Debbie Gimbel

  • 07 Apr 2007 13:16
  • 37

Featured Artist: Debbie Gimbel
Debbie Gimbel lives in Orlando, Florida. Before her kids came along, she designed computer systems, and then stayed home to raise her children. She is the mom of two rather nice teen-age daughters and married to a really wonderful man who doesn't think his wife is crazy because she likes "to color" just like kids do! She is a friend to many wildly funny and enthusiastic stampers who make her want to come up with lots of unique ways to use their stamps. She teaches all sorts of rubber stamping classes at Impressions from the Heart in Orlando and Romances in Leesburg. Contact Debbie at

Merry Christmas cardDebbie says:
I have been in love with color forever. I have been creating things for a very long time, as well. But I did not take up the art of rubber-stamping (I was a dabbler) until a year and a half ago. Our oldest daughter was going off to University, so to help I took a part time job at a stamp store. I decided to delve into rubber-stamping.

Stampers focus on different aspects of the art. I wanted to focus on color, as that is what's eye candy for me. But I hit a brick wall. The waterbased markers the majority of stampers use to color their work drove me wild. I wanted to create beautiful, flawlessly blended color. Instead I ended up with smeared ink and pilled paper. I decided to investigate Prismacolor Art Pencils. I found I did not like the blending effect of white pencil. Then I discovered an old artists' trick to blending pigment called "spirit wash," which relies upon mineral spirits. I think that lately it has been avoided because we've become so environmentally aware in the artists' studio. But there are now odorless, studio-grade mineral spirits on the market with extended safe working time. By no means, embark on this color adventure with hardware store mineral spirits.I have taught the "Magic Colored Pencil" technique to about 75 stampers in the past year and not one has reported any ill effects.

Having decided upon the blending engine, I then needed a vehicle to manipulate it and found stumps to be the ideal solution. The results have been pure magic: no ink or paper damage, supremely controllable color, easy, pretty, and I have a portfolio of comments from very happy stampers.

Technique: The Magic Colored Pencil—How to use Prismacolor Art Pencils with rubber stamps

What is a stamper?
What separates a STAMPER from a stamper? Once you can ink, stamp and emboss with ease, I think it's the ability to create magic on paper with color. There are many different mediums to use for color, and each has different needs from you to make it as effective as possible.

Before we start, I want to urge you to purchase some kind of notebook that is dedicated to stamping. In it you can place class hand-outs, ideas you see in catalogs or magazines, and, most importantly, pages devoted to images. First of all, you'll know what you have, and second of all you'll begin to note what works for your stamps. I begin with the personality of the stamp - this one's foot needs more pressure, that one needs a little or a lot of ink. Then I start to work the stamp. If I like the color choices, I note these by their identifying number. Note, too, what you used to blend, how you blended and any problems you had. I even book the entire card, or an image mounted on layers if I like the way it looks. It's really a time saver not to keep reinventing your creations. You need only to flip to a stamp's page to find all the colors you used.

Colored pencil is one of my favorite techniques for coloring. Part of the reason that I like it so much is that it doesn't fade, you can't overwork the paper, it affects the inked image in no way at all, the color range is terrific AND YOU CAN USE AN ERASER!!!

What Ink?
You can use a dye-based ink (I think VIVID is the best), or a quick dry, non-smear ink (OUTLINER BY PRINTWORKS or ARCHIVAL INK BY RANGER), or you can emboss the image, although the mineral spirits will damage the metallic. Quick-dry, non-smear, dye-based inks, because of their very nature, will stain your stamps, but not affect subsequent stampings in any color.

What Paper?
You can work pencil on matte cards that are prepackaged, or cardstock, but pencil works best on a paper that has a medium tooth, a bit of grain to it to hold the pigments. My favorite paper for pencil is Bienfang 527K drawing bristol. It's not cheap, but because it's a heavy paper you can flip it over and use the other side, especially when you are practicing. Use one sheet to practice on, starting at the very top, left-hand this piece and keep using it. Anyway, you're only going to use at most a 5x6 piece for each card. I have also used WAUSAU Medium Cover Weight EXACT Vellum Bristol with success. And this is way cheap. And one last thing that's good to have around for all mediums is a paper that has no tooth but still the color moves on it. This is Hammermill Laser Printer Paper. Papers vary tremendously, even though they may be called the same thing, so experiment.

