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How To Create A Stencil

Updated on December 29, 2013

Learn How To Make Your Own Stencil From Any Picture

If you want to learn how to create a stencil from a picture - whether it's yours or you fancy something you found online, this page will give you all the information you need, with step by step tutorial in Photoshop, with tips, ideas and resources to follow if you need something more.

Stenciling walls, furniture, pillows and using them in crafts is big. It is in fact quite an old craft, much older than using wall decals and stickers, and the last few years have seen quite an increase in people getting back to it. There is just something to applying paint of any color that you want to your walls using some interesting, elegant and possibly unique stencils.

Blank Stencil Making Sheets

There are tons of stencils out there that you can buy, but if you really want something specific that grabbed your eyes, and the design is not available online, well, you can easily make your own using a simple picture, an image editor (Photoshop, Gimp, or the simple MS Paint that comes standard on every pc) and a few strokes of a pen - make that a mouse instead.

Once you have the design on the pc, you can simply print it out and apply it to a piece of plastic and then cut it out. But more on that later. I hope you will enjoy the information found below and you will create some great unique and personalized stencils.

What You Need To Create A Stencil

Tools That You Can Use To Make Your Own Stencil

All these materials (with the exception of Photoshop - but you can use any other photo editing software that you have instead) are quite cheap and readily available. Here is what I use when I create a stencil for my craft projects.

  1. A photo editing software - Photoshop is recommended, but you can use many other things, such as Microsoft Word, Gimp or even the basic MS Paint
  2. A printer, so you can print out your stenciled design
  3. A blank stencil paper (like the one shown at the to of this page), but if you don't have one, you can also use tracing paper or the very basic regular sheet of paper.
  4. Sharpie marker to trace the stencil pattern onto the stencil sheet from the printed out design
  5. Thick piece of cardboard for putting the template on it
  6. Stencil knife or stencil burner for cutting out the pattern. Here precision is very important.
  7. Some tape to apply the stencil on the wall or other smooth surface to paint it over - and of course you will also need paint :)

Some Of The Tools You Might Not Have Are Available At Amazon

Wall Lenk L12SCK Cutlass Stencil Cutting Kit
Wall Lenk L12SCK Cutlass Stencil Cutting Kit

A great stencil cutting tool that comes with all the extras that are needed - a stand, two tool tips and an edge remover disk.

It's a heat pen which works great to cut your stencils to shape.

 
Plaid Simply Stencil (8 by 18-Inch) and (8 by 10-Inch), 28939 Cut Your Own (Set of 2)
Plaid Simply Stencil (8 by 18-Inch) and (8 by 10-Inch), 28939 Cut Your Own (Set of 2)

Blank stencil sheets are great to apply your chosen pattern or design on them. I find they are much better than other paper types I might use, including vellum paper.

 
Pacon 96510 Tracing Paper, 25 lbs., 9 x 12, Semi-Transparent, 500 Sheets per Ream
Pacon 96510 Tracing Paper, 25 lbs., 9 x 12, Semi-Transparent, 500 Sheets per Ream

If you prefer using tracing paper instead of the blank stencil sheets, that's a perfectly great alternative which give you equally good results.

Here is one set of papers which includes 500 sheets in the package.

 
Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 [OLD VERSION]
Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 [OLD VERSION]

One of the most popular software out there for image editing, Adobe Photoshop is one that I use as well. Here is a low cost version that does all that you need to create a stencil and more.

 
Stencil Starter Kit by Unknown
Stencil Starter Kit by Unknown

When you make your stencil you do need to use it somewhere - on the wall or other surface, or for your craft. For that you need a few tools and supplies like paints, roller or paint brush and some additional accessories.

This stencil starter kit has all that you need to start stenciling right after you have created your own template.

 

Create The Stencil On The Computer

How I Create A Stencil On My Computer

teddy bear stencil
teddy bear stencil

I do have Adobe Photoshop, so I like using it, but if you have other software, you can use them just the same. Below this tutorial I will give you a few links to tutorials that use various other software for the computer, so you can follow along if your software settings are different from mine.

For starters I will use this public domain image (totally free to use) from WP Clipart and copy it to Photoshop.

