The advantage of carving your own stamps rather than using purchased ones is that it makes whatever you use them on unique and truly your own work of art. I like to carve on the Blick E-Z-Cut printing blocks from Dick Blick because their surface is soft and easy to carve. Rubber erasers are another option for carving stamps. They’re small but they work well for simple designs. You can carve a whole set of coordinating stamps in no time at all.
Make Your Own Hand-Carved Stamps
I use the Speedball brand linoleum cutters. They feel good in my hand and are relatively inexpensive to start off with. Use care when handing these tools, though, because they are very sharp. Always be aware of where the hand that is not holding the tool is and always use a pushing motion and not a pulling motion when carving.
To create a stamp from an image in your sketchbook, trace the image onto a piece of paper using a pencil and then place the tracing with the pencil side against the carving block. Burnish it with the back of a spoon and then lift back the paper to reveal your design on the block.
Use the carving tools to cut around the design. Leave some of the block surface beyond the edge of your design to create a more stable stamp. Just make sure that the extra block material is below the actual carved surface of the stamp so it won’t be inked when it comes time to use your stamp.
Ink up your stamp using a stamp pad or use a foam brush or a brayer to apply paint to your stamp and make a test print before using it on your project. A test print allows you to check to make sure that there is no excess stamp material that needs to be cut away and that you’re not adding too much or too little paint to your stamp.
1) It takes a bit of practice to get the feel for how hard you need to push the carving blade into the block as well as for the angle and the speed to use, so until you get comfortable with the tools, keep your stamps small and simple.
2) Take it slow! Don’t try to carve too fast, or you may find yourself carving off more of the block material than you intended.
3) When inking your stamp with an ink pad, place the stamp on your table image side up and then tap the pad against the stamp.
4) Always clean the extra paint off your stamps before it dries, or it may clog up your design and make it hard to get a clean print the next time you use it. Baby wipes work great for cleaning ink and paint off stamps.
5) Store your hand-carved stamps flat with pieces of waxed paper between them so they don’t stick to one another.
This hand-carved stamps how-to is excerpted with permission from "The Sketchbook Challenge: Techniques, Prompts, and Inspiration for Achieving Your Creative Goals" by Sue Bleiweiss and published by Potter Craft.