Tutorial: Carving Stamps

Stamps are versatile & flexible design elements... they can add texture and visual interest to your journal pages, and they can also be utilitarian components to stamp things like the date or the number in a series. You can make a stamp design of almost anything! A monogram, the name of your blog, a pumpkin, a checklist, ducks, a symbol. 

Hand-carved eraser stamps by Tammy Garcia.
Hand-carved eraser stamps by Tammy Garcia

An introduction to eraser and linoleum stamp carving, including a video tutorial, ideas for patterns and using handmade stamps. Hand-carved stamps are mini-mark-making devices that add personality, a touch of YOU, a unique twist, to your art journal pages and index card artwork.

Dream up a design, carve it into an eraser or linoleum and create unique repeatable patterns for your journal & mixed media work.

Ideas for designing hand-carved stamps

a) Echo a theme, motif or symbol that you often explore in your work.
b) Make a collection of tiny stamps in a theme. For example, you could create spoons, forks, strawberries and garlic for a family recipe book. A mini Holga camera, polaroid frame, negative strip for a photography book. 

Think in terms of what you want to stamp, the imprint you'd like to make on your paper surface. To help you visualize the design process, the portions of the eraser or linocutting material that you carve away are the portions that will not stamp. The parts you don't carve are what make the imprint. 

Carving eraser stamps is so engaging and challenging in the best way.

You can stamp any surface that you can paint. That includes watercolor paper, index cards, old vintage book pages, journal covers, fabric, art journal pages, envelopes, etc.

Remember that the image will imprint in reverse; the mirror image. So while an uppercase A is the same in reverse, the lowercase a is not. I am always forgetting this cardinal rule!

 

Hand-carved eraser stamps by Tammy Garcia.

Materials

Pentel erasers. You can get the Pentel Hi-Polymer erasers I'm using for about $1/each. Yes, you can get cheaper erasers but they tend to crumble and are more difficult to carve - but they also start peeling and disintegrating after a year or two in storage. Although stamps carved into linocutting material will last longer, I am sticking with erasers as my stamping material - easier all-around for me and I like the ability to make instant repeats! Plus they are SO darned CUTE.

The eraser stamps that I carved several years ago are still intact, but they won't last forever! Treat your stamps gently.

Speedball Linoleum Cutters. Whether you are carving erasers or lino material, you'll need something to make those marks! I use the Speedball Lino Set No. 1 which includes one holder, more than enough to carve all sorts of stuff for many years. If you are carving something buttery soft like erasers, you can stick the cutting nib into a calligraphy or dip pen holder. For more leverage, use the Speedball holder which has a sturdier grip. For straight lines, you can use an x-acto knife. And obviously these tools are sharp -- they can slip while you are working so remember to cut so that the directional path of the tool goes away from your body and not towards your other hand. 

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Stamping Ink. 
I love the little Colorbox Queue Ink Pads; the tiny size works perfectly with hand-carved stamps and the colors are luscious. They make larger pigment based ink pads which are great as well. For pearlescent colors, I love the Brilliance ink pads by Tsukineko

Linocutting Material. 
Designs carved in lino materials will last much longer and will stay crisp & defined. Unfortunately I've not found the perfect linocutting material and I don't want to recommend something that I didn't like using. 

PS>>> I do not recommend Jack Richeson Easy Cut Lino that I used in the video because it was super difficult to carve}; now do I recommend Speedball Speedy Cut because the material crumbled and did not last.

Ideas for using hand-carved stamps!

a) Stamp outgoing envelopes & mail art with one-of-a-kind hand-carved stamps. 
b) Imprint thank you notes, gift tags, packaging, labels with a monogram, name, blog, company or logo. 
c) Embellish page corners + photo corners with corner, L- or V-shaped, ivy or flourishes as well as frames. 
d) Design a one-of-a-kind stamp, a little image like a bird or flower.
e) Design an abstract pattern that can be combined with other shapes to create a line of shapes, a repeating pattern, or a starburst.
f) Stamp a page edge/margin with long narrow stamp to form a border or frame.
g) Try using the same stamp with different colored inks in overlapping layers.
h) Vary the amount of stamping ink or paint to give each individual imprint a different look.
i) Add visual interest to collages with irregular surfaces; each imprint is captured in a different way and doesn't leave marks on all layers.
j) Use your stamps on fabric too!
k) Try making imprints with fluid acrylic paint or gesso for a twist. 
l) On dark backgrounds, white/silver/pastel stamping inks really POP.

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Resources!

a) Great info about making your own stamps at Lime Green News.
b) Stamp carving tutorial for letter boxing at Atlas Quest, plus stamping tips.
c) At Balzer Designs, stamp carving ideas galore. Including carve an entire alphabet and a post about stamping in your art journal
d) Proof of the addictive nature of stamp-carving at I am Rushmore.
e) Ideas for tiny stamps at Geninne's Art Blog.
f) Detailed tips about stamp carving.