Rubber stamping, also called stamping, is a craft in which some type of ink made of dye or pigment is applied to an image or pattern that has been carved, molded, laser engraved or vulcanized, onto a sheet of rubber. The rubber is often mounted onto a more stable object such as a wood, brick or an acrylic block.
The ink coated rubberstamp is pressed onto any type of medium such that the colored image is transferred to the medium. The medium is generally some type of fabric or paper. Other media used are wood, metal, glass, plastic, rock. High volume batik uses liquid wax instead of ink on a metal stamp.
The signatures on official documents are verified using a stamp in Europe.
Company rubber stamps are also called company chop in most Asian countries. "Chop" in this context is actually derived from the Malay word cap.
Passport stamps are another use of rubber stamps
Rubber stamps for business commonly show an address and corporate logo. They often have movable parts that allow the user to adjust the date or the wording of the stamp. They are used to date incoming mail, as well as to denote special handling of the document.
Business stamps are generally available from stationers or direct from the manufacturer. Popular stamps include address stamps and one line cheque stamps. Some artists have been using such stamps to decorate pieces of art for special effects or in an ironic way.
The rubber stamp industry has an industry trade magazine titled, Marking Industry Magazine - . The industry is currently composed of approximately 1,300 to 1,500 self-defined rubber stamp makers in the United States. Annual sales are approximately $500,000,000.
Document marking can be done from within the user's word processor. This can be done manually by creating the "stamps" to appear on the documents such as "DRAFT," "CLIENT COPY," etc. These stamps are fully scaleable as well as unlimited in color. Alternatively, these stamps can be applied by using automated document marking software for Microsoft Word. This allows each page to be stamped as it is printed with the user selected stamps created electronically. This provides the user with a standarized and consistent document management solution for paper-based workflows.
Art stamps have become fashionable in the United States, more so than in Europe. While they are mostly regarded as children's toys in Europe, in the U.S. they are available in intricate designs and are used to decorate objects. Art stamps can be used for decoration of useful things like paper for letters and greeting cards and similar things, but also can be combined with other techniques to create traditional art.
As rubber stamping increasingly gains popularity, mostly in the United States, it also gains a reputation as an art form. Some participants choose to carve their own rubber stamps, either of old-fashioned gum erasers or eraser-like rubber. Companies like Speedball or MasterCarve supply carving sets to amateurs wishing to carve their own rubber stamps, with some including linocut tools. The print from the carved rubber stamp is viewed as work of art on its own, or one or more stamps are used to embellish a work of art with other components.
Other materials besides rubber may be used to produce a stamp. Woodcut and linocut are art forms based on the same principles. Linoleum is much harder than rubber and thus requires special tools. In Europe, linocut is more popular, especially with students and hobby artists. Woodcut is mostly used by professional artists, requiring much talent and patience. Rubber carving material is available in Europe, but is marketed as a children's toy and not widely used.
There are several possibilities to vary the look of those works. Paints, pigments and dye inks create different effects, extending the use of rubber stamping from paper to fabrics, wood, metal, glass, and so on. Ink pads can be purchased that allow for embossing and there are markers that can be used to ink stamp pads with colors for a multi-color look.
Those works are often used in mail art or artist trading cards because they tend to be small and allow the making of series. The TAM Rubber Stamp Archive has a collection of prints of rubber stamps mail-artists used since 1983 (see link). Stamping is also often used in handmade cardmaking, scrapbooking, and letterboxing.