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35 Ink Blending Tips, Tricks, and Hacks That You Must Try!

Ink blending is a trendy technique in the world of paper crafting. If you’re into arts and crafts, you’ve probably come across a few artworks and handmade projects that utilized this technique. While a beautifully blended background looks pretty daunting, especially for beginners, it’s essential to understand the process and tools involved. If you want to try this technique or have been doing it for years and need a refresher, then sit back, relax, and keep on reading! We’re providing you with all the ink blending dos and don’ts for both beginners and experienced crafters!

Ultimate ink blending tool bundle from Altenew

Ultimate Ink Blending Tool Bundle

What Is Ink Blending?

Ink blending is the art of blending two or more inks onto a surface and is often done to make a beautiful and seamless ombré effect. This is a popular technique used in mixed media art but has gained popularity in card making, scrapbooking, and even journaling. Ombré backgrounds have turned into a sensation across various arts and crafts, thanks to the advent of social media sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. Blending inks can also produce a third color! This is great for when you miss a few ink colors and don’t have time to buy them. Nowadays, you’ll see the gorgeous ombré effect on paintings, handmade cards, t-shirts, notebook covers, wallpapers, stickers, etc. A high-quality ink blending tool, inks, and cardstock are required to achieve seamless blending.

Handmade card with ink blended background

Mountain Die Set

How Do You Blend Ink?

There are two basic ink blending techniques for beginners: blending directly on paper and using a stencil to add a pattern or design. Here are five quick and easy steps on how to blend inks.

  1. Place your cardstock or paper on your work surface. If you use a stencil, place it over the cardstock and secure it with some low-tack adhesives.
  2. Next, load up your ink blending tool with ink by pressing it onto the ink pad and swiping it from left to right or in a circular motion. Another way is to directly apply ink onto your work surface by swiping the ink pad onto it, then picking up the ink with your tool.
  3. Start by pressing your blending tool onto an inch or two from the corner of your cardstock, making circular motions. 
  4. As you move closer toward the edge of your cardstock, continue making the same circular motions. Keep the same speed, tension, and pressure when you’re blending inks. Make sure that you’re not pressing too hard on the tool. 
  5. Continue blending the ink toward the direction that you want. This will depend on your design or pattern. To create an ink blended background, you usually start from the corner and work your way across and toward the middle. Some prefer to work from the corner toward the center.

Before you start your ink blending journey, make sure to check out our products here!

Detailed ink blending brushes from Altenew

Detailed Blending Brushes

Ink Blending Dos and Don’ts

Are you wondering why your ink background doesn’t look seamless? Do you want to figure out how to smoothen out those harsh lines? Or are you simply looking for the best ink blending tools out there? Here are some dos and don’ts to help you master your blending skills!

Dos!

1. Choose a slick, smooth, and easy-to-clean surface. The most popular options are a crafting mat, a glass mat, or even oven liners. Some crafters would argue, though, that the best surface is a piece of regular printer paper. The surface you choose is crucial because it will help transition from your surface to your cardstock. Remember, your tool needs to glide, and you don’t want it to get caught on the edges. 

2. Choose the right blending tool. Ink blending brushes, sponge, foam, make-up paddle brush - which one suits you best? A blending brush will give you a smoother blend, while finger daubers are great for stencils and smaller and hard-to-reach areas. There’s a wide variety of blending tools in the market, so make sure you find “the one.” Remember: what works for some might not work for you and vice versa.

3. Choose the right paper or cardstock. In the words of the fabulous Jennifer McGuire, “The tool you use is just as important as the surface you work on and the cardstock you use.” You want something high quality, smooth, thick, durable, and can hold a lot of ink. Your ink blending techniques won’t be any good if the quality of your cardstock or paper is terrible. Strathmore Bristol Smooth Cardstock is a favorite among card makers.

Handmade card with ink blending tools from Altenew

Ink Blending Tool - Small (Set of 4)

PRO TIP! If you’re having trouble blending the colors on your cardstock, try switching to a different cardstock or paper brand! This might solve the issue. Remember, not all papers are created equal. Some can hold ink better than others. Some are more compatible with certain types of ink. Always try different brands first before deciding on which one to use.

4. Start with the same color family if you are a beginner and want to achieve a smooth blend. Most companies release inks in sets of 4 shades from the same color family. Blending inks from the same color family will be much easier.

5. Blot off excess ink. You can do this by tapping off your ink blending tool on your surface. This will help get rid of extra inks. By blotting off the ink, you can achieve a nicer and smoother blend.

6. Do you want to create a rainbow ink background on your handmade creation? Instead of adding a third color, you can create a new color by blending two colors! For instance, to get green, combine yellow and blue. Blend each color on the paper first, leaving a space in between, and then blend them toward the middle.

