Red Squirrel and Autumn Leaves - hand-carved stamps tutorial

Friday, October 24, 2014

You may not know already but I'm a big fan of nature, and I'm constantly inspired by it.  So as I've been creating my own hand-carved stamps I decided to create some stamps based on some of my favourite flora and fauna. Since we're in autumn I'm going to start with some autumn inspired images, when I think of autumn, for me the squirrel always comes to mind, not the foreign grey fellow but our lovely red native squirrel here in Ireland. In case you're interested in the whole process of creating your own hand-carved stamps I've taken a few photos along the way to give you an idea how it works.

I always start with a few sketches, in pencil first, then once I'm happy with the image I trace over the sketch using a black pen and a light box to create a more defined image. Then I transfer this image onto my carving block using a pencil tracing, placed face down on the block and rubbed with a bone folder. I would recommend using a slightly darker pencil 2B or 3B to get a good impression.

Then I start by carving the outline. Taking my time and always carving away from myself. I used some standard lino cutting tools for this part.

Once I have the basic outline carved I go back in with a finer tool to carve some detail lines, I bought this Japanese tool as part of a set of three from Etsy.

This was my first time carving fur so I added more detail than I usually would because I didn't want the image to be too flat.

At this point I carved beyond the outline and began cutting away some of the excess block using a craft knife, following the shape of the squirrel.

Then I tested out how the stamp was inking, I used Memento Luxe inks here. Not completely happy I went back and carved some more lines and decided to create a separate mini stamp for his eye.

I used Speedball Speedy-Cut Easy (carving block) for the squirrel, this was my first time using it and I have to be honest I won't be buying it again. Compared to some of the other blocks I have been using it was much dryer, more crumbly and didn't stamp as well. I had to use Versamark ink before applying the Memento Luxe ink to get a good impression.

After I finished the squirrel I made some leaf stamps and an acorn to use alongside the squirrel stamp. I had some other floral and leaf stamps already carved that I used as well. Again I used Memento Luxe inks to stamp the finished piece.

The stamps turned out quite large and it would have been difficult to create the squirrel much smaller but I still wanted to make a small card so I scanned the stamped image and scaled it down to fit my card. I cleaned it up a bit digitally.

The printed version turned out great and I can't wait to make some more woodland creatures... Next up I think is a hedgehog and maybe a blackbird!

I hope you enjoyed taking a look at my process of creating hand-carved rubber stamps and maybe you might go and create some of your own! It really is a lot of fun! : )


  1. Just WOW! Making your own stamps? So talented...

  2. I have not carved an image for years! This makes me want to go find my tools and give it a go! Your card is really stunning.

  3. Fabulous! Love the stamps and the digital card is brilliant too. My last lino cut was nearly 25 years ago and I'm only seeing the potential now :)

    1. Thanks Grá! I didn't use lino though, I used rubber carving blocks, much easier than the lino. I did do lino cutting back in my school days and I still have the tools from then! They work well with the rubber even though they're nearly 20 years old! : ) It's tricky enough to get the rubber blocks here in Ireland though.

  4. Very cool. You mentioned you didn't care for the carving block you used. Which carving block is your favorite?

    1. Thanks Jean! I have tried another block from Speedball the Speedy-Cut, it's a cream color but I definitely wouldn't get their Speedy-Cut Easy blocks again, they're the blue ones, very crumbly and didn't stamp as well.

  5. Clare, your hand carved stamps are just spectacular (I'm in awe of you!!), and your card is beautiful!! What a skilled and talented woman you are!!! Hugs, H in Healdsburg

  6. I'm very impressed with your stamps - they are super. Love the card - great colours and the squirrel is fab!


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