DIYdiy projects

DIY Project: Rubber-Stamped “Save the Date” Cards by Molly Suber Thorpe

by Maxwell Tielman

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For all of the ways education has improved over the past several decades, there is one thing that seems to have been lost in today’s education system: handwriting. Too often, when looking at handwritten notes written by my parents or other Baby Boomers, I find myself wildly embarrassed by my graceless, shapeless penmanship. In an age when the text has replaced the e-mail that replaced the handwritten letter, we seem to have left the beautiful, quotidian art of penmanship behind. So, it was great excitement that I unwrapped Molly Suber Thorpe’s Modern Calligraphy when it arrived at our office. Perhaps, now that I can hone my calligraphy skills, I can remove good handwriting from my list of goals that will never happen (you know, along with learning to drive and speak fluent French—dare to dream).

In the spirit of September’s Back-To-School vibes, Molly was kind enough to allow us to reprint one of the fabulous projects from her book. This DIY for making rubber stamp Save-The-Date cards can be applied to numerous other projects, from custom bookplates to return address labels. Check out Molly’s full text after the jump! —Max

“Save the date” cards present the perfect opportunity to showcase your new calligraphy skills and experiment with layout design at the same time. Even if you’re planning to send out very formal invitations, “save the date” cards are a great way to express your creative side. After all, they are teasers – their purpose is to get your guests excited to join you on your big day – so you may as well give them something unique and eye-catching to post on their refrigerators. These rubber-stamped cards utilize rough craft paper, a surface that is normally very hard to write on with calligraphy nibs. Backed with assorted floral papers, this collection of cards feels very friendly, and each one is unique. —Molly Suber Thorpe

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Yield: 1 3×5-inch rubber stamp and 50 cards
  • Time: 8 hours for completion of the design; up to 10 days for production of the stamp; 3 hours for assembly of the cards
  • Budget: $40.00 – $50.00 for the stamp (depending on its finished size) $45.00 for paper

Rubber Stamp Supplies:

  • Sketch pad
  • Artist pencil (something moderately soft like a 2B)
  • Ruler
  • Eraser
  • Crisp white Bristol paper
  • Black calligraphy ink
  • Light box (optional)
  • Scanner
  • Computer with basic photo editing software
  • Artist tape

Card Supplies:

  • Completed rubber stamp (above)
  • Ink pad (color of your choice)
  • 60 4×6-inch pieces craft paper
  • 60 5×7-inch pieces assorted, patterned papers (gift wrap, vintage magazine pages, handmade paper, and so on)
  • Wrinkle-free glue stick or double-sided tape

Rubber Stamp Instructions:



Create some frames for your initial sketches by drawing with an artist pencil and ruler a few 3×5-inch boxes in your sketch pad. Draw in some baselines– horizontal lines for horizontal designs; diagonal for slanted designs. Write the words “Save the Date” in different styles across the top of one templates. (Refer to “The Basics of Digitizing Calligraphy”, page 85, for tips about making successful sketches.) This is where you can have the most fun. Be experimental. Try extending the first and last letters with flourishes, using all lowercase, writing on a diagonal, making the letters extra-thick, writing “Save the” in script and “Date” in print – the possibilities are endless!

With the real estate for “Save the Date” established, start penciling in your remaining text. Contrasting lettering styles make for a more legible hierarchy (the order of importance of elements on a page), so if your title is in script, consider writing the other text in printed small caps. When you reach the spot for the second most important bit of information – your wedding date – stop. Here you get another opportunity to have fun with your lettering. You may decide to match the style you chose for “Save the Date”, or choose a contrasting style to make it pop out even more. You might want to write out the date in words, or use only numbers. Either way, remember you don’t have to keep the date within a sentence. It may require you to adjust your other text a little, but you can always pull out the date and treat it as its own design element, for example putting it in the lower corner by itself, or directly under the title. Now fill in the rest of your text around the newly placed date. If you have trouble fitting everything, consider writing some of it on a diagonal, splitting it between two columns, or even redrawing the title or date to make room.


2. Once you have a design you’re happy with, tape your sketch to a light box and tape a sheet of Bristol paper over it, or use a sunny window to trace the design onto the Bristol paper with a pencil. Using black ink and a fine-point nib, go over the design in calligraphy. Erase all the pencil marks (if applicable) once the design is completely dry.


3. Scan your design at a minimum of 300 dpi, then use photo editing software to convert the image to black and white, straighten it, and crop it. You may want to refer to page 86 for tips about scanning. Save the file as a .jpeg. Your design is now ready to send to a stamp manufacturer for production. See the Resources Guide (page 172) for suggested stamp manufacturers.

Card Instructions:


1. Using wrinkle-free glue or double-sided tape, affix the 4×6-inch pieces of craft paper in the center of your 5×7-inch patterned paper.


2. Ink your rubber stamp and stamp it onto the craft paper. Tip: If you don’t have an oversized stamp pad to properly ink an extra-large stamp, simply turn the stamp upside down and pat the ink pad over the stamp lightly and evenly. For the crispest imprint, place the stamp on the paper lightly; let go, being careful not to move the stamp, then press directly down, applying even pressure over the whole stamp, with both palms. Then quickly lift the stamp off the paper, directly up toward the ceiling.