Ink blended background on a handmade card

Layered Geo Cover A & B Die Bundle

7. To avoid harsh lines, ease your grip on the blending tool as you continue to blend around the area. Remember: you have to work quickly to even out those lines!

8. Practice using a stencil. A stencil is excellent for practicing ink blending techniques, especially for beginners. It will help cover any harsh lines or imperfections while you’re still improving your skills.

9. Having trouble choosing which colors to combine? Use adjacent colors on the color wheel! Adjacent colors are the ones that are right next to each other on the color wheel, which can be easily blended and combined. This is crucial to get a nice blend and transition on your blended background. Some examples are purple and blue and yellow and orange.

PRO TIP! If you’re unsure which colors are adjacent, a simple Google search can help sort this out. When in doubt, think of the colors of the rainbow!

Embossed handmade card with blending inks and brushes

Floating Foliage 3D Embossing Folder

10. Keep it juicy and wet. If there’s one thing you absolutely must remember, it’s this: always use fully saturated ink blending brushes or sponges. Your tool needs to be juicy and wet. Make sure you put the right amount of ink on it, especially if it’s new. Why is this crucial? Using a tool that isn’t saturated enough will result in spots and splotchy areas. Ink blending is a wet-on-wet technique; that’s why you need the blending tool to be wet.

11. Always make sure that you’re blending on the right side of the paper or cardstock. Find the side that feels smoother by dragging a clean blending foam over each side.

12. Always start with a juicy and well-inked pad. The juicier, the better! If your inkpads are not as juicy as before, it’s time to use re-inkers! This is something that tends to get overlooked. If you do ink blending A LOT, there’s a great chance that you have to reink your inkpads at least once or twice a month.

PRO TIP: Shake your re-inkers well before using them. While Distress inks are the go-to for creating ink backgrounds, these are notorious for needing reinking more often than other inks.

13. Use a pencil to mark where your colors meet. This is ideal when you are using scrap paper as your work surface. Place a line to divide your cardstock into two, three, four, etc. This will help you with the ratio and ensure that you’re not blending inks into the next area.

14. Always have your baby wipes or wet wipes on hand. Ink blending is super messy. Need we say more? Also, having these wipes on hand will help you clean up your surface and tools right away.

Floral layering stencil and ink blending tools from Altenew

Flower Bunch Simple Layering Stencil Set (4 in 1)

15. Speaking of cleaning - you need to clean your supplies right away - stencils, ink blending tools, work surface, etc. You can wipe them with baby wipes or use water and mild soap. Cleaning your supplies will increase their longevity and avoid any unnecessary ink transfers. 

16. Are you struggling to blend out the harsh lines between two colors? Go back and forth between colors to blend them well and make sure the transition is smooth and seamless. Go in with one color and keep on blending it out with a lighter hand.

17. One of the basic ink blending techniques to remember is to start with the lightest color or shade. Generally, lighter shades are more forgiving. It’s also easier to blend from light to dark.

Handmade cards with small and large ink blending brushes

Crafter's Essential Ink Blending Tool Bundle

18. Put your elbow into it. Literally. Placing your elbow on the table will make blending easier because your wrist is the one doing all the work.

19. Make sure you have enough space. You don’t want to work on a cluttered surface and accidentally knock over some ink or other liquids while blending inks.

20. Always keep the same speed, tension, and pressure as you blend.

21. Pick up your cardstock and look at it from various angles. This will allow you to see any harsh lines or areas that need more blending.

22. Store your tools properly! Some ideas for ink blending tool storage are: 

  • Nail polish holder
  • Lipstick holder
  • Basket
  • Acrylic box
  • Plastic bins
  • Plastic storage box

The video below will show you how our very own Lydia stores her crafting supplies and tools!

Don’ts!

1. Don’t put too much ink on your ink blending brushes or tools! Why? Not only will it take a while to dry, but it will also be harder to blend. It’s always easier to add more ink than to blend out too much ink.

PRO TIP! If you have too much ink on your tool, just blot it off on your work surface or a piece of paper. You can still pick up the ink later or use the paper as scrap.

2. Don’t leave your prints all over your ink blended background! To avoid smudging and inky fingerprints on your cardstock, use a piece of scrap paper, cardstock, or paper towel to place over your ink blended area.

3. Don’t wait too long to blend between colors. It will be harder to blend inks seamlessly if they’re already dry, especially with Distress Inks.

Small ink blending brushes from Altenew

Ink Blending Tool - Small (Set of 4)

4. Don’t forget to place your tools in your ink blending tool storage properly after use. Make sure to clean this storage as well to avoid contamination and transfers.

