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Best Mark-Making Tools, or Anything’s a Stamp


When I first started my most recent round of artsy-creative endeavors years ago, I gravitated towards scrapbooking. I think a lot of us started out that way…it seems the natural thing to do when you have kids. And like so many other gals, I got totally seduced, and then overwhelmed, by all of the available merchandise out there. Scrapbook stores didn’t even have as much available as they do now! I would go crazy if I was starting now for sure (maybe I did back then as well lol).

What I battled, though, was that I would have something in my mind’s eye that would feel like a good idea, and then I wouldn’t be able to find the right swag to make it happen on the scrapbook page. I wouldn’t be able to find the right color, or the just-right embellishment, or the perfect paper or whatever. I had this empty feeling, this feeling that I couldn’t produce the beautiful background that would do justice to the pictures of my beautiful kids.

And holy crap scrapbooking cost a fortune! Just going to look around in a scrapbook store for ideas seemed to cost me a ton of money haha. I started thinking that I could maybe make the little doo-dads that I wanted to decorate my pages, saving money and getting what I really wanted. I thought that I might be able to take the creative process a bit further than just designing the layout of the items that would showcase my pictures. I started thinking that I could actually create all of the design elements themselves. But I had really no idea how to go about doing that…

So I started foraging around online looking for ideas and how-to’s and stumbled onto art journaling. And a whole entire and beautiful and exciting world opened up to me.

Sound familiar to any of you???

Art journals are everywhere in my home now. They are stashed in my closet, in the bookshelves, in art supply drawers, on the tables, on the floor next to my bed. Some are stuffed full with creations, and others are in various stages of process. I use some for ideas for later larger, stand-alone artwork, and I use some for getting thoughts onto paper so I can let it go. Some are for lists, and some are for ideas to remember to come back to later. And some are even for showcasing pictures and lovies that my kidlets make for me haha.

Here is what it all has in common: I like it all to be visually stimulating somehow. I would say I like it all to look artistic or awesome or whatever, but it really doesn’t always turn out that way. Some of it is fairly crappy. But that’s part of the whole thing! I just keep moving along.

One of my favorite things to do on backgrounds in all of that mess is stamp. I like to stamp with inks, and I like to stamp with paint. I use embossing powders a lot in my journals also. And like with scrapbooking, I started out thinking I need a lot of stamps. From the store.

That takes up tons of space, costs tons of money potentially, and feels so limiting. I feel limited with the images on most stamps.

I use stamps more for a textural interest in my backgrounds, as compared to a foreground image. Mostly…And I don’t really spend much on stamps because I know that while I might think I love a particular stamp right now, I know that I will get bored with it.

The other thing for me, is that I feel a bit weird using very many elements in a piece of art that have been made by someone else. It’s fine a little bit, or in a very minor way within a piece, but I want all of my artwork to be made up of stuff that I create (well, outside of art journals with collage from magazines!).

That’s what all lead me to creating stamps. Or finding all kinds of crazy things to use as stamps. Like using tools other than paintbrushes, I use lots of non-stamp-seeming items to stamp on paints and inks. Then if I get bored with them, or muck them up too much with paint and the like, I haven’t invested tons of money and I can just make something new.

On a side note, I do pick up regular scrapbook stamps when I find them at yard sales and on free sites. I go through and figure out what works for us (my kids do love stamps) and give the rest away. The other kinds of stamps I do invest in are lettering stamps, I seriously love to have lots of various fonts for stamping textural elements onto my work.

Some mark-making tool ideas for you:

  • bubble wrap (fairly common)
  • punchinella
  • the middle of a corrugated cardboard (you just pull it apart)
  • blocks
  • blocks with rubber bands wrapped around them
  • blocks with strings tied around them
  • q-tips
  • a crumpled piece of plastic
  • foam letters and shapes
  • flip-flops bottoms
  • lids (you can find some super cool lids, not just plain circles!)
  • bottle caps
  • forks
  • wallpaper texture rollers
  • pieces of foam that you cut out into a shape
  • buttons
  • velcro
  • netting
  • rug non-slip rubber
  • linen with heavy texture
  • packing peanuts
  • styrofoam pieces from food stuffs
  • aluminum foil
  • celery
  • onions
  • limes
  • old stencils




Well. I guess that I could really go on for days! The sky is the limit when you’re looking at what can make marks on your creations. I have my favorites, of course, and they have probably stayed my favorites for a long time. But I never stop checking out what artists are using for mark-making, and I never stop considering how something could be used to make more art.

What is your favorite non-stamp mark-making tool??


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