* This tutorial was updated in September 2011 and uses screengrabs from Photoshop CS5. The method is the same for all previous CS versions of Photoshop *

Today, I’m going to take a look at how to use Photoshop and one of your photographs (or any image) and make it look like a postage stamp. This technique uses the eraser tool, the pen tool and paths to create the serated edge of the stamp.

1. Open up the picture that you want to make into a stamp. I’m using a picture I took at Skerries Windmills in North County Dublin.


2. Select the whole image by pressing Ctrl + A (windows) or Cmd + A (Mac)

3. Press Shift + Ctrl + A (windows) or Shift + Cmd + J (Mac) to cut the image from the background and pop it into a new layer.


4. Add some white space around your image by choosing Image > Canvas Size. In the dialog box check the Relative checkbox. Depending on the size of your image add between 2.5 – 5 cm (1 – 2 inches) all around. If the option is available, make sure that the Canvas Extension colour is set to white. Click OK.


5. On the layers palette hold down Ctrl (windows) or Cmd (Mac) and click on the Create a New Layer icon. This will add a new blank layer under the layer you have selected. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool and draw a selection around your image, leaving an even amount of white space all around. See below.


6. Set the foreground colour to white and fill the selection by press Alt + Backspace (win) or Option + Backspace (Mac). The image won’t look any different because you’ve added white on top of white. Press Ctrl + D / Cmd + D to deselect the marquee.


7. With the new white layer still selected, click on the Add a Layer Style button at the bottom of the layers palette. Choose Drop Shadow from the drop down menu. Set the Drop Shadow options so that at least a little bit of shadow appears on all sides. I used the following settings: Distance 0px, Spread 10%, Size 10px. Click Ok to apply the shadow.


8. Now we’re going to use the Eraser tool as a brush to knock some holes out of the border we just created. Select the Eraser from the toolbox and in the Options Bar at the top of the screen, set the Mode to Brush. Click on the down-arrow beside the Brush preview to pick a brush. Again, depending on the size of your image and the size of the border you created, the brush size will vary. I chose a hard round brush set to around 20 pixels diameter and the hardness to 100%.



In Photoshop you have great control over Brushes and how they work. Now we’re going to change some of the options on our current brush.

9. Choose Window > Brushes to open the Brushes palette. On the left hand side click on the words “brush tip shape”. Set the Spacing to about 200%. (Make sure the Spacing check box is checked first)


10. Going back to the layers palette, hold down the Ctrl key (windows) or Cmd key (Mac) and click on the white rectangle layer thumbnail (the one you’ve just added the drop shadow to). This selects the contents of the layer.


Now select the Pen tool from the toolbox and then choose Window > Paths. This opens the Paths palette. Click on the drop down menu in the top right corner of the paths palette and from the flyout menu choose Make Work Path. Enter a tolerance of 2.0 pixels and click OK.


A new path will appear in the paths palette and by default it will be called “Work Path”. Click on this path and then click on the triangle at the top right and choose Stroke Path from the flyout menu.


11. When the Stroke Path dialog box appear, choose Eraser from the Tool pop-up menu. Click OK. This is where all your hard work setting up the Eraser brush comes into play. Photoshop now works its magic. So now you should see your image with half-circles knocked out, giving the postage Stamp effect.


You’ll notice there is still a thin black line around the image. That’s the path. To get rid of it, go back to the paths palette and click anywhere below the Work Path (the grey area of the palette) to deselect it.


Now to finish up, you can add some text. Irish stamps use an Uncial style typeface. If you’re looking for fonts with this old gaelic style, there are a good collection of free ones here. I used this one called Celtic, for my stamp. It’s free for personal use.

I’m embarrassed to say that it’s so long since I bought a stamp I can’t remember how much they are here so I’m guessing 50 cents. (Not that it makes any difference really). I use Myriad Pro Bold Condensed. Voila!