Stampin’ Ground

By Susan Miller, December 26, 2006

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Graphic Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Two or three 50-minute periods


Students will design and produce stamps for decorative purposes. Finding inspiration from the way cloth is made in Africa and Asia, each student will create a series of cards and/or wrapping paper using the same technique. This experience will help students understand that design is used for many purposes and will allow them to explore ideas through the process of brainstorming. Through experimentation with printing, they will see that a variety of visual effects can be made with a limited range of images or prints.

National Standards


Students will:
  • anticipate the results of using stamps to create patterns and visual effects through repetition
  • enhance their understanding of positive and negative space
  • be more sensitive to the way in which certain commercial and hand-crafted fabrics and papers are made
  • investigate fabrics and products made in different areas in the world and the culture of where and how they were made



  • images of African Adrinka cloth and/or Indonesian stamped cloth
  • pencils
  • thin yellow markers, washable
  • a Xeroxed grid measured to the size of the stamp being made
  • blocks of wood
  • self-adhesive rubber material (Dick Blick sells a kit with the wood and the rubber material or you can buy the rubber material and provide your own wooden blocks This kit provides 2" x 2" blocks of wood, but be advised, the actual face that will be covered with the rubber material measures 1.75" because the sides are beveled)
  • scissors
  • ink pads with assorted colors
  • construction and/or drawing paper (size can vary based on card size to be made)
  • tissue paper


positive/negative space dimension line brainstorming


Lesson 1/Planning and Creating the Stamp A. Set-up Assemble materials and have them ready to hand out to students: pencils, Xeroxed grids, pre-cut rubber, wooden blocks, scissors, yellow markers, stamp pads. B. Discussion (5-8 minutes) 1. Gather students together for a discussion and demonstration. 2. Show pictures of Indonesian and /or Adinkra stamped cloth, pointing out the repetition of images and the patterns created. Try to show an image of a person working with a stamp (see image suggested above in resources). Ask students how they think the cloth was made. If no one guesses that a stamp was used, then you might ask if they have used stamps and stamp pads either with letters or images and/or point out the image of someone printing. 3. Tell students that they will be designing stamps to use to create cards and wrapping paper inspired by the type of fabrics created in other cultures, e.g., Indonesian and certain African cultures. There are three basic steps.
  • Brainstorm ideas on the Xeroxed grid.
  • Transfer ideas from the grid to the rubber and then onto the block of wood.
  • Create cards and/or paper with the stamp/s.
  C. Demonstration (5-8 minutes) 1. Draw several very basic ideas on your sheet, e.g., stripes or a large X. Make sure the drawings indicate positive and negative space by shading in the area you want to show on the stamp (the positive image). Shading in the area is imperative, as it indicates an understanding of positive/negative space. Point out that the darkened areas indicate the positive design/space, and that the white space is the negative space. You might indicate that it is interesting to reverse the shaded area to understand the shapes a bit differently. (You will probably have several students who don't grasp this concept. It is crucial, so work with them on illustrating the difference between a line—which they will not be able to cut out—and adding dimension to the line or creating a shape.) 2. Transfer your idea onto the rubber sheet using yellow washable marker. (Marks made with the washable marker can be washed off with a slightly dampened paper towel or sponge.) 3. Cut out the shapes and transfer them to the wooden block. The Dick Blick material is sticky backed, so just peel and stick. 4. Print the stamp a few times with different colors, rotating the stamp, etc... D. Execution 1. Hand out pencils and Xeroxed grids and indicate how many ideas you expect from each student. I required each student to come up with at least 6 ideas, even if they thought they knew what one idea they wanted. Encourage them to try out new ideas. This process of brainstorming is invaluable...they might surprise themselves and come up with something they never would have imagined! 2. Have them check in with you individually when they have finished brainstorming to choose an idea that will be graphically strong and will work. When you both agree on an image, the student may take the pre-cut rubber, wooden block, marker, and scissors. (See note above, some students may not quite get the positive/negative idea, and will show ideas that do not clearly indicate which shapes need to be cut out.) 3. If there is time, they might test out design ideas on the grid or on scrap paper. *I encouraged the students to make more than one stamp by using both sides of the block (a very economical use of materials). They may go through the same design process as before or create the stamp from leftover pieces, brainstorming on the block spontaneously. E. Clean up/Wrap up This is a fairly quick clean up. Have each student put their stamp and rubber material in a small plastic zip lock bag with his/her name on it. Accumulate scraps. You can gather students around at the end of the class to show them some examples of scraps where the leftover negative shapes would become interesting positive shapes. Lesson #2/Printing A. Set-up Set up tables for printing with an assortment of ink pads at each printing table. On a separate table set-up a variety of tissue paper, as well as paper for cards of different sizes, for students to take when ready. Reserve an area for students who still need to work on making the stamp/s. Cover tables because the ink will go through the tissue paper. B. Presentation (5 minutes) 1. Quickly review what was done during the first session and ask if there are questions, problems, things that students noticed about the last lesson. 2. Ask them for their ideas about using color and pattern when using their stamp/s. 3. Demonstrate some of these ideas as they describe them. Try to show a variety of possibilities for printing with the stamp: rotating stamp, keeping it in the same position, alternating colors, sticking to the grid, creating other shapes, allowing the line to be more fluid (not staying in the grid), etc... C. Execution (40 minutes) Students will spend time exploring printing possibilities and making cards and wrapping paper. Some will need time to complete the stamp itself. As you walk around the room, it is helpful to occasionally stop the class and point out different strategies that students are using. D. Clean up/ Wrap Up Collect papers and cards, otherwise follow instructions for lesson #1 clean up.


You can assess students’ knowledge of positive and negative space from their brainstorming drawings on the Xeroxed grid. Review the drawings with the students in order to determine their understanding of positive and negative space. In some cases, you might need to work individually with students to further illustrate the concept. Assess students’ ability to brainstorm by evaluating how easily they could come up with different ideas. Final products can be viewed to assess if students were able to follow through in the actual printing/use of their stamp/s to create cards and/or wrapping paper.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Have students look at cards and paper in a specialty paper store to investigate the processes used in printing technology. Look at cloths made by different ethnic groups, investigating the imagery and iconography. Question whether the images have particular meanings or are primarily decorative. A cross-curricular connection can be made with Social Studies classes in order to study the areas and cultures the fabrics come from. Mathematics could be used with the fabrics by talking about tessellations/ tiling.

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