A Spooky “Specimen” Card for Halloween

This Halloween card was inspired by a trip to a local shop that specializes in natural history that is filled with all kinds of bones, bugs and mounted specimens. Kids love it and can hardly walk by the store front without standing nose-to-glass to peer at their fabulous window display. Needless to say, with its nod to the macabre the place really comes into its own with the approach of Halloween!

To make this specimen display card, take a piece of white card stock and trim it into three strips of equal width. Next, stamp several different “spooky” images, leaving plenty of space around each one, as if you were going to mount each one for display. I used the following images by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps in black ink: Bat, Skeleton, Skeleton’s Skull, Skeleton’s Torso, and Spider.

Next, cut each strip to separate your images. Choose your desired background (mine is a marbled art paper like the kind used for book binding). Arrange your images into a pleasing grid, leaving a bit of space around each image. If you like, you can use one or more squares for a message as I’ve done below. Then add your spooky greeting. Happy Halloween!


Super Easy Spooky Jewelry for Halloween!

This spooky jewelry set is not only incredibly easy to make, it is fast! Once you have the materials on hand you can make these in less than an hour.


You will need:

  • Bat and Skeleton’s Skull by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps
  • White shrink plastic
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Black StayzOn ink
  • 2 earring wires
  • 2 jump rings
  • Short pieces of chain
  • Jewelry pliers and cutters
  • Flat metal tag (round, dog tag style, whatever your preference is)
  • Cord or chain for necklace

To make the earrings:

Take a piece of white shrink plastic, and rough up the surface a bit with fine-grit sandpaper. This helps the ink adhere to it. Next, stamp bat two times with StayzOn ink and cut them from the sheet, leaving at least 1/4 inch around the image – you can make a rough cut as you’ll be cutting them out more carefully in a moment. Next take a 1/8 inch punch and punch a hole at each end of the bat wings. This is where you will be attaching the chain. Now carefully cut out around each bat, leaving about 1/8 inch around the punched holes. Shrink the plastic using your oven or heat tool according to the package directions.

Using your wire cutters, cut about 1.5 inches of chain. If the links are all the same size, you’ll want an odd number of links so that there is one center one you can hang from the earring wire. Open and attach one jump ring to one of the holes. While it is still open, thread on the last link on one end of the piece of chain. Close the jump ring with your pliers. Attach the other end of the chain to another jump ring looped through the other hole. Find the center link of the chain, and thread it through the earring wire (depending on the design of the earring wire, you may need another jump ring for this). The bats should be evenly balanced, and swing freely from each earring wire.

To make the necklace:

Stamp Skeleton’s Skull on a metal tag with StayzOn ink. (If you make a mistake or don’t like the placement of the image, you can wipe it off with rubbing alcohol and redo it.) When the ink is dry, attach the pendant to a cord or chain of your choice. I used a cord here, but if you use a chain, you will probably want hang the tag using a jump ring.

Victorian Tintype-Look with Rubber Stamps

Tintype photography is going through something of an artistic revival. I recently sat for a tintype portrait myself, and found the process (which I was able to watch) and result fascinating. Here is a way to recreate the look of a tintype with rubber stamps. You’ll need a piece of coated metallic card stock. A warm silver-color should work well. You’ll also want black and silver pigment inks.


Stamp the image you want to use on the metallic card stock in black pigment ink and trim it to size (you’ll want it to look like a small photograph). I used Lady 1 by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps.

Next, using a small sponge dauber, shade the edges and corners a bit with the same black ink. It doesn’t need to look perfectly regular, in fact if you make it a bit smudged and irregular that is a better effect. You can even wipe off the ink here and there in the corners to reproduce the look of the tintype emulsion.

You can also distress the image itself by smudging a bit of the black ink here and there. If you wish, you can add some mid-tone highlights on top of the dark areas with silver pigment ink. I did so mostly on the back of the lady’s hair.

The pigment ink may not dry to the point that it doesn’t rub off with a bit of pressure. This will depend on the kind of paper and ink you end up using. If this is the case, coat your image with a light spray of clear acrylic and let it dry and that should prevent smearing.

I completed my card by stamping Chrysanthemum in silver on black card stock, and mounting my tintype on top. The overall effect ended up very Victorian! I decided to go with it, and added a “missing you” sentiment in silver ink.

