Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mad Science: ColorBox vs StazOn

Lab assistant, ready to assist.
Somehow, I ended up with no black ink.  Everything I had went dry. I had a black Marvy in my bag, but no black ink pads.  So, I headed out and spent way too much on a black ColorBox and a black StazOn ink pad.  I couldn't pick at the store.  I had been fairly faithful to pigment inks in the past, but some fellow letterboxers had been persuading me that StazOn ink might be better.  So, I bought both.  Cuz I can.

I decided to put them in a race to see which type gave better registrations.  My money was on the ColorBox.   So I set up my laboratory, beckoned my lab assistant, and performed the following experiment. 

TL;DR:  I ended up being wrong.


That the ColorBox pigment ink, having chalky pigments in it, will produce a clearer and more evenly distributed stamp registration.

Here is what I bought (each brand new for this little unscientific experiment):  StazON, solvent ink, Jet Black, and ColorBox, pigment, Black.
Some thoughts on the packaging:

The ink pad container itself feels better (read: more sturdy) than the ColorBox equivalent.  When replacing the lid, although not the best, I would trust it to stay closed better than the ColorBox one while on the trail.  Actually, I have had the ColorBox ones open in my bag while on the trail - very annoying, inking up your bag's contents and damaging the ink pad.  Nevertheless, neither container was all that stable, particularly for the price of the things.  When are ink manufacturers going to realize that the containers they make have to withstand major hikes?  Don't answer that...

Assistant supervising
Also, the StazOn smells great.  Almost grape-y.  Delicious even.  Probably something I shouldn't get caught sniffing, though.  The ColorBox doesn't smell like anything.


Using the freshly-opened, brand new stamps and my old signature stamp, ink up and stamp off on the same paper, using the same amount of pressure and time for each.

Observations and Results

Okay, so here you go:
Ink registration test
The registration on the page lines up with each of the inks on the right.  You can see that the StazOn made a clear consistent impression - ColorBox did not.  I was really surprised. Really surprised.  You can't see it here, but the StazOn can be faulted for bleeding a bit - the ink bled across the paper a slight bit following the grains of the paper.  The ColorBox registration was pretty bloppy (technical term) and not very clear at all.  Disappointing.
Ink smear test.

I then performed a dryness test by taking my pointer finger and running it from the top of the page to the bottom.  As you can see from the photo on the right, despite clearly depositing quite a bit of ink, the StazOn smudged far less than the ColorBox registration below.  Again, disappointing.

Finally, I wondered about bleed through.  About mid-way through my very first letterboxing logbook, I stopped using both sides of the page to take impressions as I was getting a horrible mess due to bleed through but also smudging across the page when the logbook was closed.

So I flipped the images over and took the photo below.  As you can see, the StazOn bled through the page completely.  The image on the reverse was almost as good as the image on the front.  As for the ColorBox image, in the photo you can see the image on the reverse, but there wasn't actually any bleed through.

Ink bleed through test


So the final outcome for me was that the StazOn was superior in getting quality impressions, though I would be concerned about super-fine-detail carves where even a slight bleed may affect the quality of the registration. I'll be taking the StazOn out on the trail, but keep the ColorBox on hand for carves I know are going to be highly detailed.


  1. I'm convinced. Where did you buy the StazOn?

    And what kind of paper were you using?

    I've never had good luck with ColorBox. I have the petal set, and no matter how long I leave them to dry (e.g. 4 months once) I still get ink transfer from one page to another. I won't use them on the trail at all, and I'm even hesitant to use them for things like bookmarks or cards.

    I'd be curious to see the StazOn compared to the Dew Drops. I'm very happy with my Tsukineko inks (they do the Kaleidacolor as well).


    1. I bought the StazOn at the Michael's in Markham, although I've seen it at other Michael's locations as well. I think they're selling them in the neighbourhood of $14 each, which I think is a sin, so I'll be looking for a different supplier since I've fallen instantly in love with them...

      I've never tried Tsukineko inks - but I have a Kaleidacolor and the StazOn is the same kind of dye-type ink as that is. There's a big craft fair in Toronto that I went to last fall - I'm hoping all of the scrapbook people will be there again because they had some pretty fantastic prices on ink pads. And Marvys.

  2. Interesting presentation Dr. Bumble. I would like to add a qualitative analysis piece to the finale report.

    I too use both ink pads and have much to share. StazOn is fantastic for images, specifically those images with strong lines. I use my StazOn for my personal image as well as for some of the bolder (stencil, graffiti type carves). I like colorbox MUCH MUCH better for their coloured stamps. There is a lot of selection and the colours are vibrant - which I love.

    I agree the construction of the container is better with the StazOn, and colourbox- specially the dew drops or stackers are always coming apart and inking my bag.

    However, by far colorbox lasts longer. I feel like in the time it takes to sneeze my StazOn dries out. Also, the little plastic sheet you have to keep on to avoid the stamp from drying out is a royal pain to deal with when you are trying to stamp an image in the forest.

    I also have a Ditto stamp pad that has lasted me two years of regular use. Who would have thought.. but lets not rule those little guys out completely.

    1. Hmm... Interesting. Since I saw you last, I have been relying almost entirely on the trail for colours on my ColorBox rainbow set (this one, but primary colours: http://www.amazon.com/Clearsnap-Colorbox-Pigment-Paintbox-2-Option/dp/B0013JT7BU/ref=pd_sbs_ac_7) and I have been more happy with that then the ColorBox black that I used above. Makes no sense. Further experiments, ahoy!