presented by 1 3 2

how to make a stamp:
4 free articles on
carving art stamps and
stamping techniques
presented by cloth paper scissors
the workshop:
roll out the backgrounds
Linda Calverley
letter imperfect
Leann Meixner
the workshop:
faux silkscreen
Patricia Gaignat
r eduction printing: printing
back to front, color by color
Lisa Thorpe
how to use a photograph as the basis
for your stencil designs, then shows
how to carve a stamp out of vinyl
erasers or a carving block. Distress ink
and dark inks add to the edgy effect.
ant to make a good
impression? Then make
your own stamps!
In this free eBook from Cloth Paper
Scissors, How to Make a Stamp: 4 Free
Articles on Carving Art Stamps and
Stamping Techniques, four talented
artists will show you how to make
art stamps, foam stamps, and roller
stamps; teach you stamp carving; and
give you stamping ideas. You can use
these techniques to make backgrounds,
design your own printed fabric or
papers, or create a unique piece of art.
In “The Workshop: Roll Out the
Backgrounds,” Linda Calverley shows
how to make your own rolling stamps
for paper and fabric. Using mostly
recycled cylindrical objects, glue, and
cutting tools, she explains how to carve
rolling stamps from corks and foam
insulation. Linda also offers stamping
ideas for rollers and patterns and
offers tips on how to stamp with these
Leann Meixner helps you achieve a
gritty and graphic look with her tutorial
called “Letter Imperfect: Hand-cut
Stencils and Alphabet Stamps Invoke
the Graffiti Look.” Leann shows you
“The Workshop: Faux Silkscreen,”
gives you another option for stamping.
Patricia Gaignat starts with a simple
sketch, transfers it onto sheets of craft
foam, and cuts the pieces apart to
create foam craft stamps. Then, using
different colored inks, she re-creates
the picture with the foam stamps, like
putting together a puzzle. This lowtech stamping technique delivers very
artistic results.
A more complicated, but extremely
satisfying, method of stamp carving
and printing is described in Lisa
Thorpe’s Workshop article, “Reduction
Printing: Printing back to front, color
by color.” Lisa applied this ancient
stamping technique to a carving block
made of the soft material often used to
make rubber stamps and turns it on its
head. In reduction printing, you print as
you carve, stamping the most detailed
image last.
How to Make a Stamp
4 Free Articles on Carving
Art Stamps and
Stamping Techniques
presented by
Cloth Paper Scissors®
online editor
Cate Prato
creative services
Division Art Director
Larissa Davis
Larry Stein
Korday Studio
Projects and information are for inspiration and
­personal use only. Interweave Press LLC is not
­responsible for any liability arising from errors,
­omissions, or mistakes contained in this eBook, and
readers should proceed cautiously, especially with
respect to technical information.
Interweave Press LLC grants permission to photocopy
any patterns published in this issue for personal use
Where mixed -media
artists come to play
In How to Make a Stamp: 4 Free Articles
on Carving Art Stamps and Stamping
Techniques, you’ll get a wealth of ideas
for stamping and making signature
works that are uniquely yours.
Cate Prato
Online Editor,
Cloth Paper Scissors Today
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
the workshop:
Adapted from
Cloth Paper Scissors®
September/October 2009
roll out the
Linda Calverley
make your own rolling stamps
for paper and fabric
i have been making flat stamps for some time, but the rolling ones are fairly
new to me. It started when I bought a cheap set of tiny rolling stamps for
children. I thought I might be able to alter them by fixing my own designs on
them, but I admit I failed. However, it did get my creative juices “rolling,” and
I came up with ideas using recycled items, bits and pieces from my treasure
drawers (junk), and fun foam. Be prepared to get your fingers dirty...and be
warned: it can become addictive.
fun foam
Measure the amount of foam you will
need by wrapping it around
your selected roller and
marking it. When measuring the
width, be sure to leave a space at each
end of the roller for your fingers.
Measure the circumference and cut.
