Types of Ink for Paper Crafts and How to Use Them

9 minute read

Are you looking for the best ink for different types of paper craft? Learn more about the two most popular inks in the world of card making and find out which one suits your needs! Let us fill you in on which ink is best for stamping and answer your burning ink-related questions here in this blog post.

Dye based inks and ink refills from Altenew

Dye based inks and ink refills from Altenew

Throughout history, different types of ink were primarily used for writing and drawing. Thanks to the ancient Chinese that combined fire soot, lamp oil, graphite, and other minerals, Indian ink was created. Various plants were also used by other cultures to dye ink in different colors and forms. According to Thoughtco, Indian ink was “originally designed for blacking the surfaces of raised stone-carved hieroglyphics. It was a mixture of soot from pine smoke and lamp oil mixed with the gelatin of donkey skin and musk.” Since then, there have been so many uses of ink, not just in arts and crafts, but in different industries as well. 

With the advent of papyrus and parchment paper, using ink on paper became more widespread and extremely useful in recording ancient societies’ information. As time went by, new and improved techniques in developing inks, as well as various ink colors, were developed and have helped societies grow. Along with this came the arrival of dye and pigment inks, the two most popular inks for paper craft.

Learn more about inks in paper crafting

Dye based inks in large ink pads and mini ink cubes

Tranquil Harvest Complete Crisp Dye Ink Bundle

Battle of the Inks: Pigment Ink vs Dye Ink - Which Ink Is Best for Stamping?

“What type of ink do I need?” This is one of the most important questions asked by most beginner crafters. It is a pretty important question, especially if your chosen craft involves stamping or any kind of coloring. If you haven’t decided yet on a particular craft, here are a few types of paper craft that use or need inks:

  1. Card making - Card making is one of the best types of craft to try if you want to get inky. There are so many uses of ink in card making - from simple stamping to heat embossing. If you’re a beginner in paper crafting, this is a good place to start.
  2. Scrapbooking - Similar to card making, dye and pigment inks are popular choices for scrapbookers. Archival, lignin-free, and acid-free inks are also ideal for scrapbook pages since these are long-lasting and will ensure longevity of scrapbook pages.
  3. Journaling/Planner Art - Before other types of craft, inks were mostly used for writing. From quills to ballpoint pens, writing tools have greatly evolved since the dawn of time. Journaling, which used to be something private, have turned into a trendy craft that even the younger generation is into. Whether it’s art journaling or planner art, different types of ink are often used to record and convey thoughts and feelings, as well as decorate pages.
  4. Mixed Media Art - While some would argue that mixed media is only for advanced crafters and professional artists, we firmly believe that beginners or inexperienced hobbyists can still give this a shot! Mixed media is a broad term that simply means creating artwork using a combination or variety of medium or materials. It often involves the use of dye and pigment inks, watercolors, alcohol markers, etc.
  5. Acrylic Ink Art or Alcohol Ink Art - Have you seen those gorgeous stained glass art on Pinterest and Instagram? Acrylic ink pouring has been popular among artists and enthusiasts alike because of the stunning and unique artwork that can be created. If abstract painting is your cup of tea, then this is right up your alley.

If you're looking for the best alcohol inks, you can find them here at Altenew.

Different types of inks from Altenew

Altenew Inks

The Difference Between Pigment and Dye Based Ink

What is dye ink?

Ask any card maker or stamper you know and they will tell you why this is the best ink for stamping on paper. If you’re in need of an ink that is ideal for all kinds of paper, then this is it. Since the color substances are dissolved in a liquid, it absorbs into the paper and doesn’t sit on top (like pigment inks). Dye based inks are vibrant, translucent, acid-free, fast-drying, and fade resistant.

Scrapbook page using dye based inks and clear stamps

As the name suggests, this ink sinks in and ‘dye’ the paper or cardstock that it is stamped onto. It is mostly seen in a water-based form (some brands are not waterproof) and has many advantages when it comes to stamping, layered stamping, and mixed media techniques. This type of ink is easy to apply to stamps and dry quickly when stamped onto porous surfaces. Since it dries almost immediately, there is a low risk of smudging or smearing, making it a great choice for beginner stampers.

Pigment ink pads from Altenew

Pigment Inks

What is pigment ink?

If you’ve done your research on what is the best ink for stamping on paper, you’ve probably come across pigment ink stamp pads. According to Wikipedia, pigment is “a colored material that is completely or nearly insoluble in water.” The pigments are “suspended in ink to provide color.” These inks are “more color-fast, more expensive, less consistent in color, and have less of a color range than dye ink pads.” Most professional photographers and fine art dealers and printers prefer using this ink over other types of ink.   

So what is pigment ink? At its core, this ink is a water-proof ink that is opaque, vibrant, and ideal for heat embossing techniques. Since it sits on top of the paper and doesn’t absorb into it, it takes longer to dry. This is the main reason why it is the perfect ink for heat embossing. Pigment ink pads are also more spongy and foamy compared to a dye ink stamp pad. It is thicker and richer and is more fade-resistant.   

To help you figure out the difference between pigment vs dye ink, take a look at the comparison table below.

Obsidian black pigment ink pad from Altenew

Obsidian Pigment Ink

Pigment vs Dye Ink

 Pigment Based Ink

Dye Based Ink

Opaque Translucent
Takes too long to dry Dries almost immediately
More vibrant color Smooth and crisp impression
Foam stamp pad Felt pad
Sits on top of the paper Absorbs into the paper
Prone to smudging Doesn’t smear or smudge
Nice crisp result right away Takes time to smooth out and dry into the paper
Needs to set with heat Appears blotchy at first
Needs reinking more often Stains your finger


Large and small dye inks from Altenew

Large Ink Pads

The battle between pigment vs dye ink isn’t over. Even the best card makers out there will tell you to test different inks and find the one that suits your style and needs. Finding the best ink for stamping on paper is still a personal preference. While dye based inks are more preferred and recommended by card makers and stampers, you can always mix and match other types of ink depending on your project. At the end of the day, both of these inks are useful in a variety of paper crafting techniques and DIY projects. 

