Making your own stamp

I have a whole morning off today! I am enjoying it immensely. I’m still in my dressing gown past noon, sitting by an open window listening to the rain. I can feel my insides all unknotting. I’m also making plans to go camping with a friend and immediately I’m starting to feel more relaxed. I so need something good to look forward to, but it’s easy to forget that. Plenty of good things do happen, but having something to anticipate really helps me.

I am brewing some more mental health articles, don’t worry, but today I feel like posting about art instead. I was chatting recently with a friend about making your own stamps out of styrofoam so I thought I’d share that. Styrofoam is very cheap and easy to mark to make stamps with. Here’s the process I’ve used before.

Hand made blue bird of happiness styrofoam stamp

1. Get a piece of styrofoam and cut it down to size. A utility or Stanley knife will do the trick.

2. Work out your design on paper, then transfer it using a pen onto the styrofoam. If you have trouble with it, your design may be too complex. These are best for simple stamps. You can also try cutting around the paper design and outlining it, then you can fill the details in by eye.

3. Take an awl, a nail, or some other thin piece of metal. I’ve used an awl here. (an awl is a sharp pointy stick used to pierce fabric) Light a candle and heat the tip of your metal in the flame. If the base is getting warm, make sure you use gloves, hold it with pliers, or wrap it in something heat proof.

4. Use the hot metal to melt your design into the styrofoam. This must be done in a well ventilated area, or for preference outside, the fumes are nasty smelling and bad for your health. The metal will cool quickly so keep the candle to hand and keep reheating it.

Awl and candle

5. Prepare your paint. Use any acrylic paint, add a drop of drying retarder if the weather is warm to give you lots of time to work before the paint dries.

6. Load the stamp. This means get paint onto it. You can do this by dabbing the stamp in a tray of paint, or by painting the stamp directly with a brush or sponge.

7. Test the stamp to make sure you are getting the right amount of paint on it. If your test is patchy, you have too little paint. If your test is blobby and the lines have blended, you have too much paint. It can take a few goes to get this right. These stamps will always leave a mottled paint because of the little balls that make up the styrofoam block. I really like the affect.

8. Use the stamp!

Personalised Journal, painted white and decorated with stamps and dimensional paint

9. Very gently wash the stamp under running water. Don’t scrub it or it will fall apart. Leave to drip dry. These kind of stamps don’t last forever, but they are cheap and quick to make. You can try making stamps from many other materials too, cut potatoes, kitchen sponges, foam, felt, bits of lace, even leaves will make interesting marks when loaded with paint. Enjoy!

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