First Tutorial: How to Make Your Own Stencils (and then stencil with ’em)

Look, do you really need another shirt in your life with a company logo on it? Why have that, when your duds could be adorned with anything you can find a simple picture of on the Internet? It’s pretty easy to do, with a little patience, and you’ll always have something unique, or at least unique-ish. Oh, and it’s cheap! Did I mention it’s cheap?

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • A garment or other textile object that’s in need of some pizazz
  • Fabric paint
  • A sponge (you can use the one from your sink if it’s getting tattered. Just rinse it first.)
  • rags, paper towels, or fingers for wiping excess paint
  • A piece of cardboard–from an old box is good
  • A piece of paper–preferably kind of sturdy
  • Scissors
  • A glue stick, like the kind from elementary school.
  • A computer with Internet access
  1. Prep your painting area. Put down some paper. Put some cardboard between the layers of your garment so that the paint won’t bleed through to the other side.
  2. Find a picture on the Internet that’s simple enough to trace onto a piece of paper and cut out. It should be a design that’s a clear silhouette. For example, this one: Look for copyright-free images if you’re going to be reselling this item. I made this one in Photoshop by filling in a picture to check that the outline was strong enough to define the object–in this case, a narwhal. (I love narwhals)
  3. Either print out the image or trace it directly from your computer screen, if you’re like me and are totally unaware of whether or not this is bad for it. Do it gently, just in case. My screen still works and I’ve done this a lot.
  4. Now, this is the tricky part. Using your scissors, make a small snip in the middle of your silhouette, like so:  That’s your starting point. Now, cut all the paper out from within the outline of the silhouette, being careful not to cut outside the lines or tear the paper. With a simple design, like a heart, this could take seconds. When I tried to cut out letters once (a big mistake) it took about twenty minutes and I had to use a needle instead. Don’t do that. If you’re going to do a word, or a letter, do it really big and just cut it out with scissors. Honestly. You’ll be glad you did.
  5. Now, check your design and make sure you’re still happy with it.
  6. Get out that glue stick and coat the back of the paper with glue. Then slap it down on your object, making sure that the fabric isn’t bunched up anywhere within the area of the stencil.
  7. Take the fabric paint and put it out in a little puddle, in an old yogurt lid or similar.
  8. Dip the sponge in the paint, scrape off any excess on the edge of the yogurt lid, and apply to the area inside the stencil in an even layer.
  9. Wait for the design to dry. This should take about 5 minutes, max. I usually end up just peeling the stencil right off, but that doesn’t mean you should. I’m impatient.
  10. Peel your stencil off. Voila!

As you can see, there’s still a little glue residue on my design. Don’t fret; glue stick glue is water-soluble. Be sure to let your design dry before washing the fabric.

And there you have it! A quick, easy way to jazz up everyday fabric items. If you do this project, feel free to send in pictures of your final results and I’ll post them in a gallery (with proper credit to you, of course.) Good luck!

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