5. Don’t go in with a heavy hand. Always be light-handed! Think of your tool as a light feather and hold it gently. If you just go in without blotting your ink, you’ll end up with those dreaded harsh lines.

6. Don’t be impatient. It takes time to build up color. Ink blending is a process, and your first few projects will probably not be as smooth as your 10th or 20th.

7. Don’t just lightly tap the tool onto your ink pad. Go in and put a bit of pressure as you swipe left and right, ensuring that every inch of the blending tool gets saturated with ink, especially for dye inks.

8. Don’t forget to replace the foam on your ink blending tools! You can buy refills for the foam in packs of 10. How do you know when to replace the foam? Check if the foam is still firmly attached to the velcro. If one side of the foam is starting to peel off, that means it’s time to replace them. You won’t get smooth blending if the foam is starting to come off.

9. Don’t move the tool - move the paper instead. Moving your tool around might affect the pressure and intensity.

Handmade cards with ink blended backgrounds

Read: Lydia’s Crafty Corner- Ink Blending 3 Ways

10. Don’t forget the ratio of your ink colors. Make sure to divide the areas on your cardstock equally, depending on how many colors you’ll use.

11. Don’t press your ink blending brushes or tools onto the paper. Glide and slide! Make small circles as you blend the inks.

12. Don’t stop practicing! You need constant practice to get a feel of the best ink blending tools, ink colors, and your work surface. Over time, you will learn what motions to use to get the best blend.

13. Don’t give up! If you find that your colors aren’t blending properly or something seems off, take a step back and look at it from another angle. Look for another color that is close to the color that isn’t working well with the others. Then, add that color on top of the one that isn’t blending well. This will give you a chance to salvage your project.

Brush up on your ink knowledge! It's time to learn about the different types of inks for paper crafts!

Large ink blending tools from Altenew

Ink Blending Tool - Large

Best Ink Blending Tools

Now that you understand the dos and don’ts of ink blending, let’s discover the best ink pads for blending and the best tools to use!

1. Ink Blending Tool (With Foam) - This is a staple in every crafter’s stash. The first company to come up with this tool was Tim Holtz. It features a wooden handle and has velcro in the bottom. It comes with a flat round foam that you can stick to the velcro. There are refills available for these foams. Scrapbook.com recently came out with domed blending pads, which are supposedly easier to use with dye inks and pigment inks. These domed blending pads last a bit longer, but they are a bit pricier.

Ink blending brushes and ink pads from Altenew

Altenew Coloring Mixed Media Tools

2. Ink Blending Brushes - This has a modern design and the same features as a standard ink blending tool, but it has a soft brush at the bottom instead of the usual flat foam. These brushes are ergonomically designed, easy to clean, with high-density bristles, and popular among older crafters who find the blending foam and finger daubers challenging to hold and control.

How do you use an ink blending brush?

  1. Take the brush out of its caddy or container.
  2. Press it onto your ink pad, and swipe it from left to right. Make sure that it is fully saturated. You want your brush to be juicy and wet.
  3. Start by tapping off some excess ink on your work surface.
  4. Then, continue blending the ink on your cardstock or paper. Make sure that you are light-handed and maintain the same pressure and speed.
  5. When you’re done, clean the brush using warm water and mild soap or a stamp cleaner. 

Take a closer look at Altenew’s ergonomically designed Ink Blending Brushes!

4. Finger Dauber - This tool comes in a plastic tube with a hole on one end and foam attached on the other end. It comes in different sizes and is excellent for smaller areas. The small finger daubers are ideal for harder-to-reach areas, especially when using an intricate stencil.

5. Stencil Brush - Although these are not as popular as the wooden blending tools, they can also yield a beautifully blended background. It has long bristles, which are hard and stiff. This brush gives a softer look to your projects.

Best ink pads for blending

Altenew Inks

Best Ink Pads for Blending

Generally, this is a personal preference. You can use any ink you like, as long as you’re comfortable with it, and it works well on your handmade projects. Keep in mind that some inks work better than others. You have to experiment and find what works for you!

Here are the more commonly used inks for blending: 

  • Dye ink
  • Pigment ink
  • Distress ink
  • Hybrid ink

PRO TIP! If you are a beginner, it’s easier to practice ink blending with reactive inks or Distress Oxide Inks. Distress inks are so much easier to use; that’s why they’re so popular among card makers and crafters. They blend like butter and render well to a variety of ink blending techniques.

Are you looking for the best ink pads for blending? Choose from our wide range of stamping inks!

Finding the best ink blending tools and inks for paper crafting is only half the battle. It’s crucial to note the dos and don’ts of ink blending that we’ve mentioned here. If you’re going to take away something from this post, always remember to practice your skills and experiment with different supplies and tools.