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Stamping in mixed media

Rubber stamping is not necessarily what is always meant when we talk about stamping in art.

There are many ways to stamp and as an elementary school art teacher I've tried lots of them. We've used natural objects like bubble wrap, corks and pieces of cardboard. We've made our own stamps with peel and stick craft foam  ,and stamped with plasticine. Rubber stamping however, is a whole new level and a  lot more varied than I thought previously.

I used to think that there was no creativity in using rubber stamps. I mean how creative can you get when you are using an image that is already designed for you. As I got more into it though, I changed my mind and now love rubber stamps and I use them a lot when art journaling.

Types of Rubber Stamps

The first and most common types of stamps are the ones you see below. These rubber stamps are mounted to wooden blocks and they are all over the craft stores. There are many styles and genres to choose from.(All images are links to Amazon. I put them there to give you ideas of what I am talking about.but, of course you can also go to Michaels, Joann's, Hobby Lobby or any other craft store and buy what they sell there.You can also search for similar items while on Amazon)

Then there are cling stamps. I can honestly say that I've never used them and don't own any but, can also  say that they will probably be added to my stash at some point or another. These are made out some kind of rubberized plastic and usually come in groups.

Rubber stamps also come  unmounted. I have seen various crafters and artists say that they like using them when they are not stamping on a straight surface.They can bend and fit into non straight backgrounds.

Alphabet stamps are probably some of the most common stamps used a tremendous amount in scrapbooking as they need to title their scrapbook pages. The wooden ones on blocks are the most common. The drawback is that it takes a long time to write out sentences with them.

To solve that problem there are stamps that can be locked together to form a word before stamping so that your word making takes much shorter.  They can be plastic or metal.

Then there are the unmounted rubber alphabet stamps that can also be put together before stamping to create words. In this case you would have to use some kind of temporary tape on a block to keep them together.

What are rubber stamps used for

The reason I was not so familiar with stamping was because it was more in the domain  of card making enthusiasts and scrapbookers. As I went through the various books I got from the library to do research on stamping,  I saw  many, many  card making ideas and scrapbooking ideas. I therefor  that I realized that rubber stamping is mainly in the domain of card making and  scrapbooking. However...a scrapbook without pictures is a mixed media journal page and I know many mixed media artists use them in their arsenals for art making.

If you would like to use these ideas for card making or scrapbooking then go right ahead but, my concentration is really on how to use stamps to make journal pages and just to create art. 

You don't need to break the bank to start rubber stamping

There are a few things you will need to add stamping to your art making. I will list them here but, I also have some images a bit later with links so you can go to Amazon and peruse what they have there. There are also many other companies like Stampington and Co, Ranger and Tim Holz among others that have an enormous amount of stamping supplies.

Even though you can start simple stamping with very few items, as in all crafting you can spend as much money as you want buying all the luscious inks, powders and sundry to enhance your stamping activities.​

To begin you will need:​

  • Stamps (purchased or homemade)
  • Colorants- some kind of ink, paint or dye to get the stamps impression down
  • Backgrounds to stamp on
  • Embossing powders for more 3d elegant stamped images
  • Heat gun to set the embossing poweder
  • Markers, pencils or paints to enhance your stamped images 

The heat gun and embossing powders are only if you want to do embossing. You do not have to begin with them.

Why add embossing to stamping

Mainly because it is pretty and will give your artwork an extra oopmph. Embossing stamps means heating either  powder to the image you've stamped  or heating the special ink you used to give it a more shiny look. Embossing adds shine, texture and all kinds of glittery effects. There is an enormous amount of variety that you can use to emboss depending of course, on your pocketbook.

The thing to keep in mind is that there is only one kind of ink that you need to use to emboss along with a heat gun. ​

What type of ink should you use?

Until recently I only knew of one type of ink. The black kind that comes in a stamp pad.

I have since learned much about the choices you have to stamp your images.So the truth is we shouldnt really say what type of inks should you use. Instead we should say what colorants...as in stuff that colors the stamps and allows you to get that image onto your paper.