Double check to be sure the foam fits
the roller before doing anything else,
and make adjustments as necessary.
m at e r i a l s
• Recycled items to use as rollers:
anything cylindrical (such as hard
cardboard paper towel tubes or a
plastic soda bottle) or wheel shaped
(round with a flat edge)
• Found objects to use as pattern
makers, such as heavy lace, string,
or open-weave fabric
• Fun foam (funky foam), available in
• Scissors—large and small (For small
fiddly bits, curvy nail scissors work
• All-purpose adhesive such as UHU®
(It must be a strong glue, or the
shapes will come off when washed.)
• Craft knife
• Pinking shears/decorative edge craft
• Revolving punch pliers for different
size holes
• Roller paint—acrylic, poster, ink
pads, etc.
• Background paints—acrylic wash,
watercolor, Brusho (pigment
powder), dye solution, fabric paints,
• Paintbrushes and/or paint rollers
• Paper and/or fabric to print on
• Tape or pins
• Plastic to protect work surface
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
Draw your design directly onto the
foam, or draw it on paper first and
then copy it onto the foam. For a
“repeating” pattern the design will
need to match at the same place, top
and bottom, where the ends meet. To
do this, fold over the 2 ends or hold
the foam in place around the roller,
matching the edges together, and
mark the foam where the pattern
needs to join. Place a join in the
most suitable place. Some patterns
don’t need to repeat, they look fine as
blocks of pattern.
Glue the foam to the roller, matching
where required. Allow to dry.
Cover your flat printing surface with
plastic, then tape your fabric or paper
to it.
Using a brush, apply color to the
patterned area on the roller or just
to selected parts. (If your design is
large, a paint roller will give you
more even coverage for applying
Start rolling at one end of your
fabric or paper and work
toward the other end.
Some of the rollers can
be used like a rolling
pin. Most need to
be guided with
your fingers,
firmly: with
each hand,
use your index
finger above, middle
finger to the side, and your
thumb guiding from the back.
If there is no space on the edge for
your fingers, you may have to place
rollers & patterns
them on the painted area. It is quite
messy and sometimes finger marks
are left in the painted area, but these
look like part of the pattern when
a topcoat of color is applied. If the
roller is hollow in the center, you
can guide it by inserting your fingers
note: Fun foam is very easy to cut. Strips
of fun foam can be cut with pinking shears,
a craft knife, or fancy craft s­ cissors, and
holes can be made with punch pliers.
rollers: plastic bottles; denture
tablet tubes; wine corks (rubbery
ones); thick, strong cardboard from
rolls of tape; cylindrical polystyrene;
containers from gravy granules
and salt; empty thread spools; toy
rolling pins; sponge craft rollers with
handles; spongy tube pipe insulation;
wooden dowels; tins; empty aerosol
After rolling is completed, and the
paint or ink has dried, a colored
wash can be applied over the top.
Alternatively you could start with a
colorwash before you do any rolling
on of color.
For an all-over pattern, roll from end
to end with the “stripes” of pattern
side by side until the sheet (fabric or
paper) is filled.
Most rollers can be rinsed under
the tap after use. If it is a cardboard
roller, just wipe it with a damp cloth.
textile patterns
You can use lace, trims, textured fabrics,
cord, knitting samples, etc., or even
embossed wallpaper.
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
patterns: lace and trim (the thicker
type works best), zippers, curtain
heading tape, netting found on the
back of small ceramic tiles, patterned
textured fabric such as dish cloths,
wallpaper, sinamay mesh or other
open-weave fabric, jute, cord, string,
purchased foam shapes, knitting,
doilies (crochet rather than paper)
Look at the lace (or other patterned
material) to determine how big the
repeat is and find a roller that it
will fit. (If not 1 repeat, try 2, 3, or 4
Wrap the lace around your selected
roller and mark where it should be
Cut it to size and recheck that it fits
before gluing it to the chosen roller.
Use acrylic paint to make your
first print, and then let the
roller dry with the paint
left on. Once dry, the paint
will act as a coating on
the textile and the roller
can then be washed
after the next use.
This only works on a
non-porous roller.
note: Knitting
becomes soggy
when washed and
takes too long to
dry, so it’s better
to leave the paint
to dry on the
roller after each use.
wine bottle corks
Corks can be cut (carefully) with a craft
knife. Simple marks can make a nice
pattern. A simple, long, thin triangle
from the edge is an example.
Rolling a pattern with a cork is time
consuming as the cork is small
so you will have to roll it many times.
