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Stencilling (Sort of tutorial)


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So, you guys may have seen those stencils I posted in the General GFX Discussion Thread a week or so ago. Since then I've set my sights a bit higher and I'm currently doing a 4 layer colour stencil. I decided that since this is a first for me I'd keep a log of it and work it into a tutorial for those of you who want to have a go yourself.


Stage One: The Design

Most of us aren't lucky enough to be blessed with great drawing ability or vision, so you're most likely going to be creating your stencil from an existing image. I'm using Adobe Photoshop CS5 for this, so my directions will be specifically for that but you'll want the same end product no matter your method.


For my stencil I'll be using this picture:

user posted image

1. STFU she's awesome 2. Original is much larger


Firstly, you want to remove all the junk in the background that you don't want in you stencil. When you've got a relatively uniform background like this one, you can get rid of it quite easily by utilising both the magic wand tool and lasso tool, then deleting the selection.


user posted image

Then delete:

user posted image


This next step is all about making the image stencilable. This process usually involves a lot of artistic vision and painstaking trial and error. Well, either those thing or using built in photoshop features. Two such features that help are the Cutout filter (Filters>Artistic>Cutout) and the Posterize feature (Image>Adjustments>Posterize). Both features go some way to reduce an image down to basic colours and a small number of levels.


Firstly, Cutout:

Number of Levels: 3

Edge Simplicity: 3

Edge Fidelity: 3

user posted image


Then Posterize:

Levels: 2

user posted image


As you can see the image still has a number of grainy bits left in it. You can either edit these out with the paint brush and/or eraser tools, or you can leave it until the physical cutting stage and just ignore them, or you could just leave them in and go for a really tricky cut-out and an impressive stencil. I'm going for the second option: leave them in the image and ignore them while cutting.


Stage Two: Into the Real World

For this stage you'll need a bit of equipment:

•A very sharp craft knife of some description

•A material for your stencil. Ideally clear acetate plastic or stiff card. Numerous pieces, at least 1 for each colour in your stencil.

•A cutting board so you don't wreck your table. Mines a breadboard, 'cos I'm a jobless student

•A printer


You'll need to print off a number of copies of your stencil onto either paper (if you're using acetate as a stencil) or directly onto your stiff card (if your printer can handle it). If you can print directly onto acetate with some fancy printer, go for that instead. Print off one for each colour in the stencil and a few spares just in case because you will screw up at least once.


Now attach you paper image to your acetate in a firm way, tape around the edges or use some pritt stick. If you have some adhesive spray, this is a good thing to use and will also be extremely useful in later stages. I'll be using safety pins to pin the paper and acetate together, which I wouldn't really advise as it's problematic to get a good consistency.


My tools:

user posted image


Now simply cut out the areas of each particular colour onto a separate piece of acetate. occasionally you may need to create "bridges" where a section is intentionally not cut out to ensure that a larger area remains in the final stencil. This had to be done in the Red stencil for the areas beneath each arm, which I want to remain unpainted. This was done by creating a bridge from this area to the outer area across each wrists. Essentially I ensured I didn't slash her wrists.


Now, get cutting!


Done? Good. Here's a picture of my stencils after cutting. I decided half way through that it would be easier to do separate stencils for the facial features, as the paint order would have to messed up otherwise.

From left to right: White, Black, Yellow, Red

user posted image


Red is going to be the first layer I paint, my base layer, and as such it is essentially just a cutout of the whole stencil.


Stage Three: You Aren't Michelangelo

You've got your stencils. You've got your old clothes on (this may get messy). You've found some place where "going over the lines" might be acceptable. You are ready to paint.


Here's a pic of my supplies:

user posted image

That's two cans of Plasti Kote spray paint (Black and Red); red, yellow and white acrylics; a sponge for applying acrylics and some Fast Tak spray adhesive.


Initially, I was going to go for a mixture of spray paint (the traditional stencilling method) and acrylic approach. I did, however, forget that I'm terrible at spraying: I forgot to cover edges off of the stencil so ended up with some sort of border; I forgot that I was painting onto cardboard for a test run and therefore panicked once I realised my spray adhesive was going to rip it up so pull the stencil off too soon. This landed me with this for a base layer:

user posted image


It isn't too bad, especially at this resolution, but there was quite a bit of overspray at the bottom, and a lot of spots where paint had bled out due to me not leaving the stencil on for long enough after spraying. I decided to retry using just the acrylics and a sponge, and got this as my result:

user posted image

Much better, for a trial run on cardboard at least.


Now it's just a matter of making sure you line all the layers accurately, which is helped enormously if you tried to keep your stencils positioned consistently when cutting them out. It's not a big problem otherwise, you've just got to be careful.


As an example, here's the white layer acetate drying off between coats of paint. The red shone through the white quite a bit so I applied a few coats.

user posted image

That's flash glare in the centre by the way, it was getting dark in the garage by then.


After applying both the white and yellow layers:

user posted image

Safety pins pictured are what I used to keep the acetate in place after the spray adhesive debacle.


It starts to come together with the black layer:

user posted image


The first face layer goes on:

user posted image


Swiftly followed by the other face layers, taking the creation into a state of completion:

user posted image


I'll be the first to admit that it's far from perfect, but it is my first stencil with more than one layer and I think it's a pretty good effort, especially considering I've only done a handful of single layer stencils anyway. I'm thinking of putting it onto one of the small old canvases we've got hanging around in the garage over hte next week or so if I can get around to it.


I'd love to see if any of you guys have done any, and if this should really be in the Reqs and tuts forum I'll get it moved. I put it here 'cos it isn't really "GFX" but rather real world stuff.



user posted image
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looks pretty good! icon14.gif
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Just fantastic icon14.gif I love it, I think I kinda knew it before, but damn, I really didn't think it would look so great. I might try it out if my old graffiti cans, from the days iv'e been making graffiti, aren't empty.

Oh and, shouldn't it be in GFX requests and tutorials?

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That is fantastic. I might try out something like this. icon14.gif

Edited by The Guru

The butcher, the baker, time to meet your maker

Tell you to your face, you ain't nuttin but a faker

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