Here are other types of ink that are commonly used in various types of craft:

Hybrid Ink

This is relatively new to the stamping market. It has the properties of both dye ink pads and pigment ink pads. It tends to be less reactive with water because of this. However, it is fast-drying and can be used for a wide variety of stamping techniques. It is super vibrant, just like pigment inks, but needs to be given time to smooth out, just like dye inks.

Mixed Media Inks from Altenew

Summer Fun Pigment Ink Bundle

Mixed Media Ink or Fabric Ink

This multi-functional ink can be used on a lot of porous surfaces, such as paper, fabric, wood, and more.  It is an acid-free, archival, and water-based ink. It leaves a gorgeous detailed impression every time. Once heated with a heat gun or iron (on fabric, add an additional cloth layer between the iron and your project, mixed media ink will resist fading. If you want an ink that is great for different types of craft, try this one.

If you want some project inspiration using these inks, watch the video tutorial below.

Embossing Ink

As the name suggests, this ink is made especially for heat embossing. It is a thick, sticky ink that stays wet for a long time unless heat is used to set it. It is usually clear but is also available in other colors. Colored embossing powders are usually utilized along with embossing inks for an added shine and shimmer.

Alcohol Ink

This is a translucent ink that is ideally used on metal, resin, paper, glass, fabric, etc. It works very well on non-porous (thick and compact) surfaces, but you can use it on other surfaces. It is alcohol-based, so it dries quickly and reacts well with alcohol-based solutions.

Acrylic Ink

Acrylic ink is a lightfast and water-resistant medium. It is a water-based ink. It comes in different colors and shades - iridescent, metallic, and fluorescent. Acrylic inks are runny and can be found in opaque, semi-opaque, and transparent formulas, very different from acrylic paint, which is opaque (non-transparent) and gooey. This is a very artist-friendly; it doesn’t smudge, bleed, or fade, and it dries quickly. It is usually used with a pouring medium, a substance with which the inks will be mixed so they can be poured onto a surface.

Distress Ink

If you’ve been an avid stamper or crafter for a while, you’ve heard about Distress inks and Distress Oxide inks. Because this ink stays wet longer than other dye ink pads, it can easily be blended and combined with other colors. This ink is very reactive with water, making it easy to create fun and cool effects with it. It remains to be a favorite among both beginner and experienced stampers.

Dye based inks in mini cubes

Mini Ink Cubes

Different Types of Paper Craft Using Inks

There are so many uses of ink in the world of paper crafting. Stamping, heat embossing, coloring, watercoloring, and more. Of course, you have to remember that different types of craft will need different ink types. You don’t need to stick to just one or two inks. Crafting stores and companies are always finding unique and creative ways to invent paper crafting tools that will inspire makers and crafters.

Check out the different types of craft that you can try at home using your chosen ink!

1. Cardmaking

As discussed above, the most common inks for card making are dye based ink, pigment ink stamp pad, embossing ink, hybrid ink, and Distress ink. The uses of ink in card making vary and depend on the technique and design. It is mostly used in the following card making techniques:

  • Stamping with clear stamps
  • Ink blending
  • Heat embossing
  • Stenciling
  • Alcohol ink art
  • Gel press lift 
  • Embossing folder
  • Debossing folder 

2. Scrapbooking

Similar to card making, scrapbooking art also uses a variety of inks for the same purpose and technique. Aside from stamping and ink blending, scrappers also use black permanent ink for stamping dates or add journaling and notes using fine liner pens and gel pens.

3. DIY decor

Some easy DIY crafts and home decor also use dye and pigment inks, as well as embossing inks and mixed media inks. Alcohol ink art is another popular and trendy DIY decor that you can easily try at home.

4. Journaling

Art journaling has come a long way. Art journal enthusiasts started with simple doodles and stickers, then came colorful washi tapes and gel pens. Nowadays, you can find art journal pages decorated with stamped images, die-cuts, stencil art, and even embossing and debossing folders.

5. Mixed media art

If you can’t figure out the answer to the question “what type of ink do I need”, maybe mixed media art is worth giving a try. With mixed media, you can use two or more inks on any of your crafting projects. You don’t need to stress about choosing the right ink and you can even experiment on multiple types of inks!

Handmade cards created with stamps and dye based inks

Milk Chocolate Crisp Dye Ink

Which Ink Is Best for Stamping and Other Paper Crafting Techniques?

Before you invest in dye and pigment inks, or any ink for that matter, it’s always good to do your research. You need to make sure that you’re comfortable in using whatever ink it is. Don’t just buy the popular ones or something recommended by your favorite crafter. You’re the one who’s going to create projects with these inks so you should get what you want. Buy mini versions of the ink first to test them out. Most crafting companies have mini ink cubes, which have the same colors as their larger ink pads. These are square-shaped, come in sets of 4 or 6, and are travel-friendly. If you have crafty friends who have the inks that you want, then borrow them and try them out first. Remember, every card maker has a different style and preference. What works well for your friends might not work for you, and vice versa. We hope this post has helped you understand the different types and uses of ink in paper crafting.

Curious about the different types of inks we offer at Altenew?
Check out our products.

Your Ultimate Guide to Paper Crafting

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