Also, corks cannot hold a lot of paint
so you will probably have to apply
paint for every “roll.”
• Acrylic paints can be used with
the stamps, but if you’re printing on
fabric, use fabric paint, silk paints,
or dyes for the background colors.
Acrylics can leave the fabric quite
stiff. Thickened dyes are another
• If some areas don’t print well,
you can cut the best areas out for
collage, or disguise the bad bits
with more stamping on top.
If you want a bigger roller, glue funky
foam onto the cork. Let the edges of the
ends meet, but don’t overlap them. (I used
this system on an old craft sponge roller:
I removed the sponge and glued fun foam
in its place. I used 2 layers of foam plus
a layer with a foam pattern—3 layers in
spongy tube pipe
This is really easy to
cut with a craft knife
and it is easy to use.
Draw your
design on the
tube with a
Carefully carve
out the pattern
areas with a
craft knife.
Apply paint
and roll as
above. These
tubes can be rinsed
under tap water after use.
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
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• The paint will last longer on the
bigger rollers as they cover a
larger area. The paint will become
lighter the farther you roll, but
there are some nice effects when
the paint is quite light. Apply more
paint to the roller if it becomes too
faint, even if it’s halfway across the
• Experiment on scrap paper to
check the amount of paint required
for your chosen roller and effect.
Add water to the paint as required;
it may need to be a little runnier for
• Build up layers of pattern by using
one roller on top of another after
allowing the first one to dry.
• If you really don’t want to get paint
on your fingers, make all your
rollers using kids’ craft rollers with
handles. Remove the sponge and
replace it with fun foam, building
up the layers to make it fatter and
firmer, but don’t overlap the foam.
Decorative paint rollers, wallpaper
seam rollers, or lint rollers could
also be an option, although I
haven’t tried these—yet. Or, just
wear gloves when you paint.
• Some of the rollers leave a better
impression than others. For
instance, a pattern made in fun
foam using punch pliers can create
a pattern that looks more like lace
than real lace.
• Some rollers will last longer than
others. Use them as long as
possible and then discard.
• If you want a section without
patterning, mask the area with
paper before rolling.
• Roll some patterns with a deep
paint color, allow them to dry, and
then scan them into the computer.
They make wonderful backgrounds
for your digital work.
Leann Meixner
’m not much for the pastoral; I
have always preferred the man-
made and industrial: the beauty in
the ironwork of a bridge, the rust on
an old automobile, or the pattern of
a manhole cover. Likewise, anyone
who has been to my place knows I’ve
never been a fan of cleanliness, not
in my house nor in my artwork. I tend
to prefer artwork that has that same
raw edginess to it. More and more, I
have become fascinated with graffiti.
I like the grittiness and the city feel
of the images, particularly stenciled
images. Sometimes the message the
artist is trying to communicate is loud
and clear, though often that’s not the
case and then the viewer provides the
meaning of the work.
When I took an altered book workshop
from artist Margie Donovan, I knew
I wanted to give my pages a gritty,
street-art feel. At first I had a hard time
deciding what I wanted to communicate,
then I thought about my passions. I
decided to make my altered book reflect
my love of music and I tried to carry
a “blues” aura throughout the book.
My technique endows the work with a
raw feeling, much like the simple, raw
music of the blues. I like this technique
because it has enough precision to
keep the image true, but enough
Adapted from
Cloth Paper Scissors®
May/June 2007
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
Hand-cut stencils
stamps invoke
the graffiti loOk
haphazardness to keep everything
I have been carving rubber stamps
for years, and I knew that I wanted
to incorporate those into my book. I
especially enjoy creating alphabets.
Handmade alphabets are a good way to
label images and to journal, giving the
piece a very personal feel.
Begin by selecting a photograph, one
with lots of blacks and whites and
definite, interesting shapes (Figure
1). Squinting when you look at the
photographs will help you see if there
is enough contrast in the photo.
You can use a photo that has all the
middle tones removed, so everything
is black or white, but I prefer to use
a photograph that has some grays,
so I can choose whether a gray area
will be considered black or white. I
usually just print the image from the
computer, in a size that works for
the page I’ve chosen. It is wonderful
if you can take your own photos,
though I’ve never been very good at
that. Fortunately, my good friend
Greg Baise is a terrific photographer.
