Side Project: Embossing Powder Comparison

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It’s ironic. Twice in the last month I’ve held off on working on a post until Friday, when I am off from work, and can take some pictures of my projects in daylight, which is supposed to be the best light.  Both times, it rained all Friday long, and was almost as dark at points as it is when I come home from work.

Oh well. On to the project.

I was so annoyed by my embossing failure on this card that, even though I’m supposed to be on a buying moratorium, I went online and ordered a variety of different embossing powders, to see how they worked.  Maybe the Stampendous powder I buy at Michaels just isn’t very good.  I bought a couple different brands in the colors I use most — black, white, clear and gold.

Black — Tsukineko Imagine and Ranger

White — Zing Opaque White and Wow! White Pearl

Clear — Judikins Clear Detail and Hero Arts Ultra Fine Detail

Gold — Zing and Hero Arts

 

SP1powders

 

I compared them as well to what I already had, which was Stampendous Clear, Midnight Black, Detail Gold, and Martha Stewart Antique Gold. (I think that’s what it’s called, it’s been a while since I bought it. Maybe Florentine Gold, I don’t remember and it doesn’t say on the bottle.)

I cut up some scrap cardstock to try them out, and chose two stamps — a Recollections starfish, for a solid image, and Hero Arts’ Nightflower, for a fine line image.

I tried to follow good technique, as well, to do the best job with each powder — I dusted each page with my Embossing Buddy to minimize static cling:

 

SP1buddy

 

and I used Versamark ink for each sample, which is good embossing ink, so each powder would have a good base to cling to.

SP!versa

 

For the pictures I took, I just used the Autocorrect feature of my photo software, so each image would be treated the same  and not excessively manipulated.

 

Black Powder:

 

Tsukineko Imagine Black

 

SP1TsukB1

This powder is OK, I think.  I don’t think the coverage on the starfish is great — it’s pretty, hm, bubbly, or rumpled.  But the detail on the Nightflower image is good.

 

Ranger Black Super Fine

 

SP1rangerB1

 

The coverage and the detail are good on this one, better than the Tsukineko I think, but what I don’t like  is how much of the stray powder scattered around and stained the cardstock away from the image, as you can see between the starfish and the flower.  Even when I used the Embossing Buddy.  I supposed you can attribute that to user error, but I was as careful with this sample as I was with the rest, and even when I blew the stray powder away, it still stained the paper.  Very annoying.

 

Stampendous Midnight Black

 

SP1stampendousB1

This is the powder whose shoddy results inspired me to conduct this experiment.   And rightly so — the results here are genuinely bad.  Both images are only partially embossed — the rest of the image is only a blurry, flat black line where the powder either sunk into the paper, or blew away upon application of the heat gun, leaving only enough embossing to color the paper.  You can see it better in this close-up of the flower:

 

SP1StampendousB2

The light hits the embossed parts, and the rest — which is most of the image — is flat and dull.

You can also see the very uneven coverage on the starfish as well:

SP1stampendousB3

No wonder I have been getting such bad results!

 

White Powder

Zing Opaque Finish White

This powder is unusual in that it is very coarse, far coarser that the other powders we are working with here:

 

SP1Zingcoarse

 Not coarse enough to be called UTEE though. I wonder how it will affect the results.

 

SP1zingW1

 

I think it looks good.  Coverage on the starfish is good, it’s bright and opaque.  But the detail on the lines of the Nightflower is also good. I like it.  No stray powder elsewhere on the cardstock.

Here’s a close-up:

SP1zingW2

 

Wow White Pearl Regular

 

SP1wowW1

 

This was a surprise.  Although it’s called “White Pearl,” and the powder looks white in the jar, when embossed, it definitely comes out silver, as you can see.  Didn’t expect that.  It’s interesting, but it sure ain’t white. So much for that.

 

Clear Powder

On these samples I have sponged some ink over the embossed images, so you can see them better.

Judikins Clear Detail

 

SP1judiCL1

(Sorry, this was the first sample I made and my starfish stamp was dirty.)

All in all I think this is pretty good, good coverage on the star and good detail on the flower.  No complaints.

 

Hero Arts Ultra Fine Clear

 

SO1HeroCL1

 

Good coverage on the starfish, but for an “ultra fine” powder, I think the lines on the flower look a little burry.  I think I like the Judikins better.

 

Stampendous

 

 SP1StampendousCL1

 This has both better coverage and better detail than the Stampendous black powder which was so unsatisfactory above. I’m surprised.  I like it better than the Hero Arts, even. Hm.

Here’s a close-up.  It is also shinier than the Hero Arts powder.