Make a Cutout Falling Leaf Frame

Frame cards are a great way to showcase something special – words of inspiration, a found object or a favorite photograph. To begin, select a piece of card stock in a color and texture that you like, and using a straight edge and bone folder, score a line that will be your fold line. Fold along the scored line, and trim your card to your desired size.

Next, on the inside of the front of your card, use a pencil to lightly trace the shape that you want your cutout window to be. For this example, I stamped Bluejay, cut out the image, positioned it where I wanted it, and then lightly traced with pencil around the edge of the image.bluejay_leaf_frame

Next, still using pencil, draw a guide for where you will cut. If you use a photograph or stamped image, you may want the window to be smaller than the photograph. If you are planning to use an object or written sentiment, you may want the window to be larger – it is up to you. I drew my guide to be slightly smaller than the stamped image.

Next, carefully cut out your window along your guideline. You can carefully cut with scissors, but if you are doing a shape with precise or straight edges it will probably be easier to use a paper trimmer.

To decorate the front (frame side) of the card, insert a piece of scrap paper inside the card to protect the inside from being stamped. Then stamp a design of your choice. I used Maple Leaf, and stamped it several times. Make overlapping images using two shades of pigment ink. I think the effect looks like falling autumn leaves!

Finally, attach your showcase image or object or write your sentiment inside the card so that it shows through the window on the front. When you open the card, the larger image is visible. And there you have it, a special gift with its own frame!

Three Ways to Impress with an Elegant Rubber Stamp

Sometimes you want to keep your treatment simple and let the beauty and elegance of a stamp image speak for itself. This beautiful Grapevine stamp image is actually ancient – it comes from a 16th century woodcut. The left-hand image below was stamped with embossing ink, and embossed with fine detail gold embossing powder. The version in the middle is stamped with sepia ink on a pale pink card stock. The image on the right is stamped with black ink on white card stock. In each case, gold paper frames the image, but you get such different looks with each one! They are all elegant, and would make lovely invitations, menu covers, or table name cards.


“Stained Glass” Look with Rubber Stamps

This stained glass look is easy to achieve! You’ll need some small thin sheets of plexiglass, which is inexpensive and easily found online. (If you can’t find the size you want you can always score and break it to your desired dimensions.)

Start by making sure the sheet is clean, and wash and dry it if necessary. Stamp your images on the plexiglass with StayzOn ink and let it dry. If you make a mistake or don’t get the image just the way you want it, you can wipe off the ink with a bit of rubbing alcohol and redo it.

Next, color the other side of the sheet with alcohol-based marker. And that’s all there is to it! Now you can use it as a decorative item, or because it is plexiglass and won’t break, you could add it to a card and send it by mail.  I stamped mine with Dogwood and Fairy 4 and set it on a window ledge to catch the evening sun:


Thinking of You!

This easy greeting card uses Red Currant stamped in black waterproof ink, and colored with markers. There is a wide variety of good quality art markers available today, and while they can be expensive, a card like this only requires a few colors because the stamped image does a lot of the shading for you. I used two shades of green for the leaves and two others for the berries, but you could get by just as well with a single green and dark pink. I shaded the berries with a dark sienna shade which also worked well for the woody part of the stem.


If you use a single stamp image in a composition like this, it can help to add a bit of background shading to draw the viewer’s eye towards it – especially if you are using a white background as I’ve done here. To achieve a gentle shading effect, sponge a light sepia shade around the stamped image to fill in the white areas a bit. Start very light and build up the color gradually to achieve an overall evenness. I also shaded a bit in the center of the “Thinking of you Sentiment” to match the overall value of the image and greeting focal areas.

The rest of the composition is simple. pick contrasting mat and card stock that complements the colors you’ve used, trim to your desired size, and round the edges for a softer effect.

Big, Beautiful Rubber Stamps!

At Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps, we love making really big, beautifully detailed rubber stamps. Our deep-etched process allows us to faithfully reproduce lots of detail in our rubber dies. And to show you, we stamp it ourselves right on the maple mount in indexing ink, so you know what you can expect in your own stamped images.

This stamp “Harvest” is one of our favorites. It comes from a 19th century book on gardening, and from the looks of it, they know their stuff! If my garden turned out half as well, I’d be very pleased. It stamps very well, and has so much going on in it that it is a joy to use as a straight stamped image, or embellished with color.

