Laser-cut rubber stamps

By Ben Everard. Posted

Rubber stamps are different things to different people. To some, they’re a labour-saving device – why write the same thing over and over again when you don’t have to? To others, they’re a way of adding a bit of colour to personalised objects. To children, they’re a way of adding a level of detail to a picture that they may not yet have the coordination to add otherwise. In some countries, they’re still used in place of signatures on official documents.

However you plan to use one, though, the process for making one is the same. You need to start with a flexible material, and remove any bits that you don’t want to transfer ink onto the paper. Technically, the material doesn’t have to be flexible, but you’ll get a more even ink transfer if it is.

When it comes to removing material, there’s one common hack- or maker-space tool that’s quicker and more accurate than most: the laser cutter. With one of these, you can quickly blast away unwanted material to leave you with a perfect rubber stamp.

You do have to be a bit careful about what material you use. While there are loads of softish, plasticky materials around, some of them can be unpleasant to laser-cut. Some simply smell awful when burned, but others are outright dangerous. The easiest solution here is to stick with materials that are labelled as laser-safe, and many laser cutter stockists sell laser-safe rubber for precisely this purpose. The biggest decision is the thickness of the sheet you use. We used a 2.3 mm sheet – this let us laser off about 1 mm and still leave a decent thickness.

When stuck on wood, it’s easy to handle these and stamp them anywhere you want to add a little detail

The technique is really simple, with one potential pitfall. It is a pitfall that everyone makes, so don’t worry about it when you fall into this particular pit. We’ll warn you about it right at the start, but this won’t stop you from making the mistake. We’re pretty sure it’s impossible to laser-cut rubber stamps without making this mistake once. The thing these warnings do is make you feel more foolish for making the mistake. Sorry about that.


With that warning out of the way (don’t worry, you’ll forget), let’s take a look at the process.

This really does depend a bit on the laser cutter software you use. Our laser cutter runs on Lasercut 5.3. This software is quite old and janky, but it works. The easiest way to etch with this software is to import a black-and-white image. Anywhere black will be removed.

To do this etching, then, we need an image that’s white where we want the ink to remain, and black everywhere else. This is slightly inconvenient because almost every source of clip art that we could base our designs on is black where we want the ink to go and white everywhere else.

You can manipulate your images using whatever image software you’re comfortable using. We opted for the GNU Image Manipulation Program because it has the ability to both invert and flip images.

First, acquire your black-on-white images, either by creating them yourself or by finding what you want in a stock image or clip art gallery. These can be text, pictures, or whatever you like.

Once you have your image the way you want it, you need to invert it. In the GNU Image Manipulation Program, go to Colours > Invert. Then, flip it by going to Tools > Transform Tools > Flip. Now you can export it as a PNG file that Lasercut 5.3 can import.

Finally, you can import this into the laser cutter and etch it out. You might need to adjust the power settings a bit to get it right. We’d recommend starting low and then increasing because you can always do a second pass if it’s not deep enough, but you can’t put material back on if you take too much off.

Now you’ve got your rubber out of the laser cutter, you can cut out the bit you want using a pair of scissors and glue it onto a bit of wood to act as a handle. Dab it in some ink, tap it onto some paper, and realise that you forgot to flip the image. Finally, go back to your image editing software, flip the image, and try again. At least you know the correct power settings this time.

The real challenge with these stamps isn’t the process of creating them – once you’ve dialled in the power, then it’s fairly straightforward. The challenge is coming up with interesting and unique designs. We’d love to see what you come up with.

From HackSpace magazine store


Subscribe to our newsletter