Making your own stencils

Making your own stencils

To make your own stencils, you will need oiled stencil board or heavy acetate film, a sharp modelling knife or scalpel, a felt-tip pen to draw your design on to stencil board, or an Indian ink pen or Chinagraph pencil for acetate, and a sheet of hardboard or heavy glass (beware sharp edges) upon which to cut. Transfer your design with carbon paper, if you are using card. Acetate has the advantage of being transparent, so you can simply trace it and cut it out carefully with the knife. Multi-coloured designs that need a separate sheet for each colour are easiest to do with clear film.


Another method of repeating a design on a large expanse, such as a length of curtain fabric or the walls of a room, is to print with a block. You need to

cut your pattern on something flexible and resilient -for a small design, you can use an ordinary pencil rubber, a synthetic sponge, or even a potato. Cut a surface pattern with a modelling knife, dip the block lightly in paint and print on to the prepared surface. Small motifs – of leaves or stars – printed in this way are fine for a border.

For something larger you can manufacture a more ambitious block yourself from a chunky off-cut of wood, on to which you stick string or heavy piping cord, following the outlines of your design and filling it in with concentric lines. Hard blocks will work best on smooth, fiat walls that will take a clear image, although you can always touch up minor flaws later with a brush. For walls with a much rougher surface, opt for a softer block made from a sponge.

A thick paint gives the best results with blocking. Try children’s PVA paint as an alternative to household paints, or lino-printing ink for surfaces that are non-absorbent. For fabrics, use acrylic or oil paints, or paints that are specifically for fabrics. As always, experiment with different paint and colours.

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