Charley’s Stamping FAQ .
Zum Gali Gali Rubber Stamps .
PO Box 610187, Newton Highlands MA 02461 .
Phone: (617) 965-1268 .
Fax: (617) 965-6158 .
E-mail: zgg@world.std.com .
  Picture of the author, 19K JPG  
This is essentially the FAQ posting that Charley (bdnee@bronze.lcs.mit.edu) wrote for the newsgroup rec.crafts.rubberstamps. I've put in a lot of HTML to help you get to the subject you want. At the end of most sections, look for a little (top) to click back to the table of contents.
Revised Feb 27 ’99 -- Dean B

Here it comes................


This FAQ is Copyright (c)1994-99, Charles Bandes, and may not be republished or cross-posted without my permission.

1: What techniques are available for stamping?

1.1 Masking
1.2 Embossing
1.3 Layering
1.4 Reversing an image
1.5 Fabric Stamping

2: What resources are available?

2.1 Rubberstampmadness
2.2 National Stampagraphic
2.3 Eraser Carvers' Quarterly
2.4 Vamp Stamp News
2.5 The Rubber Stamper
2.6 Online Services
2.6 This FAQ
2.7 Mailing list

3: How can I make my own stamps?

3.1 Buying unmounted dies
3.2 Paying to have a sheet of custom dies made
3.3 Carving your own stamps from erasers

4: Inks

4.1 Dye-based inks
4.2 Pigment Inks
4.3 Cleaning Stamps

5: Shameless Plugs

5.1 Zum Gali Gali

Ok - here's the meat of the FAQ - ready or not, here it comes...

Chapter 1 - Stamping techniques (Basics)

1.1 Masking

Often when you're looking at mail-art, you may notice that the stamped images often overlap (scenes inside a TV-set, giant mouths consuming cities...) You may well wonder 'how'd they do that?', the answer is masking - which is really the same thing as stencilling or frisketing, depending on your vocabulary.

A simple masking experiment - choose two stamps, then choose one to go 'in front' of the other. Stamp this one onto a piece of scrap paper (a fairly heavy paper works best). Carefully trim that print, cutting the edges as close as you can. Then stamp that image again onto your good paper. Cover it with the cut-out you just made. Then stamp your second image, part on the cut-out, part on the blank paper surrounding your image. When you remove the cutout mask,you will have an overlapping image, the second stamp will be cropped right at the egde of your first print.

This same basic technique can be used to create unique and exciting effects - make a mask of a horizon, and stamp your favorite patterns to make the ground-plane, mask negative-space simple shapes...(top)

1.2 Embossing

Embossing powders give very professional looking results, and are very easy to use, if you're careful. Used properly, these powders will give your stamped images that look gof an embossed invitation. Here's all you have to do...

Print your images, a pigment-based pad works best for embossing (like those from Clearsnap or Imprintz...) While the ink is wet, sprinkle the powder onto the stamping, and shake it off (like kindergarteners do with glitter and glue) Then heat the powder to make it set. The best heat source, IMHO, is a heat gun - these can be obtained for about $30 at most craft or hardware stores, and also at many stamp stores... If you don't have a heat gun, you can heat the powder in a toaster-oven, holding a hot iron over it (DO NOT IRON IT DIRECTLY!), holding it near a HOT light bulb...(top)

1.3 Layering

Stampers often forget that they can build many layers in an image. By stamping repeatedly on top of other stamped images, you can build a wonderfully rich surface. Experiment with printing softly colored background layers before you begin to add foreground elements.

1.4 Reversing a stamped image

To reverse an image, print the stamp with a heavy wet ink onto a nonporous surface (a rubber eraser works particularly well), then stamp that print onto your paper. The ink won't take to the eraser, so it will transfer pretty well onto your paper. (top)

1.5 Fabric Stamping

If you stamp with a regular stamp pad onto clothing, the images will wash out. That's great for messy stampers, but not great for those who want to use stamps to decorate clothing.

There's two schools of fabric stamping right now, though others will surely emerge. #1 Use regular *pigment* pads, and then emboss. #2 print with deka fabric paints instead of traditional inks.

Neither system is perfect.

[Before you delve into either of the below, check out the "More on Fabric Stamping" section below.]

#1 - Pros: You probably already have the ink-pads, pigment pads allow for printing with very detailed stamps, clean-up is easy and fast.