There are 3 kinds of inks that are the best for stamping and then there are some other colorants to use.

The first​ kind ink available is solvent inks which include alcohol inks.These are used to non porous surfaces and can also be used for paper as well. I personally at this point, don't find much use for them to use with stamping. I find that the second 2 really suit my needs best.

The second type is standard dye ink and in comes in many colors. Most of us know this ink as the common black ink pad but, you don't have to limit it to black anymore as there are so many choices in ink color.

The third type of ink is pigment ink and  is what you use for embossing. Pigment ink comes in individual pans with clear covers so you can see the colors and they also come in packs with a few colors that you can often take out to rub over your stamp. They have black of course, and lots of metallics.

Is ink the only way to color a stamp?

Nope...there are more ways to skin a cat.

Markers are easy and fun. You just color the stamp and with markers you can can color different parts of the stamp different colors. Before stamping to make sure the colors are nice and juicy, you should either breathe onto the stamp or give a quick spritz of water over it. This way the colors print more vibrantly.​

You can also use acrylic paints or block printing ink. These  can be applied a few ways. You can use a brush which is not the best way or you can use a sponge. Cosmetic sponges work particularly well. Another way to apply the acrylic paint is by squeezing it out onto a piece of wax paper or plexiglas and rolling it out with a brayer. You then take the brayer which is now full of ink and roll it over the stamp. It's important to note that using the cheaper acrylic paints will not give you the same results as the better ones.

So how do you get these colorants onto the stamps

There are a couple of ways to do this

  • The old fashioned way: Stamp the stamp onto the ink pad and then onto the background
  • New fangled way: Turn the stamp pad over and rub it over the stamp. This works particularly well when the stamp pads are smaller than than the stamp and you need to get to many areas of the stamp
  • You can use a cosmetic sponge to dab onto the ink or paint and then dab onto the stamp
  • You can use store bought daubers that basically do the same thing as the cosmetic sponges
  • You can also add some ink to an old cd and use it as a palette with a brush
  • I also recently saw a video on you tube on how to make a stamp pad for acrylic ink that you can check out here

How does embossing work?

There are 2 methods to embossing

NUMBER 1- You  use a clear embossing stamp or liquid as shown below to cover your stamp with and then pour colored embossing powder over it 

NUMBER 2- You use colored pigment ink and clear embossing powder.​

That's it. It can get very confusing when you start reading up on it and even more confusing when you go to Michaels and see the array of powders and inks to choose from.​

So if you are using the clear ink, you ink the stamp and stamp your image onto your background which will be clear.

You then shake embossing powder onto the image and then  pour it back onto a paper that will allow you to pour it back easily into your jar. The powder remains on the stamped, clear image. You then  use a heat gun to melt the powder. This embosses it and gives the image the texture and shine you want.

You need to move the heat gun around on top of the powder until the powder is melted and does not have the orange peel texture to it. If you use pigment ink without powder it's a good idea to use the heat gun as well to set the ink.

Below was my first experience embossing and using a heat gun. I first did it in my journal and then when I saw how glittery my embossing powder was I did it on a black post it note. (Which I'm sure I will incorporate into my journal at some point or another) If you don't have a journal (yet...see art journal making to learn how to use one) you can use cardstock as a background.

How to make a rubber stamp

Ok so what if you want to make your own rubber stamps. I discussed how to make your own stencils in my  stencil art   post but stamp carving is way different.

There are 2 basic items that you need that you cannot find at home. A linoleum speedball cutter and the rubber to make the stamps out of. The cushion and the acrylic blocks you see below are extras that you can use if you want to mount your homemade stamps. You will also need a craft knife and a marker.

There are a number of ways to get the image you want onto your rubber. You can draw freehand, get an image from the web and then use graphite paper to transfer or trace an image using tracing paper and a sharpie.

Once you have the image you want on your block of rubber you  have to  decide if you are going to color in  the negative or the positive space.

This will help you see what you will need to cut. If you decide to color the positive image then you will need to cut out whatever is not colored. If you color the negative space then you cut out all the space around the image.

The speedball linoleum cutters come with 5 blades in different sizes to cut through the different areas around the images.