He has provided me with all the
photos I used for the book.
Cover the photograph with a piece of
tracing paper at east as large as the
photograph. Trace all of the areas
you want to be dark: the negative
space (Figure 2). Remember that you
will cut these areas out to create the
stencil; they will be the “fall out.” Be
sure all the positive areas are
touching the perimeter of
the paper at some point.
If the background
is going to be dark,
and the positive areas
won’t connect, you can
add a line to change the
background from negative
to positive for a given area. That will
give you a light edge near an image
you need to connect. Remove the
photograph periodically to check
your drawing. Make sure your
image comes through as believable.
Sometimes you can outline an area
that wouldn’t otherwise show with
a linear cutout. If you have trouble
remembering which areas will be
negative, you can scribble in those
areas as you go along. This will help
you see the areas that will be cut
away later.
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
m at e r i a l s
• Sharp pencil
• Tracing paper
• Craft knife with a sharp blade
• Stencil brush
• Ink pad in a dark color (I prefer
• Crafters® Colorbox®—Fresco)
• Black-and-white photographs, in
sizes that will work on your pages
• Old hardcover book to alter
• Hand-carved alphabet stamps
• Inks, art papers, and embellishments
of choice
• Acrylic paints and paintbrushes
• Glue
Remove the
photograph from
behind your paper
and cut out all the
areas in your tracing that were
designated as negative space (Figure
3). Take your time and cut the details
carefully. The better the tracing and
cutting, the more recognizable the
finished image will be. Be patient.
tip: It helps to hold down the tracing
paper near the blade while you are
cutting, and to use a fairly light hand so
the paper doesn’t tear. Be sure to cut away
from your fingers.
To prepare your page for the stencil,
you may want to stain it with ink
or watercolor, glue art paper to the
page, and/or tear the page. Another
option is to sand the page lightly
to obscure some of the writing. Be
sure to get the background just the
way you want it before you start
tip: I like to use my books upside down;
it helps obscure the existing printing so it
is less readable and is more of a design
element. You are also more likely to have a
blank front cover with which to work if you
use the book upside down (the back of the
book becoming the front).
Choose the page carefully, keeping
in mind what parts will be negative
and what will show in the white
areas. Sometimes you want a lot of
light areas on the page so the image
is more easily seen; sometimes
you want a lot of words to slightly
obscure the image. Place your newly
cut stencil on your prepared page;
either hold it in place by hand or use
repositionable tape to secure it.
Using a stencil brush, swirl the
bristles firmly over the ink pad.
Pounce the brush on a piece of
paper first to be sure you are getting
the amount of ink you want. Then
pounce the ink through your stencil,
being careful not to rub. The stencil
is extremely fragile and will tear
easily so you want to use an upand-down motion; any swirling or
stroking on the stencil can tear it.
The pouncing action gives the piece
a kind of “oversprayed” look (Figures
4 and 5).
Remove the
stencil and
check the image
to see how you
like it. If you
don’t like the
image, you have
two choices: you
can either glue
that page to the
next one (as
you are usually
gluing pages
together anyway
to give them
more stability),
or you can just
cut that page
out of the book.
That’s one of
the great things
about altered
books. I usually
cut the page
out, because
once you start
adding stuff to
the book it can
get really full.
If you like the
image, think
about how you’d
like to label it.
I usually label
mine with
the artist’s or
band’s name.
Sometimes I use
some lyrics from
one of their
songs, as well.
Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4, revealing the positive
image of the stencil.
tip: Periodically lift a corner of the stencil
to check how the image is coming out;
the more pouncing you do, the darker the
image will be.
Figure 5. The negative space is
used here.
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
note: Always be aware of copyright
issues. If art is to be sold, song lyrics,
images, and/or quotes from others cannot
be used. See our Winter 2004 issue, page
78, for more information on copyright
the stamps
I use my carved stamps to add words;
these stamps are fairly simple to make.
Any font you hand carve will take on
your own personality. You can use vinyl
erasers or any product made for carving
stamps. (I have had very good luck with
PZ Kut from Stampeaz.)
carving into
the vinyl
I draw or trace each letter onto
tracing paper, then transfer it to the
vinyl eraser or PZ Kut by placing
the image against the eraser and
scribbling on the back of the tracing
paper. This will transfer the design
backwards, so when you carve it, it
will print correctly.
