Carving your own stamps and printing by hand is easy and you can achieve lovely results, even if you think you have no artistic ability. It’s a simple way to customise and transform almost anything. This tutorial shows you how to carve a stamp from an eraser as well as ideas on how to use your stamps and how to create patterns with them.
- Craft scalpel.
- Pencil with a soft lead.
- Lino cutting tool with a small V-shaped blade.
- Plain white block erasers.
- Tracing paper or baking paper.
- Stamp pads.
- Paper (for stamping).
Step 1: Design the Stamp
Start by drawing some sketches and ideas on a scrap piece of paper. When you have your ideas worked out, place the eraser on a piece of paper and trace around it.
Now draw your design within the eraser shape.
Next, trace the design onto tracing paper with a pencil, making sure you mark at least two of the corners. This will make it easier to position the traced design onto the eraser.
Step 2: Transfer the Design Onto the Eraser
Cut the tracing paper into a small manageable size. Position the tracing paper on top of the eraser with the pencil side down.
Hold the tracing paper firmly in place and rub over the design with your fingernail. This will transfer the design onto the eraser. Carefully lift up a corner of the tracing paper to check that your design has transferred onto the eraser. If it has, discard the paper. If not, rub over it some more. If you have used a soft lead pencil the design should transfer first time.
If the design is faint, draw over the lines with your pencil.
Step 3: Carve the Stamp
Decide which areas of your design will print. These are the areas that you will leave uncarved.
Using a small V-shaped lino cutting tool, start carving the detail lines of your design. Obviously, be very careful when using the cutting tool as it can carve fingers (and other body parts) just as well as lino!
Hold the tool at a low angle so that it glides across the eraser. You'll have more control and achieve a better result. You don't need to use a lot of force as the lino cutting tool will slip easily though the eraser. The higher you hold it the harder it will be to cut, and the deeper and thicker the cut will be. Try to use even pressure and carve long lines to achieve smooth cuts. Remember it doesn't have to be perfect! Handmade can be all about imperfections and character.
Don't cut away too much - it’s better to leave areas if you are unsure. You can always carve more out later.
Step 4: Shape the Stamp
Carve a line around the outer edge of the design using the lino cutting tool.
With your scalpel knife carefully cut the excess carving block off around the outside of your stamp. Start by removing large pieces and then smaller pieces and more accurate cutting. By cutting the stamp into the shape of your design it will make it easier to position accurately when you are stamping.
Step 5: Test the Stamp
Test the stamp on a scrap piece of paper to make sure you are happy with it.
You achieve a better coverage of ink if you hold the stamp in one hand and stamp pad with the other. Pat the stamp pad onto the stamp until the ink is evenly covering the stamp.
Place the stamp onto the scrap paper, being careful not to move it. Press firmly down for several seconds, using even pressure. Carefully lift the stamp straight up so you don’t smudge the print.
If you’re happy with the result, re-ink your stamp and start stamping. If not, go back and carefully carve the areas that need more detail.
Step 6: Carve Simple Shapes
To carve simple shapes like a raindrop, circle, or house, draw the shape directly onto the eraser. Carve a line around the outline of the shape and cut away the excess eraser.
Step 7: Create Unique Designs
With a limited number of simple stamps you can create many different designs. Use your stamps on coloured card to create lovely and unique greeting cards.
You can also create mini artworks. This is a great craft to do with children too (the stamping, not the cutting!) - they love making pictures using stamps.
Step 8: Create Unique Patterns
All of the pattern designs below were created using one circle and one leaf-shaped stamp. Experiment with random and structured designs, overlapping stamps and different colours. If you are creating a structured design do the stamping systematically. For example, in the red, black and white design I stamped all the red circles first, then the black leaves, followed by the white leaves. Remember this is a handmade craft and imperfection and wonkiness are not only allowed, they actually enhance the end product!
Step 9: Clean Your Stamps
When you’ve finished printing keep pressing your stamp onto scrap paper until most of the ink is off. Clean your stamps by dabbing them with a damp cloth or paper towel. Don’t rub them or you may break small pieces off. Or you can swish them around in soapy water before rinsing. Let your stamps air dry.
How to use your beautiful prints
Make your own wrapping paper. Gift wrap can be expensive to buy so why not make your own, with gift tags or cards to match.
Cover notebooks or journals. They would make lovely gifts too.
When you're stamping gather lots of paper and cards and print in bulk, that way you'll never be stuck for gift wrapping. The uses for your own printed paper are only limited by your imagination: for cute desk tidies wrap a strip of stamped paper around a jar or tin; make some bookmarks; or even your own business cards.
Are you going to carve your own stamps? Go on! What kind of designs and patterns would you like to make? Tell us in the comments section below - we love hearing all your ideas!