It’s really hard to come up with a limited list of favorite items! There are a lot of products I use, and I love most of them. However, there are definitely a set of products that are my go-to’s.
My Favorite Stampin’ Up! Products
I have a whole page dedicated to what I think are the must-have, uniquely Stampin’ Up! products!
My Favorite Stamp Sets
My favorites tend to change on a regular basis, so I will continue to update this page periodically. Regarding Stampin’ Up! stamps, I will only list sets that you can purchase (i.e. sets not retired). The problem is that they regularly retire some of my favorites! Anyway, here are my current favs:
- Stampin’ Up!: Garden in Bloom, Watercolor Wings, Hardwood, and Labeler Alphabet for making your own sentiments. I also love the Pocketful of Sunshine bundle.
- Simon Says Stamp: Artful Flowers (great for both stamping and coloring), Best Fishes with matching dies, Stripe Greetings, Drawn Hearts, and Birthday Balloons.
- Ellen Hutson: All Inside stamps with matching dies and matching Bear Ware Stamps, and Mondo Poinsettias.
- Altenew: Totally Tropical, You Are, Persian Motifs, and Label Love.
- Mama Elephant: Page Huggers, Three Amigos, and Woodland Gifts.
- My Favorite Things: Happy Pandas, The Whole Herd, You Make My Tail Wag, and Cool Cat.
- Lawn Fawn: Lucky Stars, Love You S’More, and Scripty Sayings.
- Paper Smooches: Chubby Chums and Slang Gang
- Impression Obsession Cover-a-Cards: Fluff and Sketched Roses.
- Gerda Steiner Designs: Monster Fun and Gopher It
Did you know that I have made all the stamp sets on my blog searchable? For example, if you enter “tiny stars” into the search box (located in the right margin), you’ll see a list of my blog posts that use that set.
My Favorite Inks
I do a lot of embossing, so Versamark is probably my top choice here.
My second favorite inks are the Distress Oxide inks (yes, better than the regular distress inks!). My favorite colors are Picked Raspberry, Spiced Marmalade, Fossilized Amber, Cracked Pistachio, Lucky Clover, Peacock Feathers, Faded Jeans, and Wilted Violet.
I still do love the regular distress inks, too. My favorite colors are Broken China, Chipped Sapphire, Peacock Feathers, Salty Ocean, Peeled Paint, Cracked Pistachio, Evergreen Bough, Twisted Citron, Squeezed Lemonade, Scattered Straw, Spiced Marmalade, Ripe Persimmon, Barn Door, Worn Lipstick, Picked Raspberry, Dusty Concord, Seedless Preserves, Wilted Violet, Antique Linen and Walnut Stain.
If you’re wondering what kind of black ink to buy, check out my Black Ink Review for details on what brand of ink to use with the various mediums.
So you ask, what about StazOn? I don’t use it much, but it is a must for stamping on acetate. Because it’s permanent and won’t bleed, it’s a great ink for watercoloring too.
My Favorite Paper
It’s really important to use the right paper with the right medium. For Stampin’ Up! inks, you really need to use Stampin’ Up! cardstock. I buy Whisper White like it’s going out of style. The paper absorbs the ink beautifully – these products were designed to work together. I compared the use of Stampin’ Up! ink on Stampin’ Up! paper and Neenah paper with some photos in THIS POST.
For Copics and colored pencils, I use Neenah Solar White cardstock. The Neenah cardstock really blends the Copics well with not a lot of bleeding. And, for colored pencils, this cardstock allows for a really smooth application. When I use SU cardstock with colored pencils, the color goes on really waxy and doesn’t blend very well.
As far as colored cardstock goes, I use mostly Stampin’ Up!, since they match all my ink pads and the quality is fantastic. I also use Stampin’ Up! black cardstock consistently. Aside from Stampin’ Up!, I love Simons Says Stamp Fog cardstock – it is the perfect subtle background color you can use if you need to tone down your white. Another must-have is Hero Arts Black Notecards. If you want a black base, these notecards are perfect because the inside is white – I buy multiple packs at a time.
