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The (Street) Art of Stencil Graffiti

Updated on January 24, 2014

Taking Art to the Streets

Stencil graffiti is growing in popularity worldwide. This street art can be a few simple words, or a grand scale art piece. Because it is cheap, quick, and easy, this style of graffiti has grown tremendously. Often the stencils express political and social opinions of the artist, or are simply images of pop culture icons. Stencil street art adorns public areas around the world. It has become part of urban living.

Love it or hate it, stencils aren't going away soon.

About Stencil Graffiti

Because stencils are prepared ahead of time, and spraying (or rolling) over them is quite quick, a street artist can make a detailed piece in seconds. And now, with the use of computers, it is easier then ever for street artists to create their masterpiece, often using familiar symbols and faces. This has all lead to an increase in the activity, exposing it to more and more people each day.

Stencil graffiti includes images or text cut into paper, cardboard, plastic, or other material such that, when painted over, the image is transferred onto the surface.

Political Commentary

Political issues of the specific time and region are often the subjects of stenciled street art...a bit like political cartoons.

curated content from Flickr

Stencil Pirates

Stencil Pirates
Stencil Pirates

Stencil Pirates is the first comprehensive book dedicated to stencil street art. Included are artist profiles, an in-depth history of stencil graffiti, its political context, and how stencils fit into the larger pantheon of street expression. Also here are a detailed “how-to” manual with designing, cutting, and painting tips from the artists, as well as 20 perforated cardstock stencil templates for readers who can’t wait to hit the streets.



These videos show a lot of stenciled street art. They show you some of the most famous marks, and even let you see them being created. Also, learn a bit about the artist themselves, like Banksy, and others.

Your Thoughts... - Anyone can vote!

What is your opinion of grafitti overall?

See results

A World of Graffiti

These books have a lot of information on stencil graffiti and amazing photos of art from around the world. They'd make a great gift.

Banksy - The Master Stencil Street Artist

Banksy is probably the most famous stencil graffiti artist - certainly the most famous in England. His work can be seen all over London. Often incorporating rats and policemen into his work, Banksy art is quite the socio-political commentary. He is an elusive artist who maintains his anonomity quite well. Banksy's website gives us an insight as to what he is thinking, and keeps us informed on his lasest ventures. He has also struck Palestine, and America.

A London wall upon which a mural by the legendary graffiti artist Banksy sits, sold on January 14, 2008 on eBay for $407,000. Buyer must pay to remove the wall. Check out the whole story:

Graffiti World

Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents
Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents

Ever since anonymous spray-can art began appearing on city walls in New York and Philadelphia in the late 1960s, graffiti has been a ubiquitous presence in the urban landscape, its artists largely unsung heroes. As hip-hop culture spread from America, graffiti became a worldwide phenomenon, emerging in the 1980s as the symbolic artistic language of young people everywhere and one of the most potent influences on youth-oriented marketing and design. With more than 2,000 illustrations by over 150 artists from all over the world and interviews with many of them, this visually arresting book is the most comprehensive survey of graffiti art ever published.



Street Portraits

Musicians, Politicians, Artists, Pop-culture icons, Historical Figures, and Fictional Characters have all been memorialized by street art.

curated content from Flickr

The Cans Festival

Organized by the elusive Banksy, and held May 3-5, 2008, a dark and dingy tunnel underneath an old train platform at Waterloo Station in London was transformed.

Dozens of street artists from around the world contributed to stenciled masterpieces. In addition, it was open to the public to add their stenciled pieces.

"Graffiti doesn't always spoil buildings. In fact, it's the only way to improve a lot of them," said Banksy. "In the space of a few hours with a couple of hundred cans of paint I'm hoping we can transform a dark, forgotten filth pit into an oasis of beautiful art - in a dark, forgotten filth pit."

How to Create a Stencil

(Art in Photo by Banksy)

Depending on the desired result, there are different ways to make a stencil.

A computer can be used to help make detailed designs, designs with downloaded fonts, or designs from photos. If you wish to simply draw a graphic by hand, that works too. Also, photoshop shapes are a stencil waiting to happen.

