Introduction: How to Make Your Own Polymer Stamps

Picture of How to Make Your Own Polymer Stamps

Make your own clear rubber stamps (polymer actually) to use on clay, polymer clay, fabric, paper, or anything else you can think of. This is an easy process that allows you to make stamps out of practically any black and white image you can come up with, and you can make them whatever size you like. They are also much less expensive than commercial rubber stamps. About 25 cents a square inch.

Step 1: Gather All Your Equipment and Supplies

Picture of Gather All Your Equipment and Supplies

The process of making a polymer stamp is a fairly straightforward, once you know the basics. Simply put, Photopolymer is a liquid polymer that is reactive to UV light and will harden when exposed. Knowing this, a negative can be made that allows the UV light to show through only where the stamp image is to be. The negative and polymer is exposed and the excess polymer washed away, leaving your custom rubber stamp.
There are two pieces of equipment that you will need to make to expose your rubber stamps, although both are very simple to make. The first is the UV exposure light. If you think you might be doing a lot of rubber stamp making I would invest in a fluorescent light fixture with UV (black light) bulbs to fit. You will need to attach two 6 “ x 6” wood boards to the side of the light to raise it 4” off of the table surface. Some light fixtures will need to have a cord attached, which can easily be done by cutting a 6’ extension cords female end off and direct wiring to the fixture. To make the light fixture easy to use a on/off switch may be wired to the light as well to make turning off the light between exposures easier. Another solution for those who don’t want to wire their light fixture is to simply purchase a clamp light and hang it 4 inches from the tabletop. They come with cords attached and a turn of button on the top of the fixture. You can purchase a flood style black light bulb to fit the fixture.
The second piece of equipment is the glass exposure plates. These are simply two matching sheets of 8 “ x 8” single pain clear glass , with the edges wrapped in electrical tape to keep your hands clear of sharp edges. Along two parallel edges of the taped plates lay magnetic tape on both sides. This will hold the plates together and keep them from shifting during the exposure process.

Light Fixture and UV Bulb
Developer Plates
Digital Timer (must measure seconds)
Washout Solution
Substrate Film
Damming tape
Transparency Film
Two containers to hold liquid
Gentle scrub or tooth brush
Baby powder, Cornstarch, or talc
Clear acrylic or Plexiglass for mounting stamps
Pink erasor

Step 2: Design the Negative

Picture of Design the Negative

The first step in making a polymer stamp is to create the negative. This will allow UV light only to penetrate the polymer where you choose. To create the negative, first either select or draw a black and white image that has bold lines or shapes. The reason for this is fine lines do not survive the washout process well, and will not make a strong impression in clay. If you are only looking to use your stamp like a traditional rubber stamp you can get away with having finer detail on the stamp. Your image must be strong black and white contrast, no grayscale or shading. Once you have your image you need to translate that into a negative. That means making the black parts white and the white parts black. This is easily done in most graphics programs, and it is usually listed as an “invert colors” command. You can also design you image in negative format by hand if that appeals to you more, although it is a much more time consuming process.

Step 3: Print the Negative

Picture of Print the Negative

The final step in creating the image is translating the image to transparency film (the type used for overhead projectors) which can be purchased from any office supply store. If you are creating your image by hand then you will need to paint the negative space of your design with opaque paint. Paint pens work very well for this. If you are going to print your negative from a computer, make sure you use Laser Transparency Film in a laser printer of the negative will not be opaque enough to block the excess light. If you try to use regular transparency film in a laser printer you will melt the film to the print head, a very expensive mistake.

Step 4: Setting Up for Exposure

Picture of Setting Up for Exposure

Once the negative is created, you can start to prepare the exposure unit. It is a good idea to have everything laid out and ready because the photopolymer is light reactive, and will set up quickly one exposed, even to ambient light. Place the light fixture on a level surface covered in butcher paper, or vinyl tablecloth to protect the surface. In one of the liquid containers, add two cups warm water and 1 tbsp. washout concentrate and set aside. In the other shallow container add 1 inch of cool water, and set aside. Cut the negative out of the larger sheet leaving at least 1/2 inch black border around the edge of the image. Place the negative down on the inside cover of one half of the glass sheets at surround the image with damming tape, leaving small gaps at any edges to let excess photopolymer to ease out of the edges. Trim a piece of substrate to the same size and the negative and set aside.

Step 5: Exposing the Image

Picture of Exposing the Image

With this preparation done you can now proceed with the exposure process. Pour liquid photopolymer gently onto the negative, filling the space up to the level of the damming tape. If there are any bubbles, quickly but careful pop them with a needle tool. Place the substrate, frosted side down, on the photopolymer, making sure there are no bubbles trapped under it or the stamp will peel off later. Place the other side of the glass unit on, making sure the magnets take hold. You may notice some seepage from the edges of the negative as the glass compresses. This is normal.
Place the unit centered under the light, substrate side up, and set the timer for approx. 1 minute 30 seconds. (exact developing times will vary from light to light, experiment on some smaller stamps to get the exact times dialed in for you). Turn on the light and develop for the required time. This develops the backing of the stamp. Turn the unit over and develop for the same amount of time on the other side, and turn off the light.