For a highly detailed stamp like this, it is best to use very smooth paper. Bristol can work well, but I ended up using a hot-press watercolor paper which is also very smooth. You will get the best image by starting with a clean stamp, and inking it with a rubber brayer so that your ink will be just on the surface of the stamp, rather than filling up the crevasses. Here is my stamped image:


I think it is beautiful and could be used just like that! However, I wanted to color it, and make it into a special card. If you decide to do the same, you have a few options. If you stamp very light (either by using a light color of ink, or using a second impression), you will have all of the outlines you need, but will need to do a lot of the shading yourself. If you do a darker image like I have here, the stamp will do the shading for you, and you just need to be sure to preserve the highlights. Next, I colored the image with Prismacolor pencils, which allow you to layer and blend colors:


As I got to coloring, I realized this is a fantasy image! What is holding all of those vegetables in place, stacked up as they are?!! But I just went with it, reveled in the abundance of it all, and colored in the shadows underneath that big cabbage and the pumpkins and the squash, leaving the magic of it all to the viewer’s interpretation.

Much of the “action” of this image happens at the plane closest to the viewer, but the image does have the suggestion of a background (the field and trees beyond). You can add a bit of depth by shading this background in lighter, cooler colors than you use to shade the foreground vegetables.

I trimmed and matted the image on a contrasting burgundy color (the same color I used to reinforce the shadows in the image), and made the base of the card out of folded, trimmed cardstock.  I like adding the element of a ribbon – the dark blue of the card and the gold ribbon suggests “First Place” at the county fair!

I applied the gold ribbon horizontally so that the viewer’s eye is encouraged to move around the image, back and forth from right to left along the horizontal line. The more the eye explores, the more interesting and enjoyable your design will be to the viewer.


Lastly, to finish the card and give it a polished look, I trimmed two pieces of linen paper and tacked them into the inside top and bottom which is where a note could be written. On the bottom, I stamped Lettuce in a bright, leafy green.

Take a close-up look at a Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamp

I’d like to tell you a little bit about how we make Nature’s Blessings rubber stamps. We take great care in our work, and are proud to offer some of the finest rubber stamps available in the world today! One of the reasons we started making stamps 18 years ago was to reproduce the beautiful drawings we saw in 19th century books so we could use them in our own artwork. These drawings can be incredibly detailed and difficult to reproduce in rubber unless you take several things into consideration in your stamp-making process. There’s a lot that goes into making each stamp, and each step of the process really matters if you want high detail in your finished stamp.

The Artwork

There is a certain style of artwork that reproduces well with our process, and fortunately a lot of great art falls into this category! Here is an example of an original image from a 19th century volume (one of the first we collected 18 years ago) called “The Illustrated Dictionary of Gardening”. This is what it looks like on the page of the book we found it in – look closely and you will see there are some very fine lines in this engraving. We won’t be able to capture them all in the rubber stamp (and you can’t capture grayscale, just black and white) but we will get a lot of them. Each piece of artwork needs to be scanned, and then carefully digitally edited and prepared to make it into the best possible stamp image.


The Rubber Die

The part of a stamp that is the formed and trimmed piece of rubber that is pressed against a page to make an image is called a rubber die. The die is made by a process called vulcanization where through heat and pressure it is formed into the stamp image.

The first step in making a rubber die is creating an etched magnesium plate. The magnesium metal plate is coated with a photoresist material, and exposed to light by a laser. The laser creates a very detailed image the dark areas on the image, hardening the places exposed to the light. When the photoresist is washed, the hardened places remain and the areas not exposed by the laser wash away, leaving a trace of the stamp image.

Next, the magnesium plate is exposed to an acid bath. It isn’t actually immersed in the bath, it is suspended above the bath of nitric acid, and then spinning paddles splash the acid onto the face of the plate where the places not coated by the photo resist are gradually etched away. The paddles can be manipulated to control the exposure of the plate to the acid. This determines the depth of the etch, as well as the angle of the shoulder that supports each of the surface lines on the finished stamp.

For some products, it is best to have the shoulder be nearly vertical, but for rubber stamps you actually want the shoulder to be about a 30% slope. This means that fine lines that can stand on their own and not flop over when you press on them, because they are buttressed on the sides by the shoulder.

In the next step of the process, the positive/raised images of the metal plate are pressed against a polymer “matrix board” which forms a negative mold for shaping the rubber. The rubber is placed against this mold in a vulcanizer, and shaped into the rubber die that contains the stamp images.