Cons: Embossing powder makes fabric feel 'crunchy', emobssing fabric without a heat gun is a nightmare, colors aren't quite as rich as fabric paints.

#2 - Pros: Colors are very rich, no special treatment is needed to set the colors (tho it's smart to iron them...), Don't need to hassle with powders, Colors merge with the fabric for a more natural feel.

Cons: You'll need to invest in many expensive colors and blank stamp-pads, harder to get the multi-color effect you'd get with a pigment pad, colors set easily, clean-up can be tricky, colors are very thick, they only really work well with big and bold designs, don't even try your line-art stamps with this, it could clog them.

IMHO, If you are seriously into the fabric stamping thing, #2 is the way to go, even though there's some headaches with it - the fabric will have a much nicer printed feel. If you just want the occasional stamped shirt or tie, #1 is the better route, it's easier, faster, and less expensive. (top)

There's been a little confusion about what I mean by these processes, so I'll go into greater depth now.

#1 Materials:

  • Pigment ink pads
  • Clear Embossing Powder
  • Fabric
  • Stamps

Ink stamps, and print. But, instead of doing the whole shirt at once, do smaller areas at a time. When you finish an area, sprinkle with embossing powder, and heat. (A heat gun is really fairly necessary for this, since you want to aim the heat...) Repeat this process until the design is finished.

DO NOT use other kinds of powder, because it tends to clump a little bit in unstamped regions, clear doesn't show up, but if you were using colorful powder, it would look very spotty.

#2 Materials:

  • Deka Fabric Paint
  • Blank Stamp Pads (1 per color)
  • Fabric (we'll say a T-Shirt)
  • Stamps (of course! - big, bold designs...)

First, load up the pad with paint. For the sake of argument, let's say we're using a foam pad, tho i think felt would be fine.

Ink your stamps, and print onto the fabric. The paint will stay wet for a while, so be careful completing your design.

When your whole shirt is done, and the ink seems dry. Iron the shirt to heat-set the paint. This is a very important step!

Hand-Carved stamps are great for this technique.

#3 - I've recently discovered alcohol-based fabric-ink 'dabbers.' They seem to be the best of both worlds, but I don't yet have sufficient information to go into depth about them... Suffice it to say they seem pretty nifty, and are worth a try.

1.5.5 More on Fabric Stamping

I've recently discovered more about the Deka paints, and I'm sold on them bigtime!

Here's what I do --

I use the uninked ColorBox foam pads, I expect uninked foam pads from another supplier would be just as good, but I don't think felt would work.

My first step is to put two or three drops of white vinager on the pad, and work it in with a spatula. I believe this slows the drying process of the ink, and makes the pad live longer. Next I work the paint into the pad, a little at a time, until about half the bottle has been absorbed. (This takes patience!)

Once the ink has been absorbed, stamp with the pad as usual. I've actually found that linear stamps work best, I don't know why. What's great about this method is that Deka has a huge range of colors, so you can get some really exciting effects - I just covered a pair of jeans in flourescent lightening bolts earlier tonight.

Worth mentioning - DON'T use the metallic Deka paints in this method - it doesn't work. (Which is a real shame, I really wanted to stamp w/ silver ink on black jeans.)

Also of interest - there's an exciting new fabric ink pad on the market It's called Fabrico, sold by a company called Tsukineko. It looks for all the world like a colorbox, raised felt pad, and all that, nice rich colors,and my first experience with it was very positive. After stamping one pair of jeans, I ordered a full palette, but I tend to go a little overboard. I've had mixed results with these. I really, REALLY want to endorse them heartily, since they generally print beautifully, and most of my attempts have been very successful. However, I had one shirt that I stamped with Fabricos that faded dramatically with the first washing. (It was a 100% cotton t-shirt, which had been washed many times.) Bottom line - these are still the best fabric inks I've ever used. They aren't perfect, and you should test your fabrics before you go whole hog into them. On the plus side, the people at Tsukineko have been doing tests on my faded shirt, and have been EXTREMELY helpful, helpful to the point that I will never buy anything from Clearsnap again so long as Tsukineko continues to make similar products which they support this well. Try them!

Likewise, a small company called Pele's has an excellent black fabric ink/pad combination - don't think she has other colors, but it's a great, rich black. (top)

Chapter 2: What resources are available?

