Safmat substitute? Maybe….


Funny sequence of events. One of my WOYWW mates stumbled across a very old (2011, I think it was) post about SAFMAT. That is an old product as well, clear, that you can print on and it is self-adhesive.

So I never saw the point of it for what they seemed to tout as it’s selling point – that you could print a sentiment on it and lay it over a card, where it would sort of melt into the background. First, it didn’t – there was a clearly defined sheen to the product, and second, why not just print on the paper? I wanted to put the printed area very specifically over a pattern on the paper, so for that, yeah, it was helpful. But otherwise, not 100% sure it was revolutionary. It was acid-free and that was unique, I think. When I posted about it Letraset had just re-released it, after being unavailable for a long time. It is now unavailable again (but there are a few for sale at stupid prices, like almost £100 on Amazon. doh!)

Considering the qualities that made Safmat useful, I thought of what else would work the same. I riffled thru my stash and found some full-sheet self-adhesive labels from Avery and had a go using those.

What I remember was that the ink-jet ink dried fast and if not permanent on the Safmat, it was …semi-waterproof, let’s say. On the labels material it was quick to smudge. I tried my usual sealing technique, using matt gel medium on a gel plate, and it worked pretty well – although there was a weird byproduct of that which bears exploring some day – so long as I gently laid it on and tapped lightly on the back rather than, say, brayering over the back to get a really good coat of the gel medium on it. That did tend to smear a bit more. Left, brayer over the back, right, lightly tapping to coat.

Applying the clear sticker to paper, in this case some rubbish, an old gloss spray overspill sheet, works really well. and if you burnish the sticker paper better than I did here, it really does almost disappear.

In this case, I planned to cut out the wings so there was no real need to do that. In the end I didn’t end up using these wings as I planned, but they did look good!

I have a couple of other kinds of clear labels to test. Both are from Amazon, in the under £7 range, but for far fewer sheets than the Avery ones:

The glossy vinyl one says specifically non-waterproof. and all the “waterproof” ones seem to be white. Still if the gel plate sealing works on the plain sticker paper, surely it will work on both of these. And it does. A couple of interesting facts. The glossy-labelled one is not only glossy, it is a lot thicker. May be good if you want something to retain some dimension – like the wings,raised above the surface but not great if you want it to melt into a background. For that, the Avery labels are thinnest.

The PPD paper is also glossy and slightly thinner.

Unlike the Avery sticker labels, the inkjet ink dries very well and pretty quickly on both of these. But they are quite glossy, compared to the Avery version I sealed with the gel plate and matt medium.

And of course you can seal the other two just like the Avery one. I tried a couple of methods. Brushing on the gel medium smears the inkjet ink pretty easily. Daubing on the medium with a sponge actually works pretty well, although for my sample I had a slightly dried blob on the sponge and didn’t realize it so it isn’t as good as I am 100% sure it would have been if the gel had been all smooth. I did try sealing with the gel plate on other samples but then messed them up by trying to pick them up before they were fully dry – busy day and no time to hang about! On the top is the daubed on gel and the bottom is brushed on. Personally the brushed on is very smooth – except where it smeared. DOH! I used totally the wrong brush for this, but it was what was in arm’s reach.

I think that the Avery labels, especially if you have a laser printer, and laser print labels, is 100% the best option. The resulting print has a definite sheen but is not gloss-glossy IYKWIM. Of the other two, again, it’s likely the laser version will work best, and otherwise if you want a thicker sturdier piece, go for Evergreen Goods. A thinner more flexible version, PPD. And if you want to seal the inkjet ink with a spray fixative, it is likely going to be better than anything else. You can get a bundle of clear sticker paper + fixative spray (in gloss or matt) from PPD. I have it. It works. It does smell a bit, but they all do! I should test the spray over the Avery labels. That might be the magic bullet. Now, where did I put that…?

So then the only real issue is the acid-free question. And that might be a question that won’t get answered for years, when someone can look back and see if the art has deteriorated or bits have fallen off! I am not sure if I care about that. I cared deeply when I was scrapbooking and it was my photos of my kids (and even so many were duplicates or prints from digital media, so not one-of-a-kind photos) but I am not making art that I sell or that I expect to last for decades. No one cares about it but me. If I were selling it then I might buy that £100 package of Safmat from Amazon LOL! I’d be able to afford it…

3 thoughts on “Safmat substitute? Maybe….

  1. I didn’t mean to send you down that rabbit hole LOL, Mary Anne! Thanks for all these tips! I didn’t know the Avery labels came in transparent. The beauty of the Safmat is that it’s matte and prints beautifully with an inkjet printer. Why do they always discontinue good stuff? I’ll have to use those few sheets I still have very sparingly and only for very special projects – I’ve seen those crazy prices too. If I had known how good it was I would have bought dozens of packs back then (must have been around 2014-2015 when I first started mixed media) but I never actually tried it for some reason until just now and I was floored how good it was! So imagine my disappointment when I found out that it’s no longer available. I even wrote an email to the person managing the now-defunct Letraset website but she didn’t reply. Oh well… Actually, mine is in an orange pack not purple, but I expect it’s the same thing. I’ve been experimenting too with various solutions: dry rub off (it’s ok but it still leaves a glossy film), waterproof decals (yep, it makes inkjet prints waterproof, I don’t know how they do it, but it doesn’t work that well on paper – great for glass though!), self-adhesive washi sheets (great for making your own washi tapes and stickers, but it’s semi opaque, just like washi tapes), iron-on transfers (great for fabric and paper too but it does have that plasticky feel). I’ve never heard of Letra-tac but funnily, I’ve just ordered something very similar – it will be great for sticking down transparency prints – I normally use my sticker maker for that but that can only handle small images up to 2.5″ wide. Anyway it’s good fun experimenting, isn’t it? And the lesson is, when you find something that works, do stock up – you never know when it will be discontinued! See you on WOYWW! xx

    • I didn’t mean transparency prints, but prints on tracing paper – it needs a dry adhesive, cause everything else wrinkles it.

      • So I watch a YouTube cardmaker sometimes and she often comments that so long as the adhesive has full coverage on the back (and she uses vellum most often, but tracing paper is lighter but similar – or at least mine is :)) the adhesive disappears. I would try a thin coat of matte medium over the whole back or art glitter glue, which also dries clear with no shine. You know I love my gel plate, so maybe pressing the back of the item to matte medium thinly brayered on the plate would work reasonably well? You’ve once again presented me with a problem to solve 🙂 Very curious about what you are trying to adhere …. 😀

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