Create a Hand-Carved Stamp From Scratch: Tools and Best Practices | Melissa Lee | Skillshare

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Create a Hand-Carved Stamp From Scratch: Tools and Best Practices

teacher avatar Melissa Lee, allow yourself to fail before you succeed

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (24m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:29
    • 2. Materials

      6:33
    • 3. Applying Your Design

      4:49
    • 4. Carving Your Design

      6:06
    • 5. Inking and Stamping

      3:26
    • 6. Mounting Your Stamp

      1:13
    • 7. Thank You

      0:46
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About This Class

Hello, my name is Melissa Lee. I’m a designer, illustrator, and crafting enthusiast. I’ve been making my own stamps for a while, for both crafting, packaging, and even some of my pattern design work.

When I started, I really only had a vague idea of where to begin, so I had all these questions. What tools and materials are the best to use? What’s the difference between linoleum and rubber and which should I try first? Where were stamp makers finding things like wood block mounts? I did a lot of googling and trial and error to figure all of that out, so I wanted to create a class that serves as a bridge from not knowing where to start to being comfortable with stamp making.

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All you really need is a pencil, a rubber carving block, something to carve with, an ink pad, and paper, but I’ll go over the many tools and materials that I use in depth, demonstrate a couple of ways to transfer designs to rubber, the best ways to carve your rubber, and finally, inking and stamping.

I’ve picked up a lot of useful tips and tricks along the way so I wanted to share my best practices with all of you. I think stamping and block printing is a really unique and fun medium that can open up a whole new avenue of creativity for you. So let’s get to carving! Hope to see you there!

Meet Your Teacher

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Melissa Lee

allow yourself to fail before you succeed

Top Teacher

Hi! My name's Melissa Lee, and I'm an illustrator and surface designer living in the hilly forests of Northern California. Alongside doing freelance and art licensing work, I've spent much of my time cultivating my love of sharing what I know and encouraging others to nourish their creative side through teaching online art courses on Skillshare and Teachable. I love making patterns, character art, and watercolor paintings. I'm endlessly inspired by animals and nature (whether living today or extinct), science fiction and fantasy, space and astrology, witchy things, and bees.

Always bees. 

The classes that I teach on Skillshare focus primarily on surface pattern design, watercolor techniques, and character design. I hope to see you there! See full profile

