After writing my previous post I decided to do a little how-to on stencilling. I used to do a lot of ‘graffiti-style’ stencilled t-shirts, tea towels, aprons, and pillowcases. It’s pretty simple but it can be time consuming so be patient!
Light coloured fabric (smoother textures work best)
Fabric fixative (this is by the Matisse brand. Jo Sonja’s textile medium works as well)
Permanent marker (if you’re drawing your stencil)
Sponge (I like using sea sponges because they have a nice texture, but any sort of sponge will work)
Preparing an image
If you are drawing your own design, simple is always best. I usually sketch out my idea in pencil first.
Then I block in the black sections which will be cut out, and trace the image onto an acetate sheet.
If you are basing your stencil on a photograph, it’s best to simplify the image on a program like Photoshop. Turn the photo into a black and white image and then heighten the exposure until the shadows are dominant. Print the image onto acetate (if your printer doesn’t take acetate you can easily print the image on paper and then trace onto the acetate).
For example, if I want to create a stencil of the Mighty Boosh, which I have :), I want the original image to be simplified from this:
Cutting your stencil
Once you have prepared your image, cut out the black areas or shadows with a scalpel. Because you are using acetate, your stencil will be reusable and you will only need to do this once.
If you find it too tedious to cut your own stencil, there are a lot of pre-cut stencil books you can buy that are ready to go. The only downside to this is that a lot of the stencils are cardboard and only good for a few prints. They eventually get soggy and curl up as they dry making them difficult to reuse.
Preparing the fabric
If you are using freshly bought fabric, it will have a product called ‘sizing’ in it. The sizing is designed to rinse out of the fabric first wash. Make sure you wash your fabric before stencilling it. If you don’t, your image will be erased the first time you put it in the machine along with the sizing.
After washing and drying, tape down your fabric to keep it still. If you are stencilling a tshirt or pillowcase, make sure you put a bit of cardboard inside to prevent the paint bleeding through. Mask off every area you don’t want the paint to touch.
Stencilling the fabric
Following the instructions on the bottle, mix fabric fixative into acrylic paint to turn it into permanent fabric paint. It’s a good idea to test out the consistency of the mixture on a bit of scrap material so you can tell if it is too runny and likely to bleed under the stencil.
Collect some of the mixture with a sponge and dab lightly over the stencil while holding it steady with your free hand. Keep dabbing until the entire stencil is covered.
Once you have finished stencilling, carefully peel off the acetate and leave the paint to dry.
If you want to touch up some areas, go back with a fine paintbrush and carefully paint in the missing details using the left over fabric fixative mixture.
Heat setting the image
Once your image is dry, cover it with a sheet of cotton and iron it on a low setting. Usually the fabric fixative container will have instructions on correct temperatures and procedures.
Now your image is permanent!
I hope this has been an informative first tutorial and that it’s given you (and me) some insight into what is possible with stencilled images.