How To Make Stencil

Stencil produces art by staining the gaps of another object to create patterns or imagery on a surface. Such objects or templates could mean paper, wood, metal, plastic and other similar materials. You can create designs on these objects and use whatever coloring medium that you like such as paint, crayons, pencils or anything else depending on the surface. As long as any pigment is in use on various types of surfaces, stenciling is an art form that will never go away. In fact, it has already moved on from conventional paper art to a more evolved form of self-expression that you can see from murals to advertisements to street art.

One key factor about stencilling is that the designs can be reproduced exactly the same at a fast rate as well. Stencils can be reused over and over no matter how the pigment is applied. Cutout designs must still be intact as not to alter the dimensions and the appearance of the finished product. Coloring materials will only take on the shape of the gaps on the stencil so to achieve the same effect on the surface more than once; never alter the stencil in any way. In stenciling, the interior cutouts are called “islands,” and the uncut parts are the “bridges.”

How to make your own stencil

Stencilling is a unique form of art that is fun and at the same time enables the artist to create designs from low-cost materials that are readily available anywhere. Mugs, t-shirts, walls of various textures – you can be as creative as you want without worry that you’ll be spending so much. Your main material here is your imagination and how you can best create a stencil design that will turn your concept into reality.

There are many material options that you can choose from to use as a template. Craft and hobby shops sell various kinds of the plate, but you can make your own from simple cardboard scraps and plastic folders. You need to remember that the thicker the material you’re using, the harder it would be to cut. Creating detailed designs could take time as well.

The Materials

Stencil making is very economical. All you need are a few items that you can purchase from a local bookstore or craft shop. Designing your own means drafting it first on a piece of paper then finalizing to improve the design. Have the design computer printed so that you’ll get clear lines. Make sure to use a transparent plastic film where the drawn model could fit in.

Gather the following:

  • Template material for the stencil (cardboard, laminate plastic, paper, clear plastic folder
  • Cutting mat or glass surface
  • Printed design
  • Cutting tool (box cutter or pen knife or hot knife)
  • Markers
  • Paper tape


Once you’ve decided to come up with your design, you could be sitting at the table for a long time trying to. Fear not! You can draw inspiration from various visual art, images that you are keeping in stock, even just by looking out your window! Nature, shapes, lines – your design doesn’t have to be complicated, but if you are a first-timer, it is best to start with a basic hand-drawn design. Think about how big or small you want it to be and if this will a repeating pattern or if it’s a single design. Another fact to consider is that when designing your own, cutting curves is more difficult than straight lines. If all else fails, you can search for printable spray paint stencils online instead. There are various free printable stencils anywhere all over the Internet in case you run into some mental block.

Get to work!

  • Gather your materials in an area where there’s no clutter. Take your printed design and tape it to the glass sheet or rubber cutting mat face down. The use of glass and rubber mat will depend on the material you’ve decided to use as the template. Use hard template materials on a glass surface that you can get from photo frames.
  • Turn the mat or the glass on its opposite side. The design is now facing towards you. Get the clear plastic and fold the edges over the entire glass plate and use tape on them to make sure that the plastic stays secure.
  • Use natural lighting or any bright light source and hold the photo against it. Use the marker for the edges. Use this trick only when you find it difficult to see the design. Since the glass is transparent, this is possible if you’re using glass. The rubber mat would have to be removed first if you’re using this instead. Using your cutting tool, start tracing at the edges.
  • Turn to the lines of your design and trace them on the plastic covering the design. To be safe, try tracing/cutting inside the line’s edge so you’ll be sure that you’ll stick close to the original design. Be careful not to slice on what’s supposed to be the bridges. It will take a steady hand to cut if the islands are too close to one another. Be as smooth and precise as you can especially when cutting curves.
  • Depending on the design, you can finish it up by making sure that the edges of the lines have no hanging “fibers” that could ruin the design by dragging on wet paint if this is the medium of your choice. The lines should be smooth and clean. If you’ve decided that you’re not satisfied with it and would like to make more improvements, you can always add more elements.
  • At this point, it’s up to you to decide if the design is through or not. If you are, then you can start decorating with it. The colors can be anything you want depending on your concept. If you’re going to use it on the walls of your home, be sure that the color would nicely couple with the existing primary color of your walls. For other projects, you can go as loud or as subtle as you want. It is your piece so make it count!

Tip: Your design could also be in text and not just imagery. It is easy to learn how to make a letter stencil instead. One can find art in the formation of words from the different styles of fonts to quotations that can hold a special meaning. If you are struggling with creating pictures, turn to words, and you might find it a niche to excel in instead. Have fun!