I also make sure I have watercolor paper handy. I use a few different brands, depending on the application…
- 90 lb Strathmore. It’s thick but not too thick, and it has a fairly smooth surface so you can still heat emboss on it. It doesn’t pill up or tear when you apply water to it. I generally use this paper when I’m covering the whole thing with color. As with most watercolor paper, it’s not pure white.
- Canson XL Mix Media Paper. This paper is also 90 lb, however, it feels a lot thinner than the Strathmore. The reason I love it is because it’s pure white, and it doesn’t pill up easily. It’s also easier to matte onto another layer because it’s thinner. It does warp a little more than others because of it’s so lightweight. It’s my go-to paper.
- Ranger Watercolor Paper. The best characteristic of this cardstock is that it is very bright white. It also has a nice texture and it’s thicker than the above two papers. The problem is that is pills up easily. I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners, but it’s a beautiful paper for watercolor applications that don’t require a lot of brushing.
If you’re a regular blog reader, you know that I am not a huge fan of patterned paper. The busy patterns throw off my designs! That being said, I like basic, subtle paper that looks like something I could have stamped… monochromatic dots, stripes, chevron, etc. My favorite papers are Lawn Fawn Let’s Polka and Avery Elle Brights. There are other colors in these same patterns.
My Favorite Tool Basics
As far as the necessities, I prefer these:
- Heat Tool – I use a Stampin’ Up! heat tool. It has two settings – low and high. The low setting is slow, but it really helps to avoid warping, especially when heating vellum. It’s also very quiet, which is great if you craft when everyone else in the house goes to sleep!
- White Gel Pen. I have used several different brands and the Uniball Signo Broad Tip Pen is the absolute best. It comes out solid and bright. I will say, however, that if you plan to use it for handwriting in small print, it might be a little difficult. It has a lot of ink coming through, so fine lines are not what it’s good for.
- For covering a panel of white cardstock with ink, you need an Ink Blending Tool. I started with 8 of these in a spinning rack that holds them. After awhile, I upgraded with 8 more and added the spinner rack extension. I find that 8 is about the minimum you need without having to constantly switch the pads that are adhered with velcro. So, I have one for pinks and reds, one for yellows, one for blues, etc. When I added the additional 8, I used them for lighter colors (i.e. one for light pinks, one for light greens, etc.). In my Dye Ink Comparison, I tested ink blending with six different ink brands, in case you need help with choosing good inks for this technique.
- For inking edges in a very small and subtle way, I use sponge daubers. These little finger-fitting ink applicators allow you to be very precise in your ink application. They are great for small things like leaves, owls, and just when you want a fine edge of color. As with the ink blending tools, I have one for each color family, and then some. I store them in this Storage Box.
- I do all my work on a Ranger craft sheet. It is awesome and completely indestructible. I heat emboss on it, ink on it, glue on it, you name it. All it takes is a little wipe with a cloth and it’s back to its original condition. One thing though – if you wrap a present on your craft sheet, a scissor will cut it. 🙂
- I use an absorber to clean my stamps. It’s great for dye inks and Distress oxide inks. It uses just water, so it’s safe and very inexpensive! I purchased this large sheet several years ago and have cut it into pieces to use. I have only gotten a fraction of the way through it.
- One of the handiest tools I own is a Pick Me Up Stick. It has a sticky side that will lift up all sorts of small items – tiny die cut pieces, owl eyes, and sequins. The other side is a pop-out acrylic tool that has a chisel tip (to help remove items from the sticky side) and a pointy tip (which you could also use as a paper piercer). I seriously love this tool.
- Used as both an adhesive and a tool, it’s surgical tape, aka micropore tape and thin paper tape. Whatever you call it, it’s incredibly useful. I would even venture to say I use it every day. Yes, every day. I use it for taping cardstock to stencils and dies to cardstock. It also makes inlaying dies a cinch! It’s inexpensive and reusable.
- I also use my T-square regularly. It’s great for drawing guidelines for stamping – it uses one side of your cardstock as a base for creating a perpendicular line.
