Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Considering Making Polymer Stamps at Home?

If you had wondered why there was a lack of posts recently it is down to a couple of things. Firstly, practically everyone was on holiday and there was little site traffic, so I thought it was foolish to keep to a schedule that no one was bothered about.

Secondly, I have been VERY busy the last few days having a go at making polymer stamps. Yes, you heard right, polymer stamps. The clear ones like you can buy in the shops.

Now I'm not going to give a tutorial on this, it is only to give my views on the process, so you can decide if it is for you or not. Before I started I read all the stuff I could find, watched all the videos.

Firstly, if your intent is to save money, forget it. Not going to happen.
If you think you'll make a business out of making them, the same goes - unless you go into major industrial production.
If you lack patience, don't do it.
If you want to make your own and I mean REALLY want to make your own designer stamps, then you should consider it.

The process sounds simple but it isn't quite as straight forward as sellers of kits would have you believe.  Basically you have a gel that reacts to light. You add a negative of the design, put UV light through it  and low and behold, bits set and other bits don't, leaving you with a design in the resin.

The kits will not last long before you are crying out for more supplies, either because you love doing it or because you have wrecked all those you have.  One alternative is to get a bottle of liquid polymer. Now before you rush out, if you do that you have to do something to contain it while making your stamp. It isn't rocket science, you have a glass or perspex base, your negative and then, a piece of acetate or cellophane. Then you build a dam to hold the liquid, another piece of acetate and the last lid.  'Easy!' you say.

Well hold your horses, not QUITE as easy as that. This liquid is very thick, very gloopy and even stickier. If you don't pay attention you could end up in a very hot and sticky puddle. (You being hot, the polymer providing the sticky puddle).

IF you buy any, I advise doing what I did (but only after not doing it at the start) and changing the bottle top for one with a pointy nozzle. I found a squeezy sauce bottle bought from a cheap shop had just the right size lid! It was about 2 inches across.  Take my word for it, do this before you pour a single drop. You'll thank me, honestly.  Before I found that, I decanted some into an old cleaned out shampoo bottle. That was better but not brilliant as it had one of those press/flip tops.  I then replaced the lid of that with a top from a large washing up liquid bottle. Keep your supplies in a dark place.

The relief of being able to pour accurately is wonderful.

Back to the basics.

To develop stamps if you don't have the kit, you will need:

A UV lamp like for nail techs
A way of making negatives  -  you need to make good negatives. Black paper or vinyl or other stuff won't work well and it will make it hard for you to get good results.  Believe me when I tell you that, I have spent days trying to get images dark enough. There are many tutorials on it.

Two glass or perspex sheets that will fit in your lamp
Some acetate to put under and over the gel
Damming tape to hold it
Sticky tape
Hot and cold water, detergent and a soft brush
A digital timer -  YOU CAN'T do this without VERY accurate timing. It isn't the sort of thing you leave to make yourself coffee. Suddenly need the bathroom? Suck it up. Not going to happen.

So, you make your polymer sandwich, stick it in under the lamp for a few seconds, turn it over and cook the other side, scrub off the excess polymer, put it in a water bath and return it under the lamp for another couple of minutes.

Not hard on the face of it but the timing is crucial. Too long on the first go and the whole lot will set with no image at all. Too short and any details might be still floating without attachment to the stamp floor. Too little on the second and your image could be incomplete, too long and oops you have nothing again.

See what I mean?  There is a lot of trial and error in here. Even  with the kit, results can change according to the temperature, age of your lamp, how dark you get your negatives ( once you start making your own). We are talking about a difference of SECONDS between success and failure.

The liquid polymer is not cheap but it is cheaper than sachets. However you need determination, time and luck to get it right and even then, sometimes it will go wrong.

When it goes right, it is a wondrous thing and when it goes wrong it is exasperating and makes you want to through it all out the window. So far, my windows are still intact....


  1. Sandra, love your videos! Would you be willing to share your polymer exposure times?

  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHmsC42nIxw&list=PLPSUAA6eD3zpXMzkCcq6HQji1L2kbcQAs That should take you to all the videos on stamp making I've made and help you more.
    http://createinspain.blogspot.com.es/2016/02/photo-polymer-stamp-making-details.html is the latest blog post.
    I have refined the method - I am using black vinyl kiss cut on colourless acetate as the template. A major thing though, is that I now use the lamp with ONLY 2 bulbs on the top (I find it more forgiving). For a basic line drawing stamp I use a time of 30 sec on the back and 2 min 10 secs for the front. I use washing up liquid to wash out and a nail brush. Be gentle. Once you have the stamp to your liking, you can set it more. Very fine lines take a few seconds longer to do, very solid blocks of colour take less. The difference is generally on the FRONT time, i.e. the second bit. Always pre warm the lamp before first use of the session. Times will vary a bit according to season. Let me know if you need more help, I'm happy to do so. There was no help available for me!