Direct to Paper Inking

Ink isn’t just for stamping! There’s another technique called direct to paper inking. Whether you’re using patterned or plain paper, cardstock or specialty papers, you can personalize your paper (and metal!) with an ink pad and a few easy techniques.

What’s Direct to Paper Inking?

Direct to paper (or DTP) inking simply means applying color from an ink pad directly onto the paper. You can touch the pad to the paper, swipe, edge or press the ink onto the paper; you can also add definition to crumpled paper.

What Do You Need?

All you need is your paper and a rubber stamping ink pad. Brown and black ink pads are perfect—black is crisp and provides definition, while brown gives a softer effect.

There are a lot different types of ink pads to choose from, but any type will work for this technique. Just remember: Pigment ink takes a long time to dry and some dry only when heat-set—you might prefer using dye-based ink pads to minimize the wait.

Whatever ink pad you choose, it’s best to test it first on a piece of scrap paper before you use it on your real project. Start with a light touch, and add more color if you want. The more you use your ink pads, the better you’ll know how much pressure to apply for which effect. New ink pads are “juicy” so use a light touch. In time, the ink pad will become a bit drier so you’ll need to use more pressure.

Another must-have? A box of baby wipes is indispensable for keeping your hands clean!

Edging Your Paper

Inking just the edge of your paper adds definition between papers, around the outside edge of a card or between a photo mat and the background paper. To ink the edges, simply hold your paper at an upright angle and run it against the edge of your ink pad. This technique looks great on torn edges, too!

Heavier Inked Edges

Want to add even more color? Give your paper an edge of ink. Simply place your paper face up on a piece of scrap paper. Remove the lid of your ink pad and turn it upside down. Gently tap it onto the edge of your paper. Repeat for more color. For a different effect, you can also skim the ink pad across the paper. The amount of pressure you use is key in determining the outcome. Our tip? Don’t try to line up the edge of the ink pad from placement to placement. The irregular edge gives a vintage effect!


Ready to take direct to paper inking to another level? Try distressing your paper before inking for an even more dimensional look. Crumple your paper into a ball, then uncrumple and smooth. Place the paper on a flat work surface, with a piece of scrap paper underneath, then skim the ink pad over the top of the paper. The creases you’ve created will get more coverage, resulting in peaks and valleys of color on your paper.

Creating a Shadow Block

Take a look at your favorite ink pad: Is the pad linen, spongy, smooth? Simply tap that pad directly onto your paper and you’ve instantly transferred the texture of the ink pad. This technique works best with very light ink pads. Transfer the ink to the center of a card front, then use black ink to stamp an image or phrase inside the “shadow block”.

Instant Vintage

Love the look of old, creased papers? You can get the same look with a light brown ink pad. Simply fold your paper, then run the ink pad along the folded edge. Unfold and smooth out the paper. Voila: Instant vintage! This technique looks great on paper patterned with old-world text or images.

Another technique for old-world style is to cut notches with scissors randomly around the outside edge of your paper. (Small scissors work best for this.) Gently roll the paper at one of the notches, and skim the edges with an ink pad. Repeat until all notches have been inked, then edge the rest of the edge of the paper. This is a great pirate, treasure map or vintage look.

Direct to Metal

You can even apply your ink pad directly on metal for a cool vintage effect. You’ll need a StazOn ink pad, which is designed to work on paper as well as non-porous surfaces like metal. Place your metal piece on scrap paper, then tap the ink pad directly on top. Ink brads by holding the brad by its legs, then tapping the top of the brad onto your ink pad. Let dry for a few minutes and you’re ready to go.

It’s fast, it’s easy—and direct to paper inking gives you lots of options for unique cards and layouts!