Change The Image To Black And White

image threshold menu in photoshop
image threshold menu in photoshop

Once you pasted the colored image to Photoshop (or Gimp), click on Threshold - you can find it under Image/Adjustments/Threshold.

When you click on Threshold, a new popup comes up with the Threshold screen as shown in the image above. Now you will see the image behind the Threshold box become black and white, you can turn the slider a bit to the left or right until you find the perfect spot - with all the details clearly shown, without too much black on it. Then click OK when you are happy with the image to finalize the look.

Note: if you don't see the image turn black when you're in the Threshold menu, make sure the 'Preview' has a tick mark next to it, like in my example above.

Save Your Stencil Image To Your Pc

save template to pc
save template to pc

Now that you have the image just the way you like it - black and white without lots of heavy dark areas - you really want more of a silhouette than anything else - it's time to save the image to your computer - alternatively you can print it out directly, but by saving it first you will have this template ready to print and use over and over again without having to re-create it again from scratch.

Tutorials On Creating A Stencil Using Other Software

At this point I want to break the step by step instructions with a short pause. Not everyone has Adobe Photoshop, and if you don't have it, you might be wondering how to do it with other photo editing software. So here are a few handpicked tutorials that show you the various steps of getting a picture to the software and making the black and white silhouette using various editing programs.

Video Tutorial On Creating A Stencil Using MS Paint

Make Your Stencil With GIMP

Make The Stencil After Printing It Out

Create The Final Stencil Design

  1. Once you've saved the image, it's time to print it on paper. For this step regular paper is perfectly ok.
  2. From here on there are different schools of thought on how to actually get the image as a stencil. The way I do it is to cut out the image at least approximately from the A4 paper to a close enough size. Then I glue it to a hard cardboard and use my exacto knife or stencil knife to cut out the design as accurately as possible (btw you can tape it instead of glueing as well).

    The step of cutting out the stencil might take you a while, so be patient.

  3. To start stenciling, simply tape the stencil to the wall or the item you want painted, choose your favorite paint color and get busy :)

Online Tutorials Showing You Different Ways To Finalize Your Stencil On Paper

Once you get the stencil on paper, there are various ways to actually create your stencil that will be used to paint the surface. Above I told you about my own way to do it, however you might prefer another method, so I have handpicked a few great online tutorials with images as well that will give you a few other perspectives.

Way Too Cool Video On Making A Stencil From Scratch

Oh I love this video! It does start with the guy showcasing his talent at creating a sketch, but from around minute 1.20 or so it's what you really want to see - it's really cool and worth checking it out.

How To Make A Stencil Without Using The Computer

A great way to make a stencil from a design you see on a carpet or any place else. You are not using a pc when making this stencil. Great video.

Books About Stenciling And Making Your Own That I Recommend

Printing by Hand: A Modern Guide to Printing with Handmade Stamps, Stencils, and Silk Screens
Printing by Hand: A Modern Guide to Printing with Handmade Stamps, Stencils, and Silk Screens

A great book that teaches you the art of stenciling and also stamping and other workings with paper.

 
Create Your Own Hand-Printed Cloth: Stamp, Screen & Stencil with Everyday Objects
Create Your Own Hand-Printed Cloth: Stamp, Screen & Stencil with Everyday Objects

Create stencils with everyday objects - now this is a fun way to do crafts.

 
Stencil 101: Make Your Mark with 25 Reusable Stencils and Step-by-Step Instructions
Stencil 101: Make Your Mark with 25 Reusable Stencils and Step-by-Step Instructions

Yes, this book does have stencils and it doesn't actually teach you how to make your own. But it's really fun to use the given stencils that are reusable, and it does teach you how to use a stencil once you've created it. I love this book.

 
Stencil 101 Décor: Customize Walls, Floors, and Furniture with Oversized Stencil Art
Stencil 101 Décor: Customize Walls, Floors, and Furniture with Oversized Stencil Art

Another book that teaches you more how to use rather than how to make a stencil, Stencil 101 Decor is great if you want to paint your walls, your floors or your furniture and pillows. Another recommended book.

