Stencil Basics

Classic steps by Stencil Pirates author Josh MacPhee

Starting materials: A piece of cardstock (like a manila file folder works for small stencils).

You can either sketch out your idea on the cardstock, or copy a picture out of a book and glue it to the cardstock.

Cutting the stencil out is probably the hardest part, both the actual cutting with the knife, and deciding which parts of your image to cut out. The main key to doing this well is practice, practice, practice.

Once your stencil is cut, use the paint to make a trial print of it on paper. This way, you can test the paint and fix anything you don’t like before you’re out on the street.

Wear clothes that don’t stand out, and preferably, have big enough pockets to hold a can of paint. Make sure you are comfortable in whatever you wear.

Next, you need something to carry your stencils in. A folded newspaper is probably the easiest, buy you can also make more complicated carriers with pizza boxes, art portfolios, grocery bags, etc.

Some people like to paint really late at night. Other prefer the early evening or Sunday afternoons. Generally, by the time anyone figures out what you are doing, you’ll be gone. Move fast and don’t stay on the same street for too long. You can go out with a lookout for cops, and a girl/boy pair can be good because you can look like an innocent couple.

The most important guideline is to do what you are comfortable with, and start small and work you way up. Stick to side streets before you‚Äôre painting off the roofs of fast-food restaurants. Try some 8 1⁄2 x 11 text stencils before you move on to three-color, four-foot images. Text taken from justseeds.