Rubber stamping is a brilliant craft that both kids and adults can do. Stamping on paper is very easy to do but there are many challenging techniques to progress to with this activity such as heat embossing and making cracked glazes. Getting started with stamping is fairly easy and you can learn new methods gradually as you feel more confident with it.
Stamping is essentially a method of printing. You have a raised design cut into a material such as rubber which you add ink to and then you press this down on to a suitable surface to make a print. Beginners would normally print on a paper based medium although it is also possible to print on fabric, wood, glass, plastic or metal depending on the type of ink.
You can make prints with the same stamp over and over which makes it ideal for repeating designs and motifs for greeting cards, gift tags, scrapbooks, bookmarks, stationery and backing or gift wrap. It is a craft that allows anyone, even someone who has absolutely no artistic talent of their own, to make fab looking and professional handmade cards and crafts.
Selecting the Right Ink Pad
Although it is great to rush out and buy loads of equipment when you begin a new craft, you don’t need to with this one. You can get by with just one black ink pad to start with.
Black is one of the most used colors when it comes to inks for a good reason. It shows up really well on most projects, gives you a really nice solid outline if you want to color in the image afterwards and you can use it over the top of a variety of colored and even patterned papers.
If I had to recommend just one ink pad (and there are tons to choose from) then it would be the jet black StazOn ink pad by Tsukineko. This ink is quick drying, gives a clear print and will print on a range of materials including glossy card, shrink plastic and most acetate. It is one pad that works with lots of projects.
However, as a solvent based ink, you need special StazOn cleaning fluid to clean the ink off the stamps after use. You may prefer inks that are easier to clean, in which case look for dye based inks which dry fast and are a good beginner choice. Alcohol free baby wipes are ideal for wiping ink off your stamps.
Choosing Some Stamp Designs to Start With
There are a number of different types of designs that you can opt for. Most beginners, whether kids or adults, would do well to choose traditional wooden designs to start with. You can get ones with handles for children (Melissa & Doug have a great range) which are easier for smaller hands to grasp and hold.
Think about the type of design you might get a lot of use out of. If you’re wanting to use them to make greeting cards, look for a single, large motif with an interesting image that you could color in or print over the top of patterned scrapbook card and paper. If you’re looking to make specific stationery such as invitations then sentiments and wording are a better choice. Smaller items like gift tags will work better with simple and small designs and motifs.
I’ve written a page on what you need for this craft which is also here on this site. It tells you about the different types of inks as well as other beginner tools and materials that you can use.
How to Use a Rubber Stamp
1: Inking Up the Design
Place your rubber stamp flat on your table or work surface with the section that needs inking facing up towards you. Take your ink pad to your stamp and lightly tap the pad over the rubber. Do this until it looks like you have a good, even coverage. Small cube or tear shaped ink pads take up less space in a craft or storage box and they are easier to use for a beginner.
2: Making a Print on Paper
Take your inked stamp and firmly press it down on your paper or card. Hold it securely in place with one hand while you press around the top of the stamp with your other hand. The padded area beneath your thumb is good to press down with. Be careful not to wiggle the stamp or rock it while you’re doing this else you risk getting a smudged print.
3: Getting the Print Right
Carefully lift off the design from your paper or card. It’s always a good idea to test your inked up stamp first on some scrap paper. If the middle of your printed image has a much fainter impression than the edges, you are probably not stamping on a totally flat surface or you’re not pressing hard enough in the center of your stamp. You should get a perfect impression every time. Practice until you get the technique right.
Some Tips on Starting Rubber Stamping
Smaller stamp designs are easier to ink up with little ink pads. You can get lots of ink pads in square cube or tear drop shapes which are easier to use with small motifs and sentiments. Just be aware that dye based inks tend to dry faster while pigment based inks are slower drying which makes them easier to smudge. So wait for the ink to dry properly before moving on.
Simpler designs, motifs and even text and wording can look very effective as background designs across a sheet of paper. You can transform a blank greeting card in this way or even gift paper just by repeating a simple design over an area. It looks perfectly natural to go off the page with your design so you get a really random effect.
Larger designs can make for great centerpieces. They often look good just on their own, particularly if you’ve used a metallic ink pad or have embossed the design. You can also add in a splash of color with Marvy pens, marker pens, watercolor paints, coloring pencils, Copic markers and craft chalks.
While you can afford to make some minor mistakes with a background design as it’s there as an overall effect, a main centerpiece that isn’t printed well will stick out. Don’t print straight on a greeting card blank or your scrapbook layout because that is asking for a mistake to happen. Stamp the design instead on some good quality paper or card and then, once the image is dry, use a clear ruler to mark out where you’re going to cut it. You can then layer up the printed image on card before sticking it down on your finished project.
Start Simple and Gradually Build Up Your Stamping Skills
Example of a Handmade Card with a Central Stamped Image and Sentiment
The best way to learn this craft is to start doing it. Get yourself a black ink pad and a stamp that you like and practice inking the stamp up and making perfect impressions on paper. When I started this craft, I first stamped on scrap paper before I felt confident that my prints looked really crisp and good. It is important to make sure that you can get clean-looking prints before you move on to anything else.
Sentiment stamps with simple greetings are perfect for scrapbook page titles and handmade cards which need a message. These are great if you don’t trust to your own handwriting skills and are a useful addition along with any images that you choose for your first rubber stamps.
Image Credit: all images on this page belong to the author of this article, Marie Williams Johnstone