How to Make Your Own Stencils for Your Paint
November 3 - 17, 2014
Sometimes finding the right sized
stencil for a paint project, with the image you
want, takes hours of searching on the web. In
my case, it is rare that I find exactly what I want.
I wanted stencils for a large sized gecko or lizard
that measures over 12" long. I did find small
lizards/geckos but not the large images I wanted.
The price also ran between $15 - $20 per stencil.
I decided to make my own. I then went online to find
the images I wanted.
lizards that I found are shown on the
left. This collection of lizards were
found on various websites so I could not
find the name of the original artist to
I liked these lizards because they had a
nice southwest theme to them, which is what
I was looking for.
The next thing to do is to decide what to
make the stencil out of.
When I was cleaning out some of my old
cartographic supplies (I used to be a
cartographer many years ago), I came across
a box of K & M Stabilene Opaque Film, 17" x
22", .007" thick.
You can try Google-ing this film, but it
appears to not be made anymore. It is
a shame because it is has an awesome surface
for doing pencil or ink drawings.
This material is also very stable
in hot or cold conditions. Thus, it's name,
Stabilene. Cartographers used the semi
transparent version of the film when making
separations in the old map making process. The film
was also available with coatings on it to scribe
lines (roads, rivers, borders, etc.)
Where to Get Stencil Materials
Since this is a "how-to" page, it does not help you
to mention a stencil material that has gone the way
of the dinosaurs. So I looked online for a
similar material that you could use.
Dick Blick has a product called
Drafting Film. It has a polyester base,
which is stable and comes in rolls and flat sheets
with two thicknesses, .003 and .005. You will
probably want to go with the .005 thickness.
You can use a pencil or ink with this.
You can also visit a craft store and just ask for
the materials to make stencils. They might
have acetate sheets. A word about
acetate...not stable. Use this material for a
stencil you will toss after using. If you want
to save your stencil, go with a polyester based
Transfer Your Image to your Stencil Material
Since most of the newer materials, that can be used
for stencils, are semi-transparent or transparent,
you can just print out the image and put it under the
material and trace it. If you have a lot of
straight lines, use a straight edge.
If you want a really large image and you can't draw.
Enlarge your image on the computer, print it out in
tiles on the paper and cut and tape the larger image together.
If you are not able to do this, a copy store can
make an image larger for you.
In my case, I am blessed with some artistic
abilities so I just looked at the images on my
computer and drew them by hand onto my material.
I did use pencil and did a lot of erasing until I
got the image right. I drew the outline first,
then colored in the areas I would be cutting out.
Very important when doing your design for a stencil.
You cannot cut out everything. In my case, I had to
make modifications of the original design, so I was
not cutting everything out. Look closely at
the end results below to see what I mean. I
needed to extend design elements to the edge of the
lizard's body and not cut them out.
Drew the image with pencil.
Shaded in areas to be cut out.
All areas to be cut out are now shaded in.
It took me about an hour to make
each drawing. On the other two lizard drawings
I made, I did not do all of the shading as shown above.
I would just lightly crosshatch the areas I would
Out Your Design
I looked at several websites on stencil
designs and many mentioned cutting out your
design with a box cutter. I guess if
you have a large design with a bunch of
straight edges, this would do the trick. For
an intricate design, stick with a pair of
small sharp scissors or a sharp X-Acto
knife. I emphasis sharp here.
Toss the dull blade and put a new one in.
If you are using anything other than
scissors, put something underneath your
stencil material before cutting to protect
your surface. Kitchen cutting boards work, a
corrugated cardboard box, etc.
I have used the Fiskar Snips & Shears
scissors for years for detailed cutting.
For each section, I did have to stab through
the material to start a cut. I was
working with .007" thick material so it was
a little tuff in the tight spots.
Snips & Shears
It took me around 1-1/2
hours to cut out each design. I streamed a few
TV shows online while I was cutting.
finished stencils are shown to the right and
below. I placed a dark surface
underneath the stencil so you could see the
I did a total of three lizards so that I can a
vary the pattern when I paint my surface.
Note that I did not copy the original
artwork exactly. I copied the shape
and then added my own design to the body
I had originally planned to apply spray
paint but because of the intricate details,
I will probably be better off dabbing paint
on with a sponge.
Spray paint would work, but I would need to
stick the stencil on to the surface with a
tacky glue spray to hold it in place.
This would leave some adhesive on my surface
after moving the stencil, which I do not
want. I will be using the stencils
outside and blowing dust would eventually
stick on the adhesive residue.
Finished Lizard Stencil 1
Finished Lizard Stencil 2
Finished Lizard Stencil 3
You are probably wondering what I
will be using these stencils for. Well this
was a rainy day project for me. My rock wall
repair job (see
this here...) was interrupted by a
day of rain . I had played around with the
idea in my head about making my own stencils and
wanted to see if it would work.
The first place I tried out my stencils was on my
Before I used the stencil on the
wall, I tried it out on a sample sheet painted with
the same paint that is on the stucco wall.
Painted test sheet with stucco wall paint
Attached stencil and dabbed paint
on with a small brush
Lifted away stencil on sample piece
Rust-Oleum Hammered Brown
was a little bleeding on the sample I made.
So I expected this to happen when I applied
it to the wall. Not a problem. I
had the stucco paint to do the touch-ups.
I used the Rust-Oleum Hammered Brown Paint
because I had it laying around.
This paint creates a nice shimmery color.
If you make it thick enough, it almost looks
like the finish on shiny ceramic.
It is a thin paint when fresh, when it
starts to dry out, it gets really tacky.
Next I painted two of the lizards on the
wall. I will add one or two more later.
Two lizards painted on wall. Will add
a couple more later
Completed bench with lizards stenciled on surface
|I purchased a 2 x 4's Basics Flip-Top Table
Bench kit to add a seat against this wall.
See the bench web page here...for more
I painted the wood with Sherwin Williams
Resilience in Protégé Bronze SW 6153 in a
I used acrylic paint to add a couple of
lizards to the bench to go along with the
lizards on the wall.
There are two ways to paint
a stencil across 2 x 4's on a bench.
1) Paint a board one at a time and shift the
stencil up or down the boards. Use this method
if the boards are already assembled with the gap
between each board. I used this method for the
lizard. I made marks on the stencil so I would
know where to line-up the next board. This
takes longer because you have to wait for the paint
to dry before reattaching the stencil to do the next
board. However, this acrylic paint dries quickly.
Lizard stenciled on with Venetian Gold
DecoArt Dazzling Metallics - Venetian Gold
2) Before attaching the 2 x 4's
to the bench, put the boards together on a flat
surface making sure the ends of your boards are
flush with each other. Attach the stencil
and paint. This is the faster method since you
only have to lay down the stencil once. This
is how I painted the Moss Pearl lizard below.
Lizard stenciled on with Moss Pearl
DecoArt Dazzling Metallics - Moss Pearl
The acrylic paint I used on the
bench was DecoArt Dazzling Metallics.
I like the
metallic paints because they have a different look on
the surface, under different light conditions.
When using this paint on a stencil, it is best to
apply it on a flat surface to avoid paint running
underneath the edges.
Also, with the stencil
down, apply the paint thinly with an almost dry
brush. Just enough so the image is on the surface.
Then remove the stencil and apply more paint to the
image until you have the thickness of paint you
A note regarding this area. I also
installed a roll-up shade screen. This
was to help to keep sun off this area and to
provide some privacy from the neighbors who
can see this area from their kitchen window.
November 17, 2014
Completed stenciling job