Thursday, February 25, 2010


Welcome back.

Today I want to talk a little bit about what I called stamp tools.

In a former tutorial I told you how to make the “rivet tool” (see tutorial about making 1 mm tool tips). This rivet tool is nothing more than a tiny tube that makes rivet-like shapes if pressed down into the putty like a stamp. So the rivet tool is a most basic kind of stamp tool.

Basically a stamp tool is an object with some kind of structured or engraved surface.
If you press it on or into your putty, it leaves a mirrored-inverted mark on the putty.
By using stamp tools, you can save a lot of time and you can do details that are nearly impossible to achieve by trying to do them by hand (unless you are Tom Meier).

Especially if you need a homogeneously structured surface (like some kind of rough fabric) or if you need a lot of exactly the same pattern (like a symbol on several shields or on the armour) stamp tools can save your day.

But one advice right from the beginning: Don’t overdo using stamp tools on your sculpture.
Stamp tools are a fine addition to your sculpting tool set, but the results are the best if you use them sparingly

In general a lot of things could be used as stamp tools. You should have a look for small objects with interesting surface structures or with engraved objects and you have to experiment a little by pressing them on your putty to see, what effect could be achieved with them.

For example I found a piece of rubber that has an interesting rough structure on its backside.
When I pressed it on my procreate putty, I found out, that the result looks exactly like braided willows (the kind baskets are made of).

Other interesting structures could be achieved by using for example rough sandpaper (abrasive paper) that is pressed onto the putty.

Or have a look on this structure:

used an old toothbrush for that.

If you think a while about this technique, I’m sure you will find some nice uses for that, so I won’t talk too much about all the possibilities for using stamp tools.

Beside stamp tools there are so called press moulds. As the name indicates, a press mould is a kind of small mould (usually a one-piece-mould) where the putty could be pressed in to give it a special shape. So as the idea is the same as for the stamp-tools, there is no really difference between a stamp tool and a press mould.

Maybe you can say, the difference is how to use it. If you press it into the putty, it is a stamp tool and if you press the putty into it, it’s a press mould. Generally a press mould is larger to form the whole shape (like a complete shield or a complete weapon) while the stamp tool is usually used to form smaller things like a part of a structure (rivet). Anyway, those categorisations are only of academically interest as both are sculpting aids that use the same principals.

So in the following, I want to give you a few examples about what can be done with stamp tools (from now on I will only say “stamp tool” as a synonym for stamp tool and press mould).


This is a little bit more sophisticated way to make a stamp tool.

The idea was to use a technical trick to get some details that are hard to sculpt by hand. I wanted to have a Celtic-pattern-like structure on the clothes of a dwarf that I’ve sculpted. Celtic knot-like patterns are beautiful, but hard to sculpt, because it’s a kind of braided structure that has to be exactly symmetrical to look good. And to sculpt such a symmetrical structure by hand is really hard.

So I thought about a way to get a perfect symmetrically Celtic knot pattern.
Then one day when I was walking home from the city, I passed a shop where you can copy keys and where you can order these small engraved name plates made of plastic that are placed beside the doorbell. In the shop-window, I saw examples of these name plates and I saw, that not only letters can be engraved on these plates, but also little symbols and icons. So I went into the shop and ask how these plates are made.

It is quite interesting. The plates are made with a machine that uses a laser to carve out the letters and icons from the plastic sheet. Even more interesting is that nearly every black and white icon, drawing or pattern can be carved out of the plastic. You just need the drawing or icon in digital form (like .jpg, .tiff or even better some vector graphic file formats from corel-draw of inkscape). The black parts will be cut (or better: engraved) while the white parts remain. The laser engraving machine is connected to a PC that runs a special graphic software. The digital graphic (tiff, jpg, …) will be imported into this software. Then the size for the output and the “deepness” for the engraving (that indicates, how often the laser “runs” over the same spot) are set. After that just the pres of a button starts the engraving-process and the desired shape will be cut out of a large sheet of plastic (some of this plastic sheets have a thin metal coat to give them a metal-look. That’s why on the following pictures they seem to be made out of brass).

