How to Make Your Own One-of-a-Kind Stencils


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Hallo!! I made a few DIY stencils while working on my Gelatin Prints, and I think I’m addicted.  The first couple were other people’s stencil images that I “borrowed” from the interwebs.  That wasn’t something I was particularly comfortable with though, and I knew I couldn’t use them in any serious art projects.  So after getting the hang of actually cutting the plastic, I branched off on my own.

Sourcing images

There are a few different places to find inspiration for your one of a kind stencil. You basically want to find images that aren’t protected from reuse by Copyright.  They can be your own photos, online stock images (paid or free), public domain, or images available with Creative Commons licencing.  With stock images and images available under a creative commons licence, you have to be very careful to read what you’re allowed to do with them, and whether you have to give attribution to the original photographer.

I prefer to use my own photos or CC0 licenced photos.  CC0 basically means that the original artist has chosen to waive their copyright and make their image part of the public domain.  I don’t want to play with copyright infringement.  At all.

Photo from our trip to Kew Gardens in England. I’m eyeballing that one flower in the center

Prepping the image

Nowadays, most any imaging editing software will do, but I use GIMP.  It’s a little more powerful than most, and it’s FREEEE!!  It’s also seriously confusing if you don’t know what you’re doing. Stick with what you know!

Final step is to increase the brightness so that you can easily see your black pen marks

Designing your stencils

Once you have your image adjusted, you can start to plan out your stencil.  I prefer value stencils (think Banksy) because they’re a little more artistic, while shape stencils are a little more folk-artsy/craftsy.

For a value stencil, start outlining the darkest areas with your black pen.  For a shape stencil, start outlining the defining shapes of the image.  In this case, the defining shapes are the petals of the flower.

Cutting out your Stencils

Once you have your stencil designed, it’s time to move on to actually cutting it out.  Because of my career, I’m super comfortable using a scalpel for my craft projects, but there are multiple options. 

Choose your stencil material.  I use Matte Shrink Plastic because it’s sturdy, but cuts easily with my scalpel and isn’t too brittle.  There are a ton of options, but I haven’t played with them myself.

Stencil cutting is one of the crafty things that I like to do while sitting on the couch watching shows, so I use a clipboard.  I would not suggest this.  I have a feeling I will eventually eff up and stab myself in the leg.

Use whatever you’re comfortable with and start cutting along the lines you drew in the designing step.

The Results!

This is the fun part!  Since I’ve been playing with gelatin printing and had everything set up, I ran a simple print of each stencil.  I’m pleased with both, but I have definitely had stencil fails.  You learn from each fail, so keep on trying if you don’t love your results!

The value stencil is my favorite by far, but I will probably use the shape stencil more in my art journaling.  Isn’t it absolutely amazing that both stencils came from the same original photo??  What do you think?  Which one do you prefer?

27 thoughts on “How to Make Your Own One-of-a-Kind Stencils

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