What Pencils?
You do need a good quality pencil for this. I use PRISMACOLOR pencils and think that they work beautifully. This is one piece of stamping equipment with which you should spoil yourself - you should have ALL the colors. I do not think it's good to stint on these basics, as they make all the difference in the world between good work and that which is uninspired. Color is a gift to the eye, so you should use plenty of it.

So here is my supply speech!!
I am not going to embarrass you by asking how much you have invested in your stamps. But what good are they if you don't have the right materials to back them up? I know lots of stampers who hesitate to buy a $6 or $8 stamp pad, plus a re-inker, but will then buy $50 more in stamps, which they can't get to work for them. You know you're in the right mode if your pencils and markers outnumber your stamps by three-fold. So lay in a full supply of pads (with a re-inker for each, by the way), paper, markers and pencils, nail your coloring and then go back to stamp shopping. But work through all your current stamps, doing sample colorings and making notations, and booking these so you can go right to it when you're ready to use that stamp.

okay, I'm done with the lecture

What Mineral Spirits?
I use GAMSOL Pure Odorless Mineral Spirits. To avoid having to dip into a metal can (I can't see where the stump is going), and to make it spill-proof, I bought several little soap dishes at the dollar store. They close very securely. I cut a replacement paint pad to fit and poured in NOTOOMUCH mineral spirits. DON'T USE MINERAL SPIRITS IF YOU HAVE FUMES OR ALLERGY CONCERNS.

Gimbel Greeting CardWhat to use for blending (or how I fell in love with Stumps)
I never liked pencil and was never very good at using them until I discovered I could blend them with something other than a white pencil. I figure I am already brain-dead from rubber cement, spray paints, sealers, etc., so I got right into the car and drove to my local art and craft store. I poked around trying to find something to dip into the Mineral Spirits and found STUMPS. These are double-pointed paper thingys and are meant to be used for blending pastels. They work beautifully. They are available in a number of sizes and they are only $1.OO or less. I like #4 and #5 and some of teeny ones for getting into tight spots or limiting the spread of color. They have a beautiful real name - TORTILIONS - just so you can impress your friends with your terrific French and your knowledge of the art world. So...that is how I came to love stumps.

Erasing is one of the nicest things about colored pencils. Nothing will erase it totally, but you can pull out a bunch of the wrong color, or use the eraser to open up an area. Use a white plastic eraser. Do make sure its clean each time you use it. Kneaded erasers would be nifty for getting into small spots, but the mineral spirits make them really funky. So...for these spots I use a Peel-Off Magic Rub Eraser made by Sanford that looks like a fat pencil, and I keep it nice and sharp with a dual sharpener that has a wide opening. It works wonderfully.

Emery Boards
I use any kind of cheap emery board to either sharpen the stump or clean it when I switch colors. You will want to sharpen the stumps when they get too blunt.

When you own pencils in quantity and use them a lot, I would suggest an electric pencil sharpener. (I know that sounds like heresy, but my pencils are happy and they've been machine sharpened for many years.) If you don't want to invest in one, almost any kind of sharpener is fine, although I do like the green, plastic Berol (Sanford) sharpener. It is containerized and does a great job. You can find it at Pearl's or most office supply stores.

Blend, baby, blend
Here are some general principles to get you started.

Less is More
I am a firm believer in "less is more" when you are coloring. You are building up the color, you do not want to have to work and work to remove too much color. You need to look at sample cards and work those you like the look of and think about why it appeals to your eye. At first, you should try to imitate samples until you find your pace. Illustrated (and therefore expensive) stamp catalogs are perfect for this. Some of my favorites for coloring ideas are Penny Black and the PeddlerPack stickers!! The look I love is light coloring, open spaces, soft colors. You'll go your own way, but still build softly.

Worst First
Always do the toughest coloring areas first, so you don't get to them when everything else is perfect and then you mess up. For me, skintones are the hardest so that's where I always start. Before you start the coloring process, pull colors for each area and lay dawn a stripe of each on newsprint to see how they look together. You might want to think of the image as a room you are decorating or (this doesn't apply to me) an outfit you are pulling together.

Go Easy
The mineral spirits pump up the color so always use caution in choosing a shading color. You don't always need a darker shade of color. You might just need more of the same. Remember to try everything on an extra stamping first. I always stamp an image that I am just getting to know twice. This way I can try my colors on the "test" image before I apply it to the real thing. Try the colors in small areas so you can try other combinations elsewhere.

