Stencils – How to Make Your Own



Art Journal Page; Spray Ink; Pen and Ink;
                 “Go Gently” ©2016 Tracey Hewitt Art Journal Page with hand cut stencils

Stencil Love

During art journal classes, the one thing that everyone seems to have great fun with is stencils.  Spraying ink over stencils, and rubbing back paint through stencils is one of the first lessons I teach in art journal class. It’s quick, easy, effective and seems to unleash our inner child faster than anything.

There are endless suppliers of ready-made stencils – just Google ‘stencils’  and you could disappear for a week checking them all out, and still not have exhausted the possibilities. But, for artwork that is uniquely yours, with the fun level only stencils can provide, cutting your own is the way to go.


handcut stencils made by drawing the stencil design onto copy paper, laminating and cutting design with a stanley knife
Hand cut Stencils


 I’ve tried all sorts of material to cut stencils from, some more successful than others. Template plastic (a refugee from my patchwork days) worked well, but was murder on the fingers to cut, and so hard to get a knife through, crisp detail was hard to achieve. Manila folders work OK for one or two uses. Much easier to cut, but once they’re wet with ink or paint, the light cardboard buckles and tends to fall apart pretty quickly.

Enter laminated copy paper! I guess I must have been doing a bunch of laminating for something, and I wondered if maybe this might work well? Turns out it does. I’m not sure how long these will last, I suspect that ultimately the laminate may let go, but they’ve survived one round of art journal classes in tact, so I’m feeling hopeful.


How It’s Done

Grab a sheet of ordinary copy paper

Draw your design – make it simple, and remember that you need to leave some ‘veins’ or connecting pieces, or you’ll just end up with one big hole. A series of simple shapes – squares, triangles, circles – repeated many times are some of the most effective stencils you can use.

Whack the sheet with your hand drawn design through the laminator. I’m lucky to have one here in my office. If you are seriously deprived and don’t own one, try an office supply store or perhaps your local school or printing works. They’ll probably have a small charge, but it will be pittance compared to buying ready-made stencils.

Grab a Stanley knife, self-healing mat and a cuppa (probably not a wine – though I have done that, and the stencil and I lived to tell the tale) and settle in to cut out all the little pieces of your design. Remember – you need to leave little ‘bridges’ in more intricate designs.

Give your fingers a bit of a massage. While the laminated sheet is much easier to cut through than some stencil material, by the time you carefully cut out all the bits, you’ll still be a little tender in the digits

Pull out the spray inks and paints and get cracking on experimenting with your new hand cut stencil, by laying the stencil down over your page which has a bit of background colour on it, and spraying some ink over the stencil onto the page. Carefully lift off the stencil, and Viola! (Have a spare sheet or journal handy to mop up the ink from the stencil after you remove it)



A Mask is a Stencil in Reverse


Art Journal Page with spray ink
Payton and Pa Mask


Silhouettes make great stencils, too. As well as eliminating the anxiety about leaving little bridges and connecting bits, if you are careful as you cut, you will end up not only with a stencil, but also the piece you cut out ever so carefully, which can be used a mask. For this one of Payton and Pa, I printed a photo onto copy paper, laminated it and cut out around the outline, yielding a positive and negative image. A stencil and a mask. Lay the mask (the cutout piece) over a page with a background already laid down, spritz spray ink over the mask, carefully lift the mask off, and there you have it – Payton’s first horse ride with her Pa frozen in time, and spray ink!

There’s a bunch of ways you can incorporate stencils into your creations… this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. You can give yourself a little detective challenge and see if you can spot where I’ve used stencils on the works in the Art Journal Pages Gallery. Or, have some fun in an Art Journaling Workshop with me!