In order to make a design from a photo, you will need a photo editor that allows you to adjust the threshold, and brightness and contrast of the photo. Basically, you want to get rid of the unneeded background of the photo, giving you just the subject you desire. Then adjust the contrast and brightness, or adjust the threshold, of the picture to the point of having a picture that is two colors - black and white - and still recognizable. Make any needed touch-ups, or adjustments to keep there from being areas inside of holes (that would fall out of the stencil). You could also preform this step while cutting, but it may be more difficult.

Add a border around the picture and print. Once printed, just put your stencil over the item you wish to use as the stencil...cardboard, paper, thin plastic, contact paper, whatever. Next you must cut out the design. An x-acto knife is best as it makes a clean cut and is easy to work with.

To use the stencil, hold or tape to the surface, and spray or roll paint over it. Remove the stencil (by lifting off, not sliding). If it needs any touchups, use your finger or a brush. Tada!

Stick Your Two Cents In

What do you think of graffiti?

"How To" Videos - Step-By-Step Guides to Digitally Making Stencils From Photos

Watching a video is the easiest way to get a grasp of how these stencils are made. I suggest the first one, as it is a great step-by-step. The second video is a great explanation on how to print the stencils very large using multiple sheets of paper that you can line up.

Photoshop Shapes - Download them free

The shapes tool in photoshop, and the fact that so many amazing shapes are available for free to download, are ideal for stenciling. Download some free shape sets and see the versatility they lend you.

Other Stenciled Street Art

From Around the World

Worldwide, these limited color graphics are marking a time and a place, giving commentary on it as well. They are leaving their mark on the world, making a strong statement.

curated content from Flickr

Stencil Graffiti (Street Graphics / Street Art)

Stencil Graffiti (Street Graphics / Street Art)
Stencil Graffiti (Street Graphics / Street Art)

City streets abound with billboards, posters, and corporate advertising that almost invite a subversive response ...and increasingly are getting one. Many of today's graffiti artists have adopted the stencil and spray can, and are using the street as a giant creative forum for their arresting artwork. "The image," says San Diego artist Shepard Fairey, "is integrated with the texture of the street." This book showcases the work of the originators, the innovators, and the new generation who, as UK artist Nylon puts it, are "breathing life into derelict spaces." Stencil graffiti is beginning to filter off the street too, as artists are inspired to use stencils on canvas, clothing, and metal. Tristan Manco has chosen over 400 of the most visually exuberant, subtle, and creative examples of the genre from cities all over the world. With subject matter ranging from the political to the poetic, from the funky to the frankly curious, stencil graffiti is graphic innovation on an international scale. Inspirational in form and content, this book is an essential record for everyone with an interest in design or in contemporary urban culture. 405 illustrations, 400 in color.


Cutting a Stencil

An x-acto knife is the best way to cut a stencil. The razer edge makes the easiest and cleanest cut.

Stencil Fonts

These sites provide many fonts that work well for stencils. From military style, to pixelated fonts, to modern and gothic, hundreds of fonts lend themselves to stenciling.

Barack Obama

Obama Also Won in Street Art

Barack Obama has brought in a whole new wave of street artists. His grassroots popularity led to some amazing stencils.

Check out some great Obama street art:

How can I make a page like this?

(and earn money doing it?)

And, if you were interested in how to publish a page like this, it is really quite easy. Just Click Here to a free account and start your own "lens" here on squidoo on any topic of your choice.


I am in no way encouraging you to vandalize or cause damage to other people's property. This lens is for the appreciation of street art, and for the use of its style in legal mediums. Stencil your own property or inside your house. Stencil on your bench or picnic table. Stencil on wood and hang it. Stencil with permission of the owner. Stencil your kid's bedroom. Do not stencil on public property or other people's property who did not give you permission.

Stenciled Squid

Stenciled Squid
Stenciled Squid

Leave your random comments and internet graffiti here:

Graffiti Guestbook

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    • profile image

      pennyovenden 4 years ago

      Great Lense. I liked the video!

    • GetPhotographic profile image

      GetPhotographic 4 years ago

      Where I live there is a lot of graffiti, most of it is very good. Unfortunately there is also the graffiti that is no more than vandalism. My reaction to it being on MY wall would be based on that. Does it add something - yes, then great.

