ink
Colorbox White Ink

Note: The Lilac Posies is more of a pinkish-purple. I also like Rose Bud quite a bit. Again these are all Memento Luxe because it’s the brand I decided to build my collection with.

Anyway, hope this helps you decide the right direction for you. Good luck!! 🙂


  1. I am just now starting to work with the Memento Luxe inks and I really like them so far! I carve all of my own stamps to use, and I was looking for a dense ink that will print on wood. I am trying to find a good source to buy all of the reinker bottles. I have found that most places only sell one or two of the colors available. Do you know of a good place that still sells them all? Thanks for the wonderful review!

  2. Doris Greene says:

    Your video on the different inks was excellent. I would like some information about alcohol ink markers and how they work.

  3. Sheryl Eb says:

    Very good information! Thank you so much for taking the time to explain and show examples of each. I really learned a lot.

  4. Linda J says:

    Thank you for this very informative video! This is perfect timing for me as I make some decisions about starting to collect ink pads. You answered several questions that I had. Without a doubt I will be purchasing black, white and brown pigment inks. I have been disappointed in stamping sentiments and not getting a sharp, clear coverage. Hopefully I will get a better result with a pigment ink. Again, thank you.

  5. Robin in WA says:

    Thank you for your reply Darlene. I’m glad to hear that the SSS inks come out very similar to the Hero Arts Shadow Inks. I don’t mind staining of the stamps–it actually helps me to see them better in the storage cases!! But extra cleaning if you want to stamp with another color immediately–that slows me down a bit. I’ll have to think about how often I do that. Thank you for the comparison!!! It’s always nice to get your unbiased opinion!!

  6. Holly Saveur says:

    Hi Darlene thank you for your reply….
    i hope I was clear with my comment…when I said I used Memento Dye ink for water coloring I meant that I use it for the image/outline to stamp and then color it in with for Example my SU inkpads or distress inks…I know you have to use Stazon for that…but just don’t like that ink…..
    I don’t like it when my stamps get stained…especially with the Colorbox…it was my first brown ink pad a great color..but all my clear stamps got brown..Versamagic Chalk inks don’t do does where my second days I use SU ink pads the most and Papertrey Ink pads…but would love to try the Avery elle and Memento Luxe pads..will sure try it…
    I have seen that SU inks and some PTI ones stain my stamps very little ..but not badly…

  7. Holly Saveur says:

    Thank you for this great comparison…I use most of the time Mentento Dye inks..also when I water color….what do you think..did you have any experience with that/
    I have the Stazon too..but don’t like it….
    My point with colorbox is that they stain my clear stamps..don’t like that..that’s why I tend to use the PTI and SU Dye inks…and also for the quicker drying time…
    do the Avery Ellen and Memento Luxe inks also stain the clear stamps?

    • Darlene DeVries says:

      Holly, most dye inks work great with water (and especially with watercolor paper). The Avery Elle does stain my stamps just a bit, but I haven’t noticed that with the Memento Luxe. Personally, it doesn’t bother me when my stamps get stained – it just shows that it’s been loved. 🙂

  8. Sharon Hayes says:

    Darlene, thank you for the comparison of dye inks and pigment inks. I have had to learn this by trial and error and have a hodge pudge mixture of ink types and colors. Now I am slowly trying to accumulate sets of inks including one from each color family. You not only model many card making techniques, but the tutorials you present are very valuable. Thank you.

  9. Mary Ann T says:

    I just wanted to back you up on the pigment inks as your first type of ink. My first inks were pigment inks with a jar of embossing powder. The magic of watching an image melt and get all shiny stays with me today (won’t say how many years later). I too love the Luxe ins from Memento because they give such great coverage when using things like silhouette stamps where you’re not just stamping a line. Thanks for taking the time to help others.

  10. I was thinking just today that i like pigment inks just for the reasons you mention. Most important to me is that i get a better impression, especially in the beginning when you use any old cardstock. I only have some Distress inks which I don’t use for stamping. So now I’m ready to commit to a set of pigment inks. Thank you.

  11. at first thought I would not have pick pigment either….but I see where your coming from 🙂 thanks

  12. Robin in WA says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful advice on which inks to buy. I have to admit, I’ve been stamping for about 20 years now off and on, and I’d never heard of using pigment inks for water color or for coloring card stock either. I love the idea and plan to give it a try. I saw in the video that you have some SSS dye ink. I’ve been a little skeptical about that ink–although I love the colors. It seems like it might be a tad more splotchy than the Hero Arts, even though it’s the same formula (it might be the more intense colors that makes it seem so.) I’ve also noticed that there’s a lot more staining of stamps with it and noticed that in order to ensure clean colors, you might need to clean the stamp with cleaner before using it in a different color. Are you going to do a comparison on the SSS ink? They sure have pretty colors!!!!