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: Hello, my name is Melissa Lee. I'm a designer, illustrator, and crafting enthusiast. I've been making my own stamps for a while; for crafting, packaging, and even some of my surface pattern design work. When I started, I really only had a vague idea of where to begin. I had all these questions. What tools and materials are the best to use? What's the difference between linoleum and rubber? And which should I try first? Where were stamp makers finding things like woodblock mounts? I did a lot of googling and trial and error to figure all this out. I wanted to create a class that serves as a bridge from not knowing where to start to being comfortable with stamp making. I'll go over tools and materials in depth, demonstrate a couple of ways to transfer designs to rubber, the best ways to carve your rubber, and finally, inking and stamping. I picked up a lot of useful tips and tricks along the way, so I wanted to share my best practices with all of you. I think stamping and block printing is a really unique and fun medium that can open up a whole new avenue of creativity for you. So let's get to carving. 2. Materials: All you really need is a pencil, a rubber carving block, something to carve with, an ink pad, and paper. But I'm going to go over all of the various different tools and materials that I use in case you want to be like me and get fancy. The easiest and fastest way to get all of the really essential tools you'll need is to buy the speedball block printing starter set. I started with one of these sets myself and they're perfectly serviceable, especially when you're just starting out and you're not sure if you want to spend more money on a craft that you haven't tried before. I really like making stamps, obviously, so I have a ton of stuff and everything I'll show you is linked under the Projects & Resources tab. Speedball has what they call Speedy Carve blocks, which is essentially just pink rubber. They're great, but I found another brand that I actually like a little more. For one it's much cheaper, and also for some reason, the Speedball blocks taper at the corners, which is manageable, but I do prefer the consistent thickness of this other brand, which again, I have linked to under the Projects & Resources tab. I've also used these Moo Carve blocks, which are fine but they do have a bit of a different consistency and texture, so they cut a little differently, so just be aware of that. You also have the option of using linoleum blocks which come mounted on wood already, and are the better choice if you want to make a fairly large print because they're more stable than just the regular rubber. Linoleum is typically harder to carve than rubber. It takes a lot more strength and your hands will definitely tire much faster. But it is what most large format printers seemed to use and is definitely worth trying if you find that you enjoy stamp making. That said, there are some easier to cut versions of lino in pads and sheets that you can try as well, but it's still harder to carve than rubber. If you don't want to draw your design directly onto the rubber, you'll need some tracing paper and/or access to a printer and a steam iron, but we'll get to that later. I like to use a single edge razor blade to cut some of my stamps, but that's only when I'm using rubber and not linoleum. They're not super comfortable to hold and they're a little less safe than lino cutters so your mileage may vary on that, but I find that they give me more control in super complex or detailed areas. I buy packs of a 100 at Home Depot and they last me for a long time. The speedball starter set comes with a linoleum cutter, but you can also just by one by itself. It has a few different blade tips that store in the handle, which is handy. [laughs] The different blade tips do make some of the carving process faster and much easier and they're fun to use and fairly inexpensive. I do recommend getting one. If you want to eventually try carving linoleum, you'll definitely need one of these cutters. I also have this fancy set of wooden handle ones that I love, but you don't absolutely need these. When it comes to ink, you can either use an ink pad and pigment ink pads are best, or you can use water-soluble block printing ink that comes in tubes like this. Or I found that gouache also works pretty well. I wouldn't use any of the expensive artist grade gouache, but Reeves and Arteza have some cheaper 12 and 24 color sets that work well. A little bit of gouache goes a long way, and it's just a cheaper way to get a bunch of different colors for your stamps. That's just for paper though. If you want to use your stamp on fabric, make sure to get fabric block printing ink which comes in ink pads and tubes like this, but just make sure that it says that it's for fabric. I've only ever used fabric ink that comes in tubes, so I can't recommend fabric ink pads, but I've heard good things about them, so they're definitely worth checking out. If you're using ink from a tube or gouache, you'll need this tool here to roll the ink onto the stamp. These are called brayers. I have a few different sizes but really you only need one. This one is a standard size, I think, and it's about 3.5 inches. I like to use a butcher tray or palette paper to role my ink on. You'll want a soft leaded pencil, so 5B, 6B and up because that will make it easier to transfer the lead onto the rubber from tracing paper. Most of my stamps aren't mounted, but for the ones that I know I'm going to use a lot like my logo for instance or anything that I'm using on packaging, I like to mount them on wood blocks. You can order them in packs on Amazon, but the trouble there is that you're beholden to the pre-cut