    • josietook profile image

      josietook 4 years ago

      Really enjoyed the Banksy video. I'm on the fence with whether or not I agree with unsolicited graffiti, but I'd be pretty pleased with Banksy's work on the side of my wall.

    • kaseyrivenburgh profile image

      kaseyrivenburgh 4 years ago

      Perfect lens. Really enjoyable.

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 5 years ago from Diamondhead

      I enjoy the kind of graffiti that show artist design, I do not appreciate graffiti as a form of destruction to property. I think there is a fine line between the two.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I just watched all your videos & had a really good time. I love graffiti & take photos of any that I find. Sometimes it's erased very quickly by 'the authorities'. Fabulous lens :)

    • profile image

      antoniow 5 years ago

      Excellent lens! Squidlike

    • tfsherman lm profile image

      tfsherman lm 5 years ago

      What a surprising lens about a very surprising subject! Thanks.

    • craftycollector profile image

      craftycollector 5 years ago

      Graffiti can be great. Interestingly, I was in a carpark in Eastern France last nighte and there was a huge Obama Graffiti on the wall. His influence is extensive.

    • justmelucy profile image

      justmelucy 5 years ago

      Great Lens. Stencil graffiti has it's place and I love Bansky. Personally I prefer free form, murals. tromp lei and am in awe of 3D Street Art. I live near Asheville, NC home of some great graffiti. My Tag...

    • MikeRobbers LM profile image

      MikeRobbers LM 5 years ago

      One of the best lenses I've ever read. Challenging subject beautifully curated. Congrats!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have been playing around with some stencils on cotton canvas and keep getting over and under spray no matter how much I try to keep it flat and using tape n paper to avoid this but still can't get those clean lines ... Any help would be much appreciated

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 5 years ago

      beautiful and very informative lens...thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      JDEEZY 5 years ago

      nice lens, i really like the how to video on photoshop stencils

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Nice lens! Very informative.

    • profile image

      DMVAgent 5 years ago

      The designs are simple but very nice.

    • profile image

      dream1983 5 years ago

      Very nice lens, great job! Squidlike

    • Mikewrites LM profile image

      Mikewrites LM 5 years ago

      Cat in the Hat is my favourite, cool lens

    • magictricksdotcom profile image

      magictricksdotcom 6 years ago

      Wow, you sure found a lot of information on street graffiti. Well done!

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 6 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      I like it! Thumbs up for stencil graffiti:-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      please check out my stencil time lapse .

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 6 years ago from Albany New York

      Interesting subject and very well done.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 6 years ago

      Original stencils, yes, Like. Derivative copycat stuff for the sake of tagging? Not so much. This is an excellent lens!

    • ZenSquid profile image

      ZenSquid 6 years ago

      Really cool art. Nice lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Interesting lens!

    • profile image

      happygraffiti 6 years ago

      Hey there - Loving the lens! And I love stencilling! I'm new to squidoo, but I have a blog called which encourages people to upload the positive graffiti they see out and about. Have a peek :)

      Jen x

    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 6 years ago

      Grafitti is impressive on its own, but stencil graffiti really takes the craft to a whole new level.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      The cat in the hat one is so cute!

    • vkumar05 profile image

      vkumar05 6 years ago

      That is a great art form. Underrated. Excellent Lens.

    • caketech profile image

      caketech 6 years ago

      Great idea for a lens! This was very interesting.

    • DeterminedDolphin profile image

      DeterminedDolphin 6 years ago

      I love Banksy. A great documentary to watch is "Exit through the Gift Shop". Have you seen it?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I love doing graffiti in chalk with kids. Fun activity, but we're nowhere close to be great at it. This is a fantastic resource. ~ Blessed!

    • kjbranch77 profile image

      kjbranch77 6 years ago

      Awesome lens!

    • profile image

      HourglassThorne 6 years ago

      Incredible lens! Thank you for creating it!

    • profile image

      OctavioMelesio 6 years ago

      Hi everybody...I love the creative graffiti... I LIKE THIS LENS... success and blessings always

    • iQwestArticles profile image

      iQwestArticles 6 years ago

      It's unfortunate that vandalism has become so closely associated with Graffiti since it can be such a wonderful means of expression. As the many examples you've highlighted in this lens, I've seen some amazing works. Very nice lens!

