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How to Carve Rubber Stamps

Updated on July 5, 2013

Buying stamps at an art store is expensive. Unless you are a hunter of yard sales, discount racks. or have really giving friends around holidays, stamping can lead to bankruptcy. After I got fed up with stamp prices, I began learning how to carve my own. It is a very fun and rewarding hobby, and can even be profitable (I run an Etsy shop). So how do you make a scrapbooking collection with personalized touches? Here are the major steps to take to carve stamps:

You may have noticed that the stamps you buy from the store usually have a wooden block attached. While nice for display and the like, as well as ease of printing, it is not necessary. I tend not to attach blocks to my creations, as it makes them harder to store and that much more expensive to make. Online, I have had a much easier time selling my non-mounted products than selling my mounted carved stamps.

1. Rubber

You have to go find some rubber sheets. Some people go to hardware stores and get heavy grade materials, but they are tough to carve in many cases, and the financial savings are usually minimal. I recommend buying the Speedball Speedy-Carve sheets if this is your first stamp carving adventure (find them online or at Michael's). It is soft and flexible, and it is easy to pierce and guide tools through. They also sell a Stamp Making Kit, and it comes with a few basic tools to carve (at a nice discount). There are other brands of rubber sheet, but Speedball has worked best for me when carving stamps.

Some people also use the pink, rubber erasers. While it is nice if you want to carve a few, small stamps, it will not work to carve a larger stamp (for obvious reasons). If it is simple lettering, then don't be afraid to find a pack of pink, rubber erasers for stamp carving!

2. Carving Tools

If you bought the Stamp Carving Kit, this is a little useless to you. Not entirely useless, as there are still a few important pieces! Any artist needs tools to carve into the rubber. Some people find household solutions, but the easiest choice is to pick a few small, cheap tools at first. There are the V and U shaped tools which are basic carving starters. I also suggest a type of knife (I use X-Acto) to cut the carved stamp out of the rubber sheet.

3. Drawing Tools/Design

The easiest way for a beginning artist/carver to get a nice layout for stamps is to get the right drawing materials. The first step, however, is to find a carve design. I use old pictures from vintage schoolbooks, I trace photographs lightly and even draw my own now. It is up to you what you want your first carved stamp to look like. That is the beauty of self carving stamps!

Once you have your carve design, you need to trace it on the tracing paper with a #2 pencil. This does two important things. It flips the image (because remember, a stamp has to be a mirror image: It flips when you flip it!) and, secondly, it makes the carve design immediately transferable to the rubber and easier to carve. So this means you should find some tracing paper and a pencil, and with that you have all of your supplies (beside ink for future stamping!

4. Begin!

It starts, again, with the carve design you chose. I first chose a photograph of a bird. I traced it with pencil and tracing paper until it came out how I wanted it. After you are satisfied with the image on the tracing paper (this will be similar to your finished carved stamp if everything goes accordingly), bring the rubber sheet into the mixture. Take the side of the tracing paper you drew on, and press it against the surface of the rubber flatly and without sliding. Imagine the graphite is like an ink you are stamping! Press down. I like to take the eraser from my pencil and rub it over the tracing paper for pressure, like applying a temporary tattoo.

Once the carve design image is thoroughly transferred, and you are satisfied with the design, begin carving. This will be the hardest step (I always feeling guilty cutting into an untouched sheet). Remember, do not touch the pencil graphite (if you can help it) with your hands. It will rub and smudge, causing the image to distort as you are working, making the whole thing that much more difficult to carve.

Some artists take the X-Acto knife and immediately cut out an area around the carve design. I don't like to do that, because the weight of the rubber makes it easier for me, but it is something each stamp artist decides for herself with carving practice. Once you are ready to carve, take whatever tools you have acquired (I like to start with the U), and then you can start cutting out the NEGATIVE space. That means, unlike tracing, you aim for everything that isn't the graphite drawing. By sight, looking at the stamp above, you can see the image that inks and stamps is protruding.

This will be difficult, and for most people it takes a little while to get down the feeling of guiding the carve tools through rubber. Don't be disappointed if you make mistakes at first when carving stamps.

When I feel close to finishing a stamp carve, I like to test my stamps. Get a handy ink pad.

Use the carved stamp like you would any other stamp. Coat it evenly with ink, apply it to paper with equal pressure, and see how the carved stamp comes out. You may notice some little odd areas, or that maybe a few lines are crooked and thick. Take your stamp, rinse it clean and fix the problem areas! I will do this 5-10 times before I finish the average stamp carve.

When you're finished and satisfied with your carved stamp... well congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a hand-crafted, one of a kind carved stamp AND the ability to make as many more as you wish! Happy stamping!

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    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 5 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      Great hub. This could really be useful as I like making my own stuff from scratch. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and useful.

      By the way, welcome to hubpages.

    • DIMIR profile image
      Author

      DIMIR 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, United States

      Thanks! It really is more fun to create something than buy it (most of the time).

