Thursday, February 26, 2015

Make Your Own Bird Stamp!

Servus and welcome to my second appearance as Our Creative Corner's Resident Guest Designer! I hope you had fun with my January tutorial: "Umberto", the mighty moustache man!

Today I would like to show you how easy it is to carve your own bird stamp.

And when I say "easy" I really mean it....I know stamp carving (or lino carving) always looks quite intimidating and even a bit dangerous (hard lino, sharp knives, soft skin, fiddly detail to cut, transferring the design,...) and it can be, but it doesn't have to anymore as there are a lot of soft carving blocs out on the market now (and even if you decide to try lino carving there are some tricks that can help make it less laborious).

I recommend that for starters you try the Speedball "Speedy Carve" stamping blocs as they are really easy and effortless to use! They even offer a starter "Stamp Making Kit" that comes with a wooden handle,  two knives (one for fine detail and outlines and the other for taking off larger pieces), an easy to follow instruction, tracer paper and a carving block. Carving blocks can be bought separately in various sizes - from really small to rather large 6 by 12 inch size.

But the best carving equipment does not replace a good stamp design, right? So how achieve it? Search for good images you can use as a pattern with books or magazines!

Get some paper and a pencil and try some sketches until you find a pattern that you feel comfortable with drawing freehand. Don't care about the size of your drawing yet - draw the way and size you feel most comfortable with!

I found a lovely picture of a great tit and sketched it rather roughly. Avoid soft curved lines as the carving will give an "edgy" look to your design anyway.

Next get yourself some black acrylic (or water-) colour and a soft paint brush (for fine detail) and trace your design rather quickly. Don't waste time and energy on small detail - we want to create a design that will tell it is a hand carved one and not an industrially produced stamp made from a nature photograph. Honestly my shading in the bird's body wasn't necessary at all (but I got carried away a bit while

Using the black acrylic colour and making "drawing" more difficult by forcing your hand to draw with a paint brush, your design will be closer to being cut-able and you can already get an impression of where to add more black and where to leave more white space to make your design more striking.

Now's the time to define the size of your stamp! Measure your carving block (or the cut to size carving block) and divide the area into even squares. Then divide your drawn image into the same number of squares using a ruler and a pencil.

Next to your segmented drawing draw a smaller version of the grid - this time the exact size of your carving block. You will find that it is rather easy to transfer a drawn image by hand by using a scaled grid. And it is a good way to practice your drawing skills too (as it helps you learn focus on directions, proportions and shapes). (You can of course use your printer for this and scale the image on your computer or printer...but being an old school arts teacher I tend to prefer a method that I can also use when I am away from my pc). ;)

Well, your result doesn't have to be an exact copy of your first drawing of course - but you will find it will look pretty much the same. And that's all you need.

For fine detail use a black ink pen with a very fine tip - especially the eye will have to be done precisely so it will look naturally.

Finish the rest off with your fine detail brush and the black acrylic (or watercolour) paint. That will do the job well enough and help eliminate unnecessary detail that would get lost during cutting anyway.

Now take a piece of tracer paper and a soft pencil and thoroughly trace all the black lines and areas of your design.

Flip your image over and place the tracer paper face down on your carving block. Rub over the whole image with your fingernail (or the back of a spoon) to transfer the pencil drawing to the rubber of the carving block.


There it is!

As you can see I first transferred the image to my carving block and then cut it to the size of my stamp. 

Start with the fine detail V-knife...

...and cut all the outlines first. 

Then take away the larger areas using the wider knife. The already cut out outlines will help prevent your knife from "slipping" into areas that are meant to stay black when being stamped. Anyway - you should rather cut from the edge towards the center of an area you want to remove than the other way round. And only cut small pieces at a time...this will also help prevent "slipping" into places you want to remain raised and untouched.

The carved stamp will not cling to an acrylic bloc (unless you mount it onto some EZ mount), but as the material is rather bulky you can use the finished stamp right as it is without an acrylic bloc at all (and only use an acrylic bloc to add some pressure from the back if needed)  - so it's time to make your first print (just like you stamp with any other stamp).

You may find that the first print shows areas where you need to cut off some more. I marked these with a red pen:

Repeat this step (stamping - cutting - stamping) until you are content with the design. And then you're done!
I really encourage you to carve your own stamps - you will find that is a very rewarding thing to have your unique and personal stamp to use on your projects!

I used mine on an art journal card for starters (and I plan to use it for stamping on cloth soon....ah, so many ideas, so little

Oh, before I forget: if you want to carve lino and find it is rather sturdy, put your lino on your heater or in the oven (at about 40°C/104°F or slightly warmer) for a while - this will soften your lino and make cutting a lot easier. And remember: always cut away from your body and fingers! Never towards!

Have fun and share your own stamp designs soon! ;)

If you haven't already seen the makes for or joined in with the actual "Tic Tac Toe - challenge", hosted by our lovely and fabulously talented Julia, I highly recommend you do so! The team has also created an amazing bundle of inspiration for you and playing Tic Tac Toe always is great fun! 

Hugs and happy crafting,


  1. Fabulous Claudia! Love the bird stamp you have created. I 've been having a go at stamp carving, only flowers and leaves at the moment. Your tutorial has spurred me on to try something different, you have included lots of really useful tips ! Thank you very much. Toni x

  2. Wonderful! Thanks so much Claudia! You have actually bought back a memory I hadn't thought of in years..and that is of making flower themed lino prints in primary school. I loved doing it but found it very tricky (I think I was only about 7) Your bird stamp is amazing and your tutorial, as always, is amazing! Thank you so much! Lots of love from Laura xxx

  3. Wow, gorgeous project and amazing tutorial Claudia! I love the idea of making your own stamps, but a sculptor I am not! You are such a talented lady and I just adore your bird!! hugs :)

  4. What a great little bird! and the results are wonderful! You are a girl of many talents Claudia!

  5. Thank you very much for this great tutorial, beautiful natural bird!!!

  6. I never knew we could carve our own stamp !! Thanks for the detailed n well explained tutorial !

  7. Fabulous tutorial Claudia you have inspired me to have another go
    Amanda x

  8. This is brilliant...I love your bird stamp

  9. Well done Claudia! Your tutorial makes carving look simple enough that I might have to give it a go!!
    Love your little bird- so very tweet! oops-sweet!! heehee

  10. A very useful tutorial Claudia: I have a foam block for ages, and I never dared using it, except in a reusable heating technique... So now I think I will follow your step by step lesson. Thanks!

  11. Claudia this is fantastic...not only the stamp itself, but also card you made!! I am not really patient and i want to do everything quick, so my homemade stamps are really useless...but now I will try again...thank you very much for showing this!!
    Hugs from Slovenia

  12. Wowzers, a fabulous bird stamp, so cute!!! Also a wonderful AJ page with it, but above that, a FABULOUS share of your technique to create such a lovely hand-made stamp, WOW thank you Claudia!!! Coco xxx

  13. Thank you Claudia for showing how easy it is to make your own stamp. I think I'll give it a try. Love your card as well.
    Hugs xxx Laurie

  14. Amazing, Claudia! What a GREAT tutorial--You are so very talented and even for someone like me, who can't even draw a stick figure, I want to try to carve my own stamps!! I do like the 'edginess' of the stamped image--a one-of-a kind stamp image!! How cool is that! Thank you for the inspiration to want to try something new!! I'll definitely heed the warning--cut away from the body & fingers! :) XOXO-Shari

  15. Soooo clever Claudia - I absolutley love your fab tutorial!! I would love to try this. I've only used the foam that you can heat and press for making custom stamps - this allows so much more creativity.


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