A Cut Above

Lately I’ve been incorporating a variety of techniques into my paintings other than my usual arsenal of squeegees, brayers and sponges. There’s nothing like variety to keep the creative muse interesting. Something I’m really enjoying is creating my own stamps.


A growing selection of my hand-carved stamps.

I had already been using a few commercial stamps to add interest and texture to backgrounds, but found them limiting. The size was usually too small, designed as they are for things like journaling and scrapbooking, not the large surfaces I work on. Plus they were someone else’s design, not mine, and did not always fit my vision.

I decided I needed to create my own stamps. This turned out to be so much fun that I have now created a bunch of stamps I haven’t even used yet, just because I liked the designing and cutting. I’m no printmaking expert, but herewith is the method I use to design and cut my stamps. Works for me!

I design on my iPad Pro, usually with an app called Procreate. I’ve also used a fun app called Amaziograph for mandalas and suchlike. I then transfer the designs to Photoshop and size them appropriately for the stamp I have in mind. In order to get the design onto my linoblock, I print it out onto parchment paper. Let me explain in more detail.

I need to have a way to transfer the design from my computer drawing to the block. If I print the design with my inkjet (water-based ink) printer onto regular printer paper, it just soaks in, dries and is impossible to rub onto or somehow transfer to my linoblock. However, if I tape a piece of parchment paper (the kind used for baking) to the printer paper, then print it, the ink sits up on the parchment paper and doesn’t soak in. Parchment paper has a non-stick coating that doesn’t absorb liquid. Now I can carefully lay the parchment paper onto the block ink-side down and rub gently to transfer the ink to the block. After transferring, the ink on the block is still wettish so I let it dry for a bit before starting to carve.

Stamp carving

This large stamp has a design that was transferred to it using a parchment paper print-out. It makes it easy to see which areas to carve, and which to leave.

The linoblock I like to use is called Softoleum and comes in a variety of sizes. It’s quite thick but very soft so makes carving a breeze. I buy the 12 x 12 inch size and cut to the desired size of the stamp. I bought some Speedball lino carving tools but was unimpressed with their sharpness. Could be they were too cheap. The blades were also too large for the detail I desired. I don’t know if a more expensive set would be better. I happen to have a set of Dockyard Micro Carving Tools that I bought back when I was working with polymer clay. These have been great, super sharp and fine enough for delicate areas (maybe a bit too fine for larger areas). They are rather expensive so I was glad I already had them and didn’t have to make the decision as to whether to buy them or not at this point.


A thin layer of oil paint is applied to the stamp for printing.

I now have a beautiful collection of stamps that have been adding interesting variety to many of my paintings. I use them by rolling on a thin layer of oil and cold wax, then pressing them onto the painting surface. I’m not sure how the oil paint will affect the stamp surface, so make sure to clean them with a rag after use. I then scrub them with water and Jack’s Linseed Studio Soap and a toothbrush.

Here are a few examples of art that have benefited from the use of my own hand-carved stamps.

Collage of Paintings

Each of these paintings uses my hand-carved stamps as part of the imagery. Clockwise from top left: Perchance to Dream, A Rose Is…, Awakening, Homage to the Master.

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3 Responses to A Cut Above

  1. Wendy Moore September 28, 2017 at 11:38 pm #

    I so loved reading about your process Dorothy and am ALWAYS inspired by your enthusiasm and verve!

    • Dorothy Siemens September 29, 2017 at 7:52 am #

      I’m glad, Wendy, you enjoyed reading it, and thanks!

  2. Rebekah Nemethy September 29, 2017 at 10:56 pm #

    So fun! And as beautiful as ever! I’ve officially added stamp making to my creative bucket list. Thanks for sharing your secrets with us =D