 

Creative Paper Cutting: Basic Techniques and Fresh Designs for Stencils, Mobiles, Cards, and More

Creative Paper Cutting: Basic Techniques and Fresh Designs for Stencils, Mobiles, Cards, and More (Make Good: Crafts + Life)
Creative Paper Cutting: Basic Techniques and Fresh Designs for Stencils, Mobiles, Cards, and More (Make Good: Crafts + Life)

If you like to cut paper, then this book is for you for when making a stencil, but not only. It has some great and easy instructions that will make you a professional paper cutter in no time. Also perfect if you want to get into origami.

But what does it have to do with stenciling really? Well, think about it - when you print out your design, you need to cut it, no two ways about it. And the better you are at precise cutting, the better your stencil - as intricate as you want it to be - will become.

 

Free Printable Stencils To Use In Your Projects

Free Printable Alphabet Stencils
Here you will find free printable alphabet stencils to download right to your computer. There are many ways that you can use these stencils to stretch your c...

Shamrock Stencil
Are you looking for a nice shamrock stencil to download? These stencils help create a festive St. Patrick's Day decoration for the home and are perfect for a...

Free Printable Number Stencils
There are many free printable number stencils you can choose from that are completely free, without having to buy them. Paying money for something that is fr...

Looking To Buy Ready-Made Stencils?

Here are some stencils that I have grouped in various categories. Click on each link to get all the available stencils to buy from that section.

Stencils For Furniture
When you're using stencils for furniture, you are transforming your old, boring and possibly bland furniture into a modern and fresh home d├ęcor element that ...

Paint Stencils For Walls
Paint stencils for walls are the cheaper alternative to rather expensive wallpaper and wall murals that is easy to apply on any wall in the house. Painting ...

Tree Stencils For Walls
Tree stencils for walls are a great and cheap alternative for redecorating your home walls. The added bonus is - you get to do a bit of DIY craft, and you ca...

Moroccan Wall Stencil
If you're looking for a beautiful Moroccan wall stencil that you can use to paint your walls in a new and eyecatching design, look no further! Here I have c...

Butterfly Stencils For Walls
Decorating the walls of your rooms, especially for the kids room, with butterfly stencils for walls is fun and a great way to add that extra touch to the wal...

Geometric Wall Stencils
Geometric wall stencils are really popular these days. And the good thing is - there are so many different geometric patterns and shapes, from ovals, rounds,...

Wall Border Stencils
Wall border stencils can be used in so many different ways. You can't use it along with other wall stencils to create unique designs and wall decorations, or...

Letter Stencils For Walls
Letter stencils for walls are a great way to add personalized quotes, notes and meaningful decorations to your walls. Also they are the low cost alternative ...

All Over Wall Stencils
All over wall stencils are the best way to go if you want to cover your entire wall with decorations. As opposed to merely using large stencils, which make h...

Flower Stencils For Walls
If you love flowers, or if your kids love flowers, then these flower stencils for walls will be just what you need to create a cheerful wall decoration in an...

25-Piece Brush Set, Stencil Pack

Loew Cornell 73 25-Piece Brush Set, Stencil Pack
Loew Cornell 73 25-Piece Brush Set, Stencil Pack

Something else I like using when my stencil is cut and prepared is this stencil pack. It comes with various size stencil brushes, sponges and sponge wedges. Perfect for crafts or for decorating the home.

 

Have You Ever Made A Stencil From Scratch?

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Any Tips To Share On How You Make A Stencil?

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    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      I am making stencils for my t-shirt project they are turning out amazing can wait to use them. The only tip I have is that I don't trace onto the stencil plastic, I tape my pattern to the back and cut through it it give much more accurate lines, At least for me every time I traced on I make is crooked.

    • GatorD profile image

      GatorD 4 years ago

      I don't have any tips on how to make a stencil, however, you have given me a great idea about how I can use a hand made stencil to "camouflage" my jeep. I want to use a fern pattern and i think I can easily create a stencil that i can reuse over and over to get the results I need. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I wish i could make my look so good like yours. Great work.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 4 years ago

      You make it look so easy. Congrats on LotD

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 4 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      Congrats on LOTD and Purple Star. Very thorough tutorial.

    • iamraincrystal profile image

      Rosyel Sawali 4 years ago from Manila Philippines

      I've got to try this! Thanks for the tips. ^_^ Congratulations on the LOTD!