    • efcruzarts profile image

      efcruzarts 6 years ago

      lens for wall artist this is good!

    • fiercerulingdiva profile image

      fiercerulingdiva 6 years ago

      Nice lens. Thanks for the video showing how to make stencils from digital photos, interesting stuff.

    • profile image

      marie_arce 6 years ago


    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      I have seen some incredible graffiti. If graffiti is non-violent in nature, and, if it adds important social commentary, it can be a valuable art and powerful art form. I am against graffiti that violates people or property in a way that is harmful.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great Lens !

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 6 years ago

      Some of it is great. I like the Dutch graffiti artist Hugo Kaagman's work - like stenciled Delft tiles.

    • profile image

      WorldVisionary 6 years ago

      Some graffiti artists are incredibly talented - it's marvelous to look at when it's good! Thumbs up and an Angel blessing for you!

    • profile image

      ratetea 6 years ago

      Some graffiti is really amazing...both the art itself and the placement. In Cleveland, OH, an artist with the tag "Sym" would often hit the upper-right-hand corner of a billboard the day after the billboard went up. Many of these feats involved scaling hundred-feet-high billboards.

    • profile image

      crudeoilsystems 6 years ago

      Interesting. Thanks for your info.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I sometimes marvel at some graffitti but those that are just foul, I don't really care for. That's not art. Enjoyed your lens and blessed it.

    • kislanyk profile image

      Marika 6 years ago from Cyprus

      Great lens on stencil graffiti, I like it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great lens...I think there are some great potential artists that use Graffiti as a way to so off their work..I just wish it was done a little more tastefully.

    • profile image

      BillSimmons 6 years ago

      I've seen some of these, look like they are becoming more popular.

    • profile image

      DeaneDykes 6 years ago

      Wow this is something. So well organized!

    • catbehaviors profile image

      catbehaviors 6 years ago

      Graffiti is a very cool art form! It actually sounds pretty fun to create, especially using a stencil. :)

    • THNeto profile image

      THNeto 6 years ago

      Great lens! Always been ambivalent about graffiti; love some of the art and messages but it often leaves a depressing mood in public spaces. Now your lens has given me something more to think about, thanks!

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 6 years ago

      I think graffiti and street art is the most popular art movement of the past thirty plus years, until something new comes around it's just going to gain popularity. I love street art and it's edgy quick wit...ckeck out some of my pieces if you get a chance...:)rwjr

    • OOPSY LM profile image

      OOPSY LM 6 years ago

      But don't you think stenciling is cheating? LOL Just kidding. Great lens! Very informative on a not-so-popular subject. Great disclaimer, too.

    • cheesemonster lm profile image

      cheesemonster lm 6 years ago

      I stumbled on your lens by accident. It's been one of the best accidents I've ever had...& I've had a few! Thanks for the share!

    • justin42 profile image

      justin42 6 years ago

      This is probably the most thorough lens I have seen so far. Great work by the way.

    • wowitsmenow profile image

      wowitsmenow 6 years ago

      Awesome cannot describe this lense!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Very informative lens. Well done

    • profile image

      ironmonkey 6 years ago

      Nice lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      glad I browsed into your lens, gave you a 'thumbs up' too!

    • profile image

      iwrite4cash 6 years ago

      I like this lens!

    • tobydavis profile image

      tobydavis 6 years ago

      Interesting and throught provoking lens - particularly liked the use of the debate module.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 6 years ago from Vermont

      Ahhhhh. I do love good street art. Thanks. Blessed. Back to my tour of this great lens.

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 6 years ago

      Right up my alley, no pun intended, Great Lens...I dig the stencil art and murals, tags to me are an eyesore for the most part unless they mean something...Blessed by an Angel...RWJR

    • SaintFrantic profile image

      SaintFrantic 6 years ago

      Squidoo graffiti rocks

    • profile image

      tvingi 6 years ago

      Wow great lens.My favorite is Squdoo graphite on the wall. I want to have a t-shirt with Squidoo sign:)

    • modernchakra profile image

      modernchakra 6 years ago

      You know that you are have made it as a graffiti artist when someone buys the wall.... Thanks for the information, I can't even imagine the possibilities of using computers now to design stencils and street art. Amazing.