Once you’re satisfied that you have a
clear image, cut out the vinyl close to
the image of the letter. This gives you
a small piece with which to work and
keeps the carving to a minimum.
Carve away all the negative space,
using either a craft knife or a gouge/
chisel, making sure you carve deep
enough to create grooves. Carve
down 1⁄8" to 1⁄4". If you want to check
your image, you can print your
letter on paper with a lightcolored ink. The light ink
allows you to see
how the carving
is coming along
without obscuring
your lines. I’m not
always careful to follow my lines
when carving letters; I like them to
feel very handmade and rough. I have
been known to go back and gouge
or slash at some of my letters to give
them an old, beat-up look. I will often
do several versions of a few letters;
in one alphabet I did two versions
of each vowel. This gives me some
variety when laying out my script.
When printing a title with the alphabet
stamps, it can be a little tricky to line
up the letters. If you’re like me, you
won’t worry too much about it and will
actually take joy in the rise and fall of
each line. On the other hand, you may
prefer the letters to be lined up better,
so be sure to trim closely around your
letters in order to see exactly where you
are stamping. I usually like to use the
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
same color ink for the labeling as I do
for the stencil, so as not to distract from
the images. If you do change colors for
your labeling, keep the image you want
people to see first brighter, darker, and
bolder than the rest of the page.
taking it
This stencil technique can be used for
many things, not just altered books. Try
it for artist trading cards, postcards,
greeting cards, and gift tags. You can use
photos of friends, pets, landscapes,
buildings, and most anything else.
Photos are a great way to add a personal
touch to artwork.
“Teapot”• 7"× 81⁄2"
the workshop:
hen I first heard about making stamps out of craft foam I wasn’t
particularly interested. I eventually bought a sheet and made some
teeny-tiny leaf shapes to add to a drawing of some trees, and I was blown
away. It was so much simpler than carving hard rubber or linoleum and the
results were impressive.
I continued to make stamps with the
craft foam, using the original leaf shapes
and then others. Before I realized what
was happening, my stamps became
more complex and graphic. Then my
printmaking background kicked in. I
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
Patricia Gaignat
discovered that by breaking up an entire
image from one sheet of craft foam, I
was able to create whole prints and this
faux-silkscreen effect was the result. I
use foam stamps for everything now:
to illustrate my art journals, on ATCs
(artist trading cards) for trade, and on
my tags and postcards. Adapted from
Cloth Paper Scissors®
September/October 2010
Above: The design sketch with the sections numbered and colors assigned.
Above, right: The original drawing. “I prefer using tracing paper because I can see where I’m placing the
design, but the image will also transfer from plain copy paper.”
Below, right: The carefully cut-out shapes with decorative elements added.
the image
Using a pencil, draw the focal
point first—on ordinary paper, in a
sketchbook, or right onto a piece of
tracing paper. Be sure your pencil
lines are sharp so that they will
transfer well.
The drawing does
not have to be
reversed, nor does
the text. For my
first image I drew
a wonky-looking
teapot. 2.
Draw another shape
around the focal
point. I drew a
Add to the
complexity of the
drawing by breaking
up the background
I drew a table and then a wall and
floor, resulting in 6 distinct shapes.
m at e r i a l s
•Tracing paper
•Craft foam sheets (preferably with a
sticky back)
•Bone folder or spoon •Scissors
•Craft knife and cutting mat
•Transparency/acetate sheets
•Double-sided tape
•Ink pads
•Sketchbook or scrap paper
•Retractable ballpoint pen
Study the drawing and assign a color
to each section (see sketch, above
the image
Place the tracing paper onto a piece
of craft foam, drawing side down. 2.
Using a finger, a bone folder, or
another implement like a spoon, rub
the back of the paper to transfer the
graphite image to the foam surface. 3.
