Slow Fashion DIY Tutorial: Leaf Designs for Carved Rubber Stamps


Welcome to another slow fashion DIY tutorial. This week’s tutorial is one in a collaborative series between tortoise & lady grey and The Note Passer on the topic of printing with rubber stamps. The first two presented beginner techniques. If you missed them, you can catch up with Rubber Stamp Making 101 and Rubber Stamp Making 201. Today’s tutorial will teach you how to carve more detailed designs by making two leaf stamps using printing rubber.

To make these stamps you will need:

  • A rubber printing block (I used Renoir Ezy Carve Printing Blocks)
  • A set of lino cutting tools (I only used two of my tools for these designs, but it is worth buying a basic set of 6 tools so you try the different blades and choose which you prefer)
  • A large kitchen knife
  • A cutting mat
  • A pencil
  • My free Leaf Designs Printable from which you can copy the designs and see where to carve

To begin the project place the cutting mat on your work surface. Using the large kitchen knife, cut two rectangular pieces from your rubber printing block. These should be the approximate length and width that you would like the leaves to be. To add visual interest make sure that these are different sizes, so that one finished leaf will be bigger than the other.

Rectangular rubber pieces for carving print blocks

It doesn’t matter if these are not perfect rectangles. Part of the charm of hand making your own stamps is that they will have their own unique shapes and won’t be perfectly symmetrical. Now that you have your pieces, you need to copy the designs onto the face of the rubber using a pencil. Start with the outside lines shown in the Leaf Designs Printable, these will make up the border. You only need to leave about 3-4mm for the border. Below you can see how it looks with the designs drawn on to the rubber.

Rubber with leaf designs drawn on

Now we can begin to cut the stamps. For the first cutting, I recommend using a the lino cutting tool that has a straight blade that is set of the diagonal. You can see this blade pictured below. Use this blade to cut away the excess rubber from around the design.

Cutting away excess rubber

Once you have cut away the excess rubber from around the design, you need to carve away the border. You want to remove the face of the border so that is does not show in the design, but you don’t need to cut through the whole depth of the rubber (you only need to cut about 1/3 or 1/2 half the depth of the rubber. I recommend using the same blade to achieve this. Please refer to the Leaf Designs Printable and the final pictures of the stamps if you are at all confused about the instruction of cutting away the border.

V shaped blade

When the border has been carved, you now need to carve the internal lines pictured on the leaf designs. These should be carved using a lino cutting tools with a v shaped blade (pictured above). A large v blade will give a deeper, wider line, and a small v blade will give a narrowed shallower line. If your stamps are quite small, it is best you use the smaller blade. If you are unsure, you can try with the smaller blade first, the go over it with the larger blade if you would like the lines to be more prominent. It is important that you use a steady pressure when carving a line to ensure that the width of the line is steady, as varying pressures will carve carrying depths/widths. If you use too little pressure, the line will not be deep enough and when you go to print the paint will pool in the lines and the detail will not show up in your print. For the more detailed leaf design, start with the center line, then carve the other lines, working from the center outwards.

Carved leaf stamps with tools

Et viola! Two simple leaf stamps that will look quite effective when used for printing on paper or fabric, try making your own wrapping paper on recycled brown paper, or personalising your own organic cotton t-shirts. For techniques for printing on paper, please see Rubber Stamp Making 101 and for techniques for printing on fabric, please refer to Rubber Stamp Making 201.

Below you can see how I chose to use the stamps to make an autumn leaves t-shirt for my son. Alternatively, you could print in green for a spring theme or black would look equally effective.

Autumn leaves t-shirt

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. The next stage of the collaboration will be featured on The Note Passer. We have been inspired by a Travelling Stamp Project that was started by design blogger Emma Dime. We loved the concept and wanted to start our own travelling stamp. These lovely leaf stamps are on their way from Canberra to New York where Elizabeth Stilwell will make her own interpretation of printing with the stamps. This will be featured on The Note Passer next month. Do keep your eye out for it, and don’t forget to pop on over to check out the original Travelling Stamp Project on Emma’s blog. If you are a blogger and would like to get involved in our travelling stamp project, send me an email to summer(at)tortoiseandladygrey(dot)com. Otherwise have fun carving your own stamps!