what is stenciling?

Discover Your Inner Artist

This is your first step to creating art with stencils!

So, what exactly are stencils? Think of a stencil as a series of holes cut into a sheet of resilient, waterproof material (like paper or plastic). When paint is applied through the cut-out areas to the surface beneath, an image is formed. A stencil can be used to draw or paint identical shapes, letters, patterns or symbols.

Open sections of the stencil are called islands. These are the areas that allow color to be applied on the surface under the stencil. Bridges are the stencil material that separates the islands and keeps the shape of a stencil. These areas block color or paint from reaching the surface.

So, now you know about stencils. But, what is stenciling? Stenciling is the creation of an image through the application of color on a stencil and through the removed sections (islands), leaving a reproduction of the image on the underlying surface. This can also be referred to as stencil painting.

Whew! There’s the definition. I hate definitions. I like visuals (if you haven’t figured that out yet you will soon).

Adding Color to a Stencil Design

Here's what the stencil example from above looks like when you apply paint:

Stencils allow us to decorate with our own personal style even if we are not Leonardo da Vinci (or Picasso - if that’s more your style). If you find it difficult to sit down with paints and brushes and come away with a picture you’re satisfied with, then stencils are for you. They eliminate problems with proportion (a fleur de lis will always be perfectly symmetrical), or perspective (objects will be consistent in depth or dimension and show whether they are near or far).

With stencils, you decide where you want an image and you pick the colors. You are the designer of your project. It’s just that you have a little help along the way. And don’t worry - I won’t tell anyone.

Halloween and Thanksgiving Crafts

Of course, as you gain experience with stenciling the art you create can evolve from a silhouette type image (like the frog above) to a more complex image (like the Angel below). That's the difference between Single Overlay Stencils and Multiple Overlay Stencils. The Frog is a Single Overlay Stencil and the Angel is a Multiple Overlay Stencil.

When you're ready, go to the article on Single and Multiple Overlay Stencil Patterns to get a better idea of the differences and how they can be used in your art projects. I've added a few links to help you on this new adventure to create art! Enjoy!

If you want to continue your Stencil Education then click here to go back to How To Stencil.

Happy Stenciling,