(More and more publications keep surfacing every month - this is far from complete)
The very best resources, IMHO, are the stamping publications, namely

2.1 Rubberstampmadness

In my opinion, this is the one absolute must-have for all stamp enthusiasts. It has grown, over the many years I've known it, from a small tabloid-format newspaper to a large-format square bound magazine pushing 150+ pages an issue. It is published bimonthly, features beautiful color plates , consistently well written articles that appeal to rank beginners to seasoned stampers alike, and is IMHO the best source of advertisments for industry resources as well. (Most of the companies I list herein are taken from the pages of RSM.)

Subscriptions cost $24/year for six issues, a sample issue is $7

Their address -

408 SW Monroe #210
Corvallis, Oregon 97330

Phone: 541-752-0075 (old area code was 503)
Fax: 541-752-5475
E-mail: rsm@rsmadness.com
Web page: http://www.rsmadness.com

2.2 National Stampagraphic

A smaller publication, geared a bit more towards the mainstream, with more emphasis on beginner sorts of topics. They have a somewhat more eclectic bunch of articles and writers, and their layout has a 'diamond-in-the-rough' sort of charm all its own. Also important to note is that Franklin Stein (Editor) is a member of the online community, and frequently contributes. He is NatStamp@AOL.com, I believe. Give it a look - it doesn't have the mass-market slickness of RSM, but there's great stuff in every issue. It is published quarterly, and issues average around 50 pages (that's a guess)

Subscriptions cost $18.00 Single copies $5.00

Their Address -

National Stampagraphic
Art Stamps, Inc
P.O. Box 370985
Las Vegas, NV 89137

Phone - 702-396-2188
Fax = 702-396-2189

2.3 Eraser Carver's Quarterly

This is really a small 'zine, but it contains some useful information for eraser carvers, and provides a great way to showcase the carvings you're really proud of - they make an effort to print the stampings they recieve in the mail. Definitely worth checking out if you're into the carving scene.

They average about 16 pages, but they're packed with good stuff.

Subscription - $10 for four issues, sample copy $3

Their address -

P.O. Box 222
Clay, NY 13041-0222

Phone: (315) 635-1477

Checks and money orders should be payable to Mick Mather

2.4 Vamp Stamp News

This is a nice, fairly young stamping 'zine. My sample issue was 24 pages long - and I like it :). It's similar in format to Stampagraphic, though much less established, and appears from the sample issue I have to focus more on resource listings and catalog reviews than on articles, though my issue has a few 'helpful hint' type articles, which are well put together. Of particular interest to this group is the 'Online News' Section, which lists goings on on Prodigy, AOL, GEnie, CompuServe, Delphi, and the Internet. (Quite thoroughly, for that matter - easily the best treatment I've seen.)

Subscription: $20 for 12 issues, samples $2.50

Write to:

Nancie Waterman
Vamp Stamp News
PO Box 386
Hanover, MD 21076-0386

Fax: 410-760-1495
e-mail: ghps93a@prodigy.com

2.5 The Rubber Stamper

This is a new publication, and to be honest, it's not my cup of tea. However, I'll do my best to give a fair appraisal - I've only seen one issue, and it's very likely that this magazine will grow and mature with time. (These are my opinions only, not those of Zum Gali Gali.)

Here's my opinion --

This magazine is very slick and professional-looking, and apparently geared towards newbie stampers looking for cookbook-style "projects." The style is firmly on the cute end of the spectrum, with a bit of that new 'layered' look tossed in for variety. From what I've seen, this mag has none of the respect for creativity shown by RSM, NatStamp, or VampStamp. However, it does offer many potential helpful hints for newbie stampers, and a few interesting techniques here and there - the problem is that all the techniques read like ads for specific products.

My (personal) final word - a nice slick publication that will appeal to newbies and those with particular interest in cutesy stamps. Not a good choice for seasoned stampers or those interested in finding their own personal styles.

Subscriptions: $25 for 6 issues (92 pages, mostly ads)

Write to:

The Rubber Stamper
Box 420
Englishtown, NJ 07726-9982

2.6 Online Services

To my knowledge, Prodigy, America Online, GEnie, Compuserve and Delphi (does delphi even exist anymore?) all offer stamping special interest groups. We also have our own internet newsgroup - rec.crafts.rubberstamps, with participation growing daily.