 

SP1StampendousCL2

 

Gold Powder

Zing Metallic Gold

 

SP1zingG1

 

I quite like how bright, shiny, and golden this powder looks.  But I am disappointed in the lack — indeed the opposite  — of detail on the flower.  Many of the lines are blurred completely together.

You can see this better in close-up, particularly in the center and bottom right:

 

SP1zingG2

 

Hero Arts

 

SP1heroG1

 

This gold embossing powder has a soft, almost frosted finish and color that I quite like.  It is not as brassy as the Zing.  But again, I am disappointed in the lack of detail on the Nightflower.

 

Stampendous Detail Gold

 

SP1StampendousG1

 

This is not good.  it is an ugly, yellowish color, not shiny, and for a “detail” powder, it is very blurry and pebbled both on the stafish and the flower. Very displeased.

 

 

Martha Stewart

 

 SP1msG1

 

I am quite pleased by the detail offered by this powder. Look how clear the lines on the Nightflower are. But comparing it to some of the others, I don’t quite like the brassy, yellowish color.  Not that shiny, but an unpleasant yellow.  Maybe I should try mixing this and the Zing powder together and see what I get.

Here is a close-up, and you can see both how finely detailed it is, and the almost jaundiced yellow color.

 

SP1msG2

 

Results

So, brand to brand, the Stampendous did not come off well, with two of the three Stampendous powders I have performing poorly.  The Hero Arts did not come off as well as I expected from such a premium brand, lacking detail on both samples — although I do like the unusual soft color of the gold powder.  Of the brands in which I have more than one sample, I think I like the Zing best overall, both samples having good coverage and bright color.

The WOW White Pearl powder also has good coverage and detail, but the color is hardly as advertised, so I might be leery of buying any other WOW powders.  The Ranger and Tsukineko are OK.

Colorwise, for the gold, I don’t really have a favorite.  I like the Zing for its shininess, the Hero Arts for its unusual color, and the Martha Stewart for its detail.  I will just have to be careful and use them each for different things.

For white, it would have to be the Zing, as the WOW powder is — not white.  I do think the Zing is quite bright and white.

For the clear, I like the Judikins best.  The Stampendous clear performed better than the other Stampendous colors, but I won’t be running out to buy any more.

For the black, I wasn’t thrilled with any of them. But if I had to pick one, it would be the Ranger, although I am displeased with how much stray powder ended upon the sample. One would just have to be extra, extra careful with it.  Black embossing is just problematical.

I notice, also, that whether a powder is “fine detail” or not doesn’t actually seem to represent how well it will perform on that front.

The upshot is, I threw out the Stampendous powders.  They only cost me a few bucks, I’ve had them forever, and they are noticeably inferior to the other brands.  Why keep them around when I have better options?

I hope this little experiment helps some people.  I know I learned a lot.  Heat embossing is so cool and fun, we always want to do it, but we see here that the results you get can vary widely.  And even a small jar of powder lasts for a long time.  It’s worth it to experiment a little to find a powder you are happy with, I think.  I hope I have given you some guidance on that front.

UPDATE DECEMBER 2015:  Since writing this post, I no longer heat-emboss with black powder at all.  It just doesn’t give good results, and isn’t worth the trouble.  When I want black embossing now, I stamp with black pigment ink and emboss with clear powder.   The ink I use to stamp is VersaFine Onyx Black — an oil-based pigment ink that stamps really dark black and is very crisp and detailed, good for sentiments. Embossing with clear powder means you don’t have to worry about stray black specks getting embossed accidentally onto your project either.  Just a much better way to do it.  I recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 responses »

  1. Thanks for doing this. I am having trouble finding a good quality embossing powder and your test has helped me to narrow down some of my selections. Thanks MUCHO!

  2. Thanks so much for doing this! I’m looking at whites right now, and bookmarked it for future reference for the others. I appreciate your sharing the results of your efforts.

  3. Great comparison. Thank you so much. The greatest white I ever used is the: “Wow! Opaque Bright White – regular or superfine”. It’s really a white white.

  4. Thank you so much for the time and money to do this video. I love to emboss and was looking at adding to my collection, but wanted to buy better than some I have. This has helped me a lot. One of my favorites is the Whispers Pearl Glitter Enchanted Gold. The color is a very nice soft gold. I purchased it at Pat Catans. I have a number of different brands, but have had good results with the Whispers. I was thinking of ordering the Judkins Glow in the Dark embossing powder. I think I will.

  5. Have you ever compared Stampin Up embossing powders? They are more expensive, but I’m wondering if it is worth it.

  6. Excellent! Thanks for doing this, believe it or not, i am brand new to heat embossing and this was very helpful!

    All the best!
    Della

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