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Stamps and Vectors made easy

So I’m looking to solve a few problems in one tutorial here. The main goal is making simple stamps that could be used for many different things. The demo is for creating a chapter badge stamp because that’s what I happen to be doing right now. Second will be how to create your own chapter badges using Vector tools to aid in your stamp making and anything else you can think of. Programs include Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Draw or Inkscape.

For this tutorial, I’ll be using Inkscape since it’s a free program available to anyone. If you’re not interested in creating a badge digitally, feel free to skip ahead to step 4 for the stamp making. As I said we’ll be using Inkscape here. You can get it for free at Inkscape. Draw Freely.

Basic Tools

  • Super Sculpy
  • Sculpy (optional)
  • GreenStuff
  • X-acto
  • Good tweezers
  • Smoothing tool
  • Tape
  • Some plastic (Plastic bag works great)
  • Vaseline

A little more advanced Tools

  1. Digital Art Program. Preferably something with Vector (Pen) tools.
  2. Printer

I’ll take a second to explain why going down the sometimes troublesome path of creating a vector can be useful. As most people familiar with photo editing or digital art know. Significantly resizing an image generally looks like garbage.That’s because they’re pixel based images (rasterised). When resizing a rasterised image it tries it’s best to fill in gaps or cram too much data into a shrinking area, resulting in a mess As seen on the left side below.

A vector on the other hand is never really “printed” onto your workspace. It’s lines are mathmatical solutions connecting the points you’ve provided. Slightly confusing, yes, but what this means is you can scale up that vector to be the size of your house, or down to fit on a space marine’s shoulder pad and it’ll look exactly the same as your original. This is shown on the right side of the image below.

Step 1

So let’s crack open Inkscape and get to work.You’ll be presented with a blank work area. Start by pasting in your source image. A source is very important in all artwork, and it makes vector life so much easier. In this case I have a badge for the Raptors chapter from Lexicanum, but it could be anything like a photo or original artwork. I’ve sized the image up quite a bit to make it a little easier to work with. This is done with the selection tool. Click on your image, grab one of the corner arrows, and drag while holding CTRL to keep it from distorting. Then go up to Layer and Create New Layer. Name it whatever, this is where you’ll be putting your vector object.

Step 2

From now on we’ll be using two tools for the whole project. “Draw Bezier Curves and Straight Lines” (Draw) and “Edit Paths by Nodes” (Edit)

With the draw tool a single click will give you a hard point and straght line.
With a click+drag you’ll pull out a Bezier handle that can be edited later.

Take the draw tool and select your starting point. This should be an area with a flat edge or point. Start with a click and it’ll feed out your vector “rope”. On large curves like the beak, you’ll want to put another point on about the center of the curve.On small curves you’ll want a point at the start of the curve and a point at the end. I pulled out a bezier handle and matched the line to the curve of the beak.

Now it’s easiest to make the outline in one pass. So keep clicking away tracing your artwork, making sure to give yourself enough points to work with later, but too many and you’ll get a headache. Generally speaking give yourself 3 points for a big curve, 2 for a small, and a hard point for your sharp edges. If you’re not sure about a point, just be safe and give yourself a bezier handle, you can always edit it later.

Don’t worry! It’ll look like crap when you finish. Now it’s time to edit.

Step 3

Grab your Edit tool and start repositioning points to make everything pretty. The bezier handels in this program are a little finniky, but managable. If you’re looking for a sharp corner, push one side of the handle all the way into the point. Then readjust the other end of the handle to match your curve. With a little doing it’s very simple.

Now that that you have an outline, add any interior detail by starting a new vector object (just start clicking again). In my case I only have the eye. Once that’s complete and edited you can shift+click all your objects, go up to Path and hit Combine.

Now let’s go up to Object and hit Fill and Stroke. What a cool bird! Make sure your new vector object is selected. Note that I get rid of the eye and filled it with Flat color – Black to aid with my stamp making later on.

To size your badge (or whatever) go to File > Document Properties. Change your page units under Custom Size from px (pixels) to Inches or mm.Then click on the Grids tab and enable Grids with inches (or mm). I decided that 1/4 inch tall is a decent size for a space marine badge, so I changed spacing X and Y to 0.25. Now you’ve got a properly sized badge and can color it to your liking and duplicate it to high heaven for printing transfer sheets just like the ones on BoLS, or make a small sheet of different sizes to print for a stamp making aid

Step 4 – Stamping.

This entire stamping portion was done with an X-acto knife, a little bit of toothpicking, and smoothing with a silicone tipped clay tool. It’s pretty straight forward but I decided to include it anyway for the sake of completeness.

I printed out a little sheet to help guide me and taped it onto a plastic bag so it wouldn’t get mucked up. I flattened out a round of Super Sculpy to cover one of my pad sized prints. I use this as a loose guide to make my cuts. I just cut a little out at a time and keep matching it up to my print out. Super Sculpy is important for this as it’s much firmer and easier to cut at than just plain Sculpy. I didn’t worry about really sharp points as this can be cleaned up in the negatives. Once that’s done I stuck it in the oven to bake. A good trick I learned about sculpy in art school is ignore the cooking instructions on the back. Preheat your oven to 250-275, put your piece in, and turn the oven off. Then just leave it for a few hours or until the oven is cooled off. For very thick stuff just leave it on for 5-10 minutes then turn it off.

Step 5

Now flatten out a bit of Sculpy. I prefer this kind for the stamp as it’s much softer so I don’t have to worry about cracking or anything. Just push in however many times you want so you can be GSing several at a time. The toughest part is getting the original out. It takes a light hand and some pointy tweezers, but most of the time it comes right out. Now bake your new stamp. (Edited with a better stamp)

Step 6

Put a thin coat of vaseline into your stamps making sure it gets in all the corners but doesn’t build up enough to block the GS. I use a crappy old brush for this. Mix up a ball of GS and carefully push it in. Again, the corners are important. Let it sit in the stamp for a few minutes then carefully peel it out, trim off any excess, and slap it onto whatever you want.

I use this for a lot of random little things that I need a few of. Besides Chapter badges of various sizes I’ve done goggles for my Imperial Guardsmen and plan on doing some simple backpacks.

GS could be used instead of scuply of course, but I prefer the feel and endless working time of it. Plus it’s extremely cheap compared to most epoxies.

If I glossed over any important steps let me know and I’ll clear that up. I feel like I got everything in there.

Posted by on November 1 2010. Filed under Modeling & Scenery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

14 Comments for “Stamps and Vectors made easy”

  1. Great article. Very usefull for badges, shoulder plates, and other bits of armour that could use the same kind of logo, like a 40K unit.
    The only thing that concerns me, its the small number of times it may be used before it loses good portions of the detail from the model, as “sculpy” is usualy quite soft,
    Still very worth to try for those who love personalised units/teams.

  2. Very good tutorial. How long doe the sculpty mold tend to last?


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