Junction Park Mosaic Mural – A Theodore Community Arts Project

posted in: Community, Design, Mosaic | 2
Amanda Whitney (totally amazing Community Development Officer) and I finally get to relax and admire our handiwork!
For you special souls who visit the blog regularly, here is the explanation for the lack of regular postings lately.
Our mosaic wall. That’s the reason. It was a big part of our lives for a while. It’s finished. Can you hear the heavy, satisfied, exhausted, slightly sad sigh?
That was fun. Full on, and at times overwhelming and a bit scary, but fun. Amanda, our very dedicated Community Development Officer approached me, what seems like years ago now – oh hang on, it was in fact two years ago – with the offer of a wonderful creative opportunity. Would I be interested in creating a design for a mosaic work for our community, and acting as the local coordinator for the Banana Shire Council ? I’m so glad I said yes! Though there may have been moments in the ensuing couple of years when I seriously questioned my faith in my own capabilities, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
This is why:
Theodore locals turned out in force to work on a piece of the mosaic that they’ll feel forever connected to.

It’s no secret I love our little town and the people who call it home. Sandy Robertson and her wonderful hubby Dave came from Ozmosaics in Brisbane, bearing tools and tiles and other treats; and spent the next seven days showing over 60 Theodore locals the ‘how to’ of mosaics. No small accomplishment considering that of those 60, maybe 2 had any previous experience of mosaics. That’s one of the things I love about this place – people get involved. Even after hearing me on Jacquie Mackay’s ABC Radio interview, they still came! To stand in the middle of the shed, and look around at the absorption on people’s faces, listen to the stories being shared, the laughter, see the sense of satisfaction when they looked at what they’d accomplished; was a great privilege and tremendous buzz.

Black Cockatoos, Saratoga fish, Tawny Frogmouth Owls (totem of the Wulli Wulli people), Fitzroy Bottom Breathing Turtles and the Livistonia Palm – all locals themselves – are depicted on one side of the wall.
After working on the mosaic (I have to add that ‘work’ doesn’t quite feel like the right word) for 7 days on tables in the shed, we had a break for a couple of weeks, and Sandy and Dave returned, to glue the mosaic onto the wall that had been purpose built in Junction Park, one of Theodore’s loveliest spots. A green, leafy, tree studded park, flanked by the Dawson River and Castle Creek; this location was the inspiration for the design. 

Bottle Trees, wheat, cotton, a water wheel, a cow and a slightly abstracted version of the water tower and town main street complete the other side.
Sandy’s inextinguishable energy carried us along, as we glued, patched, grouted, cleaned, laughed and shared endless stories. She even showed us her clever secrets to create three dimensional effects with the tiles, as well as the plates and bowls that were donated by the community.

We loved our brass plaques acknowledging ‘those who made this project possible’ including the State and Federal  Governments, Operation Queenslander, and the Banana Shire Council

These loose circular shapes on the ends represent the stacks of timber from the local sawmill, and  also reference the many  circular traffic islands in Theodore’s main street.

I have a confession. I drive down to the park, just to look at this wall. The resident Grey Nomads in their  camper vans possibly think I’m stalking or something. Every time I look at it, I find myself thinking of Jeanie working on the water wheel, Diana creating amazing birds, Lotte bringing the bottle tree to glorious life, Jim laying roadway…. I could go on, and on, and on…… but I’m pretty sure you’ve got better things to do than listen to me list where 60 individuals laid their tiles. But the point is, I know, and I will always remember. From our youngest kids and oldest residents who created sweet, five petalled flowers that create a special background; to the brave souls who didn’t believe they could do it, but discovered that rivers and leaves and green rolling hills were not beyond them at all, this wall has the hearts of a whole community cemented right into it.

One of our talented locals, Kelly, showed up with this amazing cake collection  as we were finishing off the wall.

This Thank you is for them. And for our mosaic artist extraordinaire Sandy and Dave, whose DNA is in this wall – literally. Sandy bled into it more than once! For Community Development Officer Amanda, without whose vision and efforts this would never had come to life. For Laticrete – ceramic tile and stone installation products manufacturers –  who very generously donated all the glues, cements and grouts we would need for the project, and to everyone who supported, encouraged and shared in any part of the process. I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity, and beyond delighted with the results. One day, the grout might even come out from under my fingernails!