Step 6: Washing Out the Stamp

Picture of Washing Out the Stamp

It is now time to start the washout process. Immediately separate the two halves of the glass and peel the negative off of the polymer. Always peel the negative off the polymer not the substrate off or the stamp will not have a good backing for washout. Place the polymer image in the washout solution and gently scrub with fine bristle brush or soft toothbrush until all of the excess liquid polymer is dissolved from the stamp surface. Rinse in water to remove the last of the washout solution. At this time you can trim off the excess hardened polymer. Place the stamp in the plain water container and set under the UV light and expose for 10 minutes. This fully hardens the stamp, and makes it less tacky.

Step 7: Final Conditioning

Picture of Final Conditioning

There are two ways to condition your finished stamp, depending on what you intend to use it for. If you use your stamp to make impressions in soft clay then simply dust your stamp with talc or baby powder to separate it from the clay, and keep it from getting tacky. If you intend to ink you stamp use a pink eraser to rough up the surface of the image. This allows the ink to stick to the stamp long enough to make the image. Your stamp is now ready to use and enjoy.


nphkharian (author)2016-12-03

direct sunlight works best for developing. I never have had a UV Light but still making Stamps.

Sabeehs1 (author)nphkharian2017-02-24

you mean i dont need an UV exposure unit to make stamps

RabiaS6 (author)Sabeehs12017-02-24

Yes surely there is no need of UV light. Best option is Direct Sunlight
Try it first before
Too shiny day 30-40 second
Cloudy day 60 to 300 second depending on light intensity

ShelleyValentinFilpo (author)2015-01-02

Wow these are wonderful super detailed instructions.... you just made my life A LOT easier!!! Thanks!

Battlespeed (author)2014-05-17

The polymer comes in self-contained sachets now so there's no need to create a dam, etc. Etch-o-Matic and others like Teresa Collins sell complete kits including the UV exposure unit, timer, polymer sachets, transfer film, etc.

tavikat (author)Battlespeed2014-11-30

Great tip!

jendvu (author)2014-04-06

Is there a way to leave off the substrate backing so that the stamps have the cling backing?

Leatrice Reints (author)jendvu2014-09-11

I am wondering the same thing.....anyone???

gypsy-rain (author)2014-07-21

out of curiosity, can this be done in a darkroom setting to allow more time in the initial set up phase?

dudemansir (author)2014-05-03

How fine can details be if this is being used for a regular stamp? The end goal is to heat emboss after inking the stamp. Smaller text would be used, like size 12 fonts.

ChristineRae (author)2013-09-04

I don't have a laser printer at home. Could I get my images printed on the transparency film at a copy center like Staples?

Gene Hacker (author)2008-03-17

Where do you get photopolymer? And how much is it per unit? Is it expensive? I also believe, that you might be better off using an eeprom eraser than a black light for the photo exposure.

dan (author)Gene Hacker2008-03-23

the easiest & cheapest UV setup i have found is "ladies nail polish dryer", these are widely available, compact and very inexpensive. they typically have 2 to 4 x 9-watt fluorescent UVA bulbs in them for under $50.

granthams (author)dan2012-04-12

Walmart sells and single 17 watt blacklight flourescent bulb in fixture for about $10 which can be supported about 2" off your desktop.

latinatxunicorn (author)dan2008-12-22

have you tried curing the photopolymer with one of these? if so, what was the average time for curing?

granthams (author)Gene Hacker2012-04-12

We provide the photopolymer on our website . We have been using this process for over 30 years and happily answer any questions.

I sell a starter kit for $75, that has everything you need but the light, and makes approx 40 sq in. worth of stamps if you are careful with the polymer. You can also get it by itself in 2 kg bottles for $55 per bottle. I have priced it out, and my average cost is $.25 per square in to make stamps this way (unmounted) Thank you for the suggestion. I have looked into eeprom erasors before, and the problem with them besides the relative cost (165.00 for a 5 inch model) is they are small. This limites you to a 5in stamp size, A flourescent light fixture with two UV bulbs is more cost effective, and allows you to make stamps up to 5" by 18" for my light. If you want bigger stamps than that, you simply get a bigger light fixture. Candy

mrpc77 (author)2009-05-27

Wonderful step by step instructions. Where did you get all your materials? Thank you?

granthams (author)mrpc772012-04-12 is the source for both photopolymer stamp resin and pattern resin. Most of the photos are from our website

roxxy (author)2009-11-21

To save even more, you don't really need to use transparency film. Print on a regular sheet of paper, than lightly sponge with oil until everything but the inked portions remain opaque.