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      You make it look so easy, but I think it's because you have artistic talent. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • dragonflyfla profile image

      dragonflyfla 5 years ago from South Florida

      Nice post!

    • DIMIR profile image
      Author

      DIMIR 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, United States

      Thank you!

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 5 years ago

      hey this is a great tutorial.maybe you should list your shop.

      Do you think polymer clay would work as well as rubber to carve as a stamp?

    • DIMIR profile image
      Author

      DIMIR 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, United States

      Well, polymer clay worked as an okay base when I used to attach the stamps (as opposed to wood), but I never tried craving and then hardening. It wouldn't be as flexible as the rubber and would bend and stretch while being carved into... It might just work, though. I never tried it!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      This is SO COOL! Your stamps look amazing. I'd really like to give this a go- though I don't imagine my work will come out as gorgeous as yours!

      Thanks so much for putting together the guide :D

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

      Welcome to HubPages! This is great. I love to try this one for my own stamps. I just wonder where I can get these things. Congrats for the hub of the day.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Wow--brand new to Hub Pages and already with a Hub of the Day! Welcome, and congratulations!! Well done!

      This is very interesting. I remember years and years ago, trying to carve some brown rubber art-gum erasers into stamps--they are too crumbly, and it did not work out well.

      This is a great step-by-step guide--any project begins with the right materials and tools--and you have explained both.

      Voted up across the board.

    • borneo profile image

      borneo 5 years ago from Austria

      Hi there! This is relly a great hub! I would love to make my own stamp, but I doubt that I have enough skills to carve properly...

    • geetika iyer profile image

      geetika iyer 5 years ago from India

      Fantastic project! i would be trying it very soon.

    • Keri Summers profile image

      Keri Summers 5 years ago from West of England

      Excellent and interesting subject for a hub. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    • Keri Summers profile image

      Keri Summers 5 years ago from West of England

      and congratulations on getting "Hub of the Day"!

    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      Hi and welcome to Hubpages. You really are very artistic and talented. I make my own cards and your article is very interesting. I have a huge collection of stamps which have cost a small fortune over the years. I love your handmade stamps and wish I was as creative as you.

      I only just noticed that you have joined HP and already have a Hub of the Day. Well Done. Best wishes for the future.

      Voted up - useful/interesting.

    • Audiogeek profile image

      Audiogeek 5 years ago

      nice

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      I would have killed to be able to do this in junior high! Well, now I know how, only 23years later. Ha!

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 5 years ago from Malaysia

      Congrats on the nomination. 24hubs in 12days with the nomination,wow that's fantastic! What is your Etsy store name?

    • Eranofu profile image

      Eranofu 5 years ago from Europe

      Cute, cute, cute. ^^

      Grats on Hub of the day!! :)))

    • Lissa Joy profile image

      Lissa Joy 5 years ago from Missouri

      Awesome idea, and not something you'd hear about every day. Definitely going to pass it on to my former H.S. art teacher and see if she does it. Congrats on HOTD!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      How clever!!! I had not even considered the possibility that we could make our own. Over the years I have probably bought a gazillion stamps...o my....now I know...thank you for providing the detail and information....this sounds almost like something I can do...I am a little 'not crafty'...

      but I will give it a try...and...congratulations on hub of the day...

    • workwithnature profile image

      workwithnature 5 years ago from Ireland

      Wow this is so cool, I must give it a try with my arts group. Thanks :)

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 5 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      Wow, congratulations on getting Hub of the Day! A nice guide, I'll be sure to follow the instructions to make my own stamps! ^^

    • Eranofu profile image

      Eranofu 5 years ago from Europe

      John, really? I'd love to see your kickass stamps. :D Make a hub about them when you're done... :D

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 5 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      I didn't say it'd be done quickly - knowing my horrible art skills, I'll be on the same stamp for years, and all it'll be is a smiley face hehe

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks much for this well-done tutorial on carving our own stamps. I'm glad to learn about this as I am planning two projects for the near future. A look at a hub on lost and found edges by thoughtfulgirl2 was food for thought, now I'm thinking that I might be able to duplicate one design many times over with these larger sheets of rubber stamping material.

      Congrats on a great Hub of the Day!

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      This is such a cool idea. I never would have thought of making my own stamps before. This is a great "how to." Thanks for the information. And congratulations on your Hub of the Day!

    • hildred profile image

      hildred 5 years ago from Oregon, USA

      This is pretty cool! (I admit, I clicked because of the Zelda stamp, haha.) If I were artistically inclined this way I would definitely try it! Instead, I'll pass it on to a friend who's into stamping. :)

    • Kiss andTales profile image

      Kiss andTales 5 years ago

      thanks for sharing good info!

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      My son just started learning this same technique in Grade 9 Fine Art class. His piece was much larger but the effect was very cool. Loved your hub and seeing the same technique applied to cardmaking and scrapbooking.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 5 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      This is an exciting artful idea. Thanks for sharing it with everyone.

