Rubber Stamp Carving: 8 Tips for Success

A while back I talked about how to make art stamps the easy way using foam. Honestly, those kinds of stamps could take you a long way. But if you want to achieve even more texture and detail in a custom rubber stamp, learning how to make a stamp using a carving a block is the way to go.

how to carve a stamp
A selection of hand-carved stamps
by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.

Rubber stamp carving involves making an investment in tools such as a lino cutter handle and blades and lino or rubber stamp material such as Speedy Carve, a pink eraser-like material by Speedball.

Honestly, while I love to make customized rubber stamps, I've always been afraid to carve my own, even though it looks like fun. I'm always worried I'll make a mistake, or I get caught up in thinking I have to create a really intricate art stamp.

But I've been having so much fun with the foam-and-pen technique, I decided I should look further into how to make a stamp by carving.

I cued up Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM video "Stamp-Making Adventures: Carve, Cut, & Print One-Of-A-Kind Designs" to the chapter on carving and watched as she broke the process down to simple steps while she offered her helpful tips.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Cut out the rubber material to the size you want with a craft knife. Use a chopping motion, rather than pulling the knife through the material, to make a cleaner cut.
  • Trace the shape of the rubber you just cut onto a piece of paper and use a pencil to draw your design within that space. Cut out the piece of paper, turn the drawing over onto the rubber, and burnish the back of the paper. The drawing will transfer to the rubber.
  • Fit your cutting tool with the blade. If you're cutting details, start with a narrow blade. Once you have the details cut, you can switch to a larger blade to cut away bigger pieces of rubber.
  • Start at the points of your design and cut away from the point to make them nice and clean. If you have an inside corner to cut, start from the corner and move out.
  • Always push the cutting tool away from your body and fingers.
  • rubber stamping design
    By stamping the same hand-carved stamp design 12 times, Julie makes
    a simple pattern look intricate.

    When you're cutting a curve, turn the rubber into the blade, not the blade into the rubber. You'll have more control.

  • When you have cut away most of the material, make a test print. The ink will show what is printing and will also mark the areas on the stamp that you might want to cut down.
  • Clean up as much or as little of the image as you want to. The beauty of carving your own stamps is that they will look hand crafted, not machine made.

I also realized you don't need a super-complicated art stamp to make a great design. Julie showed how to stamp a simple design repeatedly to create a more intricate pattern.

Hmmm. I'm pretty sure my husband has a set of lino cutting tools in his workshop. All I need is a sheet of carving material and I'll be creating my own Stamp-Making Adventures with Julie. If I can do it, you can, too!

P.S. Have you ever carved your own stamp? What did you learn? What advice do you have for me and the other community members?


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques, Printmaking


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