    • RaverGoat profile image

      RaverGoat 6 years ago

      I have a book on Banksy's art. This article reminded me of it. Very cool lens.

    • profile image

      writer_villa 6 years ago

      Real cool lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice art I could never do this not as artistic. much respect

    • profile image

      parts2 6 years ago

      Looking great!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      All though I don't agree with the subject matter, this is an informative lens. Blessed.

    • profile image

      mattyrobinson 6 years ago

      I love stencil art. I have a lens about Banksy, and am intrigued by the way in which many street artists convey their political beliefs in their art.

    • profile image

      HipHopInformant 6 years ago

      Great lens very interesting, like the images too!

    • KatrinaJames profile image

      KatrinaJames 6 years ago

      Love this lens fab job!:-)

    • profile image

      whiplash539 6 years ago

      nice lens, I have liked it and be sure to check out my Banksy lens so far and like it if you want:

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 6 years ago

      cool lens thanks for sharing...rwjr

    • profile image

      VoodooRULEs 6 years ago

      Thank you! I really have a fascination for this work. It's great to have a solid source to learn more about it!

    • profile image

      theblackace86 6 years ago

      for anyone who is interested in street art I would highly recommend watching the Banksy film "Exit Through the Gift shop" makes you want to go out and make some street art and it also has that confusing twist that Banksy of course set up :) so cool LOVE the lens! <3

    • profile image

      JoshK47 6 years ago

      Great lens! I'm particularly fond of graffiti art, though I see very little actual art here, more scrawling of nonsense or obscene things.

    • CarynJSwift56889 profile image

      CarynJSwift56889 6 years ago

      street art also a kind of art, still need good drawing skills

    • profile image

      FarmerTom 6 years ago

      What a great lens. Loved seeing the graffiti art. Makes me wonder what it's next incarnation will be.

    • hessa johnson profile image

      hessa johnson 7 years ago

      I love the work of Banksy. Glad I found this lens.

    • profile image

      ArtsyIndie 7 years ago

      Wow! I love graffiti even more now. Great lens

    • fantasticallyfi profile image

      fantasticallyfi 7 years ago

      Simply very cool.

    • profile image

      NYThroughTheLens 7 years ago

      Awesome lens! This is near to my heart. I was happy to come across this lens.

    • profile image

      MisTikkal 7 years ago

      Terrific lens and what an interesting character - Banksy.

    • profile image

      JennySui 7 years ago

      Very well written lens on Banksy. Have a look on my lens and site about banksy art and banksy canvas prints.

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 7 years ago

      Nicely done & great resource. ***Angel blessed*** as part of the April Fools' Quest & featured on "My Life with Angel Wings" lens ... :)

    • Gripandflip profile image

      Gripandflip 7 years ago

      Nice thought-provoking lens. Very interesting topic.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      fantastic lens. ~blessed by a squid angel~

    • profile image

      TheLaaang 7 years ago

      What a great lens! I love street art, especially stencil graffiti. There used to be loads of it where I used to live Brighton, UK) & it seemed to give the atmosphere there an extra something. I thought it was great :)

    • MamaBelle profile image

      Francis Luxford 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      What better way to brighten a drab day and surroundings, good job like your lens, thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I can see that a blank wall would be calling out to an artist, just begging to be brightened up. I have seen some schools and public buildings back in NZ that have been offered to graffiti artists (not taggers) and they look incredible. I am not so sure that I consider the stencil method as much art though. All in the eye of the beholder, as they say. SquidAngel Blessed!

    • drawfantasyart profile image

      Wayne Tully 7 years ago from UK

      Great Graffiti lens....It's certainly something I want to get into more and the street art scene interests me more on pavements and such.....A nice detaile lens about stencil graffiti, Well done!

    • Gera LM profile image

      Gera LM 7 years ago

      I like stamp-like graffiti best.

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 7 years ago

      I always love seeing the graffiti on train cars. It's like a moving billboard. Although it may be illegal, these artists are still very talented.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Really cool lens-love it!

    • profile image

      AmbrosiaPopsicle 7 years ago

      I love when people decorate the walls with their personalities. Tasteful in flavor is the only request ;)

    • profile image

      scar4 7 years ago

      Though I'm not good at arts, I like graffiti very much, in particular, the ones printed on T-shirts.


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