- Do you ever accidentally smudge ink on your beautiful card, usually during the finishing stage? Yes, I’m familiar. That’s why you need a sanding block. Use it in wide motions for best results. Most of the time you can’t even see the smudge anymore.
- Another tool I use a lot is my MISTI. I have both the large version and the small version. Although I use both, I would recommend purchasing the larger one because it gives you more options for different techniques. You can watch my MISTI review for more detail. If you have a lot of wood-mounted stamps, you’ll need a Stamp-a-ma-jig for stamp placement, as the MISTI does not accommodate wood-mounted stamps.
- If you have clear stamps, you need a set of acrylic blocks. At the beginning, I had a mish-mosh of different blocks in various sizes by various companies. At some point, I ordered the Stampin’ Up! Acrylic Block Bundle. They are ergonomic, beautiful, and high quality. I store them in my carrying case, and I never have to reach for any other block – this set takes care of all my needs.
- Of course, a big-time necessity is a paper trimmer. I’ve been through all kinds – plain blades, rotary blades, choppers, etc. It’s weird how so many of them just don’t cut a straight line! (Um, or maybe it’s user error!). I used the ekTools Trimmer for a long time and was very happy with it. However, the extension arm kept breaking (I admit it was my fault every time for leaving the arm sticking out past the table). Now, I primarily use two trimmers:
- Fiskars Procision Trimmer – This trimmer is relatively expensive, but it’s fantastic. You can see my review of this trimmer for more detail. It cuts a straight line every. single. time. I use it for pretty much everything, except small cuts. Cutting a small piece off a big piece is no problem, but when you’re cutting a small piece from a small piece you need something else…
- Fiskars personal trimmer – Very inexpensive, but the lines are average-straight. It goes down to 1/16″ (a big plus), so I really only use it for small things.
- Finally, I love my Sizzix Big Shot. I started with a Cricut machine. Then I moved to a Silhouette. But honestly, the Sizzix is just so simple. No cartridge and keypad, no pressure dials, no sticky sheet that moves, etc. Granted, it’s not nearly as flexible and you can’t cut all different sizes, but sometimes less is more.
My Favorite Copic Colors and Accessories
With 358 colors, how can you choose? I recently went into my craft room and asked myself, “If I had to start over, what would I purchase?”
I really like 3-color combos, as it gives you enough color variation to blend. So, I pulled out my favorite combinations and colored some examples for you. I would choose the combos you like below and start there. As far as E’s go, I would choose your favorite. And, I would get either the W or C set to start. Click the image to enlarge:
I also recommend getting the Colorless Blender.
My color chart shows all the colors I currently own. I also use this chart to decide which markers to use.
My 2016 Copic Usage chart shows how many times I used each of my markers to create a card. For example, I used the W1 marker on 19 cards in 2016. The most popular color!
You’ll also need Copic-friendly paper and ink. I use Neenah Solar White cardstock and Memento inks, Tuxedo Black (at Ellen Hutson or Simon Says Stamp) and Rich Cocoa (at Ellen Hutson or Simon Says Stamp).
For drawing outlines, this handy pack of Copic liners is amazing – I use them for lots of things, not just for Copics.
My Favorite Watercolor Products
There are so many great products when it comes to watercoloring your cards! The most basic watercolor supply you need is watercolor paper (see Paper section above).
When it’s time to apply color, these are the products I use regularly…
- Distress Markers – my favorite use for distress markers is watercolor. You can color direct to paper and blend, or pickup the color from a craft sheet and apply. It’s one of the easier ways to watercolor.
- Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers – another very easy-to-use watercolor medium. Using markers is great for beginners because it gives you more control over where the color goes. These colors are bright and very easy to blend. For more detail on these markers, see my Zig Marker Review and Tutorial.
- Inktense Pencils – You can get very precise with your coloring when you use these pencils. They have beautiful, bright colors, and they are very easy to use, especially for beginners. I like to use them for smaller areas, like coloring animals and smaller flowers. You can also create gorgeous backgrounds with them, but it takes a little longer because your color source is a pencil and not a large palette.
