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Rubberstamps made from 'Foamies'

In the fall of 1997 I saw a book on 'nature printing' where you ink fresh leaves and press them on to paper. The cards and designs in the illustrations really impressed me - but it was fall and I wanted to play with the idea longer than the few weeks we'd still have fresh leaves. About the same time I saw leaf rubberstamps for sale... somehow I got the idea to ink the leaves and put them on to a sheet of 'Foamies' craft foam, then cut them out, score them where their veins were, and glue them on to Lauan flooring. It worked!

To make your own leaf rubberstamp, you will need:

  • A fresh-picked leaf you like the shape of - the flatter the better
  • A sheet of 'Foamies' craft foam (1/4" thickness is best, but 1/8" will do too)
  • An ink pad, preferably permanent ink
  • Scissors and a utility knife
  • Wood glue (or white glue or craft glue)
  • Scrap Lauan (or plywood, or paneling, or masonite, whatever you have handy) big enough to fit the leaf on to with a 1/8" margin*
  • Scroll saw (or band saw, or other type of saw) to cut the wood to fit the stamp*

*if you're desparate to try this idea but don't have any scrap wood or a scroll saw handy, you can glue the foamies on to a sheet of stiff tagboard or shirt cardboard, trim with scissors, and it will be good for a few stamps... then later you can glue the tagboard on to wood for a more permanent stamp.

How to make the stamp:

  • Carefully ink the back of the leaf, taking care to get the tips, the stem and all the leaf veins as well inked as you can.
  • Lay the leaf gently on the foam.  Press all parts of the leaf gently but firmly into the foam using your fingers, taking care that the leaf doesn't move around as you press.
  • Carefully remove the leaf.  (you can re-ink and re-use, if you don't like the first impression.)  Let ink dry.
  • Using scissors or utility knife, cut carefully around the edges of the leaf, using the original leaf as a reference where necessary.
  • Using a utility knife, cut the major veins of the leaf heavily (about halfway through the foam) and the smaller veins lightly (score surface) into the foam. If you can only see part of a vein, only cut part... it will give it that 'natural' look. With the largest veins, you can cut two parallel lines on both sides of the vein, or one gouge thick line, or a thinner line along one side... experiment and see what looks best for your leaf.
  • Glue the foam leaf on to the Lauan. Let dry.
  • Cut the Lauan to fit the leaf, leaving a small (1/8" or less) margin around the edges.

Notes on leaf stamps:

  • The stamps will need a preliminary inking and stamping before you stamp them on to a card... the first impressions of the stamp may be extremely faded.
  • For larger leaves, you will need a large stamp pad, or one where the pad goes above the plastic rim. Or you can use markers.
  • Combining several colors (for example: yellow on one edge, red on the top, orange elsewhere) will give you a more realistic leaf print. Allow the colors to blend. You'll have to give up your pristine stamp pad ink colors, though.
  • Stamps can be cleaned by alternating a wet sponge and dry towels. Running them under water works, but can loosen the glue.

Notes on other stamps:

  • You can make your own rubberstamps out of anything stampable: your child's hand, a cross-section of an orange, a flower, etc.
  • You can also just draw any design on the foam and cut it out: quilt pieces, hearts, stars, etc.
  • Remember to make any letters or numbers mirror-image, so that they show up correctly when stamped!

...feel free to email me at with ideas, comments, etc!