    • Darlene DeVries says:

      Hi Robin. I actually did the same test with the Simon Says Stamp inks as I did with the others in my Dye Ink Comparison. They really do come out very similar to the Hero Arts Shadow Inks, as they say the formula is the same. I definitely noticed more staining of the stamps, but that doesn’t bother me. If you use the same stamp with another color immediately, then it requires extra cleaning to get the first color completely off.

  13. Pat Jandacek says:

    A terrific review and explanation of the difference between dye and pigment inks. I agree with you that the pigments are more versatile.

  14. I would also recommend getting the reinker bottles for any ink pads that you buy. I did not know about these for a long time until I had a very frustrating experience with one of my favorite color pads drying out when I needed it. I spent a lot of time after that gathering the reinkers so now my favorite pads and colors will last a long, long time. I also found out that the companies retire colors sometimes so it’s a good idea to get the reinkers sooner rather than later.

  15. Lynne Ingram says:

    Wonderful video. I am in the process of investing in the Memento Luxe inks. What I have so far I really like. I have a bunch of Versafine/magic/color pigment squares that work well too. The “fine” is the most vibrant for me. If one is impatient, you can always heat set. I do a lot of embossing and I like using pigment inks with clear embossing rather than colored embossing powder. Seems to give me a better image and works beautifully with emboss resist technique.

  16. Darlene – thanks for the info. I have a hard time getting a good yellow ink and will try a pigment and see what I get. Appreciate these types of tutorials. Always fun to see what you create and have to say.

  17. Casey Thrush says:

    More valuable information from the awesome Darlene!!

  18. Very good information for those who are new to stamping. I love the Versa Fine Onyx and Sepia and use them all the time. Must get some of those Memento Luxe colors to work with. I have quite a few Color Box and Versa Magic chalk ink pads also and wonder how they compare to pigment inks. In reading your blog you said that SU had pigment inks for a while. I have looked at all my very old colors (early 2000) and they all say dye ink on them. Did I miss out on the pigment ink phase?

    • Darlene DeVries says:

      Carol, I have some Versamagic chalk inks, but I never use them because mine are kind of dry (I got them from someone else, so maybe they are just old). I used the Colorbox chalk inks for a long time with my clear stamps and they worked great. I only have black and brown though, so I have not experimented with color. As far as SU goes, they carried “craft” ink in all the colors – it was pigment. Now they only carry it in Whisper White.

  19. Maria A. Rodriguez says:

    I have been stamping for a while and I really never stop to think on all the positive and negative aspects of ink pads. I just go and buy the color I like and that’s it. Now, armed with this awesome information, my next purchases will be more informed. Thank you so much Darlene for taking the time to try and compare all of this ink products and share the results with us in this very informative video.
    I really don’t have that many ink pads, but now that I’ve see you use the Memento Lux pads, I think I will start investing on getting some of them.
    Thanks again for sharing your findings with us.

  20. Rene Stansell says:

    Darlene, what a revelation about craft inks, you are a super duper card maker!! Thanks for all your inspiration and technique advice.
    Rene from OZ xo

  21. Thank you Darlene, so much. I never knew the difference ,so I have some of each kind and now I know why some worked better than the other in my projects. I really appreciate you. Have great day !

  22. I have to admit I wish I hadn’t started my journey into card making until after this video was made! You provided so much good advice in here! Thank you so much, really!

  23. Darlene,

    I So wish I had this information when I started out stamping and collecting inks! I went with the conventional wisdom about dye inks, and although I do love mine, I wish I had saved some money for a good set of pigment inks. I have run into many of the problems you described, especially with cheaper stamps, and also have seen so many cool techniques with pigments that I wish I had some. I will keep this post for reference when I can afford to buy some. Thanks for you honest opinion, I happen to agree with you!

  24. Darlene – thank you so much for a wonderful, and thoughtful, introduction to using pigment inks! You’re a wonderful teacher; I’ve learned so much from you in your blog posts and your videos. Thank you for taking the time to share everything you’ve learned…and for being concerned that the information you provide is authentic and useful for all of us…:) It means a lot.
    I’ve shied away from pigment inks because I didn’t know what to expect. Knowing they’ll take a while to dry, and how it works with the paper makes complete sense to me now and I’ll be more brave about using them.
    Thank you again, and I hope you have a fantastic weekend! 🙂

  25. Robin in WA says:

    You must really love us!! Another post!!! What a delight it is to pop over here and find that you’ve done another post!!! I love it. I don’t have time right now to watch your video, but I’ll be looking forward to when I can sit back with a cup of hot chocolate and watch it! I have to admit, I’m curious as to why you recommend pigment inks to start with. Thank you for making this a more lovely day!!!!!

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