Posted by: rachelbarnes | March 10, 2009

first time linoleum block carving, homemade stamps

So I’ve been itching to try linoleum block carving to make my own stamps.  I purchased a starter kit, which was really nice to get the brayer, carving tools, and ink, but I detest with a passion the hard lionleum block material (I’ll stick to the soft, eraser type carving).  If you get a starter kit and the hard linoleum comes in the kit, throw it away (or freecycle it) and get the white or pink soft carving material (mentioned later).

The number one reason why I detest with a passion the hard linoleum block material is because I cut my hand 4 times through the carving process (exhibit A shown in the picture below).

cutfingerThe material is really hard, so as your carving, it’s very easy to slip and deeply cut your fingers.

I decided to do a journal style stamp. You can sketch your image on a piece of scratch paper, and then transfer the image to the stamp.  I sketched the image directly onto the stamp.


I learned through playing around with carving that you carve with the curve of the blade down, into the material (yes, I didn’t know this at first and tried to cut with the blade the opposite way, which of course didn’t work).


An even more disappointment I had with this finished project was that when I inked the freshly carved stamp, the finished image is hard to stamp evenly.  I guess it isn’t the end of the world, I can save the stamp for a distressed looking image.



I did purchase some of the soft eraser material material from Speedball, and I Love it!!  I got a 4×6″ sheet and cut it into multiple pieces so I can make multiple stamps with the one sheet.  I purchased the Speedycut by Speedball, but I’d recommend the Speedycarve (the pink Speedycarve doesn’t crumble like the Speedycut tends to).  It’s easy to cut and really fun to cut as well.  Here’s a link to a comparison crab apple designs did for reference.  The following is my stamped image with the Speedycut:



I’m going to use this stamp to pair with gifts I make as a label on the gift tags.  I used a left hand for the image since I’m left-handed.

For inking your homemade rubber stamp, you can use a stamp pad or the liquid speedball ink.  I like the speedball ink that you can roll with the brayer (roller toll) onto your stamp for an even finish but I think I’ll play around with both stamping pads and the black liquid ink to see which I like best.


Something else you can use to carve stamps is simple erasers.



  1. First…sorry about your finger but thanks for posting it. Injury shots and all. This way, I’ll learn via your experience. Ouch…thanks for taking one for the team! =)

    Second…I “starred” this on my google reader. I so want to try this and will have to come back to your post when I do.

    Third…this is your first time doing this? Your handmade stamp is great! Love that it’s your left hand!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Yay for lefties!! I have been itching to start doing some stamp carving. I love the idea of using a handmade stamp to customize tags. Very clever.

  3. I had so much fun doing lino block carving in middle school during art class, and I want to restart doing it. Any suggestions as to wear I could get linoleum? The softer one looks way better and easier to handle. Where can I get that handy dandy stuff?

    • I’m sure there are many resources, but my favorites have been Jerry’s Artarama and Dick Blick (or just Blick as I think the store is now called). I like the Speedball brand supplies. Jerry’s Artarama has some local stores, but you may not have one in your location (if you don’t have a local store, you can order from them online). I ordered my linoleum block kit online and then purchased the soft carving material from Blick’s. We have a Blick store locally, so I enjoy going there to get my supplies (to be able to see new supplies in person before I order). I haven’t seen the carving material at any of the large chains (like Michael’s, Jo Ann’s or Hobby Lobby) so a specially art store will be the place. I’ll probably go back and forth between ordering from Blick’s locally or Jerry’s online. Hopefully that helps answer your question. Remember, do NOT mess with the hard linoleum, it’s pretty rough. If you have any more questions, let me know, I can share the little amount I’ve learned so far. (C:

  4. Sorry for your injury and the bad experience that you had! I read your post though and have a few suggestions- I teach relief printmaking at the college level.

    First, the type of linoleum in the picture is usually softened before carving by placing newsprint on the block and then warming it with an iron. Also, the gray variety is a bit softer without the ironing. These are firmer than the quick cut variety so that you can get more prints from them and work at a larger scale.

    Second, they don’t work well as stamps because they are not soft enough. The common method for hand printing (printing without a press) with these materials is to leave the block face up, place the paper on it, and rub the back of the paper with a brayer or wooden spoon.

    Third, no matter which material you are using, it’s a bad idea to cut toward your hand. Use a stop, bench hook, or if the block is large enough hold the side closest to you with your non-carving hand, so that your carving hand is always pointing away from it. With small blocks, use a stop. A simple one is a piece of chipboard or cardboard taped securely to a table top at a comfortable spot. Your block rests against this raised edge so you don’t need to have your fingers in the way.

    Good luck! I encourage you to try again.

    • These are great suggestions from what sounds like an experienced block printer! Thanks so much for the advice!

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