Intro: How to Design for Rubber Stamps
Rubber Stamps have a great appeal because they are ageless, don’t require knowing how to draw to make your own creation (kind of like printmaking), and there is a really low learning curve. To top it off they can be applied to so many different surfaces: paper, wood, ceramics, fabric, candles, stone, and clay just to name a few. Literally instant gratification. Instant fun!
Step 1: Manufacturers- Self Vs. Companies
The first step is deciding if you want to design for manufacturers (that is what this article is written towards) or if you would like to self produce your designs.
There are many stamp companies that take submissions from designers. If you go to http://www.addictedtorubberstamps.com/ShopManufacturers you will see a lot of different brands you and approach to submit your designs to sell and manufacture.
Addictedtorubberstamps.com is an online retailer selling multiple brands.
If you want to produce them yourself there are many places on the web that make one-ups. Do a search for rubber stamps and you will fine them. Be sure to put the word rubber in front of stamps.
Either way is great depending on if you want to be the manufacturer yourself or just the designer.
The biggest (at this time of writing) retailer is Michaels stores out of Texas. They are an example of a retailer/manufacturer that buys designs outright. Go to their website for submission information.
Step 2: 1. Substrate
First you need to know the substrate the stamp will be made out of. Is it a vulcanized rubber mounted on wood? Or a clear “polymer” stamp? Most of the polymers are not as capable of getting a detailed image as the vulcanized rubber; however, they are more abundant now because of their store ability (they are thin and mounted on a clear acrylic block) and easy registration. Foam stamps are for home decor and require paint instead of ink. They are usually pretty large and no detail at all. Clings are stamps that are really just unmounted vulcanized rubber so detail is possible.
Step 3: 2. Specs
Always ask for specs up front. A lot of manufacturers require finished art in Adobe Illustrator. Check first so you know your design and software limitations. With hand drawn detail images there is no getting around submitting in a bit-mapped mode. Usually 1200 dpi gives the right amount of detail.
Step 4: 3. Size of Original
If you are hand drawing your design and scanning it a good rule of thumb is to create the drawing twice as big. Then when you bring it down in size in the computer all those extra little bumps that you did not want to show up go away. If you make it 5 times bigger then your line weight better be pretty big otherwise you are going to end up with a really thin lined image you might not like. Of course you can always add a stroke to it in Adobe Photoshop but it looses some of the nuance of the line.
Step 5: 4. Uniformity
Design for uniformity. If you are designing for a wood mounted stamp remember that the ink is applied to the surface with even pressure to get a good result. If you have a design that has a lot of empty space on the left half it is easy for the user to rock the stamp and create an unwanted mark from the base of the stamp. When you have a pretty even overall design there’s a better chance for success.
Step 6: 5. Stamping Methods
It’s really helpful to know a little about the methods used in stamping. There is a wide array of choices for developing different looks with stamps. They range from, inking in multi-color, embossing, inking onto wet paper, inking with bleach, selective inking, etc… It’s all about understanding the product use.
Step 7: 6. Designing for Sets
Designing for sets. Sets are fun to create and allow for the user to get a much more complex finished product. Depending on the goal for the set you can start to think about it like building a scene such as farm animals and a barn or all the components to make a card. Putting together elements you might want to use that have the same look and feel. If you are expected to nestle them into a sheet make sure you know the tolerances such as the distance from the stamps to the edge of the carrier sheet and between each stamp. It is valuable “real estate” so try to use as much of the area and not leave any wasted space.
Step 8: 7. License
If your goal is to license your designs and you already have art that needs to be translated back into black line keep in mind there is only one color to a stamp. Everything that is black will be that color when inked and finished. It is good to check with the manufacturer and make sure they don’t have someone there that can interpret your art for you.
Step 9: 8. Interactive Stamps
Design for interactive stamps. It is fun to create stamp designs that go together. like a circle within a circle. Or like a positive and a negative image that align the line work with a solid fill color.
Step 10: 9. Size Matters
Size matters. Generally stamps don’t come bigger than 5 inches in any dimension. It is just too hard to get an even amount of ink on the rubber and pressure when applying the stamp. If you would like a design that is bigger then you might try creating a repeat. Stamps for kids usually need to be smaller. Those tiny hands have a hard time getting bigger than a 2.5″ by 2.5″ stamp evenly stamped on paper.
Step 11: 10. No Grayscale
If you are using an image that is grayscale to create a stamp try using the halftone filter in Adobe Photoshop and then making it into a bitmap image. Other filters that work well are, stamp, graphic pen and photocopy. Remember the stamp can only be made from a black and white image.
Step 12: 11. Repeats
Designing lock-ups or repeats. It can be fun to make stamps that can be repeated. Usually it works best with the clear polymer stamps because of the registration issue but it certainly can be done with rubber too. Just like designing for any repeat make sure the left end will have enough line work to repeat on the right.
Step 13: Production
In general you will have the specs up front from either type of manufacturer. They all are slightly different. The files tend to be fairly small due to the fact that they are balck line work. They will be either ai files or bitmapped photoshop. Sending files straight from your email is doable.
When you get a proof back if you are self manufacturing make sure it is exactly the way you want it before ordering. Remember stamps are made in the reverse so when they are inked on paper the image gets reversed again.