This technique is what is used in screen printing, which is also based on negative images used in conjunction with photosensitive materials.

jrstudioboss (author)roxxy2012-04-12

Roxy, are you saying that the oil on the unprinted areas of the paper will allow the UV to transfer through the paper and the printed areas will block it? What type of oil do you use?

buffysissy1 (author)2011-02-22

Can you use this stuff or is it the wrong kind of polymer?

BarbCat (author)2010-11-05

Oh, so cool. I wondered how to do this. One other great use for a blacklight (the bigger the better) is finding cat pee! You know it's there, maybe even think you found it. But you have no idea how vast the range is until seeing the spatter report all lit up.

Wait til dark, turn on that 60's party light and begin the hunt. Be ruthless! Look behind and under all furniture, inside closets and down heating vents, search way up high on doors and walls. On ceilings! Other things will glow (greasy smears from old Chinese-take out for instance) but not like this - greenish-yellow spatters and oh god, boggy pools you've been sloshing around in bare feet while bemoaning your nasty foot B.O. and thinking you'll never wear sandals again, or run barefoot in the grass or any other public place. Of course, if you're Peter Jackson, don't worry. You're excused.

But once tracked down, does it really matter since nothing seems to do a dang bit of good anyway? I spent gobs on Nature's Miracle, Pet Potty Pure, Enzyme-R-Us, etc. In desperation one day I grabbed the closest thing with a nozzle - and it worked! And it's not supposed to! According to Federal Law, they'll come and get you if it's not 'used as directed', which is to aim high and lightly spray to 'glycol-ize' cooking and ciggie-butt odors AND THAT'S IT. It's Ozium Air Sanitizer (Medco Industries). I aim low and drench and it's for cat-butt odor. So sue me.

So, once drenched (lightly) I cover the wet spot with a towel and a plastic garbage bag so nothing leaks. It's bad if the kitties lick it off their little feet (although there have been times...). After a few hours I walk on the towel - sometimes two or three - until it's blotted up. It's been about a month and so far so good.

It's an Honest-to-God Miracle, I tell ya. With 9 cats we were dying - literally - but no longer. We now invite guests over without fearing remorse and/or ugly gossip. It's always fun to see their amazed expressions (the ones who actually show up) once we convince them they can remove their surgical masks.

Being frugal, I was concerned I'd have little use for my Pee-Flee Light once the stink search became redundant (well, we can always throw 60's parties). But now, I get to use it to make stamps for my polymer clay obsession! Yay!


p.s. Gee, maybe the 'Animals' section should get a copy of this. Ya think? But shhh! Only us Indestructables - it's only fair. First, we buy lotsa stock and THEN tell all our other forums. The World will make a bum rush for Ozium Air Sanitizer and who'd blame them? We'll be rich!! Oh yeah, it works on those other odors too.

virgalcal (author)2008-04-14

I love this! But, could someone please be more specific about the film supplies, substrate and where these can be purchased. Thanks!

You can purchase all supplies from me, email fro deatils and kit specs. Thank you Candy

can u send me ordering info

Thanks, I saw that. Can you give me the details of what's in the kit?

callmeshane (author)2008-03-19

I have seen the 3D prototyping of this stuff done with a UV laser. Can one substitute a UV laser from a CD or DVD burner, on a CNC traverse to do precision "hardening" - accounting for diffusion, reactivity and speed of traverse on a CNC drive and fire cycle? It would be a more costly step, but one could jump directly from IMAGE to STAMP in one step.

sumguysr (author)callmeshane2008-03-20

I am fairly sure that there are no UV lasers in CD or DVD burners. CD, DVD, and HD-DVD all use red lasers. Blue Ray obviously uses blue lasers, which may work. There are some holographic mediums that use UV lasers but it would probably be more economical to just buy a laser.

TheBestJohn (author)sumguysr2008-04-06

CD Burners use UV lasers for burning and reading, DVD burners use red lasers for burning and UV for reading Blu-ray is well bluray

Krieg1959 (author)2008-03-17

how do i get the kit

Send email to, and I will give you kit details. Thank you for your interest. Candy

GorillazMiko (author)2008-03-17

Nice job! I think the pictures should be better and bigger, but nice job, I want to make some Instructables Robot stamps. :P

CameronSS (author)2008-03-16

This looks pretty cool, but is there a chance for larger images with less JPEG compression? These are good images, but they're minuscule and compressed into oblivion.

Good to know, I will make another batch this weekend and take some better pictures. I sell kits of the materials if anyone is interested. I make them for working with my ceramics.

gmjhowe (author)2008-03-17

I like, altho as cameron said, the pictures are low quality, i think that the instructions are perfect. and its not like u cant make out the pictures. Looks cool, just wish i had the equipment!

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