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How to Use Rubber Stamps

Probably the most popular tool for decorating handmade greeting cards is the rubber stamp. Commercially available stamps come in every variety from coffee cups to feathers and monsters to bunny rabbits. You can also buy words and phrases or, with individual letters of the alphabet, create your own words. With such a wide range of choices you can convey just about any emotion and hand craft cards in no time.

What You Need

Rubber stamps - Commercially available rubber stamps come mounted or unmounted. Mounted stamps have the carved rubber image glued to something one can grip, usually wood. Mounted stamps are much easier to use than unmounted. The advantages to unmounted stamps are that they're cheaper and take less storage space.

rubber stamps Buy rubber stamps at your friendly arts and crafts store or one of the many online shops. A great resource is eBay where at the time of this writing there are over 10,000 lots of rubber stamps up for auction.

Ink comes in many different colors on foam or cloth pads in their own little boxes. Some inks come as several colors in one box. See relevant info on Embossing Powder, Ink, and Pens. Also available is clear ink made for embossing and watermarks.

Watercolor brush pens can be used for applying small, detailed areas of color directly to the stamp. Some people use regular felt-tip pens for this but it can be tricky as the ink in the felt-tip pen dries quickly. The brush pens' ink dries slower, giving you time to color the whole image (maybe).

Inking the Stamp

Keeping the surface of the stamp parallel to the ink pad, tap the stamp to the pad gently but firmly a couple of times. If you tilt the stamp or press to hard, you'll get ink on the background of the stamp. This is no big deal but if you're careful you can keep your stamps neater.

Using brush pens (mentioned above) will allow you to color individual parts of the stamp in detail. Brush pens are made for this and the ink on them doesn't dry quickly, but if you take too long, parts of the image may dry. Try breathing on the stamp to revive the ink before stamping. Practice and experience pay off here.

Some metallic markers and some opaque pigment inks tend to dry more slowly, so you have more time with these. Some of these take a long time to dry, so beware that the ink will smear if you continue working with the card.

Stamping the Card

First, make sure the greeting card stock you're going to stamp is laying on a hard surface. After applying the ink to the stamp, hold the stamp parallel to the card. Without tilting the stamp, apply firm pressure and then carefully lift the stamp from the card. Do not rock the stamp. It's always a good idea to try out the stamp on a piece of scrap card first. Try to use the same card stock for this test as the type of paper can make a difference on how the image shows up.

Some stamps, especially larger and/or more detailed ones, will require a little extra pressure. If your practice run shows extra pressure is required, try this: while the stamp is in contact with the paper, push firmly on all parts of the stamp with your thumb or fingers - especially the center. And remember, resist the temptation to rock the stamp.

Artistic Hint - If you're using water-based ink, try this: after inking the stamp, spray a very fine mist of water on the stamp, then apply to the paper as usual. The result will be a watercolor-like image.

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