Everyone loves sending and receiving greeting cards for holidays and special occasions. Even more special is receiving a custom-made greeting card with personalized stamps and stickers. Such cards go beyond simple greetings and become treasured keepsakes. You do not have to be extraordinarily creative or artistic to create your own greeting cards, ornaments, gift bags, gift wrappings, or decorations. The craft of rubber stamping requires very little specialty equipment, and you can make beautiful designs with bare minimum knowledge. There are tons of useful instruction booklets and websites to help you quickly become an expert stamp-artist. All you need to get started with is one or more rubber stamps, paper or cardboard, ink, markers, stickers, glitter, ribbons, and paints.
Many crafts and artistic pursuits take years of practice and perseverance to master, but rubber stamping can make you an artist almost overnight. There are thousands of stamps available for making your own personalized gift items, and new stamps or stamp collections are available all the time. However, you can expand your stamp collection in a unique and creative way by making your own stamps.
What You Need
Most art supply stores carry art gum erasers, which are inexpensive large cubes of rubber that are used to erase pencil, charcoal, or crayon. You can carve the eraser using a craft knife, X-ACTO knives, or any other sharp knife into any shape, as it is soft and pliable. You can either carve a free-form shape or a specific pattern or design. Perhaps even a company logo, a school insignia, or a family crest if you are feeling adventurous! However, to learn the basics of carving, you may want to start out with just a flower, animal, food, or some geometric shape. Or you can just put blade to rubber and start carving, and see what you end up with. Beginning your carving adventures with a free-form shape will make it easier for you to get the feel of working with the knife and rubber before you move on to other designs or other stamping materials.
Art gum erasers, because they are used to erase pencil, are often crumbly and soft, which might make them a little difficult to work with, especially if you are creating a design that is very precise or intricate. If you want to do something elaborate, you may want to upgrade to a firmer eraser, or even a linoleum carving block, to get more precise results. But for beginners, art gum erasers are ideal, primarily because they are low on cost and easy to carve.
Carving the Stamp
To begin carving, make two small cuts into the flat side of the gum eraser, to form the tip of a triangle. Use the knife tip to remove pieces of the eraser to make a beginning "hole" to start your design with. Continue slicing off small pieces of your design around the place where you began, all the way out to the edges of the flat side of the eraser. Alternatively, you can start at the edge and cut inward to create the design. Do your best to keep each cut at about the same depth, and be sure to make them deep enough so that when you press the stamp onto the ink pad, ink will not be deposited into the cut-out sections of the stamp.
Things to Remember
An important tip to remember when carving a stamp from an eraser is to cut slightly at an angle downward so that the evacuated part of the rubber is a valley-shaped depression rather than a block-shaped cutout. This provides more stability beneath the flat surface so that you will be able to press down evenly across the surface of the stamp and not result in an imperfect or blurry impression. Be conservative as you cut; remember that it is very easy to continue taking away from a design, but impossible to replace any eraser surface after it is cut.
It is crucial to remember that the image you will create with the stamp will be made by the rubber you are leaving intact as you carve - not by what you're carving away. Also, the image you carve will be the reverse of what you are carving into the flat surface of the stamp. So, if you intend to make a stamp of a person's name, a monogram, or anything that has to be oriented in a particular way, you should carve the stamp design backward, the way it would appear if you held the final design up to a mirror.
After the Carving
When you are satisfied with your design, gently brush or blow the rubber crumbs away. Art gum erasers can be delicate, especially if your design is intricate or your carving job is the least bit ragged, so be gentle when you remove the crumbs. Be sure you have got all the tiny pieces out of the carved-out areas so that they do not fall onto your ink pad, or worse, on your design as you're stamping.
Start with something simple and pretty, and then as you gain experience and confidence, you can easily move on to something more specific or elaborate. Before you know it, you will have a collection of stamps that are uniquely yours, and you can create personalized designs that your friends and family will treasure for years to come.