Friday, April 17, 2015

Make Large Stamps for Polymer (and nice coloring page designs!)

This is the process I use to create the designs that eventually get turned into stamps. I have access to the full Adobe Creative Suite and I use Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat (PDF) in this process. You may not have access to these programs. Don't worry, you can still make stamp art if you have good paper and a good black fineline marker for clean edges.

After on Facebook was nice enough to feature my stamps, I said I'd write up my method so here it is...
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1. Lightly pencil a 7” x9” rectangle on no-texture paper. I make a very large continuous design stamp so I have lots of mixed-pattern surface area to impress on my beads. All of these were done with the same stamp.

Click on the photos to enlarge.  I purchase two stamps at a time so I can cup the clay between two sheets and impress both sides at one time. The stamps are unmounted and very flexible.

2. Fill the whole page with designs/doodles using a fine line or pointed permanent ink black marker. Add some repeating elements but don't make it all the same. You want to end up with lots of different pattern areas to use.

3. Don’t make either the black or white areas more prominent; keep the areas balanced. And keep in mind the scale of your finished items... I make beads so I want my pattern to be fairly small and multiple patterns will fit on one bead.  
4. Make lines in the drawing as neat as you can... smooth paper and a good point on the pen will help you make crisp lines. Make sure the black areas are pretty solid. (If you don't have access to Illustrator or Photoshop, you can skip way down to the bottom...)

5. Scan the drawing at 300 resolution using grayscale or color setting.

6. Open it in Photoshop and reverse it so black becomes white. Image > Adjustments > Invert

This was my first stamp. It was not a successful for beads because the my lines were too fat and far apart. I learned my lesson and made smaller patterns the next time. The items at the top of the page were made with my second stamp.

7. Print the reversed drawing and use your marker to clean up the edges. Because the black ink is now white, you can color black back into any area where the white areas of your original drawing ended up too thin. (Easier than using white paint to cover black areas or edges you're not happy with.)

8. Scan the drawing again and reverse it back to the original black design.

9. Open the jpg file in Adobe Illustrator.

10. Select the drawing using the black arrow tool. On the menu choose Object > Image Trace > Make and Expand(If message box pops up asking you to rasterize, you can say no.)

11. After Make and Expand is finished, you’ll see a bunch of highlighted points all over your art. They serve a purpose but you don't need to do anything with them for this project. Click on the page and they will disappear.

12. Use the white selection arrow to click in a white area of your traced drawing.

13. From the menu, Select > Same > Fill Color to select all the white areas on the page at once. Click delete.

The black area that remains is now a vector art of your drawing, all beautifully smooth and sharp. 

The original scan of a marker drawing.
Try to make the blacks more opaque than shown above before you scan it.

The traced drawing. Click to see it larger.
I love the energy the variation in line weight gives to a drawing.
Uniform line widths are bor-ing!

You can use your art to make clean edged stamps or silk screens. The cleaned-up line drawing also makes a nice coloring book page. Because it is vector art, it can be enlarged to the size of a wall and it will stay sharp. If you were very ambitious you could project it on a wall and paint it or have vinyl cutouts made ( will do it for you) to apply to the wall.

I save my vector art as a PDF in Illustrator and send it off!
14. Now, finally, here's who can turn your lovely art into a stamp:
Read the instructions here before you start: 

You can make some original stamps and help a worthy cause. What's not to love about that!?


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