Charley’s Stamping FAQ

Zum Gali Gali Rubber Stamps

PO Box 610187, Newton Highlands MA 02461

Phone: (617) 965-1268


This is essentially the "frequently asked questions" posting that Charley wrote in the late 1990s, when the internet was more like lot of computer bulletin boards than the easily searchable information resource that it is now. 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.
I revised this in 2015 to eliminate obsolete links, but much of the information is out of date. -- 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 Vamp Stamp News
2.3 Scrap and Stamp Arts

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:

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:

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 four times a year, 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.)

Their address -

408 SW Monroe #210
Corvallis, Oregon 97330

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

2.2 Vamp Stamp News

This started as a newsletter of a Virginia / Maryland stamp club, turned into a leading stamp magazine, and now exists as a web site. There's a lot of useful information on the web site, including an index of the magazine (if you have a stack of back issues and want to find a particular item).

Web page: http://vampstampnews.com

2.3 Scrap and Stamp Arts

Scrap and Stamp Arts is published eight times a year by Scott Publications. It is slick and professional-looking, and has a lot of technique articles and cookbook-style "projects," with as much about scrapbooking as about stamping.

Web page: http://www.scottpublications.com/ssa/

2.4 Miscellaneous

Times have changed since the days of internet newsgroups. In 2001 or so, people would post questions to special-interest computer bulletin boards. The regular readers got tired of getting the same questions over and over, and compiled lists of "frequently asked questions" that newcomers could read and not pester the regulars with. Nowadays you can enter a question to Google and have a pretty good chance of finding an answer or several. So this whole page is more or less obsolete. You'll find more links with a well-chosen Google search than we could put on this page. (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 turn your designs into stamps

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 probably 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.)**

The usual process for manufacturing rubber stamps in quantity is first, to make a photoengraving on a metal plate; then to make a mold in bakelite plastic from the photoengraving; then to vulcanize rubber in the bakelite mold. That process is not practical for stamps that you only want a single copy of, because the photoengraving is expensive. Once you have an engraving and a mold, it's relatively inexpensive to vulcanize stamps; so if you have a group of friends who all want stamps, so you will be making fifteen or twenty copies, that process will be less expensive than laser engraved or photopolymer stamps (discussed below).

Laser engravers are computer output devices which burn away material with a laser beam, leaving a design behind. If the material is rubber, what's left is a rubber stamp. They are ideal for one-of-a-kind items, because the engraving process depends on the size of the design so it takes twice as long to make two items as one, and twice as long to make a design twice as big. Of course there is some economy in not having to select the design twice; but basically it's like printing two copies of a document on a laser printer instead of one copy. Laser engraved stamps have very good detail, but probably not quite so good as those made from photoengravings.

Photopolymer stamps are another option. Photopolymer is a material which turns from a resin to a firm plastic when exposed to ultraviolet light. Photopolymer stamp systems are also ideal for one-of-a-kind stamps. The process is faster and less expensive than laser engraving, but it's not capable of as much detail as rubber, and the photopolymer stamp may not work with some inks. The resulting stamp is clear or translucent. If you mount it on an acrylic block it allows very precise positioning.

Here are a couple of options for custom stamps. I haven't bought anything from either of these companies, so I can't specifically recommend them over other companies you may find on the internet. In fact, my recommendation is that you go search for custom stamp makers yourself.

www.rubberstamps.net offers laser-cut red rubber stamps with your design in a wide variety of sizes at prices (as of August 2015) ranging from $4.95 for a .5 by .5 inch stamp, $10.50 for 1.25 by 2 inch stamp, to $87.95 for a 5 by 7 inch stamp, to $110 for an 8 inch by 10 inch sheet of unmounted rubber.

designyourmark.com will make photopolymer stamps with your design for (as of August 2015) $12.99 for a 3 by 3 inch stamp or $27.99 for a 4 by 6 inch stamp.


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 parents’ company!

Zum Gali Gali is a small 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.

You're on our web site right now. Please look around at our online catalog. We don't offer a print catalog at this time. 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 $3.50 shipping+handling.

For a flyer of our more recent designs, send a large SASE to:

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

Please address comments to , and write something about the stamps FAQ in the subject. 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!"