Making a Stencil

Making a Stencil
Stencils can be beautiful works of art and can be created by you! They can be simple or complex. Personally, I am a person who tends to simple lines and forms. Which one you prefer can be your choice. The process is the same.

First, you must decide where you are going to use your stencil. Most stencils can be used anywhere, but stencils with large open areas and/or lots of tiny details are not as well suited to fabrics. For a wall, furniture or cabinets, you can use whatever you like.

If you draw, you can sketch what you want to use; otherwise, you can work from a picture. A simple line drawing, one that has mostly outlines and very little detail, is best. These can be found in children's coloring books and are plentiful online. One thing to be careful of is using a drawing that is copyrighted without the permission of the artist. They can be found, however. I often use Google Images. You can just put what you want into the search feature: line drawing apples. Just print out the ones you like, cut them out (leaving room around all the outlines) and arrange on a piece of scrap board or cardboard as you wish them to appear.

Once you have your drawing, it is time to get ready to actually make the stencil. You can use regular stencil material, a heavy but flexible sheet of mylar or plastic, that will be available at most arts & crafts stores or just about anywhere stencils are sold. You can also use about any heavier mylar or even page protectors (an office supply material) which have been cut to lay flat. You will also need a black and a red fine-line Sharpie markers or other brand of permanent marker.

Then lay tracing paper over your pattern.

This step creates the "bridges" that will divide the stencil shapes as you add the paint later. Bridges are pieces of the stencil material that define the outline of each item in the picture. Trace the outside lines of the pattern in black. Next, trace the inside lines in red, being careful to connect each red line either to another red or black line. This will make certain that the design will have well defined shapes and will be held in the stencil by connecting bridges. Before you are finished, check that each line is connected. It is a good idea to put a black cross where two bridges meet inside the pattern so you will remember to stop cutting there.

Cutting the stencil will be the next step. You will need an Xacto knife with a sharp blade. TAKE CARE!! You can easily cut yourself and be sure NOT to leave it where a child can reach it.

Place your drawing on a triple thickness of cardboard and tape down the edges to hold in place. Carefully cut on the black lines, stopping just before you come to a red line. Bridges should be about 1/8 inch wide, depending on the spacing you want. Set the blade into the mylar, the cutting edge turned to the line you just cut and pull it back into the first line. This will help keep you from cutting too far and ruining one of the bridges. Repeat these steps moving through the entire pattern.

When all cutting is finished, remove the little shapes you have cut away and make sure all the outlines connect smoothly. If any little pieces are left, cut them off so the outlines are smooth.

Now you have a stencil that is your original work of art. Stencil your project and take pride in your work!

Happy Painting,
Paula Devore
Painting Editor

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