Wednesday, December 7, 2016

DIY Custom Stamps: Basic Handcarving + Thicker Sticker Cheats

Today we're sharing how to make easy custom stamps with carving away negative space or adding material (taking a little cheaters shortcut). Both are easy ways to create your own unique designs and personalised messages, and you can use them on their own, together, or in combination with pre-fab stamps to create all sorts of fun projects. 

To carve your own custom stamps, you will need a carving material and cutting/carving tools.  This can be as simple as a potato and a knife (the classic!), but we're going to make our with a simple inexpensive eraser, a precision utility cutter, and basic stamp carving tools.  A vinyl eraser is a cheap and easy stand-in for stamp carving rubber or lino blocks, but is nowhere near as nice to cut/carve, so it's best reserved for small basic projects.  The bigger and more basic the shape, the easier it is to carve. A basic one-part shape, like our mini bone, is much easier than multiple shapes or anything detailed, so start with something simple especially if your making little stamps.

  • Prepare your carving rubber block by cutting to size (if needed)
  • Draw (or transfer) your outline on your carving rubber. Remember, your design will be reversed when stamped, so if you are making a letter, don't forget to flip it to a mirror image. Tip: When I'm working on mini-stamps, I like to mark a little like on the outside edges as well, to remind me not to cut too deep...I can always cut more, but I can't magically put material back if I'm too heavy handed.  Little bits, like my paw tips, could just crack off if carved too deeply.
  • With a precision cutting tool, carefully trace a shallow cut along the outline of your shape. This is optional, but I find it difficult to carve precisely around little tiny shapes, and this extra prep work helps my material to separate cleanly.
  • Carve to remove the material from around your shape. Remember - not too deep!
  • Test stamp and check for areas where there is ink on your rubber, contact from your negative space around the shape in the print, or any other little areas that need a tweak. 
  • Carve to correct if/as needed and retest until you're happy.
  • Optional: If you wish use your precision cutter to flatten/level out the finished carved negative space for an extra pretty stamp - it doesn't affect the usefulness, just polishes the look. 
  • Optional: If you find that you need a little more finger space for small stamps or extra pressure for larger stamps, you can sick your carving onto a backing. 

An alternative to carving out your shapes is to raise them up instead.  Craft foam shapes (pre-fab or self-cut) are a very easy option for making your own custom stamps. Since I'm lazy :) and can't be bothered to print, trace, and precision cut my own letters for this project, I'm cheating and using foam Thickers (thick stickers). To make your own, you'll need Thickers (or similar, or DIY your own with craft foam), a mounting block, and glue for sticking on any letters that aren't natural mirror images.

  • Prepare your base mounting block(s).  Tip: If you're planning to reuse either your stamps of their mounting blocks, you might like to paint, varnish, or otherwise seal the wooden bases before you create the stamps so that clean-up is a little easier and t less likely to warp your bases.
  • Position your Thickers (or other shapes) so that they are a mirror image of what you wish to stamp.  Words have to be spelled from end-to-beginning and any letters that don't look the same when flipped will need to be flipped sticky-side-up and glued instead.  Tips: A glue that is waterproof/resistant is handy not only so that things stay secure when you use and (if keeping) clean you stamps, but for lightly coating the top of any flipped letters to eliminate their stickiness.  Stick or glue your letters into place.
  • Once stuck in place and any glue is dry secure, coat the tops of any sticky-side up letters in glue or an alternative sealer of your close to cover the stickiness.  
  • Allow to dry fully before use. Tip: Depending on the side of your stamp and the thickness of your raised letters/shapes, you might find it easier (and cleaner) to roll on your ink with a little ink brayer instead of inking up on a stamp pad.

Head over to Dalmatian DIY and see how we used these stamps to customise our pawesome DIY recycled cardboard pet pressie pillow boxes and party popper holiday crackers:

We're on a special holiday posting schedule this month, with a Christmas share for you ever weekday between now and the start of our offline holidays, with DIY decorations, wrapping, treats, and more.  Yay! Stay tuned for more fun Christmas posts!

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