3. Consider calligraphing envelopes to match, using the same ink color as your ink pad. You can also line the envelopes with leftover patterned papers, choosing vintage stamps that will complement the colors.


You can purchase Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe on Amazon here.

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  • Hmm. This is very pretty but not really DIY when the entire project hinges on the stamp and you have to send your design into a ” stamp manufacturer for production”. Additionally no stamp manufacturers are listed (supposed to buy the book for that info?) nor are pricing for these manufacturers.

    This idea would make much more sense as a DIY if you omitted the stamp and just printed these. Probably more cost effective as well.

  • Is it possible for those of us who don’t have the book to get the list of stamp manufacturers? I tried googling but could use some guidance — most “custom” stamp manufacturers I’m finding don’t seem to do this kind of thing.

  • Hi Gina and Salsify —

    Thanks for the comments. While I do list a number of stamp manufacturers in my book’s resource guide, I am happy to share here that one I highly recommend is RubberStamps.net. Their pricing for such stamps is about $60, which is considerably less than going to most printers for printing on kraft paper, assuming you have a relatively large quantity. Of course printing, rather than stamping, is totally possible with this design once it’s digitized. I have found that many clients prefer the look and slight imperfections of the hand stamping, though. It really comes down to a matter of taste!

    — Molly

  • This is a great idea. My wedding save the dates were also my very first screen printing project. It was overly ambitious, but this seems a lot more practical. I would advise that you make the strokes slightly heavier than you may sketch initially. The stamp isn’t going to pick up every stroke perfectly (which is part of the beauty of it), but you’ll increase readability if you error on the side of slightly heavier lines. I’d also stick with black ink, or something similarly dark, navy perhaps. I stamped a metallic ink for my return address, and there were many envelopes that got wasted along the way due to difficulties with the thin silver ink. I’d totally give this a try if wasn’t already happily married!

  • I totally just ordered Molly’s book! So, excited! I’m hoping to do calligraphy for my wedding invitations. I have a month to learn. Hopefully I’ll make it!

  • Thanks Molly for sharing a great project!! and the stamp company info. This would also look FANTASTIC as a Letterpress plate to be fed one-by-one-by-one into our Circa 1880’s printing presses!

  • Short version:
    Send a black and white image to a stamp maker. Stamp.

    I also disagree with the use of so many different font styles which actually makes it more difficult to read. Its better to pick two and use size to reinforce important text elements such as the names, dates, and location, while shrinking secondary information considerably in relation to those key elements.
    I agree with Gina on this project, save your money and just print on nicer stock.

    A more DIY version would be to cut the stamp yourself, make a silkscreen, or use lithography and draw the invite with wax pen. You may also be able to use acid emulsion on something stiff to make your own stamp.

  • I started my own line of rubber stamps and just love this idea. Also, a wonderful keepsake for the bride and groom afterwards. I accessorize book shelves with some of the stamps I’ve purchased through the years. And, sadly, I agree with you about the demise of good penmanship. Neither of my sons, age 22 and 12, can write script. It’s no longer a priority in many schools:(

  • Please don’t post this comment — just wanted to say:
    Beautiful project… but please don’t assume that ALL teachers have forgotten about handwriting! Quite the opposite. As a 3rd grade teacher, cursive is still quite alive in my curriculum. I know many teachers who feel strongly about handwriting, like me. Not to mention NPRs recent article on the importance of learning handwriting…. the debate is alive and well, with teachers on both sides… so please don’t lump us all as the side to blame! :)

  • Ugh, my handwriting is terrible too! I tried to teach myself calligraphy in 6th grade but it was a total hot mess. So bad at it! This stamp is super cute…

  • And to add to L’s comment above – please amend this post so that teachers are not taking the blame for yet another issue. Teachers have it hard enough and most of them have little say over whether they can teach cursive in their classes – the curriculum is dispensed from above. It would be more accurate to say “the educational system today does not value handwriting” than to put it on the shoulders of teachers. It may seem a small thing, but trust that any teacher who reads this post feels their heart sink over yet another malady being added to their list of crimes.

  • Gorgeous! What a lovely project. Your book was promptly added to my Amazon shopping cart!

  • Beautiful! I’ve been searching for modern calligraphy methods and you guys read my mind. I bought this book moments after seeing the post, and can’t wait to get started. I love that projects are included in the book, and if all goes well I’ll attempt addressing my own wedding invites as well! Thank you for a great post, and a great book!

  • I just bought the book too! These invites are beautiful and I’d love to try some calligraphy myself. I’ve been searching high and low for a modern calligraphy class here in Austin – or one I can take online. I haven’t had any luck – anyone know of a good place to start?

  • Thank you Lianne for the support! And so perfectly said! This is my favorite blog… and I came back to see if the post had been altered… even changing “all of the teachers” to “some” – this has stopped me from sharing this post with friends…. :/
    Thanks for considering…

  • If you are familiar with unmounted stamps you can send your digital artwork to http://readystamps.com/ . You can fill a 7 x 9 space with your custom artwork (go in with friends to fill a sheet). They do a great job, you can order multiple sheets and can also request the pressing board which can be used as a clay mold if your designs are appropriate in reverse design (i.e. Not text). The details are on their website.