Let’s talk today about how to carve rubber stamps! Have you ever thought about diy-ing your own stamp set for your own creative use? Better yet, although there are a few tools that are very important, you may be sitting on a few that you can use right away.
I used to dig through my eraser collection to find just the right kind (you know, the classic rectangle shape) that this would work on, and it worked great. Kept me busy on some days 😊. Dig those up if you’ve got ’em!
Once you master it, you can end up with a handful of great designs that can be used on cards and other artforms, from the comfort of your very own home.
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If you have you considered the possibility of starting from scratch, with a few simple tools, and turning them into tools that can literally stamp out art, this post is for you!
The first things first are a block of rubber – there is a professional brand known as Speedball – you’d have to cut into slabs but would be great for a large batch of different designs.
But some flat erasers just like the kind you see in the school supplies – which you may already have on hand,work well too especially for smaller designs.
With regard to carving tools: When I was in high school, I took printmaking classes and we used linoleum sheets instead of rubber to create art prints. The tool I used had a bulbous handle and the middle piece would twist off so I could attach different shaped blades to comply with both shallow and deep spaces.
A good carving tool will include about 5 interchangeable blades numbered from #5 (biggest) to #1 (smallest) This one to the left is perfect for this and you can store the other blades into the handle too, just like the one I used did.
In addition, you’ll also need:
An x-acto knife
A 12″ ruler
A few pencils
Inkpad for testing out your final stamp
Assortment of small wood scraps
Strong waterproof adhesive (I love this brand) or hot glue gun
A sheet of tracing paper (Although plain printer paper will work too)
Drawing and Tracing Your Design
First step is to measure the piece of rubber you intend on using, and then measure the piece of paper to be used; so they are about equal in size.
You may want to practice your design at first if you’re unsure; start simple with it. You can draw with pencil, or if you’re more tech-savvy you can use a graphic program to create your design (choose a black and white scheme).
Measure the eraser to make sure you have the dimensions accurate if you’re using a computer program.
Place your design face down on top of the rubber piece and use something hard and firm but not sharp like a coin and rub it over the paper repeatedly (like one of those scratch-off tickets, same deal).
To see how well it’s transferring, lift one corner, and if its not showing keep going and try again.
✏️ With enough pressure applied, the design should “rub off” easily onto the eraser. The design will also look reversed, too, as in the above example.
If you used software to create your image, you can transfer your design onto the eraser a different way, using acetone. Take a cotton ball and moisten the image using acetone and push the black side of the image down on the eraser.
Acetone is flammable so take precautions – Remove the paper from the eraser; the ink /design should transfer easily.
Determining Positive and Negative Space
Before you begin carving, you want to determine “positive” and “negative” spaces within the design (kind of like photo negatives back in the day before digital cameras were invented)
Whatever part of the rubber stamp that is “raised” will be inked and later show up on the surface you stamp, so decide that first. The image below is a good example of the same design made into two stamps, and the resulting stamp impressions.
Image credit: Eclecticeddy
You could do something similar – transfer the same design onto two different rubber pieces and carve out the negative space in one and the other, you could invert altogether by carving the positive – just to see what kind of unique effects you get!
Carving Your Design
Using your carving tool attach blade #5 and begin with the “negative” space. Negative, or just simply dark, space is the part that won’t be showing up in the eventual stamp design.
Smaller, shallower details can be handled with blades #2 and #1.
Make sure to cut at less than a 45 degree angle. Be sure you cut away from yourself (duh!) It does take some practice to get good at. I have found that you do have to carve a certain depth, as if your cut is too shallow, when you go to ink it later on the impression will not look as good.
Blow off the eraser dust periodically using a can of computer duster or similar. Use the X-acto knife to cut away larger spaces that won’t be part of the design. As a linear tool, it will work well for this part where you’re just removing excess pieces.
Mounting Your Stamp
I highly recommend you mount your finished rubber stamp onto a small block of wood as it will prolong its life as well as make it easier for you to apply it to your chosen surface.
It’ll also keep the excess ink off your fingers in addition to making it easier to produce a high quality impression every time you create an imprint.
Image credit: Crafts with Ellen
Use strong glue, either from a hot glue gun or some waterproof adhesive, spread it generously across the inner surface of the wooden block piece and press it into the eraser/stamp design. Let cure up for at least 24 hours before you put your new diy-ed stamp to the test.
This is a fun (and cheap!) way to go…just remember to take your time as a mistake may be hard to cover up.
Once you master one stamp, you may find yourself creating another, and another! The possibilities are endless, so take this tutorial to heart and see what you can come up with.
Creative Commons Image Attribution: Images Courtesy of: Bianca Moraes