How to Make a HUGE stencil for under $15

It’s no secret that making stencils is something of a hobby of ours. We have made SEVERAL of them throughout history of All Things Thrifty. We made a stencil out of clear folders waaaaay back when, and we’ve even made a stencil out of a binding cover with my trusty Silhouette machine. BUT- I have never been COMPLETELY happy with the process and/or result. The folder stencil took a million hours to make and my hand was ready to be amputated when I got done cutting that bad boy out. AND, the binding-cover stencil was great, but it was too flimsy. In fact, I broke the stencil half way through the first project I used it on.

So, as you can see, we’ve been around the block a time or two with stencils.

Similar to other things in life, the more you do it, the better you get at doing it. Practice makes perfect, my Mom would say. I wouldn’t say that we have “perfected” the process by any means, but I am really excited at how this stencil turned out.  Of course, like any other project around here, we had a few PROJECT fails that we will share so that you won’t make our same mistakes. You’re welcome.

So….if you have a stencil project on your to do list, this post is just for you.  How-to-make-a-hug-stencil

Like I mentioned above, the first time we made a stencil, we used folders from the office supply store. The problem with the folders is that it is HARD to cut. It took me HOURS to cut out that bad boy. In fact, it was soooo time consuming that I vowed I would never do it again. So, I purchased a stencil cutter in hopes to lessen the cutting time. But, stay tuned for some insight about the stencil cutter.

Before you can even start with the cutting of your stencil, you need to know the materials you will need to make your own.

Stencil Making Supplies:

Some sort of craft cutting mat and blade {I use an OLFA cutting mat and rotary cutter}.

Access to a large lamination machine {I used one at a local print shop} THIS IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS!

Your stencil pattern printed out in the actual size you want it to be. I also had the local print shop print this out for me. {Check out these FREE stencil designs.} I got this particular design from my good friend Sarah Dorsey. She will be selling a similar stencil soon, so I can’t share this exact image out of respect for Sarah.

A box knife

A fine tipped sharpie marker

Before you get started making the stencil, you need to decide what size you want your stencil to be. I couldn’t decide and since I am a visual person, I printed three different sizes. I know, I’m a freak. But, I have to stand back and see the space in order to make a decision! So….I chose the middle size!

how-to-make-a-stencil (3) how-to-make-a-stencil (1) how-to-make-a-stencil (2)

WARNING: DO NOT buy Martha Stewart Stencil Film. I’m normally a fan of Martha’s products, but this resulted in a HUGE project fail for me. It is waaaaay too thin for this type of project. I wish I could have my three hours back. We trashed the entire project and had to start completely over.

martha stewart stencil filmhow-to-make-a-stencil IMG_5899

After you decide the size of stencil you need, head to a local print shop and have them print you the correct size. They should be able to print you a black and white image for super cheap. Mine was around $3.00.

Then , I had the nice peeps at the print shop run their lamination machine with nothing inside. Yep, just melt the material together and watch the magic. NOTE: There are different thicknesses of lamination. I didn’t choose the thinnest option. It was a little thicker, BUT, when they got done, I even had them run the lamination through again. I wanted it to be thick enough so that the stencil didn’t curl up, and after it got done for the second time, it was PERFECT. It cost right around $2.00 a foot.

You may need to have the print shop peeps do more lamination sheets for you to piece it together. It will depend on the size of your stencil. My stencil was 30 inches by 30 inches and the lamination materials were only 24 inches wide. So, we pieced it together with clear packing tape. {This will obviously depend how wide the lamination machine is at the print shop}.

Cut your lamination material to fit your stencil image perfectly. I used an OLFA cutter.

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Next, lay your lamination material over the top of your stencil image and tape them both down with painter’s tape. You don’t want your image or stencil to shift during the tracing process. how-two-make-a-stencil (5)

Start tracing with a fine tip sharpie marker. When you are making a stencil you need to pay attention to what tiny connecting parts hold the stencil together. In our design, these spaces were ITSY, so we left a little extra space where we needed to so that we didn’t slip and ruin the stencil while we were cutting it out. how-two-make-a-stencil (6)

We used a ruler so that the lines were perfectly straight. how-two-make-a-stencil (7)

Look how great it looked when we got done!how-two-make-a-stencil (8)

We tried the stencil cutter first because honestly I thought it would be the easiest/best option. But, after a few minutes, we realized that the stencil cutter was leaving a ragged edge on the stencil. We wanted the edge to be perfectly smooth, so we decided to try a box cutter.  how-two-make-a-stencil (14)

It was a MILLION times better and EASIER than the stencil cutter. We even tried the exacto knife, and the box knife still won. We cut the stencil on our tile so that it wouldn’t damage the carpet. how-two-make-a-stencil (15)

It was the perfect stencil material and cutting plan. It worked perfectly! We had a small learning curve, but we now know the very best way to make a stencil! how-two-make-a-stencil (19)

We painted the entryway white to make the stencil POP. Check out the entire entryway makeover!