sizes. For example, you have to buy a six-pack of three by three inch mounts. Which brings me to a website called rubberstampmaterials.com. This site is great because it has pretty much anything and everything you need to make your own stamps, so if you don't want to patronize Amazon, it's a great option for ordering from home. My favorite thing about it is the fact that you can choose the length and width of the wood mounts and you can buy one at a time. I got this special 3.5" by 1.75" mount for my logo. As far adhering the stamp to the block goes, you can do that with superglue or Gorilla glue is the brand that I like...or I like to use these double-sided adhesives by Color-aid. They're basically just an intense double-sided tape. But again, you don't need this, glue works just fine. Finally, it's a good idea to use a cutting mat. I have this small one and then a ginormous one as well. You don't want to accidentally cut a surface that's important to you so these are great to have so you can avoid that. That about covers it. Everything is linked to under the Projects & Resources tab or you can download the Tools and Materials PDF that I made, also under Projects & Resources. 3. Applying Your Design: First, measure and cut out the size you want. You can use a single edge razor blade or an exacto knife to cut about halfway through. Then just break it off like this. Once your rubber is ready, there are a few different ways to apply your design. You can draw it directly on the rubber with pencil or marker. If you do it this way, keep in mind that your design will be flipped horizontally, so if your design has words or letters, and you draw them directly onto the material, it's going to be backwards once you stamp it. You have to be really careful about that. I learned that the hard way. [laughs] Not only did I draw this on incorrectly, but this is linoleum, which as I mentioned before, is much more difficult to cut than rubber. I had to redo it and my hands got an extra workout. I keep this block as a reminder never to make that mistake again. [laughs] You can draw your design on tracing paper first, with a soft pencil, and then transfer it onto the rubber. All you have to do is turn the paper over and carefully press down on it making sure not to move it until the pencil is transferred. You can use a pencil on the other side to really press it in. As you can see, with this technique, the letters transferred on backwards. When it's stamped, they're facing the right direction. The final option is to print it out and transfer it by using a steam iron. I've printed out my logo on regular paper and I've applied the paper ink side down. Then I set my iron to three or four, and I wouldn't go any higher than that with the steam on. My iron is actually pretty old and the steam doesn't work anymore, so I use a spray bottle instead. You want to press the iron down onto the paper with the medium pressure over and over. Try not to rub the iron along the paper like I did, as it damages the paper and causes some paper debris to stick to the iron. It's really easy to clean the paper off once the iron is cooled, but you may as well try to avoid having to do that altogether. Make sure that you're pretty much always moving the iron. Because if you keep it pressed to one spot for too long, you run the risk of melting the rubber. This can get a bit tricky, and take some patience, as you have to go slowly, and at a fairly low temperature, or again, you risk melting the rubber and fusing the paper to it. But I find it really helpful for more complex or delicate designs. Even though the ironing process may seem tedious, I found that it's still a time-saver for me. Also, the final stamp will be in the same orientation as the original design just like with using transfer paper, so I do this for a lot of designs that have words. You can peel the paper back to make sure that it's transferred properly, but just be careful not to nudge it. If it's not ready, you just carefully place it back, spray it again, if necessary, and repeat the process wherever the ink is not sticking. As soon as you're happy with the transfer quality, go ahead and peel it all the way off. Then you can go over the design with a sharpie or a fine liner if you want it to be darker and easier to see, or if you need to fix some spots. 4. Carving Your Design: You want to carve out the negative space, i.e everything that doesn't have any ink or pencil on it. Before I start carving my logo stamp though, I want to quickly demonstrate the types of cuts that the various blade tips make. You may want to practice on a piece of scrap rubber or linoleum just to get used to it. I'm going to demonstrate with a few of the blades that come with the speed ball linoleum cutter. First is the number 9 flat blade. You can use this to make super thin lines. But really it works best with linoleum rather than rubber because it's a harder material. I feel like the lines just get lost in rubber. The other four blades that it comes with are wedge cutters. The higher the number, the larger the cut. It includes numbers 1, 2, 3, and 5. You want to slide the tool along the rubber and flick up to break off the material. If you don't manage to break off the excess material that way, you can just pull on it gently to remove it. The harder you push down, the larger the wedge. So if you want really thin lines, you need to be delicate and precise with your blade and press down very gently. You always want to cut away from yourself and make sure not to put your hand or finger on the other side of the rubber. I have been known to forget and stab myself a few times. So don't be like me. [laughs] Or if you are determined to be like me and hold the stamp like I do, please wear a thimble or some