This rubber cuts like butter and you need to aim the cutter away from you and just slice around the image.

It is an extremely satisfying activity and can get quite addictive. (Be warned!)​ The beauty of making your own stamps is the variety you can get and you can create the exact stamp you need for any ideas you may have. (They certainly do have a more homemade look though)

If you want  more, really detailed instructions on how to make your own stamps...I own this book and highly suggest you get it.

How to make art with your stamps

So now you have your stamps...Let's see what you can to do with them.

As I noted before most rubber stamping is used for card making and scrapbooking. It's a bit easier to decide how to use the stamps for these purposes as they are really just used to add decoration to the pages. Since my intention is how to use them to make art in mixed media its a little bit more fuzzy and below are a number of ways I have used stamps.

My idea in showing you these is that  hopefully it will give you your own ideas of creating and using those and store bought stamps in your art.​

The first set of  pictures  was when I used stamps to enhance different journal pages.The first one was a  random page that had an assortment of  masking, stenciling and doodling and I figured why not add a stamp as well. The second one was a flower based page on top of ripped book pages. I had added petals made out of yellow pages and I thought stamping the flower stamps I had would add to the scene. I then colored them in with gold markers.

The third page was  a page using the color green  and since I had made a house I figured trees would enhance it. I used my own homemade tree stamps to add to the scene.​

The bottom 2 images are  examples of using stamps themselves to create a scene. The one on the right uses a combination of store bought and handmade. When I buy stamps I often think about how they would fit into a story.

The one on the left is still in middle of being worked on. The elephant was traced with tracing paper, painted and then collaged onto the page. I used the butterfly, tree and grass stamps to create a scene which as you see is not finished yet. (It's looking Safari like don't you think?)

When you do use stamps to create a scene, don't forget that this is mixed media and you can use painting, drawing, collage etc to add to the scene. Sometimes a stamp will give you an idea for a scene to start with and then you just add to it.​

The picture below (which is also not finished) is an idea of how I created a stamp to work with an idea I had. I wanted to make a city apartment building and decided to carve a window stamp to use over and over again. I'm actually not so happy as to how the stamping came out and if I would do it again I would experiment with which of the paints or dyes would make that impression richer.

This is to show you how you can start with an idea instead of seeing what stamps there are and going from there.​

My "Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music" page was inspired by this large stamp I have with musical notes on it. I stamped that on the background with black ink. I create hills with watercolor pencils, did the wording and then added a small individual musical note stamp. 

The one on the right  is not finished and I shouldn't even post it here but I had this  extra birdcage from another project so I pasted it on a page and then figured that my hand carved bird needs to be near the cage.​ I'll finish that one day too.

Another way to  use stamps is to create borders. The borders can be for your card making, your scrapbook pages, your journal pages or if you want to make a pretty piece of stationary.

To make this border, I took a sheet of paper and then cut another smaller to fit in the middle. I stamped all around the edges, use a mixture of store bought and homemade leaf stamps and when it was done, lifted off the top page  to show the near border around the edges. 

This activity is a fun way to combine stencils and stamping. In the first example I used a homemade tree stencil. I put it on top of the cardstock, chose a leaf stamp and stamped through the openings of the  stencil. When I removed the stencil you can see the shape of the tree with the leaf motif. I then took a small leaf stamp I had and added leaves with embossing powder. No question that this picture needs more work, I just wanted to show you the template idea.

This idea also used templates but, plain circle ones. You can make your own templates out of cardboard based on any theme you like. (even letters and words)

The  last idea I have for you for using rubber stamps is when I  stamped white tissue paper with my 2 musical stamps. The large one was stamped with black and the small musical note was stamped over it with shades of pink and purple. I then used the tissue paper to decoupage  an empty container.

You can also stamp tissue paper or other types of paper for wrapping paper, collage​s or layers in a journal page.

These are just some of the ways you can use stamps.

I hope that these ideas will give you the impetus to jump in to start using stamps in your art making as it is really a lot of fun.

I'd love to see or hear about other ways you use stamps.

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