Okay, so someone asked me if I’d done any tutorials on how I carve my stamps. I haven’t, so I thought….why not try one? 🙂 A lot of stamp carving, like all kinda of arty/crafty processes is down to trying things out and seeing how they work, but I thought maybe I could share a few things I’ve learnt to save you some of the hassle!
STEP 1 is to assemble the materials.
I have used a standard student carving tool which comes with 5 different blades. I know some people are worried about cutting themselves, but they aren’t generally that sharp and I have never cut myself and I am pretty clumsy (I burnt myself quite badly heating up some friendly plastic!) An example of the sort of tool can be found here. The carving material I got from a charity shop I volunteer at for a really good price. I had no idea whether it would cut well or print well, but it works much better than the stuff I was using before. Before I used this soft cut print block , because it is cheap, but I found it hard to get a good print from. I suspect the Adigraf might be similar to speed ball speedy carve, but I’m not sure. You can get Adigraf here, so I definitely recommend it! It’s soft and easy to carve and prints well!
So STEP 2 is coming up with the design.
I knew I wanted to do an owl stamp, so I googled owl clipart images and did some sketches of ones I liked. Next I played around with my own versions and when I was happy, I sketched the design larger, ready for tracing.
STEP 3 is tracing the image.
I just use standard grease-proof paper and an HB pencil. Remember that if you just trace it on the one side and then turn it over and scribble on the back onto your stamp material, once carved you will get the image the original way round.
STEP 4 is outlining the image.
Once you have the traced image in pencil, I go over it with a marker pen (I use a n overhead projector pen). You can see the lines are quite thick. You could just leave the lines in pencil, but is smudges all over the place! I also think that because really thin lines are hard to carve, the marker gives you a good view of the area you should be leaving to print. You can see I have cut the image away from the rest of the block. This avoids the pencil smudging over the rest of the block, and allows you to turn the stamp as you carve. If you are doing a very small stamp, I would carve it while it is still attached as it gives you more control. So now you are ready to begin carving!
STEP 5 is carving.
The hardest thing with carving is not slipping and cutting an area you didn’t mean to cut. I have found a few things help with this. As you can see here, I start with a no.1 blade (actually it’s all I use, although I should use a wider one for the wider areas, I never bother) and work away from any corners so if you do slip you are less likely to cut through the outline. After this photo I turned the stamp round and worked away from where the bird’s wing meets the head, so my two cut lines meet up. The other thing you can do which helps is to rotate the stamp as you are cutting the curves. Sometimes you have to use your nails and pull the carved pieces off the stamp. I have found it usually comes off quite cleanly and rarely rips, so don’t be afraid to pull quite hard. It’s also a good idea to air on the side of caution as you can always go in and cut more away. You can’t put stuff back if you cut it, although I have recently found out that if you slip, sometimes if the area where you have slipped stays attached, it can still print as if it’s not there (I’ll explain what I mean more later).
You can see here that I have decided that one wing is too big and have redrawn it with the pen. Sometimes seeing the image in reverse shows you that something doesn’t look right and needs alteration.
Here is the stamp half carved. I tend to go round the outlines first because if the image smudges lots, sometimes it’s hard to see all the lines, so if you get them all cut first you can see where you need to go. The other thing you need to consider is whether you want any of the strokes to show. Here I have carved the eyelids, the wings and the body in a certain way and once I do the first print I will decide what I think and whether to leave any of the cut marks showing (for texture).
Sometimes if you make a little mistake you can subtly alter the design to allow for it.
STEP 6 is the first test print.
I then use memento ink and cheap copy paper to do a test print, to see which areas need neatening up.
Here you can see it’s still pretty messy. I decided I liked the wings, but they needed neatening, and I would get rid of the cut marks on the rest of the body. I have circled in red where I accidentally slipped and cut into the outline. Because I didn’t cut all the way through I left the cut piece attached and on the print you can’ tell it’s there. I remember totally recarving a stamp after doing this before I realised that the first stamp was actually fine to use! Doh!
STEP 7 is more carving and test printing.
I have numbered the test prints and you can see that from 1. to 4. the image gets neater and neater. I hindsight, I wish I’d left he stronger line of the cut marks where the wings meet the body, but hey-ho!
STEP 8 is final printing.
So here is an example of how you can use your new stamp. You can see a mark on the owls chest in this one. That’s because a bit of the waste material was stuck in the ink. I will probably try and neaten that up somehow before I use this stamped image as it’s too nice to waste. I have lots of other ideas for this little man, so I’ll post a few more things when I have tried them out.
Let me know what you think of my first tutorial. Do you think it’s too long or too short? Have you got any questions? 🙂
I hope you have a go yourself and share what you come up with. Please try your own designs, rather than mine, so we all have something unique and different 🙂