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Making Stencils from Photos


With this simple technique from artist Stella Metzner of Spacecraft, it's easy to create custom stencils using your favorite photographs.

Tools and Materials

  • Photograph
  • Black permanent marker
  • Tracing paper or vellum
  • Stencil film
  • Craft knife
  • Masking tape
  • Item for stenciling: tote bag, card, favor bag, etc.
  • Spray paint for fabric or paper

Stencil How-To
1. Choose an image for the stencil with an unobstructed subject and moderately high contrast (prominent highlights and shadows).

2. Use a black permanent marker to trace shadows under neck, eyes, eyebrows, nose, and lips.

3. Place a piece of tracing paper or vellum over image. With a permanent marker, trace the outlines from the photo onto the tracing paper, and fill in. Since this is a good representation of how the finished stencil will look, use the tracing paper to decide which areas of the traced image "work." Use an "X" to mark any areas you want to omit from final stencil.

4. Place stencil material over tracing paper and trace final image onto stencil with permanent marker.

5. Cut out shapes from stencil with a craft knife.

6. Tape stencil onto item you wish to decorate. Mask off any exposed areas outside the stencil with tape or paper. Spray stencil with spray paint appropriate for the item (fabric paint, paper paint, etc.). Let dry and carefully peel off stencil.

Blue stencil film available from Blick Art Materials, Amazon, and most crafts stores. Smooch Spritzer spray paint for paper available from The Craft Barn, Amazon, and most crafts stores. Simply Spray soft fabric paint available from Amazon.

The Martha Stewart Show, Episode 5128

Reviews (6)

  • jillybean2 20 Nov, 2011

    I've used old x-ray films for the stencils...

  • Bettaboo 28 Mar, 2011

    I'm guessing you could use an exacto knife to cut the stencil. :)

  • cori08 3 Jul, 2010

    what do you use to cut the stencil?

  • reginaharris 28 Jun, 2010

    Great Idea !

  • mitzii 29 Apr, 2010

    How well do these images wash?

  • Esquire 9 Apr, 2010

    Loved this concept. Would like to know how to do this with my animal photos.