The choices for art inks can be overwhelming, but are generally divided into two broad types: pigment inks and dye inks. There are also various specialty inks available.
Pigment inks are rich, highly pigmented inks in a thick, sticky base. (The same kind of pigments are used for color in oil colors or acrylic paints.). Because they are thick inks they are usually found on foam pads with clear lids. They are slow drying which makes them perfect for embossing, color blending, or direct-to-paper techniques. They will never dry on glossy or coated surfaces unless embossed. They are permanent, fade resistant, light fast as well as water resistant or water proof when dry or heat set. They are archival and naturally pH balanced. They are easily cleaned with water. All coloring techniques (markers, colored pencils, water colors etc.) can work with pigment inks when they have dried. Look for the word “pigment” in the label.
Dye inks are made from dyes and are made to dry instantly on contact with paper. They produce sharp, detailed images and because they have some transparency can be layered for interesting looks. They are usually found on felt pads and have lids that are opaque. The are NOT fade resistant as a rule, and can be either permanent or not, acid free or not depending upon the components and brand—read your labels! Most art quality dye inks are now manufactured acid free. Waterproof (permanent) dye inks are great for outlining and can be used with markers, watercolors, water color pencils, or other water-based mediums. Non-permanent dye inks are great for blending and watercoloring techniques. Non-permanent dye inks will always smear when exposed to water. Most will dry on non-absorbent papers. Clean-up often requires a stamp cleaner.
- My First Colorbox—a children’s quality ink, washable, basic, and easily cleaned up. It is NOT permanent and will always smudge with water, markers, or any liquid.
Both pigment and dye inks are non-toxic unless otherwise marked.
These are inks that have added components for specific purposes.
- VersaMagic - a pigment chalk ink. This ink leaves behind a beautiful matte finish, dries quickly on lots of surfaces and has an incredible color palette.
- Colorbox Chalk Inks - another chalk finish ink. This is a blended ink having properties' of both pigment and dye inks. They resemble a dye more than a pigment and can dry on any surface with heat setting.
- VersaFine - an oil based pigment ink made to dry instantly on uncoated papers. Gives the opacity of regular pigment inks with the quick drying time of dye inks. Great for outlining.
- StarzOn - a solvent-based ink that can dry on all surfaces, but made especially to dry on non-absorbent surfaces: glass, metal, ceramic, plastic, transparencies. StazOn must be cleaned using cleaners made specifically for it. It is not non-toxic.
- Craft Inks - these are pigment based inks specially made to work on fabric, wood, and other craft surfaces.
- VersaMark—a watermark ink that is slow drying and creates translucent images on paper. It can be used as a binder with powdered micas (Perfect Pearls) and artist chalks; and can also be used as an embossing ink.
- Embossing Inks—these are slow drying mediums made specifically for powder (heat) embossing. They have either no color at all or are lightly tinted.