Left: Page from my 2015 Fake Journal. I used a 6 x 6 inch square, wire-bound journal with grey Stonehenge paper. All the pages were masked and labeled with the date and related title in the same way. This image was a response to "Focus on Text." There is some heat embossing in this image as well. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
When I posted my fake journal flip through for 2015 a reader wrote in and asked how I achieved the smooth backgrounds on so many of the pieces.
(You can see the rest of the images in that flip through, but I'll be posting and writing about my favorite images in the weeks to come.)
On pages like the one shown I was using rubber stamp inks.
There are a lot of ways you can use rubber stamp inks, depending on which type of ink they are (dye-based or pigment).
If you are looking to get a smooth background like the one shown in this image (light blue) all you have to do is the following:
1. Use a great paper like Stonehenge. I think we can all agree when we look at the ink application in these sketches that the paper loves rubber stamp ink.
2. Hold your stamp pad fairly flat against the paper (there is some angling when you want to do tight areas, etc. but that comes later with a bit of practice).
3. Use a circular motion and even pressure as you move the pad face over your paper surface, going around and around the area you want to color. Keep working until you have the coverage saturation you want. The even pressure takes a little practice too, but not much. In this sketch I worked more passes at the edges, leaving it lighter in the center to create a bit of a "glow."
4. I also find that using a MAIN color, letting it dry, and then going in with another color of ink pad, helps make a very rich color. The two colors combine in ways to hide imperfections in application. Analogous color choices make a very rich and saturated look. The blended color leads the eye around the background in a subtle way. (You don't have to way for the first ink layer to dry, but if you don't you'll contaminate your second color's pad.)
If regular-size stamp pads are too cumbersome for you to hold, you can also use those little petal shaped ink pads. Many companies make them. There are dye and pigment versions.
I only use Brilliance Stamp Inks and pads now. They don't smell. They dry quickly. They give great coverage. They are available in an interesting range of colors (the Graphite black is fantastic and very densely rich). Best of all I can paint over them right away. And I can also write over them with my favorite pens (all the pens you always read about me using here on my blog.)
Brilliance is a pigment ink. I can't find them locally, so I buy them from Marco's Paper. (They came to a rubber stamp convention and set up a booth years ago and I went a little nuts buying the stamp pads. I've been a loyal fan ever since.)
I have used the same background technique with dye-based stamp inks, but there are some quirks to applying the different types of ink. You'll work them out on practice paper. It has to do with speed and pressure, and the "fullness" and "wetness of the pad, and the ability of the paper to take dye ink and not let it bleed through.
The main reason I don't use dye-based stamp inks any longer is that I usually want to add gouache on the top of my backgrounds and that makes it problematic—the dye-based inks will be picked up by the wet media as they are water soluble (and remain so even after drying). That might be something you want to experiment with, but usually I haven't got much use for a water soluble background. Additionally the dye-based inks are not lightfast.
I'll write about other fun ways to use rubber stamp inks another day.