Sunday, December 15, 2013

How to: Make A Hand Carved Stamp

Hey guys! There are probably a gazillion tutorials out there about carving stamps, but I just love making stamps so much I don't really care. These are the interwebz - there's always room for one more tutorial, right? ;)

So here it is: my tutorial for hand carving stamps! I learned how to make stamps a few years back and I was amazed at how easy it was. You don't need to be able to draw and you don't need many supplies to make your very own stamp. 

Let's get started!! :)

Step 1: Supplies

So, here's what you need:
  • A pencil
  • Tracing paper
  • Rubber carving block or eraser
  • Carving tools 
  • Hobby knife
  • Optional: piece of wood & glue

Carving block or eraser?
I've made stamps using both erasers and rubber carving blocks. When it comes to the carving itself there's not much difference in my opinion: both allow smooth carving. Just make sure the eraser doesn't have a texture that is too 'crumbly' and it will work fine. However, a carving block is often much thinner and therefor easier to glue to a piece of wood, which gives the stamp a very beautiful and professional look :) Love it!!

For this stamp I used the Speedy-Carve block from Speedball. Both the carving block and the piece of wood I bought at

My carving tools
I started making stamps using the Essdee carving kit. It works fine, but when it comes down to details the cheaper kits aren't precise enough for my taste. I eventually invested in two linoleum cutters from Pfeil. Handmade in Switzerland, baby!! ;) I use the #11 and #12 and they're a dream to work with.

Step 2: Choosing & drawing out your design

You can make a stamp of anything you like. Find inspiration in books, movies, illustrations or - if you're fortunate - your own drawings! You'll need a print of the design the size you want your stamp to be. Since I cannot draw at all I usually look for pictures online, adjust the size and print the picture - as shown above. For this stamp I used this image

Next step is tracing the image. Use tracing paper (sewing pattern paper also works!) and a pencil to trace the image. Think about what part of the image you want colored/filled and what part you want to leave empty/outline: this will influence the look of your stamp greatly. 

In this case I just wanted a simple black mustache, so I only had to draw the outlines. 

Step 3: Transferring the image to your carving block

Place your tracing paper on the carving block with the pencil lines facing the carving block. In other words: the side of the tracing paper where you drew the image should be touching the carving block. 

Now gently start scratching your fingernail over the image: this will transfer the image from the tracing paper to the carving block.  

There you go! You are now ready to start carving. 

Step 4: Carving out your stamp

Always start with your smallest and most precise tool to carve out a thin outline around the image edges; I always use my #11 Pfeil-tool for this. Carve out thin lines wherever you need them: if you want to create a stamp with only the outlines of a mustache (like this) you'll also have to carve a similar thin line on the inside of the pencil lines. Remember carefully which parts of the stamp you want filled/colored and which parts you want to hollow out/outline in the final result to decide where you need to carve!

With this first step get as close to the pencil lines as you can, but remember: it's easier to take away a piece of carving block later, than it is to restore an error... so be careful!! 

Next step is to further carve out along the edges with a slightly bigger tool; I always use my #12 Pfeil tool for this. In this case I only carved out material on the outside of the drawing, because I wanted my finished result to be a solid mustache. (Of course, if you're going for a mustache outline, you'll have to carve out the middle part as well.) 

Step 5: Cut out your stamp

When you're satisfied you can cut out your stamp using a hobby knife. 

Step 6: Try out your stamp and adjust if necessary 

Now it's time to try out your stamp! Look carefully for any imperfections. Make sure there isn't any carving block outside of your drawing to make ugly stripes around the edges (I personally HATE those  - they make it seem so sloppy...). Make adjustments wherever it's necessary until you're satisfied.

Step 7: (Optional) Glue your stamp to a piece of wood

If you want to attach your stamp to a piece of wood, first stamp on top of the wood. Using ink that's fit for wood will give the best result and will prevent smudging. I used VersaCraft #182 'Real Black' (fit for paper, fabric and wood) for this stamp.  

Use some glue to attach your brand new stamp to a piece of wood... and there you go! Your stamp is done!! :)

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! As usual I had a lot of fun writing it and if anyone out there finds it at all helpful, that's a nice bonus :) Hope you guys have fun making your own stamps - I know I do :)


  1. great i'd like to try sometime! Heather x

  2. Excellent idea! My husband bought me similar tools and piece of lino for Christmas, now I can't wait to try it :)

  3. Hi! I am getting into stamp carving and I would like to purchase the Pfeil carving tools. You mentioned you use the 11 and 12. I found more that one 11 and 12 - they have 11/0.5, 11/2, 11/4 and 12/4, 12a/4, 12a/8. Do you know which one of these you use? Any info would be great! Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Jacqueline,

      I'm using the L12/1 mm and the L11/0,5 mm! Hope this helps :)