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Atlas Quest
  1. 0. Stamping Menu
  2. 1. Ink Pads
  3. 2. Techniques
  4. 3. Watercolors
  5. 4. Maintenance

The Art of Stamping

Stamping With Style

Anyone can slap some ink on a stamp and get the image to a piece of paper. But it's not difficult to go that extra mile to make a stamp image really pop! And that's what this section is all about. We'll cover several ways to make your images come alive and move your two dimensional stampings into the third dimension: Color.

Heceta Head Lighthouse
The splash of color on this lighthouse makes the image seem three-dimensional and pop from the page!

Adding Color Before the Stamp-In

This process involves putting several colors onto the stamp before the actual stamp-in. The easiest way to do this is using colored markers. Draw the colors where you want them to appear directly onto the stamp, then stamp away. In a pinch, ink pads will also work quite well—the rule of thumb being the smaller the ink pad, the easier it is to work with. Below are additional tips to get you started:
Loon Stamp

Adding Color After the Stamp-In

Some colors—especially yellow, but equally applicable to all of the lightest colors—don't show up well against a white background, which is what most of us use for our logbooks. Sometimes, the best way to get this color in is to add it after you stamp in. The stamp on the left—when I first stamped it—didn't look too hot. I used only a black ink pad for stamping that turned out plain and dull. So I took the liberty of coloring in the white space to give it a more color. And the results were great! These coloring tips should get you going on your own masterpieces.
Drunk leaning against cactus

Multiple Stampings

Sometimes, you can get a really neat effect simply by stamping the same image several times. For the seascape to the right, I took a small, plain fish and stamped it in three times with different colors—all next to each other. Presto, a school of fish! For even more interest, I filled in the white space of two fish with a yellow marker and drew in bubbles coming from their mouths rising towards the surface. On another stamp (not shown), I stamped in a starfish three times, but used different colors and turned the stamp upsidedown and sideways to make it look like three distinctly different starfish. (It was one of those stamps that don't really have an "up".)
This school of fish was created with a single stamp used multiple times in different colors
School of fish

The Murder At Gabriel Park! series includes a footprint as a stamp for one of the boxes. Instead of stamping in the image once, use the footprint several times to make it look like someone walked or ran across the page.


This tutorial can't cover every potential use of multiple stampings, so use your imaginations! Study a stamp before you stamp and figure out if it's a good candidate for multiple stampings, perhaps by using multiple colors or twisting the stamp around to make it look like a different stamp.

Draw Backgrounds Around Your Stampings

Many moons ago I hid a series of nine stamps, all with an underwater theme: An orca, dolphin, crab, seahorse, jellyfish, starfish, regular fish, and so on. In a fit of inspiration, I turned them into a mural. I drew little wavy lines at the top of the page with a blue marker to represent the surface of the ocean. A dolphin is jumping out of the water, fish are swimming under the surface, a crab creeps around the bottom on the ground. I drew little bubbles coming from the mouth of the fish floating to the surface.

If I wanted to get even more elaborate, I could have drawn shipwrecks in the background, a rescue helicopter overhead, kids swimming in the surf, divers checking out a coral reef—any number of possibilities. It doesn't even have to be limited to drawing, either. I could have cut out pictures of shipwrecks and other underwater objects to paste into my mural. Or a combination of drawing and pasting pictures.

Your imagination is the limit! The technique isn't much different than what a scrapbooker uses for their photos and other prized possessions, except in this case, it's the stampings that are the center of attention.

Overlapping Stamps

This method of adding multiple colors to a stamp requires that the stamp actually be designed for this purpose. You won't find many boxes out there with layered stamps, but they do exist and can be so very cool when it works!

This Zorro stamp is a layered stamp. One stamp was carved with the sunset and extra depth to the famous Z (colored red in this image), while the second stamp of zorro (colored black in this image) was stamped directly on top of the first stamp. By itself, the Zorro stamp is nice, but with the red background—WOW!

You should stamp dark colors onto light ones if you don't want the colors to look like they've blended. The greater the contrast, the more it will look like two different colors side-by-side rather than two, overlapping colors.

The most interesting use I saw of using multiple, overlapping stamps was a blank one! The stamping was a scene overlooking a tropical beach with a good, solid border around the scene. I inked the back of the stamp—completely uncarved—with a bright orange color on the top half and a light blue color on the bottom half and stamped away. Then I inked the front of the stamp with black which I stamped on top of the first stamping. Instead of a white background, the scene now had a beautiful orange sunset, light blue waters, and black palm trees that looked like silhouettes, none of which looked drawn in afterwards with a colored marker. It was a wonderful effect, and it used the plain, boring back side of the stamp. (I hesitate to post the image—though it is nothing short of astonishing—but I didn't carve it and don't have permission to display it here.)


Combining Techniques

There's nothing preventing you from using multiple techniques at the same time. The school of fish shown earlier were stamped multiple times, then two were also colored in later. The birds here were mostly colored directly onto the stamp, but notice the beak of the toucan and the feet of both birds were colored in later.

Not all stamps work equally well for various techniques. Before stamping in, consider the possibilities of various stamping techniques and how they might work together to create an imagine that will all but jump off the page!

Birds of a Feather
  1. 0. Stamping Menu
  2. 1. Ink Pads
  3. 2. Techniques
  4. 3. Watercolors
  5. 4. Maintenance