Because you can adjust the size of the desired shape in the software, you can engrave really small structures. Just make your original graphic a little larger to get a clean shape. Of course it’s the best to use a vector graphic file format because it can be scaled without loss of quality.

So I came to the idea, to create a Celtic knot pattern with a graphic software on my pc and to use it to get such a carved out plate from it.

So I started with making the Celtic pattern, you see on the next pic.

You don’t have to fight with software to get this done. There are several kinds of “KnotCreators” available on the internet. Some of them are webtools, where you don’t need to download and install anything. You can directly start to create a Celtic knot online.
Try Google to find them.

With this pattern I went to the shop and the guy there made a “name plate” from it (see next pic.). The guy was very friendly and interested in what I wanted to try, so I only paid a few cents for that plate. But I guess the usual price for that would be about a few EUROS.

The rest of the story is quite simple. I mixed some putty (procreate in this case) and pressed it onto the plate.

Then I sprayed !!! cooling spray !!! onto the putty. This trick makes the putty quite hard for a few seconds. This short time I used to peel of the putty from the plate. Don’t use too much cooling spray. If the putty gets too frozen, it could break.

After that I cut the putty stripe with the new Celtic knot structure into shape and fixed it onto the dwarfs clothes. The whole thing looks like you can see on the next pic.

I used the same “stamp” to create a decorated sword scabbard for a halfling sculpt as you can see on the next pic


As the Celtic knot pattern worked quite well, I just tried another stamp tool.
For the dwarf I’ve sculpted, I wanted a small book that is bound onto his backpack.
The book should have an embossed readable title and some embossed decoration.
The “title” should be “GOLD” (as a tribute to the dwarfs in Terry Pratchetts “Discworld”, who are quite mad about gold)

So first I made a simple graphic of the book cover with the word “gold” on it and some decoration you can see far left on the next picture. Then I mirrored this graphic before I created an engraved plate from. That’s important. Otherwise the stamp tool would have produced a book cover with mirrored letters.

The rest is exactly the same like I’ve explained for the Celtic knot pattern.
In the end it looks like that:

As you might have noticed, for his „stamp“ I didn’t used the hard plastic to engrave the pattern in. The grey material, you can see on the picture above is the rubber, that real stamps are made of (I mean those that work with colour on paper). This material can also be used, because with those engraving machines not only name plates can be cut, but also traditional stamps with letters or symbols. Because this rubber is more flexible that the plastic for the name plates, in some cases it might be better to use this rubber.


Once you got familiar with the principles of the stamp tools, you’ll discover a lot of things that can be done with stamp tools this way.

For example you can make a stamp for tiny insects like spiders or little lizards. This would be a nice addition to the base of a sculpting (or even on a plate armour or shield), see the next pic.

For shields and armour the shapes of dragons, unicorns eagles, griffins are ideal.

Here are some examples I found on the web:

Basically you need a quite simple black and white drawing. You can draw this on your PC with a 2d graphic program. If you don’t want to draw them on your own from scratch, here’s a tip for you: Have a look for “dingbats” and “wingdings” on Google’s picture search. Here you’ll find tons of little icons and symbols that can be used perfectly as a template for a stamp tool. There can also all kinds of mythical creatures be found. But be sure to respect the copyright. So only use those stuff, that is open source or free to use. Or use it only for inspiration to create your own stuff.

If you make very small stamp-tools, it might be useful to fix them on a kind of handle.
For that I used a simple piece of wood and glued a stamp on each side. One tip for that: Make a sign (like a little dot or something like that) on the handle that indicates where the top of the stamp is. Otherwise you would have problems to place the stamp exactly on the putty.

I guess that should be enough to give you an idea about what this technique could be used for.
I confess that the stamps you can see in this tutorial are really small. You don’t have to do them as small, but I wanted to test, how small I can go while still getting good results.

