Monday, June 7, 2010

Tutorial on Precise Placement

A number of participants in OLW7 have moaned about ruining lots of paper trying to get exact placment of their images. I feel your pain. If you're gonna do CAS, you gotta be willing to ruin paper. It goes with the territory. It's unavoidable. It's deeply annoying. It might make you run back to multiple layers and tons of embellishments so you can hide the slips.


I love the Hitchhiker's Guide. Have I mentioned that? Not relevant, but still.

I need coffee.

Anyway, back to paper. Especially if you are a beginning stamper or even if you're just branching out into more CAS style, it's not always obvious how to achieve precise stamping. You'll absolutely have to pitch mistakes in the recycling bin, and that's okay. Accept that and move on with a few handy tools that will minimize (but not eliminate) mistakes. Let's get started, shall we?

First, the easiest thing you can do to get precise placement is use clear stamps with a gridded acrylic block.

This isn't full-proof by any means. Blocks slip, stamps smoosh, smudges happen. But the grid helps you get even spacing and straight lines, especially if you stick out the tip of your tongue to the right side of your mouth and don't breath while stamping.

Okay, I'm kidding about the not breathing. But the tongue sticking out works. Sometimes. Or not.

Not everyone likes clear stamps, and not all images are available in clear. Let's say you love the feel of wood blocks in your hands as you stamp, but wood is, sadly, opaque. So is rubber. You can still get nice, even spacing like this:

DON'T PANIC! You can do it. All you need is a ruler (I like this clear plastic L-shaped ruler because it's easy to get right angles with it), pencil, and stamp positioner. A gridded cutting mat is a good idea, too, but not essential.

Start by drawing a light pencil line where you want your images to be.

At this point, you can mark the center, or you can use your grid to eyeball it. See how I centered the card on the grid? It's one less mark to erase, but seriously, how hard is it to just erase? Not very.

Put your central image first, and once it's in place, put the ruler down and mark where you want the others at even intervals. It's a good design idea to have the end images run off the card a bit, but not essential.

Next, use your stamp positioner to get each image in exactly the right spot.

DO NOT prematurely erase. You will smear the ink and hate yourself. Go ahead and set it aside to dry, color it if needed, and THEN erase the line. Patience is a virtue.

See? It's not that hard if you get all obsessive about it. Practice makes close to perfect, too.

Note on Stamp Positioners: I bought mine YEARS ago. PSX has been out of business for a long time, but all positioners work the same way. A flat square or rectangle of plastic or acrylic fits inside an L-shaped guide. Nestle the L-shape against one corner of the rectangle, and let the L-shape guide your inked stamp onto the rectangle. Then position the image on the rectangle over the place you want to stamp it, slide the L-shaped guide onto the corner, remove the rectangle, and then stamp onto the paper by sliding the stamp straight down the L-shaped guide.


  1. I really appreciate your advice on precision stamping. I've been stamping close to 1 1/2, and I'm much better than I used to be, but not as good as I want to be. I mostly use acrylic stamps, but have some wooden ones. I've learned that one can press down too hard! I've never really understood why one would use a stamp positioner, but thanks to you, I finally get it. Your tips are much appreciated!

  2. perfect, thanks so much for the tutorial. I do notice the tongue sticking out helps as well! Hehe... now off to find a decent eraser.

  3. "especially if you stick out the tip of your tongue to the right side of your mouth and don't breath"

    Well, YEAH! I think they teach this in Stamping 101.

    And tkelli - go to an art store and buy an art eraser. Mine are white squished oval-shaped deals, and they are WONDERFUL! Never use a pencil eraser. (Ask me how i know.)

    WV: repast
    Now that I've had my coffee, it's time for the repast.

  4. OMG - you make me laugh! The tongue hanging out the side of your mouth while concentrating is one of our family traits!
    And while you illustrate perfectly why CAS cards are sometimes more difficult to make (I seem to recall you saying that when there's so much white space there's no room for errors!) you forgot to mention my favourite work around method for stamp positioning - make it look like it was never supposed to be a straight line in the first place. I do this especially with alphabets. The lazy-woman's method of stamp placement!

  5. It was a Sweet lesson this morning, and all the visuals helped! I have an L shaped tool(for stained glass work) that will work for positioning the stamps with my grid acrylic blocks.

    Thanks again.

  6. Great tutorial! You make it look so easy - me??? I couldn't live without my stampamajig!!! Had to laugh at your reference to Hitchiker - in recent clean-ups in the craft room/home office/entry foyer/mudroom, etc., I found an old 5 x 5 floppy (when they really WERE floppy) and game book of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I promptly sent it to DS in Calif., who's already framed it, and says it's a keeper!!! lol...what we save...