Lift up a corner of the tracing paper
and look to make sure the image has
Copy the drawing onto tracing paper
now if you did not start with tracing
•Pinking shears or decorative edge
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
Faux-silkscreen process on manila tags.
transferred completely. If necessary,
increase the rubbing pressure or
lightly go over any faint lines with
the pencil. Remove the tracing paper.
making the stamps
Using moderate pressure, go over
each line of the image with a
pencil or ballpoint pen to leave an
impression in the foam. You do not
need a lot of pressure.
Cut around the outer border of
your image with scissors, leaving
a more manageable piece to work
with. Pinking shears or other
decorative scissors may be used to
create a special edge.
Beginning with the smaller elements
and using a craft knife and cutting
mat, carefully cut out each shape so
that they will easily butt up against
each other.
Draw designs or texture elements
into the shapes with a pencil or
pen. The foam will compress under
the drawing pressure and those areas
will not accept ink when printed (see
image at left).
Adhere double-sided tape to the
back of one foam shape, or remove
the backing if using sticky-back
foam, and mount the foam onto a
transparency or acetate sheet. Trim
the mounting sheet a bit larger
The gradual printing of all six foam shapes.
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
than the foam piece for easier
handling. Repeat with the rest of
the foam shapes. The acetate will aid
design tips
• Shaped hole punches can also
be used on the foam shapes and
will print as white shapes when
• The tip of a ballpoint pen with the
point retracted will make circles or
larger dots when printed.
• Pressing the tip of a pencil into the
foam surface will make small dots. in the placement of the stamp for
printing, is flexible, and takes up less
space than other mounting options,
such as acrylic blocks.
I make a practice print to check the
alignment of the pieces and my choice of
colors. This helps me determine
if I need to add more texture
drawing or if any lines need to be
re-emphasized. You can also shave a bit
off the edges of the stamp with a craft
knife before printing, if necessary.But
keep in mind that some of these “flaws”
are what give the print its
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
faux-silkscreen appearance and may be
just what you’re looking for.
Examine the original drawing and
determine the best order in which
to print the stamps. If it is an image
with many shapes, number the order
on the original drawing and refer to
it as you work (see page 29). Adjust
the printing order, if needed, before
working on your actual piece as
you may find a different order will
work better for aligning the image.
Depending on your image, you may
find it best to print the focal image
more tips
• When doing a series of the same
image (ATCs, tags, postcards),
prepare all the papers needed and
print one stamp at a time on each
sheet, building up to the finished
image on the entire series at
once. This method is a time-saver. • Pre-paint a background with gesso
Press the stamp onto the paper.
Holding it down firmly with a finger,
peel up 1 side of the stamp to see if
the ink has printed fully. If not, apply
a bit more pressure. Do the same
on the other side of the stamp. This
is where using a transparency or
acetate sheet as a backing has an
advantage over a rigid mounting,
which would not bend. Remove the
Carefully ink up and place each
subsequent piece in the same
manner, following your
predetermined color and placement
and/or acrylic paint to give it visual
texture. Use light colors or ones that
will not interfere with your ink color
choices. Be aware that some dyebased inks do not print well on the
Starting with the first piece, apply
ink to the foam stamp by dabbing the
ink pad onto the foam stamp or by
tamping the foam stamp onto the ink
pad. Either method will work.
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC
Adapted from
Cloth Paper Scissors®
September/October 2011
reduction printing
printing back to front,
color by color
Lisa Thorpe
any examples of reduction printing can be found in the art of China
and Japan, and artists such as Picasso dabbled in the process as
well. Reduction printing has been around for centuries.
Traditionally these prints were made by carving a woodblock. The process
I’m sharing here uses a soft eraser-like material. You may have carved this soft
material in the past to make your own rubber stamps, but reduction printing
takes this familiar material and turns it on its head.
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I use Safety-Kut material and regular
linoleum cutting tools to create
three- and four-color limited-edition
prints that have the look of a woodblock
print but are much easier to carve. The
technique is called reduction printing
because you keep carving away at the
block, reducing what is printed with
each layer. The procedure is a bit of a
m at e r i a l s
• Sketching supplies
• Safety-Kut® printmaking material,
⁄8" thick
• Craft knife and cutting mat
• Ruler
• Acrylic paints or ink, 4 colors
ranging from light to dark (See “Ink
or Paint?”)
• Paper, sturdy and smooth (I use Rives
BFK print paper.)