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It really was the perfect stencil-making materials. It was MUCH better than the folders or the binder covers from our past projects!
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After we stenciled the wall, we went through with a small paint brush and connected all small connections.
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I know you have already seen this project, but I can’t help showing it ONE more time! The stencil was inspired by Sarah Dorsey a super talented friend of mine. In fact, Sarah is going to be selling stencils similar to these in the next week or so! As soon as they are ready I will post a link!  Isn’t that FABULOUS news!?!

Happy Monday!

Comments

  1. 1
    Sarah Christensen says:

    Hi Brooke! I love the way this turned out!! I am so excited to try this! I’ve been wanting to stencil my entry way for a long time! When you taped the stencil to the wall, did you use the spray adhesive as in your precious stencil post as well, or did you just tape it tight? Thanks for all of your wonderful posts!!

    • 2

      Hi Sarah! Yes, we used spray adhesive on the back and resprayed it about every other stencil. It makes it much easier to get the stencil to stay in the right place! Good luck on your project! Send me pictures when you are done!

  2. 3

    Am I missing something? Why wouldn’t you just laminate the the stencil and cut out the necessary parts? It seems like tracing the pattern onto the blank laminate is just adding an extra step. Unless the problem is that your stencil is too big for the laminator…

    • 4

      Hi Teresa,
      This is a great question! There are a couple of reasons why we decided against this option. First of all, you need to be able to see through the stencil so that you can line up the middle X on the wall. It really helps to get the stencil level and centered. If the design was laminated inside, the stencil wouldn’t be transparent anymore. It would be white because of the design print. It also helps to be able to see through the stencil as you are lining up the next stencil designs around the first pattern. Also, the pattern was so large that the printed design wouldn’t fit into the lamination machine all at once. It would have to be cut and laminated separately. Like anything else, there are multiple ways to do things, and if you decide to try it, let me know how it goes!

    • 5

      as a former teacher who has done my fair share of laminating I can let you know one additional reason why laminating the actual image probably wouldn’t work. the laminate needs to be able to melt to itself. that’s what seals in whatever you are laminating. if you even trim the laminate too close to the edge of the paper underneath (especially if the machine didn’t get hot enough) it will usually peel completely off.

  3. 6

    This is awesome, I too have made many stencils and hated they way they came out, my last run with making a stencil I used my wood burning tool that came with a stencil tip. It worked ok, but ughh the smell of burning plastic was gross, I will give this a try, thanks for sharing :)

  4. 7

    This is awesome, I too have made many stencils and hated they way they came out, my last run with making a stencil I used my wood burning tool that came with a stencil tip. It worked ok, but ughh the smell of burning plastic was gross, I will give this a try, thanks for sharing :)

  5. 8

    Thank you so much for the detailed instructions. I love your stencil and that you share your talent and experience shows your generous spirit.

  6. 9

    WOW- that is a project- love how it turned out.

  7. 10

    Awesome awesome info!! Thank you for the lamination sheet from your local printer tip to be your material….that is pure genius!-aimee

  8. 11

    GENIUS Brooke!

  9. 12

    This is awesome! Your entryway looks INCREDIBLE and I can’t believe you made the stencil for so little money! Awesome post! : )

    -Mel the Crafty Scientist

  10. 13
    Jackie B says:

    Thanks for the tips! I love the stenciling on the entryway wall. It’s a nice change!

  11. 14

    Hi Brooke!

    I love this idea. Except that you chose a stencil that had a lot of large and straight details which would make cutting with a box knife on the simple side. The stencil template ideas you gave have a lot of intricate details. I imagine it wouldn’t be possible to use a box knife to cut all those curvy parts out?

    Carrie

  12. 16

    Thanks for sharing! I have purchased stencils and been frustrated with how thin they are. Can’t wait to try your idea!

  13. 17

    Hi Brooke – I have been wanting to do this EXACT same project with that stencil! I was racking my brain to think of how and now I have it. I may be taking on this project ASAP.

    I’m totally in love with that stencil pattern. I’ve seen it everywhere, on rugs, wallpaper, all kinds of things. Soon it will be on my wall – woot!

  14. 19

    You are a genius! Thanks for sharing!

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