From scrapbooking to greeting-card making and decorating gift paper, rubber stamps are known to and loved by crafters everywhere. We usually first discover these neat little picture-makers when we’re kids – I can remember my first set of rubber stamps, greedily torn from the plastic package of a Lisa Frank collection. The kitten outlines and kissy-type lips graced letters to my sister and friends, and several of the stamps still survive in one of my craft boxes.
I played around with the potato-stamp idea, but it never turns out right, and eventually figured that I’d never be able to create my own designs on a rubber stamp – so I settled for paying the prices of commercial stamps that more-or-less suited my purpose.
With nothing more than a piece of tracing paper, pencil, rubber band or eraser, and craft knife, you can make your own rubber stamps. Names and faces, cartoons, scenes … the stamps you make are limited only by your imagination and willingness to play. Here’s two methods to make rubber stamps all your own.
Method One: The Rubber Band Stamp
Time Needed: About 5 Minutes
Large Rubber Band (the thick, wide kind)
Design (Printed or Drawn)
Scrap Cardboard or small wooden block for “backing”
1. Make a cut on your rubber band so that you can lay it out flat. Tape each end to something sturdy like a cutting board or craft board. Don’t stretch the rubber band when you tape it, though – it should lay flat but without any stretch to it or it will distort your design.
2. Trace the design you want to use on your tracing paper. Use a pencil, and make sure that black areas are filled in well. For this type of stamp, you don’t want something too intricate – outlines are best, like letters or basic shapes.
3. Tape the traced design over your rubber band. You should be able to see the band through the tracing paper so that you know you have it positioned right.
4. Use your craft knife to cut out the design. Basically, you’ll be using the craft knife like a pair of scissors, removing the basic shape or letter from the background of the rubber band.
5. Glue the cut out piece of rubber to a scrap of cardboard or a small wooden block and ta-da! You now have a personal rubber stamp.
Method Two: The Rubber Eraser Stamp
Difficulty: Medium to Difficult
Time Needed: Varies – 30 Minutes to 2 Hours
Hard Rubber Eraser (Pink Pearl works best)
Ball Point Pen
Small Wooden Block for “backing”
1. With this style of rubber stamp, you can get just as intricate as the store-bought stamps you’ve purchased in the past. Because of this, though, it will take a bit more time and often a lot of practice before you yield the first rubber stamp you’re happy to use.
To begin, select your design and trace it with your pencil on to tracing paper. If you have a graphics program like Adobe Photoshop, you can start out with the custom shapes and/or brushes that many artists make available for a very low cost. I’ve included 3 easy designs with this article that come from My-Photoshop.com that you can snag for use.
Fill in the areas that should be “cut out” from your stamp darkly with your pencil. The rest of the design will be what actually stamps onto your paper.
2. Now, get ready to carve into your eraser. When choosing erasers for rubber stamps, you’ll want to experiment with what works best for you. Vinyl erasers will make the cleanest impression, but aren’t great for extremely detailed rubber stamps with fine lines. For that, you need a harder eraser, like the Pink Pearl ones.
First, flip your tracing paper over and position the pencil marks over your eraser. You want to center the design as much as possible, so that there aren’t edges that seriously overlap the edges of the eraser. Then, use the side of your pencil to “rub” the tracing paper over your eraser. This will place your pencil marks on to the eraser. Carefully trace over this reversed outline with a ball point pen.
3. Using your craft knife, carefully cut away the pieces of your eraser that have not been inked in. Remember that what you cut away is what will show as the paper color in your finished stamp. Cut away from inked areas at an angle, so that when it matches up with the next cut, a small ridge will appear. Take time with this step to keep the “lines” as even as possible. Believe me, this will take some patience and a lot of deep breaths.
4. It’s time to test your stamp. Use a soft cloth or a piece of dry paper towel to brush off any eraser dust, and clean out your ridges well. There’s nothing more frustrating than to test your newly-made stamp out only to have bits of rubber end up in your ink.
5. Re-cut if necessary – after making your test stamps, look at the lines made. You may want to touch up a few of the edges and lines to make them more even, or deepen the ridges if they’re “showing up” on your finished piece. Then, when you’re happy with the test stamps you make, cut away the outside of the eraser away from your design. You can “back” this stamp with a small wooden block or use it as-is. If you use a wooden block, make an impression of your stamp on the block before you mount it – how much more pro can you get?