How to cut a stencil the fast, fun and easy way!

How to Cut A Stencil... and other Tips, Tools, & Techniques!
Cutting Tools & Materials    General Stencil-Cutting Tips    Tips for Transfering Designs    Design Proofs   

General Stencil-Cutting Tips

When cutting with a stencil burner, hold it like a pen and trace over the design lines with the hot tip. Move the burner, not the stencil material (stencil material can be taped to the glass). Work in continuous strokes, completing the entire cutout of each area (for example, a whole leaf) before lifting up the burner tip. You may find that your cutting is steadier if you extend your pinkie finger and use its edge as a moving balancing point for your hand, keeping it about an inch from the burner tip. To protect the strength of the stencil, cut the smallest areas first, proceed by cutting the curved or jagged areas, then cut the straighter lines and larger areas.

Hold the stencil material tightly against the cutting surface. If it lifts while cutting with the stencil burner, some residue from the material may build up on the hot tip, resulting in a bit of smoke. (Use in a well-ventilated area!). This smoke is an indication that you should file the tip of the stencil burner with an emery board, metal nail file or sandpaper to keep the tip clean and sharp. Also file the tip whenever it feels like it is "dragging". Filing the tip may be done while the tip is hot.
*We recommend keeping an extra replacement tip taped to your metal burner stand, for a back-up.
For best results, store all stencil materials loosely rolled, away from direct sources of heat. If E-Z Cut Plastic seems to have a curl to it, roll it in the opposite direction and it will correct itself.

Tips for Cutting Repeating Stencils

To create a pattern that repeats or interlocks in an overall pattern: When laying out your pattern and drawing the design on the E-Z Cut, leave a margin (clear, undrawn area) of at least 2-3 inches on the beginning edge of the stencil so that you have room to draw 'registration marks'. The registration marks will be your guidelines for knowing where to line up the edge of the stencil during the stenciling process to create the next stenciled repeat. (It's better to have extra material at the edge and have to cut it off later than to have too little).

Border Stencils

Creating a 'border' stencil (vs. an all-over repeating design): Make sure that the top and bottom edges of E-Z Cut are very straight, and that the design on your paper is not crooked when aligned to the edges. Draw a full repeat of the design on the E-Z Cut. To line up the next repeat, 'fold/curl' the E-Z Cut into a roll so that the left and right ends overlap and you can see the design through the material. The layering should be with the clear/'undrawn' end overlapping (on top of) the design. If your top and bottom edges of E-Z Cut are straight, you will be able to line them up with each other (ex. one top edge overlapping the other end's top edge so that they line up evenly). To determine how closely you want the pattern to overlap or repeat, shift the 2 layers back and forth-- interlocking patterns will have a definite repeat distance, whereas more free-form designs will have more options here. Tape the top and bottom edges of the stencil material to each other to hold them securely in place, with the whole thing being a loop.

Trace the 'repeat' of the design onto the E-Z Cut. This will either be your 'registration marks' or a continuation of the design. 2 Options:
1) If you are cutting only one repeat of the design, do this next step with a red pen. Red means, "stop-- don't cut this area, it's for 'registration marks', not a cut-out stencil".
2) If you are cutting 2 or more repeats of the design on the stencil, do this next step with a green pen. Green means "go-- cut this area to create the stencil". Do this step repeatedly until you have the number of repeats you'd like drawn on the stencil. Now you need to do option 1 to finish your stencil: trace the end of the repeat with a red pen to create your 'registration marks'.

Once you have the registration marks drawn in red on the one end of the stencil material, remove the tape. To be able to see where the design repeats in the other direction, overlap the stencil ends with the OTHER end on top. Repeat the process of taping the top and bottom, and trace the end of the stencil with a red pen.

All-over/Damask Stencils:

When creating an all-over repeating design, you'll need to draw registration marks on the top and bottom of the design by rolling the E-Z Cut onto itself in the 'top-to-bottom' direction, in addition to the side-to-side direction as described in the 'Border' stencil example. This will allow you to line up the stencil accurately in any direction when you are stenciling!

Creating REALLY LARGE stencils: E-Z Cut Stencil Materials can be taped together to create huge stencils!

Sections of E-Z Cut or Heavy Duty E-Z Cut can be taped together with strong clear packing tape, (all along the whole length on both sides). Use a strong clear tape, the type used for assembling packing boxes. THEN cut the stencils with the stencil burner; it will cut through the tape easily. The 12-foot long stencils we created for the Albany Public Library Project worked beautifully and withstood strong windy conditions & snow when we were painting on the 3rd story of the outside of the library building. You probably wouldn't have to use such strong tape if you aren't going to be using your stencils in such a wild scenario!


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