Different Pencil Holds
The way that you hold your pencil determines the strength of the color you lay down:

1. side of point - this is the "lazy pencil hold". You have little control this way, but it produces a light value and is good for base layers.

2. dull point - this is a regular hold. It produces a medium value in color and you've got good control. I think this is the one you'll use the most.

3. razor sharp - this is a regular hold, using a freshly sharpened pencil. It produces a dark value of color and you have great control - but remember, LESS IS MORE!

Where does the shading go?

I did have something of an art education—about thirty years ago! So I am by no means an expert on this. However, I have made a study of (a) other people's work, and (b) the world around me, and learned about the use of light and dark to make something jump off the page. So here are a few things I've gleaned on shading: Good art varies from run of the mill stuff due to subtle variations in light and dark. This is the way the real world is. You can tell that a pillow has tufts or creases because of lights and darks. You can see somebody's high cheekbones due to lights and darks. Dimples too. Well, start to look at your stamping this way. The outside edges are always darker—on anything. Creases are darker. You know there's a pocket because you can see dark edges around its outline, so anything resting on anything else has a darker outline surrounding it. The stamp itself, if it's a good one, will give you clues. There will be crosshatching, dots, or a bunch of small lines where the artist who drew the image feels shading should go. On something round, light will come from a given direction, causing one side to be darker than another. Every object represented in a stamping should have shade variation to give it depth. Even lettering can benefit. Something white, like a sock or a white dress, is shaded with a pale blue or gray. Small commas of light look great on hearts or other fairly solid colored objects or areas. Simply spend some time glancing at the world around you and noting where dark and light areas fall. Soon you will just automatically apply this to your coloring.

Let's Go

Stamping: Preparing to stamp1. Ink up the stamp and stamp. Do not get upset if the stamp lays down lighter than you are used to. It will look great. 527K is a bit rough, so it does not take heavy inking, but I think this is an advantage.

2. Pick a place to start. Run a soft line of color against the edges, creases of spots, or the image where need is shown for shading by teeny dots or cross-hatching.

Stamping3. Dampen the stump in the mineral spirits. Tap it off on top of the newsprint that you should always be working near. There is a thin line between too wet and not wet enough, so start with less and work up. A good guide to saturation is that the tip is damp about 1/4 inch up and small dots lay down on the newsprint when you tap if off. If the color doesn't move (and it's not a lot of work to move it) go a little damper.

Stamping: There it is!4. Now we blend! Smooth color to a wash by rubbing the line of color up and down. To work this same line in toward the center, use the stump in circles, but leave the inside of the area fairly open and light. Always try to use the side of the stump, not the tip. If the color is not moving and you are using a brand new stump, you might try sanding it down a wee bit to kind of open up the surface.

5. Go back in with the same pencil, or a new shade, to put in shading - LIGHTLY - at the edges and creases. Keep your line of pencil fairly narrow. Scribble off the stump (or use the emery) if there's too much color. If not enough color is laying down, go to a darker shade.

Stamping: Adding color6. Use the eraser now if necessary. It can remove too much color, open up the middle or even blend and smooth.

7. Dampen the stump and smooth and blend, using circular motions to work in the shading line. Once again, check for too much color. And don't cause the shading to disappear altogether.

8. Clean the stump. Either dampen and scribble or use the emery board.

Stamping: More coloring9. Pull the shading layer down softly and don't pull it too far into the center of the image, if you like that open look.

10. Throughout this process you will have to dampen and tap off the stump as the mineral spirits evaporate quite quickly.

12. Now use the stump to smooth and blend, but do make sure the stump is not carrying too much color. Clean it off if need be.

Stamping: Final product!12. You may want to go in with a darker tone now and repeat the shading process as almost nothing in life is simply two-toned in color, or you may want to use the eraser now again to open up the inside or remove too much color somewhere.

Does it look pretty? Don't despair if it doesn't. Instead think and practice. Try to keep working the same stamp until you nail the technique and adore the color combinations and shading approaches you used. Analyze your progress and focus on improving the boo-boos. Coloring is not like embossing. It takes practice, practice, practice, practice, thought, and time. But, boy, is it worth it once you master it, and you will. Thinking is important here.




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Mark Bailey By, Mark Bailey
Hi, I’m Mark Bailey! I would love to introduce you to the home improvement and beautiful design for your house. I try to show the most comprehensive resource for all things related to home design.
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