Skip to main content

Ink Swatching Guide And Tips

Paper crafting has been my passion since I was a child. I love sharing paper projects, ideas, and products. Get more from your paper.

Ink Swatches

Ink swatches are an essential part of your craft room organization

Ink swatches are an essential part of your craft room organization

Ink Swatches And Books- The Basics

While "swatches : are often referred to when it comes to fabrics, in the case of craft inks, a swatch refers to a test or a sample. Simply put, an ink swatch is a test patch of an ink to show what color it is. They show how a specific ink will look when it is dry.

They are used by stampers, scrap book artists, mixed media artists, greeting card makers and anyone else who may use craft inks. One of the most popular ways that is used is to create an ink swatch book.

The ink swatch book is popular because many of us have more than one manufacturer of ink in our stash. Rather than having five or six card sets, we like to have them all in one book.

Have you ever gone to a paint store and seen or used those paint swatches so that you could see how a color looked? Well, this is the same idea. Ink is much like paint. When you go to use an ink, the color that you see on the ink pad cover may not be the same on your project once it is dry. An ink swatch book shows you the exact color as it would be dried on your project. It saves you a lot of frustration while keeping you organized.

While many people use a three ring binder to store their swatches, you can also use a small notebook or journal.

One of the benefits of an ink swatch book, is that you can see at a glance the colors that you might want to add to your collection.

The alternative to the ink swatch book is a set of cards that show the colors for a particular manufacturer. These are often referred to as ink swatch pocket cards. The nice thing about these is that they are very portable, So rather than taking a book to a class or a store, you can carry these swatches in your purse or a tote bag. They are also less cumbersome to use while you are creating your project than a book might be.

You decide which system fits your needs.

Benefits Of An ink Swatch Book

So what are the benefits of taking the time to create an ink swatch book?

Here are the reasons why the time you take to create it will benefit you in the long run:

  • Inventory- ir does not matter if you have 5 ink pads or 500, keeping an inventory will save you time and money. Thus book is a visual inventory of what colors and inks you have available. It tells you what you have, but also what you do not. Helps you use what you have. But also saves you time and money when you shop.
  • Performance-Inks can look entirely different in different papers once they dry. You can test them on the paper that you would most often use to see the exact results that you would get. No guessing in the future.
  • Technique References-Different inks react differently to different techniques. For example distress and ink oxide inks look differently when you alone or with water. You can show these differences on your swatches
  • Matching Coordinating Products- Many companies not only have a shade of ink, but also have a coordinating crayon, marker, and or spray ink, You have the option to record all of these products on the same page.That will help you make easier and more creative decisions when it cones to your projects.
  • Test Combinations- With layered stamping becoming more popular, knowing and creating the right color combinations are important. Having the right combinations available saves you time and money. You can test and record your favorite combinations.

Dauber Template page

Ink daubers are another way you can make your ink swatches. The daubers cab=n be labeled , stored and used agian

Ink daubers are another way you can make your ink swatches. The daubers cab=n be labeled , stored and used agian

Printable Ink Swatch Templates

Many ink companies like Lawn Fawn and Ranger have created their own ink swatch pages. You simply print the chart on card stock and add your colors. If you also work with other papers often, then print out another sheet of the same chart on the paper you would like to use.

Once you are done with our swatches, slip them into page protectors to protect them. Store them in a binder.

Printable charts make it easier to create your ink swatches. You can see what you have and what you do not. Often these templates have room to add additional colors.

Popular Printed Ink Charts For Companies

Scroll to Continue

How To Make Ink Swatches

Color Sheets

Most ink companies will provide you with a color sheet and a blank template that you can use to fill in your inks. Keep both in your ink swatch book. Makes shopping and using so easy

Most ink companies will provide you with a color sheet and a blank template that you can use to fill in your inks. Keep both in your ink swatch book. Makes shopping and using so easy

Jennifer Mc Guire System Swatch Pages

The Commonly Known Jennifer Mc Guire Method

This has been one if the most popular known methods of creating an ink swatch book. Known commonly as the "Jennifer Mc Guire Method" after the lady who developed it. There have been quite a few variations to this idea, but it still remains one of the most popular ways of creating an ink swatch book

The cards are 2 inches by 2 inches. which are then stored in coin page protectors. Another variation uses cards that are 3 inches by 4 inches .which are trading card size. These are stored in page protectors made especially for them.

Supplies You Need For This Ink Swatch Book

  • Three ring binder or binder rings
  • Coin page protectors
  • White card stock (in the weight you normally use)
  • Templates
  • Ink pads for the line you are working on
  • Solid stamp less than 2" by 2"
  • Paper Cutter
  • Label maker or fine Black pen
  • Page protector or coin storage sheets
  1. Gather the template for the company you are working on.
  2. Stamp the colors that you have available
  3. Allow them to dry
  4. Cut each block of color into a 2" by 2" square
  5. Arrange them in your slots
  6. Place pages in your binder


I like to keep all the variations of a single color together

More On The Jennifer Ms Guire Ink Swatch System

What To Use To Create Your Ink Swatches

There are a few ways you can create your ink swatches. There are no tight rules about how to do this. You simply do what works for you. I always suggest using what you have !

  1. Use any small solid stamp you may already have
  2. Use a specially made stamp just for ink swatching
  3. Use an ink dauber
  4. Just a swipe of ink across the surface of the paper

Ring Ink Swatches


Ring Swatch System

If you want to save room or want more portability, the ring swatch system might be for you. These are tags or cards with punched holes that are held together on a metal ring. These are easy to make, and great to work with at your work space to see color, They can also be placed in your purse when you shop.

