How To Make Spray Paint Stencils

Using spray paint

Spray paint stencils are a great way to reproduce images onto almost any solid surface: a T-shirt, a piece of furniture, a wall, or even a car. With just a few inexpensive supplies, one can create simple spray paint stencils requiring a single design layer, or create a more complicated artwork using multiple design layers.

Here are some tips on how to make your own spray paint stencils.

  1. Choose an image. The first step to creating impressive stencil art is choosing an image that translates well to stencil-making. Images that rely heavily on shading to make them look more realistic are not suitable for stencils. The easiest images are object silhouettes with high contrast and few variations. You can get simple clipart or coloring pages to use for your stencil. You can also use wallpaper patterns or pictures from books.

    You may opt to use your own photo to make a stencil, but this requires complex work. Open the picture in a photo editing program, such as Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop, and edit the image for high contrast by switching the photo from color to black and white. For colored images, you would need to create multiple layers of stencils. Again, edit the image for higher contrast using a photo-editing program. Each color used in your image corresponds to one stencil layer. Once you are done, print the image onto heavy stock paper. You would need to print out one copy for every color you will use in your image.

    Spray paint stencils need to be long-lasting as they would be used with heavy duty paint such as automotive paint, spray guns, and plastic paint. Hence, you would need to print or transfer your design onto more durable material. Clear acetate, Mylar sheets, Dura-lar acetate alternative sheets, and even old x-ray films are some possible materials for stencil sheets. If your printer is capable of printing on acetate sheets, print your image directly on to the acetate and proceed to Step 3. Otherwise, you would need to transfer your design to your stencil sheet.

  2. Transfer your design. You first need to cut-out your printout and then secure it onto the back of your stencil sheet using masking tape or painter's tape. Do not use scotch tape as it leaves sticky residue. You are now ready to cut out your stencil.
  3. Cut the Stencil. For best results, use a utility knife, such as an X-Acto knife, which is available in craft stores and Wal-mart. You would also need a cutting board to allow you to cut through your stencil. When cutting your stencil, start with the simple areas by cutting the longest and straightest lines. For a multi-layer stencil, you should only cut out one color of each sheet. Use your free hand to press the stencil firmly onto the cutting board. Remember to always position your free hand above the knife blade to avoid accidents in case of knife slippage. This step requires patience and accuracy so make sure not to rush this step. To ensure smooth cut-outs, rotate your stencil and cutting board. Refrain from removing your knife until the entire shape is cut out. If you accidentally cut through any of the stencil connectors, you can easily repair it with scotch tape. Simply trim off the excess tape and your stencil is good to go.

Your spray paint stencils are now ready for use. Use them with acrylic paint, airbrush paint, automotive paint, spray guns and plastic paints to create impressive images and fonts to decorate just about anything you wish. 


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