If you have experience with any of these stamping SIGs, please let me know, and I will add the information to the FAQ.

Stamp-related web sites continue to sprout up, I don't have a sufficient list to be useful. (In June of '96 there were only two!)

2.7 This FAQ

This FAQ list will be updated periodicly.

If there is information you would like to see added to the FAQ, please email it to me at bdnee@bronze.lcs.mit.edu, with a subject of 'FAQ additions' - I get a LOT of mail, but will do my best to reply personally.

2.8 The Stamping Mailing List

Subscribe/unsubscribe commands go to majordomo@crafts.dm.net, and in the body put: subscribe rubberstampers

Email/posts go to rubberstampers@crafts.dm.net

I haven't been on the list for some time now - simply too much volume there for my busy emailbox, but I definitely recommend the list to everyone interested in a vibrant conversation about stamps. (top)

Chapter 3 - How do I make my own stamps?

3.1 Buying unmounted dies

Ok, this isn't really 'making my own' since someone else has designed the image and turned it into a rubber die for you, which is really the hard part. Still, it's a great way to save money, if you're stamping on a tight budget. Many stamp companies will sell you their dies at half-price if you buy them unmounted, and mount them yourself. You get a first-quality die, and then have to find wood and cushion to mount it. If you do this carefully, you get a stamp that's just as good as a professionally assembled one. (Catie Kniess says she finds home-assembled stamps are often of *higher* quality than some of the mass-produced ones giant companies are making these days. I have to agree, though I think the small mom+pop companies still have superior quality standards in general.) (top)

3.2 Having someone else vulcanize your designs

If you're an artist, or have a collection of dover clip-art books that you want to turn into stamps, you might want to pay someone to make you sheets of your own designs. **(Please note - the dover books are not completely royalty-free, though for your personal use, you porobably don't have to worry, you should still look very closely at the fine print in the book to make sure you're not infringing on their rights. Dover's policies seem to change from year to year, and from book to book so if you want to be covered, look carefully, and contact Dover to be extra certain.)**

High-quality dies are very costly to produce, as they require an expensive engraving on a metal plate before the mold can be made. For your own personal use, though, a slightly lower quality die will probably be fine - you can have them made fairly inexpensively by California Rubber Stamps or Stamp Pros. Both of them will produce for you a 4x5" sheet of vulcanized dies from your camera-ready art for $20 or less. IMHO, California dies are of higher quality, though neither are up to my professional standards for my company.

Alternatively, many stamp companies offer a single-stamp custom stamp making service. This often costs two to three times the price of a stamp of equivalent size from their catalog, but you get a high quality stamp that's professionally trimmed and mounted. If you only want a single stamp, this may be the way to go.

California Rubber Stamps - 1-800-274-6789 $20 for 4x5" sheet [California Rubber recently JACKED their prices way way up, I think it's $50 now, instead of $20 - use them at your own risk]

StampPros - 1-811-713-4095 $15 for 4x5" sheet

either should be willing to send you a sample die if you are considering their service. (top)

3.3 Carving your own stamps - abridged version

For now, I'm not going to delve into all the intricacies of this subject, but I'll do my best to cover the basics.

The first step, get an eraser and an ink pad, press the eraser into the ink, and print it on paper - you've just made a stamp of a rectangle. Not very exciting, you say? Well, you're right. So it's now our task to make that a more interesting stamp.

I always start with a drawing of some kind - I'll usually trace my eraser (I prefer the white plastic erasers, Magic-Rub or Staedtler-Mars, also the carving blocks from Nasco or Dick Blick)

If you draw in pencil, your drawing can be transferred to your eraser quite easily. Remember that fine details are difficult to carve, start simply, with big bold shapes, as your skill improves, add smaller details.

Once you have your design, it's time to transfer it to your stamp. Put your eraser on top of the design, flip the paper over, and scribble on the back of the paper (the part that's over the eraser) with a heavy, even pressure. This will transfer your design, AND will insure that your stamp prints the same way you drew it - transferring it reverses the image, as does printing the stamp.

I carve with an X-acto brand knife, I find that they are the sharpest and sturdiest brand. I particularly like the X-acto Gripster. Linoleum gouges can also come in handy - Speedball makes a good line of these as well as safer 'Linozips' which are better for cutting erasers than for linoleum, IMHO.

