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Ink Trading Cards

Posted in Ink

On Wednesday (7/20/22), I finished my new ink notebook and shared a video on Instagram and Goulet Pen Co’s Facebook group, Goulet Nation. The Gouletians — I think that’s what they’ve decided we’re calling ourselves — were over the moon and had so many questions and comments, I decided to write up a quick blog post.

First of all, as I mentioned in my last ink catalog post, this format — I’m going to call it ink trading cards — isn’t my idea. Most pen stores use it at pen shows. I really enjoyed the versatility of ink trading cards — you can rearrange the swatches to add and remove colors as you buy new bottles or get rid of old ones.

The main differences to my version of ink trading cards and what you see on tables at pen shows is the size of the book and the type of paper used for the swabs. More on both in a bit.

Tell Us What You Used!

In case the video linked above is enough for you to make your own ink trading card book — should you want to — here’s a list of the supplies I used.

  • Canson Watercolor Paper
  • Small Trading Card Binder – I chose to buy a 2×2 notebook, rather than the 3×3 version you typically see at shows. This was mainly for portability
  • #3 Paintbrush – I’ve found that a #3 size paintbrush is my favorite for largeish swabs. It holds enough ink to give you some shaded areas, but not so much that you can’t also see what the ink looks like when it’s put down lightly. A #4 would work, too.
  • Dip Nib Holder (The linked set actually includes a Zebra G nib)
  • Zebra G Dip Nib
  • Clear Stamp – The one I used came in a set that is no longer available. But searching clear stamp frame on Amazon gives you lots of options.
  • Clear Stamp Block – You’ll have to choose a block based on the size of the frame. Make sure it’s big enough.

Why Watercolor Paper?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m not a huge fan of Tomoe River paper. It’s too thin for my tastes. However, I do like how Tomoe River enhances the properties of any given ink.

You likely know that the less absorbent a paper is, the more it will show sheen and shading. And if you weren’t aware of that, this is because those properties are dependent on the ink drying slowly while I sits on the surface of the paper — as opposed to being quickly absorbed into the paper.

Watercolor paper is developed to keep paint — and water — on the surface so you can mix and/or move colors. I figured this would result in good ink swabs, and I was right. Just look at the shading!

But Didn’t You Say You’ve Swabbed Too Many Inks To Change Your System?

Yep, I did. However, I was more referring to my “all inks” notebook than my “owned inks” notebook. On top of that, since I wrote that post, Jim and I have gotten rid of a lot of our ink bottles. Crossing all of them out was annoying me, as it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing. And covering them all with strips of paper was too time consuming.

So, a few weeks ago, I got fed up enough with my old system and decided to start fresh. But — and it’s a big one — my ink trading cards are only for owned inks, not all inks. I’m not changing the all inks notebook.

Any Tips for Making My Own?

I’m pretty sure you can figure out the swabbing process on your own. But, I’ve got a few hints for you.

Maximizing Paper Usage

Assuming you use the book I linked above, the sleeves hold cards that are 2.5″ wide by 3.5″ tall. And, assuming you use the Canson paper — or other paper 9″ x 12″ — if you don’t lay out the cards properly, you can only get 8 out of a sheet instead of 9. You’ll want to create a 3 x 3 grid where the cards are oriented the same as the paper.

showing the two layout styles. With cards in landscape orientation when paper is in portrait orientation (wrong) and with cards in portrait orientation when paper is in portrait orientation (right)

Make Your Life Easier

Use full-sized scissors to cut the paper. And, if possible, sharpen them first. The watercolor paper is thick, and you want the scissors to help as much as possible. Short-bladed scissors will make you work harder.

If you choose to stamp on a frame of some kind, use a clear stamp for easier alignment. It’s not a necessity, but it will help

Ink Porn

And, with that, I leave you with some aesthetically pleasing photos that may inspire you to create your own ink trading cards.

Thanks for reading to the end, I hope you enjoyed my post. What do you think of this ink catalog method? Do you think you’ll make your own? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

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  1. matthew

    This post inspired me to revamp my ink swatches. I’m using a small binder (5.5×8.5) and found inserts sized for business cards. I also got a corner rounder that seems to add a nice finishing touch to the cards. I started new swatches this weekend and am pretty happy with how they’re turning out.

    August 6, 2022
    • I’m happy you’re happy with your result! The rounded corners are definitely a nice touch. 😊

      August 6, 2022

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