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Stencils Provide Repeatability

Updated on January 24, 2012

Tshirt artists are frequently asked to duplicate a design on more than one shirt. Sports teams often like the personalized look that airbrushing can provide, yet they want a degree of uniformity too. Stencils help the artist repeat his design with accuracy and they speed up the production process as well. This tutorial is an example of a typical team request. Before you begin, review my Hub on Basic Stencil Technique. You will need some letter size cardstock and a can of spray adhesive (SprayMount). This design can be accomplished with a single-piece or a multi-piece stencil. The finished shirt design should look something like the image below.

Display this image full-size and print on cardstock.
Display this image full-size and print on cardstock.

Cut the red outlines with an Exacto knife. Lightly spray the backside of the background stencil with Spray Adhesive. Allow the adhesive to dry briefly and place it on the shirt. Spray a very light grey tone in the ball and bat areas. Remove the stencil. At this point it should look like the image below.

Use the grey tone shapes as a guide to freehand in the details of the ball and bat. Carefully outline the edges of the ball and bat with black or dark grey and add some shading to both. Imagine the light coming from the upper left corner and make your shading a little darker in the lower right areas of each object - something like the image below.

Add some action to your illustration by freehanding on some trailing motion lines. Also add some stitching details to the ball. Be sure to use the Essential Stroke as described in another Hub. The image below implies action.

Complete the design with a name. Freehand the name in a location that will keep the overall design in balance. Freehand lettering is challenging for the beginning artist. Along with learning to draw with the airbrush, it takes a lot of practice to do it well. I will describe some techniques that help speed up the learning process for lettering and drawing in future Hubs.


Stencils are very handy tools. In this case they allow the artist to retain uniformity of design. As this tutorial indicates, a very simple stencil can be used to create a very impressive design. Also, stencils permit the artist to speed up their pace. That's important with orders for multiples of the same design.


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