protective gear. I'm using a number 5 blade now. As you can see, it cuts out a much bigger chunk of material. Moving on, you can start with one of the small wedge blades I just demonstrated. But I like to use a single edge razor blade for a lot of my edges and particularly for tricky sharp corners. I feel like I can get a cleaner and more precise cut this way. But your mileage may vary, so you should try both to see what you prefer. I start by cutting along the edge of the design, keeping the blade slanted away from the outline. Then I make a V cut, slanting the blade in the opposite direction to cut out a slice of the material. You're essentially making more or less the same cut that the wedge tool makes, but this gives you a little more control, especially for the super intricate or delicate sections of the design. I do go back and forth between using a razor blade and my smallest number 1 wedge blade when I'm cutting out the outlines like this. It just depends on what you feel most comfortable with, and what tool you feel gives you the best control in what sections of the design. See, I poked myself because I wasn't being careful enough. Luckily, it wasn't very hard, so I didn't draw any blood or anything. But please repeat after me. Always cut away from yourself. Always keep your other hand in front of the stamp, and/or always wear protective hand gear. Don't be like me! You want to go slow and steady. It definitely takes some practice to feel confident in your carving abilities. But as long as you don't get hasty and try to rush it, you should be able to avoid making mistakes. That said, mistakes do happen, and I've had to start over before, like completely. It happens. If this is the first time you're trying this, I would definitely start with a less intricate design than what I'm demonstrating with. Just to make things easier on yourself. I like to use a slightly larger V-shaped wedge blade to cut out more of the edges along where I already cut. Then once you've made all the outline cuts, you can use a larger rounded blade to cut out the middle sections. It's up to you how much you want to cut, like if you want to leave some bits for some texture. I personally like a clean stamp look, so I cut out as much as I can. Once again, you always want to carve away from yourself so that you don't end up injuring yourself with the tool. Especially if you are using a razor blade, which is generally much sharper than the wedge tools. Be sure to rotate the rubber pad as you go. 5. Inking and Stamping: If you opt to use an ink pad, then it's pretty self-explanatory. Just press down on the pad and then press down on scrap paper. You always want to use scrap paper first to make sure that the design is stamping how you want it to and that you don't need to go back and make any carving edits. If you're using ink and paint that comes in tubes, squeeze out a line of ink, and then take your brayer and just spread it out evenly. You want to coat your brayer with a fairly thin layer of ink, you don't need a ton. In fact, if you know you're only going to be doing one or two stamps, you may want to squeeze out less ink at first to conserve it. You can spread out even just a dot of ink pretty far. A little goes a long way. Anyway, once you have an even application on your roller, apply a thin layer to your stamp. I usually roll it a couple of times one direction and a couple of times in the opposite direction, and then just press down on the paper. You can usually tell where you need to make some carving edits because ink will apply to bumps and ridges that are too high. Also, I accidentally carved out the line connecting the E to the L. Uh...whoops. What did I say before about making mistakes and having to redo a stamp? Alas. That's what I get for doing such an intricate design for a class demo. [laughs] Anyway, if you're using a wood mount and you want to stamp it like so, make sure you do that before you adhere the rubber stamp to the other side of the mount, because that doesn't make any sense. I learned that the hard way. [laughs] Say you have a geometric design that you want to make a pattern out of, or you want to apply a motif in a straight line. What I do is I put a line of tape down across my paper or fabric that serves as a guide when applying the stamp. If you're putting it on fabric, the ink tube or packaging will have instructions on what needs to be done to heat set it before you can wash it. Usually you just need to iron it before washing, so just make sure you don't forget to do that. To clean your stamp, just use water and soap. 6. Mounting Your Stamp: This is pretty self-explanatory, but I figured I might as well demonstrate it anyway. Plus you can always skip this video if you want to. If you're using superglue, apply it to the back of the rubber or the wood. Then just carefully press it down onto the wood mount. Don't use hot glue for this because it might melt the rubber. Then with double-sided adhesive tape, I just cut it to the size that I need, apply it to the wood mount (or rubber), and press down, and voila. Now you have a nice fancy-looking, official-looking stamp. 7. Thank You: There you go. That's that. It's super easy and super fun. Now it's time to create your own stamp and post it in the class projects. Once again, I linked to all the materials I use, plus more, under the Projects & Resources tab, and there is also a PDF that you can download. If you enjoyed this class, please leave me a review, and if you want to stay up to date with what I'm posting here, don't forget to hit the Follow button. You can also follow me @melissaleedesign on Instagram or sign up for my quarterly newsletter on my website. Thanks so much for joining me, and as always, I can't wait to see what you create.