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 4 years ago

      Actually I've never thought about using a computer to create a stencil. I generally find (or create) a design I like, then use a light table or window to trace the design onto thin poster board or clear plastic, then cut it out, etc. My best sources/inspirations for stencil patterns are arts & craft or art nouveau designs by William Morris or Vernuiel.

    • ruthclark3 lm profile image

      ruthclark3 lm 4 years ago

      I have used stencils for a long time, and usually make my own, but this lens gives me really great ideas and products that I can use for future projects. Thank you for an excellent lens.

    • profile image

      tssfacts 4 years ago

      I have used stencils for a very long time in many of my craft and quilting projects. I never took the time to create my own. Your instructions are so easy to follow I think I will make one for my next project that I do. Congratulations on our LOTD!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

      So glad I found this. Will try it with my computer. Well done.

    • profile image

      maranda-crosgo-9889 4 years ago

      I'm putting this on my list of hobbies. Wonderful lens!

    • profile image

      BarbsSpot 4 years ago

      Wow, this is a total clinic on stencil making and the how-to of the art of stencil using! I love using basic stencils to form backgrounds for the hand-crafted illustrations I use in my handcrafted books, but I see from this fantastic Lens that I've merely scratched the surface in this art form.

      Wonderful information! Thanks!

    • profile image

      artera 4 years ago

      Stencil is cool...i love it

    • profile image

      soaringsis 4 years ago

      Congratulations on your LoTD. Very help info. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Wowzers, i think you have all the bases covered here, what a great DIY and perfectly done in every way....congratulations on this very well deserved LotD and purple star, I am so pleased for you! :) FB loved and Scoop it!

    • Sara Krentz profile image

      Sara Krentz 4 years ago from USA

      I want to try this - thanks for the tutorial : )

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 4 years ago

      I love makin stencils, they can be used over and over

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 4 years ago from Pittsburgh

      This seems like a fun project. I'm looking to make a stencil to jazz up my mailbox. Great tips!

    • oddobjective profile image

      oddobjective 4 years ago

      Very interesting and helpful lens. Congratulations on being the LOTD!

    • profile image

      TopChristmasToysGifts 4 years ago

      Congratulations on Lens of Day. Always enjoyed stenciling with the kids but never thought of creating my own.

    • inspirationalmo profile image

      inspirationalmo 4 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD. I love stencils but have never made any myself.

    • katarinakat profile image

      katarinakat 4 years ago

      Great ideas. I will try some of them out.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      This lens certainly deserved being selected as LotD. Well done!

    • profile image

      lionmom100 4 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD. Very nice lens.

    • profile image

      BestGifts2U 4 years ago

      Stencils can be used for so many projects. I even learnt something new that my computer can do! Congrats on Lens of the Day!

    • nicenet profile image

      nicey 4 years ago

      Well done! Useful information for teachers like me.

    • WeeCatCreations1 profile image

      Susan Caplan McCarthy 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Congratulations on the LOTD. I usually use much simpler stencils; for example, I love using cookie cutters for their clear silhouettes.

    • thingz1 profile image

      thingz1 4 years ago

      Great info and easy to follow.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD. A very informative lens, thank you. I never knew about the threshold function in Photoshop that makes it so easy to turn coloured images into black and white.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      Look like a fun diy.

    • profile image

      MensAffairscom 4 years ago

      Very nice Lens and congrats. Very helpful tips. Thank you so much for sharing this

    • Mary Stephenson profile image

      Mary Stephenson 4 years ago from California

      Congratulations on LOTD. Looks like fun. Have made stencils for etching on glass.

    • profile image

      petermahfouz 4 years ago

      nice lens, i will try what you posted in your lens

    • maherars45 profile image

      maherars45 4 years ago

      nice lens, i never tried to create a stencil but i would like to try it

    • profile image

      anshu21 4 years ago

      Hello marciag. Great topic on making stencils. I enjoyed this lens. Actually I like to build stencils.Well I never had one. But surely it will help my designs.

    • squid-pinkchic18 profile image

      squid-pinkchic18 4 years ago

      This seems like a handy tutorial to have! I feel like I definitely wouldn't be able to do it as well as this though.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Looks like a very groovy project. Congratulations on getting LotD!

