Friday, February 2, 2007

Should I use linoleum to carve rubber stamps and where can I buy it?

Katrina asks:
I would like to make my own rubber stamps using linoleum. Where is a good place to buy this and what type of linoleum should I be asking for when I go to the shop? Is there some other substance that works better than lino and if so where would I get it?

Mixed media artist Zhenia contributes: Any decent art supply store will sell linoleum. Most places just sell lino-lino, but some have more than one type. If that's the case, then you'll want to talk to someone at the store to find out the differences between the types. You may want to bring in a sample image of something you'd like to carve to make it easier to choose. If you're in the US, Dick Blick sells different types of linoleum.

Linoleum is hard to carve. It can be hard on the elbows and wrists. One way around this is to warm in on a low electric burner or hot plate before carving. There are also many types of softer materials. I've used one called softoleum. It's decent but it doesn't hold an edge as well as I'd like. Speedball makes a good softer carving substrate, as does Soft-Kut. You can check them all out on Dick Blick here. You can also use erasers. Another benefit to using these softer materials is that you don't have to mount them on a backing board like you should mount linoleum.

Other notes: personally I've found that linoleum takes ink better than softoleum and that softoleum isn't as durable.

Your decision will come down to personal preference. I'd recommend trying as many substances as you can lay hands on.

Both Kelli and Kirsten like Nasco Safety Kut. Kelli says this about Safety Kut: They are sheets of various sizes (I like 4x6) of flexible grey stuff that's like an eraser. Excuse my technical terminology! Then I either freehand draw on them with pencil to outline my stamp or print in reverse on the printer, cut out, place face down on stamp surface and use a solvent to transfer the image onto the safety kut. Most often I sketch first then draw it before using the speedball cutting tools to carve it. This stuff is super cheap and that's what I like about it! But they also have more traditional linoleum blocks etc. direct from Nasco. I don't think you'll beat their prices since they're the manufacturer.

So there you go .. sounds like you should try some basic linoleum and some Safety Kut and see which you like best.

Hope this helps!
The gals from the Embellished Circus

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