• Brayer, 4"
• Inking plate (smooth tray or sheet of
glass with edges taped to roll paint
• Linoleum cutters: No.1 (liner),
No. 2 (V-shaped), and a No. 3 or
No. 4 (gouge), plus a handle
brainteaser at first because you start at
the back and print the first color, carve
a little, print the next color, carve more,
print another color, and so on until
most of the block is carved away. So put
on your thinking cap and I’ll walk you
through it.
• Baren
Do a few quick sketches of an
abstract design, a simple still life,
or a landscape to use as your
jumping-off point. (Figure 1)
note: Because this technique is a bit of a
brainteaser, I recommend you try a simple
sketch or a small abstract design first. This
will give you a few lightbulb moments
that will help prepare you for doing a
more representational print.
do several prints of your block at each
stage because once you start cutting
away you can’t go back and print
start printing
Cut the Safety-Cut to the desired
print size. I suggest you keep the
block in the 3"–6" range or it can get
difficult to handle.
Select the order of the 4 paint colors
you want to use. Remember that each
new color will print on top of the last
so you need to work from lightest to
Have 6–8 pieces of paper cut or torn
and ready for printing. You’ll want to
Place your first (lightest) color on
your inking plate and roll it out with
the brayer. Roll the inked brayer onto
the uncarved block. (I used yelloworange.) Make sure to roll on the
paint evenly, and in a thick enough
layer to print without being so thick
it ripples or slips. (Figure 2)
Press your block to your paper and
apply pressure with your hand or the
baren to get a strong print (Figure 3).
Remember to print all of your sheets
of prepared paper with this first color,
rolling on more paint for each new
print. Wash the block, roller, and inking
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ink or
• I use Golden Artists Colors® OPEN
acrylics for this instead of the usual
printer’s ink because the paints
come in lovely colors that are more
lively and transparent than many
of the typical print inks. The “open”
element allows you time to roll it on
and print without having to worry
about the paint drying on the roller
or on the rubber print surface.
• You can add a paint retarder to
regular acrylic paints to slow the
drying time.
• Standard block print inks work
well, too.
• Petal Point® pigment inkpads
work on smaller blocks no bigger
than 2"–3".
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 5
Figure 4
Figure 6
good time to carve a frame line around
your block, if desired, and maybe a
window in the back or flowers in a vase.
Don’t cut away too much; you have 2
more prints to go. (Figure 4)
plate and let them dry while working on
the next step.
With a pencil, draw your simple design
onto the block. Wherever you want
the lightest color (yellow-orange) to
remain, carve away that section using the
linoleum cutters. Start with the smallest
blade, No.1, and then carve out more,
as needed, with a larger blade. This is a
Roll your second color onto the block
as you did with the first color. I used
red. (Figure 5) Line up the edges of your
block with your first print and press as
before. (Figure 6) Don’t fuss too much
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about perfect print registration; having
the image a little off gives it charm and
energy. Print each piece of paper. Wash
your tools.
Carve away the areas where you want
to retain your second color (red), just
as you did before. I carved outlines
around the apples and bowl, and then
Figure 7
Figure 8
Figure 9
up your block with the first 2 prints as
before. Repeat on each of the prints.
Wash your tools.
carved around the window to leave a
red wall.
Choose your third color (I used
green), roll on the paint
(Figure 7), and print (Figure 8), lining
Carve away any areas where you want
to keep the previous color (green in
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my case). For the last print much of
your block is carved away. I like to leave
outlines of my composition so that the
subject pops in that classic woodblock
Choose your final color and print.
I love Golden’s Van Dyke brown,
and often use it as my final color
(Figure 9), but a classic black or dark
blue will work just as well.
Sign and number your prints.
Traditionally prints are signed on the
right and numbered with the print
number over the total amount of prints
made (i.e. , 1⁄8, 2⁄8, etc.).
Once you start playing with this method
you won’t want to stop. The prints make
wonderful small art pieces and cards. And
a bonus with using these 3⁄8" soft blocks is
that they are thick enough to carve both
sides so you can create two different
reduction prints from just one block. So
get on out there and start carving it up!
How to Make a Stamp: Art Stamps & Stamping Techniques presented by
©Interweave Press LLC