    • ThePelton profile image

      ThePelton 5 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

      www.laserbits.com has rubber stamp sheet. Also, during world war two, prisoners of war would use rubber heels from their shoes to make stamps to forge documents. They would substitute wood for the rubber.

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 5 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      This was really interesting. I remember doing this in art in high school (long, long ago) and I really enjoyed it.

    • ThePelton profile image

      ThePelton 5 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

      Speedball is 17.40 for a 6x12 piece of stamping rubber. Laserbits is 10.99 for a 8 1/4x 11 3/4 piece of stamping rubber. The laserbits stuff can be laser engraved, and I can do it. donaldpelton@hotmail.com

    • NarcononVistaBay profile image

      NarcononVistaBay 5 years ago from California

      Your hub is like a "how to" guide with so many details. Thank you, I would love to try it.

    • Moonmaiden profile image

      Fayme Zelena Harper 5 years ago from Lucerne Valley, CA

      Hi there. Glad to meet another carver on Hubpages. Please check this paragraph though. I'm pretty sure you meant 'without' sliding.

      " Taking the side of the tracing paper you drew on and press it against the surface of the rubber flatly and with sliding." It's in section '4' up there.

      Pretty bird. I'll have to go find your Etsy shop now.

    • megni profile image

      megni 5 years ago

      Great idea. I can visualize using the same technique for abstract art. Doubt if I could carve a design, however.

      To make abstract designs randomly cut into the rubber sheeting and then put several of these simpler designs, ovals, suares, etc. together. Thanks for sharing

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 5 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      Congrats on winning the HOTD award!

    • DIMIR profile image
      Author

      DIMIR 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, United States

      Thank you everybody! I didn't expect anything like this! I feel guilty posting my Etsy... and I haven't updated it in a while because I've been in-between houses.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      How unique! I would never have thought! Congratulations on your award, certainly deserving!

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Well done hub and your stamps are beautiful. You've given me the artistic itch.

    • profile image

      arusho 5 years ago

      That is cool information, I never would've thought of making my own stamps. Good hub!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Congrats on getting Hub of the Day! This is a great tutorial. Thanks for all of the useful tips.

    • ForLoveofCupcakes profile image

      Jamie Jensen 5 years ago from Chicago

      Very cool! Your stamps look beautiful - I love the incredible detail! Congrats on getting Hub of the Day! :o)

    • profile image

      Crystar 5 years ago

      Cool! Congratulations!

    • xethonxq profile image

      xethonxq 5 years ago

      This is fascinating and totally creative. Now I only wish I had an artistic bone in my body...lol.

    • LoriSoard profile image

      LoriSoard 5 years ago from Henryville, Indiana

      Love this idea. I can see using these stamps for a wide variety of projects. I also love to save money. Voting up.

    • ajayshah2005 profile image

      ajayshah2005 5 years ago from Mid Asia

      Really good idea! Nice Hub! Congratulations!

    • Danareva profile image

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      This is something I don't know if I'd have the patience for but I loved to read about! Great material!

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      I am totally impressed by the beauty of this simple, elegant hub! Bravo and welcome :)

    • chamilj profile image

      chamilj 5 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Thanks for the great information! Congratulations on your Hub of the Day!

    • DougBerry profile image

      DougBerry 5 years ago from Abilene, TX

      Congratulations on your HubNugget nomination: http://hubpages.com/art

      AND on being a Hub of the Day. Two-for-1!

    • Onlinestrategies profile image

      Onlinestrategies 5 years ago

      Great hub.This is very creative, detailed and easy to follow.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Our preschool could use this! :) I will forward this to my teachers. By the way, congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! Read and vote this way http://pattyinglishms.hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub...

    • profile image

      mrfishs 5 years ago

      Very nice hub I often thought about doing rubber stamps for my company, thanks for the information I will be trying this soon I hope.Keep up the good work.

    • Lora Rios profile image

      Lora Rios 5 years ago from Virgina, USA

      Thanks for such a great hub. I love stamps and I'm always looking for good deals. I love making my own materials but eas scare of trying carving my own stamps, you gave me the push I needed. Great tips.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 5 years ago from Michigan

      What a terrific explanation!! One day (if I can put my crochet hooks down long enough) I'd like to try this! How fun!! Thanks so much for sharing and giving a great description of 'how to' do it.

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Sweet! Great hub. I love making creative materials and this hub is just wonderful. Voted up (and beautiful)!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I have included your awesome tutorial in a tutorial round up on my blog today. Enjoy and have a great day!

      http://www.randomcreativeart.com/2012/02/saturday-...

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      You made those stamps? That is incredible! Voted awesome.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

      Terrific directions! I think I've seen you on Etsy but found this Hub through the apprenticeship program. Great information. Voted up and pinned.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 2 years ago

      i found a similar entry in mapletree house website. Did you write for them? Link - mapletreehouse.com search for speedball speedy block bulk.

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