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image

      RaintreeAnnie 4 years ago from UK

      I like stencilling but have not made my own yet, however now I know how! Congrats on LOTD :)

    • Rock Artist profile image

      Rock Artist 4 years ago

      I use stencils to create my garden rocks (which I have written a lens on) most of the time. I love stenciling and never really thought about making my own but might try it now. Lots of great information here, thanks so much for sharing!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 4 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! Nicely done lens on this subject...Thanks for sharing! I have designed and made stencils for myself and others....but don't like applying (paint) them anymore, my arms and wrists are overworked from many years of decorating walls.

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 4 years ago from Kent, UK

      It's not something that has ever entered my head that i might need to do ... until today when I read this. Now to get started...

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Cool! Congratulations on your very crafty Lens of the Day!

    • mrdata profile image

      mrdata 4 years ago

      Very constructive lens! Congrats for your LOTD!

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 4 years ago from Houston

      Great job. I did sime stencils a long time ago.

    • tobydavis profile image

      tobydavis 4 years ago

      Fantastic idea and a great collection of comprehensive information for people interested in making Stencils :-)

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Marvelous tutorial! I've not made a stencil, just used one that was bought. Great for crafty people.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 4 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      I have not done it since being a teenager, but this reminded me how much fun it can be!

    • youthministry profile image

      Paul Turner 4 years ago from Birmingham, Al.

      This page is in depth and well thought out. Definitely share-worthy.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 4 years ago from USA

      Congratulations, this lens was selected as Lens of the Day today. You can read the write up at SquidooHQ: http://hq.squidoo.com/lotd/lens-of-the-day-how-to-...

    • MBurgess profile image

      Maria Burgess 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      I do free hand drawing and painting but If I wanted to do a specific pattern this would be a very handy project idea! Nice work! Congratulations on your LOTD and Purple Star awards! =)

    • profile image

      jura 4 years ago

      Never made a stencil this lens gave me idea i should try.

    • Jogalog profile image

      Jogalog 4 years ago

      This sounds like a really fun thing to try out. I haven't done any stenciling since I was little. Congratulations on LOTD!

    • worldflashpacker profile image

      worldflashpacker 4 years ago

      I love getting creative and I can now add stencils to my list of arts and crafts. Thanks for sharing.

    • VineetBhandari profile image

      VineetBhandari 4 years ago

      Very creative idea & easy to understand tutorial. :)

    • profile image

      miaponzo 4 years ago

      What an excellent tutorial for making a stencil.. very detailed, and easy to follow! Thanks!!!!

    • profile image

      LadyDuck 4 years ago

      Very useful lens and clear instructions

    • sapientzeal lm profile image

      sapientzeal lm 4 years ago

      Fun DIY and awesome lens!

      -SZ

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 4 years ago

      These stencil ideas are great, I love to use them for my card making projects. The printable stencils are some of the best ones because of the variety of designs.

    • criysto lm profile image

      criysto lm 4 years ago

      Thank you for all of the info. I should give it a try to make a stencil.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      I often make shape templates and stencils for creating metal clay jewelry. You've written a marvelous tutorial - thank you!

    • BestRatedStuff profile image

      BestRatedStuff 4 years ago

      Very clear instructions. Maybe my girls can use this for the unique stencils they were looking for.

    • Michelllle profile image

      Michelllle 4 years ago

      Neat. Looks like fun!

    • profile image

      topbuilderlist 4 years ago

      This could be a good project to try.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 4 years ago from UK

      Seems like I could use this approach in creating artist trading cards. I will be giving this a try - thanks

    • profile image

      moonlitta 4 years ago

      Stencils are tons of fun, you've made it apparent:)

    • sbaiju profile image

      sbaiju 4 years ago

      Really informative and great lens

    • profile image

      yidras 4 years ago

      interesting explanation, quite easy to be implemented. thank you

    • profile image

      trishafly 4 years ago

      Neat lens. This information will be a great help.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I need to learn how to do this and I am happy you have given detailed instructions.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 4 years ago

      Very cool! Not as complicated as I would have thought and a wonderful way to get truly one-of-a-kind stencils. Well done.

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 4 years ago

      You make creating your own stencil look so easy that even someone as craft-impaired as I am could do it!