Nature’s Blessings uses a high-grade red rubber specially formulated for vulcanizing rubber stamps. It has a uniform consistency and plasticity which means that all parts of the finished stamp will respond similarly when you apply pressure to imprint it. And see? It looks so pretty…


The Foam Cushion

An important, but often overlooked part of a rubber stamp is the cushion that supports the rubber die. Nature’s Blessings uses a 1/8 inch (3.175 millimeter) foam cushion between the rubber die and wooden stamp mount. We use a red cushion to match the color of the stamp.

For a detailed stamp and stamp impression this cushion is very important. It helps distribute the pressure on the rubber die when you press on the mount from above so that there is a more uniform contact between the die and the surface you are stamping on.

There is adhesive on both sides of the foam cushion, and we don’t have much more to say about that except it is very, very sticky! Your stamp should stay in place for many years. The only thing I’ve ever seen happen (and only after nearly two decades!) is that the foam may loosen from the mount. If this should happen, just coat the foam with rubber cement, press it against the mount, and let it dry. It should be as good as new.

Once the rubber is adhered to the foam mount, we trim the die and foam with a scroll saw. No rough scissor-trimmed edges here! We neatly and carefully trim each and every stamp very close to the border of the stamp image. This way, you won’t get any “ghost lines” from the edge of the stamp when you go to make an impression.


For the next step, we prepare the wooden stamp mount. All of our mounts are beautiful and durable maple hardwood mounts from the state of Maine.  We sand the entire mount with a 600 grade Ultra Fine sand paper so you will only have fine, smooth edges and surfaces. The entire stamp is then coated with two layers of clear varnish.

Next we use AN ACTUAL STAMP that we have made and ACTUALLY STAMP the image on the mount with permanent indexing ink. It seems like such a simple thing, but most stamp companies don’t do this. They use stickers with the stamp image on the mount. So how do you know what the stamp will really be like when you go to use it? With Nature’s Blessings you know, because we show you, right on the stamp! Plus over time those stickers move around and crack and in general are just no good. It is a symptom of mass production, and we decided against them from the very beginning. When the indexing ink is dry, the top of the stamp is coated with one more layer of clear varnish to protect the image.


When we assemble the stamp, we are careful to align the cushion-mounted rubber die with the index, so you know right where it will be when you go to stamp it, without any guesswork. From this side view, you can see alignment and the hourglass-shaped sides of the wood mount. The curved sides of the mount provide a good grip, and make the stamp very comfortable in your hands when you use it:


Lastly, we stamp our logo on the side. This is the mark of the best quality we could achieve, and our sign that each of our stamps is lovingly made by hand…our hands!…for you. If it doesn’t have the Nature’s Blessings logo, it isn’t our stamp!


Make a Back-to-School Chalkboard Card

In late summer, every now and then you catch a whiff of autumn in the air, and you know it is almost time for school to start. Poor kids! How they miss their summer fun. But there’s new school clothes to buy, and supplies, old friends to see again, and maybe some new ones. Maybe the new school year will bring the adventure of a new teacher, or even a new school.

Here is a fun card to make. Actually it is rather big for a card, but sometimes you have to just go for it – the card will be what it wants to be! You can always make it smaller if you want something more mail-friendly. For the image, I stamped and colored School Days by Nature’s Blessings Fine Art Stamps, and cut out around the main figures in the image.

For the chalkboard, I used the technique for making pastel paper described in this previous post, but using black acrylic paint in the paint/ground mixture. After it is dry, “cure” it a bit by rubbing a piece of white chalk over the surface, and brushing it off to give it an authentic chalkboard appearance. Then you can draw on it with chalk, and make whatever kind of design or message you wish. To get a fine line, I used a white pastel pencil so the writing really is chalk! I don’t normally spray my pastel drawings, but this one seemed likely to smear and so I gave it a light coat of matte acrylic spray.

Compose and mat your image however you like. For the cut-out image, I used spray adhesive to get good coverage. I had some scrapbook paper with an autumn-leaf pattern that I liked, and so used that. The blue card stock adds to the primary-color feel of the finished design, and picks up some of the blues in the children’s clothing in the stamped image.

Did you notice the little girl in front is proudly carrying her chalk slate?

Nature's Blessings Fine Art Stamps