Stamping Technique: Burnishing

One of the things that keep stampers in the hobby is the seemingly endless array of techniques. The allure of stamping is it can be as simple and straight forward as a one and done project where you stamp a single word on cardstock and you're done, or as complex as your creativity can make it. And of course, there's an enormous middle ground of techniques that are in between. 

If you're like us, we thrive in the middle ground of advanced techniques but don't require a PhD in stampology. 

Origins of our introduction to burnishing
We were first introduced to this technique by a longtime friend and crafter, Susy Miller. She was a dynamic stamping teacher and innovative crafter who freely shared with others her creative discoveries. She was diagnosed with ALS and passed away as a result several years ago. Through it all, she always had a smile on her face and left all who loved her with the memory of her unforgettable laugh and humor. As a tribute to Susy, we present to you the technique of burnishing. 

The dictionary definition, 'to burnish' is a verb and means 'to polish something, (especially metal) by rubbing.' In stamping, we use a tissue, sponge or finger sponge dauber as our polishing cloth. Our 'polishing compound' is water based ink. 

Here are step by step instructions on burnishing in cardmaking:

1. For best results, use white or light cream colored cardstock. Other colors can be used and will give you a different look. 

2. Select line art images and stamp in black ink.  Images can be large or small and can be the same image or a mixture of different images. Rotate images different directions when stamping to create a seamless pattern or collage. Do not overlap images. The black ink does not need to be waterproof because this technique doesn't use water and won't case the ink to smear.

3. Select 2-3 colors and use a tissue, sponge or finger sponge dauber and tap on one ink pad to take color. Test the intensity of the color on scratch paper before applying. 

4. Apply ink to an image or part of the image in a circular motion and with varying levels of pressure. The harder you press, the more intense the color will be. Remember, you can always add more color if it is too light, but unless you have magic powers, it is usually impossible to make a darker color lighter. Continue tapping and applying with the same color on different areas/images before going to the next color. Change tissue or sponge whenever using other colors.

5. Add a focal point to the project. This is usually a word or phrase along with a die cut or piece of cardstock that helps the word pop from the project since the background is usually pretty vibrant.


  • Try stamping the line art stamp images in a color other than black for a different look. This can tone down the starkness of your background where desired.
  • Try different color combinations for your burnishing colors to communicate different moods, holidays, etc. Red and green for Christmas. Mint and yellow for baby. Wedding colors for the happy couple. 
  • Finger sponge daubers are our recommended applicator. You can get them at Joann, Walmart and Amazon


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