Another Monday and another tutorial, as promised! Today I’ll be showing you how to handout your very own rubber stamp, in any design you want. I chose to make a stamp with an origami elephant, I saw someone use a similar design to decorate some plates and I thought it would make a really cute stamp, plus the straight lines are pretty easy to cut.
I taught myself how to make linoleum block prints back in college, and had a lot of fun using my custom blocks to make both art prints and fun sets of custom stationary, but the problem with the linoleum block is that you need to ink it with special printing ink and a roller. It’s not that hard to do, it’s just an annoying extra step, plus you have lots of extra bulky supplies. Then one time I decided to try buying this piece of pink rubber along with the more traditional linoleum blocks, and discovered that while you can use the rubber to make prints with the same printing ink as the linoleum, you can also use them with a regular ink pad like any typical rubber stamp. I was hooked, no more linoleum for me!
Supplies: Rubber, Linoleum/Rubber Cutter, Ink Pad. Optional: paper design, pencil, xacto blade, hard surface for mounting your stamp, glue. You can purchase the set of cutting tools at a craft store or online, mine is a simple set sold by Speedball which came with the handle and a set of different blades, they actually store in the handle of the cutter for easy clean-up. The same set sells for about $12.00 on Amazon.com.
Step 1: Draw your design. I drew a design on the computer and printed it out for tracing onto my rubber. Remember, whatever design you cut will stamp out backwards, which is particularly important if you have any text in your design. You can either freehand your design onto your rubber service with a pencil, which is usually what I did with the linoleum, but for this design I wanted it to be precise so I rubbed pencil on the back of my design, and then using a pointy pen tip I traced the outline of my design onto my rubber.
Step 2: Start carving. The cutting tool set will have a range of cutting tools, from skinny/pointy ones to large/curved ones, and each one cuts out a different width strip of rubber. I find it is usually easiest to start with one of the smaller tools, just not the very smallest. Start with outlining the design, because those will be the lines you have to be most careful with. When carving you’ll want to use the tool to gently cut out the rubber. You’ll have to play around with how much pressure you need to make your cuts, but start with less pressure and work up to it, so you don’t accidentally gouge out your design where you don’t want it. Always cut away from yourself, I hold the tool with my index finger on top, and hold it relatively flat to the rubber service, versus holding it at a more steep angle pointing the tool vertically down towards the rubber.
Step 3: Keep carving. You’ll want to get all the outlines finished first. Straight lines are the easiest, so you can see that with some of the lines I was carving I would continue the line until I reached the outer edge of the rubber. Eventually I knew I’d be carving out all the exterior sections so it didn’t matter if I cut into it as I carved the outline.
Step 4: Carve out the exterior area. Obviously every stamp design will be different, but I usually find that the “solid” areas of my design (the part that will be stamping with the ink) do not go to the edges of my square of rubber, so I usually work on the design in the center first and then carve away all of the left over area around the exterior.
At this point there are a few steps you could take next. You could first just ink your stamp and use it. But, I find with a larger shape such as this one (my piece is approximately 3 x 3.5 inches) that it is a bit floppy so I like to mount it onto a solid surface. For this stamp I used a small piece of bamboo plywood that I happened to have, from the same sample set that I used to make my hanging planters! I decided to cut away as much of the exterior as possible before I attached it because that way I wouldn’t have to worry about the outside edges causing any extra stamp marks. As you can see from one of my first tests, that was an issue. Obviously if I had thought it all through before I started I could have just used an xacto blade to cut away the outer most edge of the piece, since I ended up cutting it away in the end anyway, but I think this tutorial shows you perhaps more clearly what you might do for a different design where you did need to carve away large sections. Plus it didn’t really take that much time to carve it out, so there was no harm in having done the extra work. If you chose to mount your stamp, make sure you use a really strong glue that is relatively flat. For instance, Gorilla Glue or E6000 are both very strong, but Gorilla Glue actually expands while it dries and E6000 is relatively gloupy. (Yes, that is a technical crafting term.) Hot glue, despite being my favorite type of glue, would also be an utter failure because it would probably peel right off the rubber. I found the glue that worked best was a 5 Minute Epoxy, the kind where you mix two liquids together and they undergo a chemical reaction. I happened to have the 5 Minute variety in my supplies but any Epoxy would do. Just make sure you follow the instructions carefully and let the glue cure for the maximum time mentioned. You might want to put something heavy on top of the stamp as well because you want to make sure the stamp is completely flat as the Epoxy hardens or it won’t stamp properly.I even remembered to use my stamp to stamp an image on the plywood before gluing it down so I can always remember what the design is. I’ve usually forgotten this step in the past but I think it is a nice way to make your homemade stamps appear a bit more professional. I also remembered to line up my elephant with the bottom and left edges of the plywood so when I’m stamping it I can have at least something of an idea of where the stamped image is going to be when I’m done.
You can use these techniques for bit and small stamps, and make whatever your heart desires! I’ve made stamps the size of a dime featuring an owl, and I’ve made a large 4 x 6 inch stamp that is very complex and features the logo for my business which we now use to stamp boxes. (You might have seen it in the photos of our new DIY Light Kit which I posted about a while back.) You can even buy foam pads to make your own custom ink pad in any color or range of colors your heart desires. The craft world is your oyster, go out there and cover it in beautiful custom stamps! And let me know what you choose to carve, I always love to see your interpretations of my tutorials.