- Peerless Watercolors – These watercolors come on a swatch of paper, believe it or not. The amount of color that is released from this paper is truly amazing. These watercolors are a little more difficult to use, but the results you can get with multiple layers is truly artistic. If you want to take your coloring to the next level, these watercolors are the way to go. You can check out my Peerless Watercolor Review for more information. I would purchase the basic pack AND the bonus pack.
- Gansai Tambi Watercolors – These watercolor paints are different because of their opacity. They go on much thicker than your typical watercolor, yet you can thin them down with more water. I often use these paints for splatters because the splatters don’t fade away. Similar to the Peerless, they are a little more on the advanced side, but they give fantastic results, especially for backgrounds.
My absolute go-to tool for watercoloring is an Aqua Painter. Stampin’ Up! sells them in a two-pack, one has a thin tip and the other is thicker. Ranger also sells a wide waterbrush that is much larger and works great for backgrounds. You can use a regular old paintbrush, and sometimes I do, but I love how these brushes have a built-in water tube that supplies water to the brush automatically. It helps me control the amount of water I’m using much better than a brush.
My Favorite Dies and Die-Cutting Accessories
After a lot of research, I chose to invest in the Simon Says Stamp frame dies – rectangles, squares, circles, and ovals. They have stitching on the positive and negative (inside and outside) for maximum versatility. You can buy them all in a set HERE.
At some point I decided that I needed every size circle imaginable, so I bought the We R Memory Keepers Nested Circle Dies. Seriously, it’s a bargain for all those circles. I use them ALL the time.
For hearts, I love the Little B Heart Dies. There are 11 dies in this set with separate cross-stitched dies that you can use on the inside and outside if you want.
My favorite word dies are Simon Says Stamp’s Happy Birthday, Congratulations, and You dies, and Lawn Fawn’s Happy Birthday border die. Or, create your own word with Neat & Tangled’s Journaling Alphas.
For the Sizzix Big Shot, I highly recommend you purchase some mylar shims. They are inexpensive, and they help add just a little more pressure for dies that need a deeper cut. I cut them in half so I can layer multiple shims if necessary.
My Favorite Embellishments
I really don’t use a lot of embellishments on my cards. I use a lot of string, but mostly in neutral colors. I love Stampin’ Up! Linen Thread, which matches pretty much anything. I also love plain white bakers twine. If you like colored string, you can dye this white string with ink and water to match your card.
I also love Doodlebug Black Beetle Twine. It’s festive and adds a little extra punch to a card without adding color.
When I go for sequins, many times I use Simons Says Stamp Moonshine pack. There are loads of sequins in this little pack, and there are multiple sizes. They give the perfect amount of shine. I also use Stampin’ Up!’s Metallic Sequin Assortment. Again, all neutral stuff, but it works for my style. 🙂
My Favorite Embossing Powders
Notice that most are fine or ultra-fine. I think you get the most detailed image with fine powder.
Beyond the basics, I love these specialties: Ranger Enchanted Gold (a delicate and glittery gold) and WOW Sparkling Snow (seriously great for snow). I also like many of the other WOW glittery embossing powders – I used several on this post.
My Favorite Adhesives
There’s nothing cool about this category, so it’s last, lol! I use my ATG gun for adhering pretty much everything. It’s a little bulky, but you get used to it, and it’s very economical. For small things, thin things, and string, I typically use the Zig Two-Way Glue Pen. This glue pen is so easy and it sticks fast – no waiting and holding.
For adhering items onto odd surfaces, such as glitter or embossed paper, I use Tombow Mono Multi Glue. This stuff sticks incredibly well, and it gives you a little time to wiggle things around before it dries.
For popping up card pieces like flowers and little animals, I use Stampin’ Up! Dimensionals. You can cut them into small pieces easily. For popping up large pieces or whole card panels, I use Scotch Foam Tape. I actually buy it in bulk.
And for super-stick, I use mini glue dots. You can roll them into a ball or into a snake – and it ain’t coming off.
Okay, I think that covers it. Wow, that’s a lot of stuff!