  7. Great tutorial; I'm glad to know you don't achieve "perfection" by totally eyeballing. I use my stampamajig more often than I'd ever believe; it's paid for itself many times over. As for pencil marks, use a white block eraser, and it won't leave a mark.

  8. My comment refers to "holding your breath." I'm sure I probably do it when I'm stamping, but I KNOW I do it when I'm taking a picture of a card! I guess I don't want to move the camera while I'm breathing. LOL! (The tongue certainly comes out, too.)

  9. I've hated myself many times. Gradually learning patience. Great tutorial.

  10. Great tutorial, Susan! Wish I'd seen this before I lugged home a (now obsolete) Mostly Animals stamp positioner from Las Vegas! Where is it now? In closet heaven......

  11. Hi Susan! I adore your work and your humor! You constantly make me sigh and laugh. Thank you for that! I wanted to let you know that A Muse Art Stamps carries a very similar stamp positioner similar to the one you used. You can find it here: I just picked it up for myself and love it! Thanks so much for sharing so much of you with us! P.S. The tongue thing totally works for me! LOL

  12. Thank you for your tutorial.

    A cheapskate tip -- I have heard of folks using legos to make their own version of the stamp positioner because you can vary the height:-). I use a stamp-a-ma-jig and with patience. It is a great tool!

    Next request -- how do you get those your jewels to be perfectly positioned and what do you use as your glue that doesn't show? I have tried using tweezers and find that I place the jewel down, then need to move it and when I do, the glue from the first spot shows.

    you totally crack me up!! The tongue thing is totally me!!! awwkk!! Since I can't stand crooked sentiments, I always use my stamp positioner. I have read that if you raid your kids "Lego" bin, you can make one using them. Thought that was a fun idea.
    Thanks for all the inspiration. What a great turnout you have had on your OLc's Wed. Gread cards and so fun....thanks!!
    hugs and :)

  14. Patience IS a virtue. And virtue is a grace. Put them together and they make a happy face.

    Great post.

  15. Thank you so much for great tutorial!
    I don't have a stamp positioner, and don't know where I can get it in my country (Japan). But, I'm sure that I'll be able to make my own stamp positioner by myself! :)

  16. I have the same stamp positioner as you, but I have yet to use it without smearing or jiggling or something that makes me want to scream. It would help if all acrylic or wood blocks and all stamps and cushions were the same depth, but of course not. ARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH, precision escapes me always. Tomorrow I am going to obsess with my stamp positioner until I love it to death. thanks you for all the visuals, and also for letting me know that my kids mimicing me with my tongue sticking out doesn't mean I'm the only person in the world who MUST do that to keep the muscles from twitching, in tight spots!

    What an adorable lollipop card, by the way.

  17. I love reading your blog! Not only do I get great ideas for cards, but as an added bonus you make me laugh, too! Thank you for sharing yourself with the rest of us!

  18. Thanks for all the fish, er, great stamp positoning tips! I certainly used my stamp positioner yesterday when I made my card for OLW7. (Okay, I tried the first one by eyeballing, so didn't work... :P) I also like your design tip for stamping a row of images off the sdges...

  19. One of the most-used tools in my stash is a centering ruler (I have an EK Success one, but I think Tim Holtz also has one). I find it invaluable when positioning things! Love the tip of taking the images off the edge of the card too.

  20. omg Susan you crack me up ;) I don't stick my tongue out but I've found myself doing this really weird eye squinty thing when I'm "concentrating". Which isn't good at my age (wrinkles and all that). Have a great day. hugs, Diane

  21. Well, duh! I never thought of an L-shaped ruler! Will have to get one of those!

  22. Thanks for the great tutorial ~ L-shaped ruler ~ why didn't I think of that?!!

    Sometimes to easiest and most obvious tricks are furthest away from my mind when needed :o)

  23. Thanks! I love Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy too! My husband just thinks I'm weird.
    Poking the tongue out thing totally works. I used to do the holding breath thing too but then someone told me that when you are concentrating that's when your brain needs the most oxygen. But I think I usually forget about that and still hold my breath!

  24. I'm so very grateful for this advice,I actually made a couple of amazingly quick cards today,one(which I plan to blog on Wednesday is very nearly one layer,lol!) I'm so glad I found you!!!!! x

  25. Thanks for the tips Susan, mind you if all my cards started looking straight people will doubt they are mine. Great cards you demonstrated with. Love them both


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