You can adapt this system to your needs. Small collection? Put all of them on one ring. Large collection of one company. make a separate ring for that company. Adjust the system for your needs

You can do the same things for your markers


  • Large O ring (looks like a binder ring. You can buy them in bags
  • Card Stock (heavy card stock-cut into 1" by 3" strips)
  • Ink pads
  • Newspaper
  • Label maker or fine tipped marker
  • Hole punch
  1. Cut strips of card stock. Cut more than you actually need for future use. You can also do these as tags, squares or whatever works for you.
  2. Lay down newspaper on your work space
  3. Swipe ink pad back and forth on the card strip leaving about 1" on the top
  4. Set aside to dry.
  5. When dry, punch a hole in the top
  6. Write the name of company and the color name on the back or the card or make a label with the label maker. You can also add a reinker if you have one
  7. Attach cards to O ring


  • You can use your Cricut or other electronic cutting machine to cut cards in multiples
  • Depending on the amount of ink pads that you have, you can do a single O ring for each company
  • Make sure to allow the ink swatches to dry completely
  • If you do not want to swipe the card, use one solid stamp
  • If the ink pad has a number, you can include that in your description
  • If you have a business card from that company, use it a the front cover for your swatch book
  • Hang your swatch ring near your work space or keep them in a drawer

Distress inks should have separate swatches if you have a large collection

Distress inks should have separate swatches if you have a large collection

How To Make Ink Swatches

Distress Ink Swatches ( Distress Inks And Oxide Inks)

Distress inks are a little different than standard inks. They work with water. So I like to show the ink as well as how it looks with ink and water.Both the standard distress inks and the oxide inks can be treated the same.


  • White card stock
  • Distress ink pads
  • Corner rounder
  • Hole punch
  • O ring (looks like a binder ring )
  1. Cut tags of white card stock 3.5 " by 2". You can use a die that you may have. You can also use your electronic cutting machine ( like the Cricut, Silhouette, ect) to cut the tags to size.
  2. Round the corner with a corner rounder punch
  3. Drag the pad of your distress inks across the card left to right, leaving about 1 " at the top of the pad. Get as even a coverage as you can,
  4. Allow to dry
  5. Go to Ranger Ink and print the and cut out each square for each of the distress inks ans the distress inks oxides.
  6. Stamp a tiny image on each square
  7. Allow to dry
  8. Adhere the labels on the right side of each color that you have

Finishing Your Project

  1. Punch holes in the top of your card
  2. Take two tags and color them with your inks
  3. Allow to dry
  4. Use one tag for your cover and create a title
  5. You can add an eyelet to make the covers and or pages sturdier
  6. Use a metal O or D ring to hold your pages together
  7. You can also use dental floss or a waxed string to hold the pages together. Just make sure not to bind the pages together or you won't be able to turn them

Portable Ink Swatch Book

Sometimes in addition to the binder swatch book, it is handy to have a more portable version. You can use all kinds of journals for this possibility. You can use a small sketch book or a traveler notebook.

This is more of a creative swatch book as you can create your color swatches as you wish. You can get templates for this type of journal to make it neat and organized.

What a Layered Look Swatch Would Look Like

These examples show you how the layered inks would look as well as what was used

These examples show you how the layered inks would look as well as what was used

Layering Ink Swatch Sheets

With layering stamps becoming so popular, you may want to create your own layering swatch sheets. These are combinations of three colors close to each other that are used with layered stamps.

As you start doing this type of technique, having the combinations that worked well, will save you lots of crafting time.

Dauber Storage And Organization

If you use daubers to apply ink to your projects, you can get them organized and use them over and over again.

Simply make a label for your daubers telling what ink it is Tape it around your dauber. Place them in a plastic box or any other container that has a lid. Some plastic boxes have individual separators which make them easy to keep straight.

You can have one box for each company. These daubers can be used over and over again. So once you set up this system, you will have them to use for a long time without throwing them away once they are used.

Stretching your craft budget makes perfect sense. This idea will help you do just that.

Marker Color Charts And Blanks

In addition to your inks, it is a good idea to do charts and swatches on your markers too. That way you know what you have and what you may need. These are inks too. In fact, they are considered alcohol inks. That way you will know what you have and what you may need.

Ink Marker Swatch Resources

How To Make A Watercolor Swatch

What Else Can You Swatch ?

Want to be super organized? There are a few other things you can add to your swatch book.

  • If you have alcohol inks, they can have their own swatch page
  • Why not swatch your watercolors? You will want to use water color paper for that page
  • Reinkers can have their own swatch page with the company of pads
  • You can also add swatches of your colored pencils
  • Any sprays that you have

Final Thoughts On Ink Swatches

Creating your own ink swatch book or ring is another step that you can take to get your craft space more organized. As your collection of inks grows, you simply add a new card to your system.

As I was organizing my inks, I realized what reinkers that I needed, I also made decisions which pads were my favorites and what collections I wanted to add to.

I really started getting creative as I organized my inks. It took my mind to new ideas and places that I had not considered.

I hope that you look st your ink pads and take the opportunity to create your own swatch system. Wishing you Happy Crafting !

© 2020 Linda F Correa

Share Your Thoughts On Ink Swatches

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on June 01, 2020:

Thank you for your comments. I know that getting your craft space organized is real work. But when it is done, it saves you so much time and money. What started me down this route is when I realized that I had a few duplicate products. I needed to get my "stuff " organized. Happy Crafting !

Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on May 31, 2020:

What an amazing hub, I thought I had everything organised, but this takes it to the next level! Ink swatches! I have never thought of anything like that, but it is on my to-do list now. Thanks for sharing.

Related Articles