Tutorial: Carving Stamps

IF YOU CAN DREAM UP A DESIGN, YOU CAN CARVE IT AND STAMP IT! CREATE REPEATABLE IMAGERY IN YOUR OWN UNIQUE STYLE.

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.

Stamps are design elements; they can add texture and visual interest to your journal pages. They can also be utilitarian components. You can make a stamp design of almost anything! A monogram, the name of your blog, a parrot. 

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.

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. 

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!

 

I made a quick 6 minute video to share how I carve eraser and linoleum stamps with lino-cutting tools. You can also watch the video on Vimeo.

 

Ink & texture ideas

a) Layer stamps with different colored inks.
b) Vary the amount of stamping ink or paint you use when you stamp; give each imprint a different look.
c) Pages with irregular surfaces and layers are perfect for stamping - each imprint looks different.
d) Stamp on fabric and throw that in your journal too {see heart stamps & stamped fabric below}. 
e) Stamp with fluid acrylic paint or gesso.
f) White & silver & pastel stamping ink pops on dark backgrounds.

 

Ideas for using hand-carved stamps

a) Decorate outgoing envelopes or mail art.
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.
d) Proof of the addictive nature of stamp-carving at I am Rushmore.
e) Ideas for tiny stamps at Geninne's Art Blog.
f) Stamp directly on the page or stamp on loose paper and use as a collage component.
g) Detailed tips about stamp carving.
h) Imprint thank you notes, gift tags, packaging, labels with a monogram, name, blog, company or logo. 
i) Embellish page corners + photo corners with corner, L- or V-shaped, ivy or flourishes as well as frames. 
j) Design a one-of-a-kind stamp, a little image like a bird or flower.
k) Design an abstract pattern that can be combined with other shapes to create a line of shapes, a repeating pattern, or a starburst.
l) Stamp a page edge/margin with long narrow stam

I carved this scale pattern in an eraser and stamped with a pale green on an index card to make a scale pattern in a modified brick repeat.

I carved this scale pattern in an eraser and stamped with a pale green on an index card to make a scale pattern in a modified brick repeat.

 

Misc notes

The eraser stamps that I carved several years ago are still intact, but they won't last forever! In time they will start to lose crispness and the more delicate bits can crack off. Treat them gently.

Designs carved in lino materials will last much longer and will stay crisp & defined. 

Linocutting tools are sharp. The tool 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. 

 
Carlene Taylor Simmons uses hand-carved stamps, above, in her altered book art journals. Super geometric carving cuteness. 

Carlene Taylor Simmons uses hand-carved stamps, above, in her altered book art journals. Super geometric carving cuteness. 

Materials

Pentel erasers. You can get two for about $1 USD. There are cheaper erasers but I recommend you don't scrimp. It's not easy to carve a crumbly eraser. Junky erasers can get brittle or start peeling off after a year or two.
Speedball Linoleum Cutters. I have 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.
Stamping Ink. 

Carving eraser stamps is incredibly engaging and challenging. If you'd like to use lino-cutting material, I do "not" recommend Jack Richeson Easy Cut Lino {the one in the video, hard to carve} or Speedball Speedy Cut {material crumbled and didn't last}.