In some cases, the stamp could be a start for a detail that has to be worked over to get good results. So always have a look on your “stamped” pattern, if it could use some improvements by hand. For example the little lizard you can see on the picture 12 above might need some improvements especially on its feet.

On the last picture for this tutorial, you can see some more stamped pattern for inspiration.

If you like this kind of technique but you don’t have access to such a laser engraver, you can simulate this effect by using Fimo or Super Sculpy to make your press mould.

Just roll out flat a piece of Fimo/Sculpy and press holes and patterns into it by hand. If you got your (negative) structure, just harden the Fimo/Sculpy in the oven and your press mould is ready to be used.

Of course you could also user Greenstuff or Pro Create for that, but if you user Greenstuff or Procreate for your sculpting and also for the pressmould you might get the problem, that the putty sticks too much in the mould when it is made out of the same material. So better use Fimo or Super Sculpy for the mould, because Greenstuff and Procreate will stick much less in it.

Scibor made a nice little tutorial about this way to make a press mould with lots of pictures that explain this technique much better than my words. You’ll find it on his website in the articles section:

If want to do a larger press mould maybe to reproduce larger parts, there’s another material, that such a press mould could be made of. If you have a look around, you can find a special two-part silicon rubber. This rubber is made of two components that are not fluid, but have a putty-like consistence. When you knead these two parts together, the silicone will harden in a few minutes to a rubber-like consistence. So you can use this kind of silicone to create press moulds quite fast even those with a more complex shape and undercuts. Unfortunately this silicone rubber isn’t cheap. But you can also try eBay for that. These kind of knead-silicone is available for hobby-purposes and modelling but you can also find them in the dentists supply (eBay). If you want to buy some of this keep an I on the final hardness (shore-hardness) I recommend not to use those silicones that are too hard, because they aren’t as flexible and might break faster especially when it comes to undercuts.

You can sculpt a small pattern or detail with greenstuff or procreate once and then make a press-mould to reproduce it several times with this kind of knead-silicone.

One last tip: When you make your own press mould or stamp tool, remember that it will work like a stamp.
That means the mould has to represent the negative of would you would like to achieve.
You have to keep this in mind otherwise your pattern will be “mirrored” later and this is something you won’t like especially if your pattern contains letters. So if you’ve created your desired pattern in Photoshop or Coral Draw (or similar) be sure to “mirror” it before you hand it to the guy with the laser engraving machine.


  1. Great article thanks!

    I have been making my own stamping tools for yeas, but I must admit that you have taken it far beyond what I have done!

    I love the "brass etched" know work etc. great idea, I will have to try that!


  2. Oh Boy, I already went through your entire sculpting tools manual, and made myself some first class tools with that, but this new article is totally amazing once again!
    I have been meddling with stamping tools, suffering long hours to get even the simplest tool working, but your manual goes so much further. It's so full of information that makes me think 'Now why didn't I think of that?'

    Just brilliant stuff!


  3. Hi David and Rudy,

    thanks for your kind words. It's good to know, that there is someone out there who likes what I'm doing here. Sometimes I'm afraid i could be a little too freaky.


  4. Hey, we didn't say that you're not freaky :-)

    We just like your work :-D

  5. Fantastic! Very informative and nicely prepared article!


  6. Great stuff! I use a self-made tool to make stitches on clothing etc when I sculpt; this is a thin metal tube that I have squashed almost flat, so that it makes an oblong shape when pressed onto the clay. Make a line of stitches with a bit of space inbetween them, and then use a knife or other flat tool to make the visible fabric edge between the stitches, like this: -I-I-I-. Super fast, and looks really good.

  7. do you know if ur website or supplier who will cheaply engrave stuff like this, preferably online?

  8. Hi, sorry for my late reply. I saw your question just a minute ago. I don't know about a special shop, but you have to google for a shop that will do laser engravings. You need one that will use your own pictures for the engraving. Just try google and find a shop in your country for reducing shipping costs.