I love spray-painting, like I seriously love it. The rush of finding a good spot to tag, the thrill of having to sneak in and out of an area you just vandalized. Even cutting the stencil out is fun to me. Today I’m going to show you exactly how I go about preparing a stencil and spraying it.
The first step is choosing a design. There are multiple ways to choose and design a stencil. My preferred method is hand-drawn. When it comes to stencils, there are a couple rules to its design. The first rule is the size. A stencil can be as large or as small as you wish, but the smaller it is the less detail it can have.
The second thing to understand is the concept of islands. In regards to geography, an island is a body of land surrounded on all sides by water. In stencils the same is true, an island is any part of the stencil not connected to another piece, surrounded by blank space. When you are cutting a stencil, every piece must be connected to the rest of the stencil. If you have any sections completely unconnected, it’s considered an island. Once you cut it, it will fall out and leave a gaping hole in the design.
This is why I prefer to hand draw most of my stencils, so I can insert my own line breaks wherever I choose and make the cutting of the stencil easier. With that understanding, the design comes next. For this walk through I chose a simple design of a face…..with a sweet soul patch. You will need a marker (I use Sharpies) and an X-acto knife. I like to start by drawing out the lines I am going to cut. I draw them thicker than I would for a normal drawing because they will be cut with an X-acto knife and sprayed with spray paint. I start with the eyes, and then from there the nose, mouth, ears, and other features. This particular stencil is a very simple one. Typically I use file folders for my stencils because they are cheap, easy to cut, and surprisingly durable. You can buy a pack of them for about a dollar, and they hold up spray after spray. Another material you can use is called oil board. I like to hand draw my design on the file folder/ oil board, and once its complete I begin the cutting. The sharper your X-acto knife, the easier the cutting is. I have used dull ones before and they work, but they make the job harder than it needs to be. I start cutting at the top of the design and work my way down. The more material you cut away, the weaker it becomes so you have to hold sections down with your hands to keep them from ripping or from cutting the wrong section. I suggest using a cutting mat you can get at a hobby store, or a hard wooden surface. Take your time and be careful because an X-acto knife is basically a scalpel and will slice you wide open. Once your design is cut it is time to spray. If you are going to a place you maybe aren’t supposed to go (not that I am advocating that) I recommend you wear latex or nylon gloves. Spray paint tends to get on your fingertips and this is excellent evidence if caught spraying somewhere. Now with your gloves on, you need to find a location. Preferably somewhere no one would care about or somewhere nobody would immediately notice. I prefer dumpsters, abandoned buildings, and the occasional power box. With a location secured and your gloves on, it is time to spray. If you are going for a quick, raw look, then just hold it against the surface of whatever you are painting and spray away. If you want to be more precise and artsy about it, then I recommend using blue painter's tape, taping your stencil to the surface, and using extra on the edges to avoid over-spray. With this done its time to shake up your can and go to town. When spraying, be careful not to over saturate the stencil, as this could cause the paint to run and the stencil to be so wet that you can’t reuse it. If you want to be super artsy and are worried about over-spray, you can use the blue painter's tape to tape the edges and a little beyond the stencil so when you spray it you don’t get paint all over whatever it is you are spraying on. Boom. You are done, and hopefully you didn’t get arrested in the process. Now stencils are an incredibly diverse means of making art. You can add as many different layers as you want to make the design as complex as you desire. They also work on more than walls and dumpsters. Personally I like to use them on canvasses for my paintings. With a stencil, your line-work can be steadier and way cleaner than you could do freehand.
It’s also easy to make two layer stencils. I took a one layer face stencil I made, sprayed it on another file folder, and then cut around the outside of the stencil. Now you can spray a base color, spray the lines over top of it, and add depth and color to a simple one layer stencil.
Throw in some paint marker details and white highlights and boom, you have a detailed, certified piece of art. Banksy would be jealous of your skills. Of course there is a much much much easier way to go about creating stencil art. Just go to www.stenciltiger.com and check out the plethora of pre-made stencil designs they have, or submit one of your own to have custom stencils made.
Its that f@#$%&g simple.