Excerpted from the book
Great Rubber Stamping

The term design simply means the arrangement of elements on a page--or how you select and organize your materials and images. Good designs don't just happen by themselves. Someone created them. While there are no firm rules for good design, there are various elements to consider, both by themselves and in combination with other elements. And while it may be difficult to say why one design succeeds and another fails, people usually find it easy to agree on what they like: We know it when we see it. A harmonious design is like harmony in music: it just feels right.

People often think of "design" in terms of basic elements like composition, line, color, and pattern or repetition. But before you get to any of that, it really helps if you set the scene by pausing to deliberately think about the context and the purpose of the project. Feelings matter, too--both yours and the recipient's if the project is to be given to another person.

Ask yourself questions such as, What is the artwork for? Is it a gift, an announcement, a note, a picture for the wall? What is your central message? Is it a hearty "thank you," a heartfelt condolence, or a lighthearted wish for happiness? Who's going to receive it, where will they be, and what else will be going on?

And what's the emotional content, that is, how do you feel about your message, and how do you expect or even want the recipient to feel? You'll find it very helpful to jot down your answers, along with any words or images that come to mind while you think. These notes will be a useful checklist you can consult as you develop your design.

While there are no limits, most stamping projects rely on good composition, pleasant rhythms, expressive lines, and harmonious colors. On the following pages we'll take a close look at successful stamping projects that get the most out of these elements.


CONTEXT. The one thing that's most important is your personal message and your feelings about it. It's easy to become overwhelmed by the limitless possibilities that rubber stamping offers, and it's easy to become confused by design guidelines. Whenever you have trouble focusing on your message, go back and review your notes to help you align the elements of design with your intentions.

COMPOSITION. What shape is your artwork? How should you arrange your words and images on it? Every composition involves proportion, background and foreground, balance, and focus. There are countless combinations of these basic elements--and every one of them will help to convey a message. Of course, you can't go wrong with a centered composition, especially on a square card. And if you want to create a feeling of direction or motion, try a diagonal composition. Always trust your eye to tell you the "right" arrangement of elements for your particular project.

COLOR. The rainbow's your oyster. With today's inks, markers, and stamp pads, there's no limit on your palette. Choosing harmonious colors is the challenge, but you can learn how to do that by working with shades and hues of one color, with complementary colors (colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel), and with pairs of colors that are adjacent on the color wheel (called analogous colors).

LINE. Lines of different weight, thickness, and consistency convey different feelings. Where other artists draw the lines they want, stampers usually choose an image that already contains the desired line quality. You can change stamped lines by embossing, by gluing on thread, by over-stamping, or by drawing with marker inks.

RHYTHM AND REPETITION. Repeated visual elements can make a lively background or border as well as create illusions of depth and motion. Stamps make it easy to repeat an image. Remember, a design will usually look better if the repeating images are arranged in an orderly manner, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the images have to move across a page. Left to right, top to bottom, corner to corner, in a circle, or even partially off the page--the same stamp repeated in a different way will give a very different feel to your artwork.
color wheel
The color wheel is the rainbow arranged in a circle. The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Complementary pairs are across from each other, and analogous colors are next to one another.

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