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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Thursday, Friday10 am-3 pm
  • Saturday 10am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Making Art Together

Make Your Own Stamp Pads

Whenever we do stamping projects in the studio we usually use stamp pads we've made ourselves. Homemade stamp pads are less expensive than store-bought and allow us to customize their size and the type of pigment we use in them. 

foam for stamp pads

To make our stamps, we use upholstery foam, polystyrene (like Styrofoam) tray and a hot glue gun. Upholstery foam is sold by the yard at fabric stores, and sometimes in packages at craft stores, and it's worth the effort to find a coupon if you're going to use it and purchase a lot. It doesn't need to be super-dense or thick, maybe 1/2" or 3/4".  We like upholstery foam because the density and small size of the holes distributes paint well, but an easy and less-expensive alternative are cellulose dish sponges.

Hot-glue a piece of upholstery foam (or a sponge) to polystyrene foam tray or a dessert-sized plastic plate. The tray should be just larger than the foam, and the foam should be just larger than the stamps you plan to use.

home made stamp pads

Use a plastic spoon, palette knife or spatula to smear tempera or other water-based water-soluble paint into the upholstery foam.  If you're using a sponge, mist it with water so that it can more easily soak up the paint. The first time you load the pad, it will take a fair amount of paint. Now its ready to use. Easy, right?

homemade stamp pads

If you plan to use the stamp pad the next day, just slip it into a zippered bag to keep moist. Let it air dry with the paint on if you won't be using it again within a few days. Mold will grow if on a wet stamp pad if it's left too long in a sealed bag. When you're ready to use the stamp pad again, just spritz it with a little water and add more paint.

stamp pads

If you've been to the studio you know we offer a specific selection of materials to explore and we arrange multiple sets of those materials around the room so they are available to whomever stops in to experiment. When we include stamp pads in our projects we usually use just one color in all the stamp pads. That's so they don't all end up turning brownish-black from the stamps traveling around the room. Kids usually notice color attibutes before shape or pattern, so by keeping the stamp pads to a single color shape and pattern could share the spotlight with color. We did also offer colored pencils in this project so that more colors could be included in our guests' designs.

homemade stamp pads

We've used traditional black ink stamp pads in projects before, but we find they work best for smaller, rubber stamps. They aren't ideal for our large round-handled stamps. They also make parents of young children nervous with all their blackness and permanence, so we try to avoid setting up our guests for stress about non-washable messes. Kids do love the drama of black, but that's a subject for another time.

stamp pads

spong cut to a circle

We use a lot of different kind of stamps in the studio, some are purchased through art and school suppliers, but many are home made. Check our our posts Make Your Own Foam Stamp and Printing With Children: Roll with It for some home-made stamp ideas.



We enjoy exploring materials and ideas in the Art Studio, and we’re excited to share our process with you! Please consider the following factors when adapting these posts for your learning environment: 

We facilitate a variety of programs within the Art Studio for a wide range of age groups. Please carefully consider the age appropriateness of each individual activity in your own learning environment.

Our projects are always done with adult supervision and proper safety precautions. Be sure all of your projects are overseen by adults who likewise follow proper safety precautions. The adults overseeing your project must also be responsible for handling or assisting with any potentially harmful equipment or materials. 

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is not responsible for any damages, injuries or liabilities that result from any activities contained within this website, and we expressly disclaim any responsibility or liability therefor. From time to time, we reference materials that we have found to be particularly important in our projects. We do not receive any monetary compensation for recommending materials. 




Sunday, September 9, 2013 - 7:37 pm
Irene Grumman
Sunday, May 5, 2017 - 6:45 pm
Hi Meghan, I plan to try this at home for making cards. I have improvised pads inside small metal tins using florist's foam and colored calligraphy ink. They dry out fast and become sticky messes. I like your lesson and may use it with my five year old nieces. I got a set of stamps with five inch handles I think they can manipulate. Thanks for the suggestions, guess I'd better buy some poster paint too. Irene
Thursday, February 2, 2018 - 12:10 pm
Hi Irene, Thanks so much for your post, it's wonderful to hear how you've adapted the stamping pads for your home! We hope that you enjoy experimenting with tempera paint, we'll be using them in an upcoming Valentine's workshop to create metallic textures. Thanks again! Sara
Sunday, March 3, 2019 - 12:47 pm
Last Thursday Sara did an awesome workshop for us at St. John School in Wellesley. I learned about the stamp pads you have written about. I have the materials ready. Before I start I’m wondering about repeated use. How does the paint and sponge not become too stiff after it dries? Is there no washing of the pad considering it is hot glued to foam tray? How long does it take for the sponge to become unstuffed after one or many uses? I sure appreciate your expertise! I’ve been a victim of the large expensive and bad quality of the big commercial pads that expire after three uses
Tuesday, March 3, 2019 - 11:39 am
Hi Carol, Thank you for your post and kind words! It was wonderful to work with the teachers and students at your school, and I'm happy to hear you are inspired to make your own stamp pads! We love ours because they are versatile, portable, and adaptable to any size you'd like. After we use the stamp pads, we let them completely dry out, (preventing the growth of mold within the stamp pad) and they do in fact resemble bricks once dried. But the great thing about them is that when you'd like to use them again, you spray them thoroughly with water (I saturate them until you can see the water pooling on the surface) and let them soak in an enclosed bag for up to a day. If I have multiple stamp pads of the same color, I turn them onto each other to allow the foam and paint to really soak. (Letting it soak for longer allows the paint to revive and the sponge to return to its original state. I recommend giving it at least 1 hour to revive them, that way you can use the paint already in the stamp pad instead of adding more paint into the already saturated sponge.) We use tempera paint in the stamp pads because it is water-soluble meaning it will return to a liquid when water is added. After they have soaked, you'll be able to see how much paint is in the stamp pads and add more paint if needed. After many years of use, we have found that eventually there will be hard pockets of paint that no longer can be revived with a full-day soak. At that point, we soak the whole thing (foam and plastic tray) in a bin of warm water and periodically press out the paint clumps to return the foam to normal. I have been amazingly surprised with how they can return to their original state! You can also soak and press them to change their colors, we have often changed colors within warm/cool/neutral families for specific programs. So suffice it to say, we have been using the same stamp pads for years and are very happy with how they can be used over and over again. When I deliver a full day of programming at schools, I often never have to re-fill them with paint after the initial re-fill. If they start to dry out, I usually just give them a spritz of water to keep them fresh. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask, I hope you enjoy using the stamp pads with the children! Best, Sara

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