Remember that the parts you cut away will be the parts that are white in the print, what you leave will be the part that takes the ink - it's a different mentality than drawing, since you're taking things away.

Be careful not to undercut your lines - I always cut v-shaped gouges,

like this:            NOT like this:
___  ___                  ___  ___
   \/                       /__\
this will make your stamp more stable.

If you want more information, bug me about it - I'll put more in the next FAQ, also check out Eraser Carver's Quarterly. (top)

Chapter 4: Inks

You basically have two choices for consumer-grade stamping inks, dye based, and pigment based. What's the difference, you ask?

4.1 Dye Inks

Dye-based inks are like the kind people have been using for decades in offices and other mundane places. The old-fashioned ones were horrible, but recently there have been some wonderful newcomers to the dye-based world, making these really viable. Dye inks are a liquid dye that soaks into the paper, providing a color. They are translucent, so the color of the paper affects them greatly. They dry quickly, and work on many sorts of surfaces.

Recommended brands - Clearsnap Vivid, Clearsnap Brush Box, Abracadada Rainbow Pads, Stewart Superior Dye pads, Tsukineko Kaleidacolor

Pros - Dry quickly, work on many sorts of surfaces

Cons - Translucent, limited color selection, quick-drying is less good for embossing. rainbow colors bleed together FAST. (top)

4.2 Pigment Inks

These took the stamping world by storm about five years ago, and they're really wonderful for some things, and really not so good for others. These inks are much more like an acrylic paint,they offer a huge and beautiful range of colors, but they dry slowly and do not work well on coated stocks (they NEVER dry on Kromecoat, for example.) For a rich, multicolor print, a rainbow pigmnent pad is your best bet - I swear by my pigment pads. BUT if you're doing a large edition, the slow-drying inks may smudge as you stack them up - be warned.

Recommended Brands - Clearsnap Paintbox and ColorBox, Imprintz Pigment Pads, Niji ColorCubes, anything by Tsukineko.

Tsukineko Pros - Wide range of colors, slow drying makes them GREAT for embossing, excellent non-bleeding rainbows, Opaque

Cons - Dry slowly, don't work on coated paper. (top)

4.3 Cleaning stamps

I can't stress this enough, it is critical that your stamps be kept clean. I speak from sixteen years stamp collecting experience, and also as co-owner of a stamp company. Dirty stamps will eventually become hard and brittle, and fine detail will clog with ink - especially if you use pigment inks. Not to mention the contamination you'll get in your stamp pads, remember, a clean stamp is a happy stamp!

I clean my stamps just with a damp Bounty paper towel folded several times on a styrofoam meat tray. Others like to use small sponges or more complicated devices. Since most inks are water-soluble these days, I do not feel that solvent-based stamp cleaners are necessary - water usually does the job. If you want to try a solvent-based cleaner, try diluting 1 part Windex in 10 parts water. I clean stamps as I work, it's really not a chore. (top)

Chapter 5: Shameless Plugs

5.1 Zum Gali Gali - my company!

Zum Gali Gali is a small, relatively young company specializing in original, offbeat designs that you haven't seen before. Some unique categories include Judaica, New England imagery, *Amazing* carvings by Robin Taylor of ECQ fame, photographic postoids, not to mention more offbeat animals and people than you could shake a stick at.

Our 38-page 800+ image catalog can be yours for $3.00, which we cheerfully refund with your first order, or you can get our latest flyer for free, just by sending me your address.

Grab bags are also available - $8 for a 10 die grab, $12 for a 20 die grab, $16 for a 30 die grab. Specify general-interest or Judaic, and please add $2.50 shipping+handling.

For a catalog send $3.00 made out to Zum Gali Gali to:

Zum Gali Gali Rubber Stamps
PO Box 610187
Newton Highlands, MA 02461

Please address comments to bdnee@bronze.lcs.mit.edu, and write something about the stamps FAQ in the subject, 'cause I get a lot of mail. Any advice gratefully accepted - if you have something you'd like to add, please feel free.

Charles Bandes - Zum Gali Gali Rubber Stamps

Charles Bandes               "When in doubt, draw a frog!"
Zum Gali Gali Rubber Stamps            "Stamp the Planet!"

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Last updated Sunday, March 14, 1999