If you’re one of the artsy types of people who like to make DIY home décor and decorative signs, you’ll know what a stencil is. Using a properly designed stencil, you can paint and create impressions on any surface or material.
You can even etch your favorite design or print out your desired words on a hard surface with paint using a stencil.
One of the best ways to make a unique and personalized stencil is by cutting it out of vinyl sheets. You can then stick the stencil to any surface of your choice and paint over it to get a perfect rustic design. This process is not only super-effective but also easy on the budget.
However, you need to have a few specialized pieces of equipment, nothing too fancy. Since you’re already somewhat a DIY crafter yourself, you might have most of these tools lying around.
In this article, we bring you a step-by-step guide on how to make a vinyl stencil. Let’s get right to it, shall we?
How to Make a Vinyl Stencil like a pro
Making a vinyl stencil is very easy using dedicated software and machine. You’d need to have specialized software like Design Space and a device like Cricut or Silhouette Cameo to begin.
You can purchase the machine online or at any DIY craft store. We recommend Cricut as that is what we found the easiest.
We’ll also be using Cricut and Design Space in this tutorial. But feel free to follow along with any machine or software of your choice.
You can find everything you need to know about Cricut machines here and all the details about downloading the Design Space Software here.
After you’ve set it up, you can start making your Vinyl Stencil right away!
What You’ll Need
Like we said, making a stencil doesn’t need fancy tools or gadgets. Here’s a concise list of all the equipment you’ll require:
- Cricut machine with Design Space installed on your computer
- Vinyl Sheet (Cricut Vinyl or Oracle 631)
- Cutting Mat
- Small Scraper
- Weeding Tool
- Wooden board or a surface for applying the stencil
Make sure you have all of these ready and prepared before moving on to the next step. You’ll need each tool at distinct phases of the whole tutorial. So, you better keep them handy!
Creating The Design Using Design Space
After you’ve downloaded and installed the software, launch Design Space on your computer and open up a New Project. This will create a blank canvas for you to create your design.
You can pretty much use any design or image to make your stencil. But for this tutorial, we’re going to focus on lettering.
After you’ve decided what you want the stencil to say, type it out on the blank canvas using your keyboard. Choose a suitable font.
A good idea is to choose script fonts with cursive letters. This will enable you to weld the letters together into one single stroke.
Welded letters are especially helpful in creating stencils since you can cut them out together, and they look pretty nice all in all.
To do so, select the word on the canvas and click on Ungroup. This will let you move around each letter individually instead of as a whole word.
Then move the letters close to one another. Using the natural little tail-like projections coming out of each letter in the script font, make sure that each consecutive character overlaps one another by a tiny margin.
After that, select all the individual letters once again and hit the Weld Button. This will finally create a welded design for your desired word.
If, however, you wish to use non-script fonts and prefer the letters individually spaced in the word, you won’t need to weld them together.
In this case, you can utilize the Letter Spacing scroller to adjust the distance between each letter. Customize the spacing and size until you feel satisfied with the final design.
Finalizing The Design
Next up is making sure the design fits into your desired shape of the stencil. You would want to visualize the actual design and get a basic idea of how the stencil would look without wasting any valuable product.
Pull up the shapes tab from the left of the canvas and pick a rectangle.
Using the horizontal and vertical rulers, stretch out the rectangle shape to match the dimensions of your actual wooden board (The one you’ll apply the stencil to).
Move the final design on top of the rectangle to get a basic understanding of how it would look.
Adjust the size and spacing until the design nicely fits inside the rectangle, and you like how it looks.
Cutting Out The Design On To A Stencil Format
Select the design and rectangle together; click on the Slice button. The button would only appear when you have the sliced objects selected. Deselecting the objects again will make the Slice button disappear.
Slicing will essentially separate the two layers in the design (the text and the rectangle) and cut the top layer out of the bottom.
After you’ve sliced out the design, you should be left with a lovely stencil cut-out of the design on the rectangle.
Move the topmost layer (the design) away from the rectangle. You’ll notice that there’s a slightly visible outline of the design on the rectangle. Select the outline and move it away to reveal the actual cut-out or stencil on the rectangle.
After you’re fully satisfied with the outcome, remove the other two layers (excluding the rectangle). Click on Make It, and your Vinyl Stencil sticker should be ready on Design Space.
However, the software will show you another preview of the design in a slightly more realistic format just for the final confirmation.
Preparing The Vinyl
Using regular scissors, cut out a suitable piece of Vinyl with the right dimensions to match your stencil design’s length and width.
You can use standard Cricut Vinyl for most stencils. However, if you wish to be a little fancier, you can use specialized stencil vinyl like the Oracle 631.
Take out your cutting mat and stick the vinyl onto the upper surface of the mat. Remember to use a mat that fits the dimensions of your stencil design and is also compatible with your Stencil Machine.
The standard 12×24 or 12×12 mats should be reasonably acceptable and compatible with Cricut machines.
While sticking the vinyl onto the mat with your hands, apply even pressure from the center towards the edges.
You can even use a small scraper to strobe the vinyl on the cutting mat efficiently. This will let out all of the air bubbles between the two surfaces and leave you with an evenly pasted vinyl.
Using The Cricut Machine
Power up the Cricut machine. Before you jump on to printing, remember to change the setting to Vinyl.
This step is extremely crucial as the wrong setting may essentially end up ruining your material and waste all your efforts up to this point. You don’t want that to happen at any cost.
Go back to your computer where you have Design Space open. Click Continue. This should start the connection process between your computer and your Cricut machine.
Wait until the blue power button on the device lights up. After that, you’re good to go.
Even out the vinyl one final time and load your mat on to the Cricut machine’s loading tray. Properly position the mat and align it along with the two teeth on both sides of the tray.
Press the white Load button that keeps blinking. This will initiate the imprinting process. Push the mat in a little bit to help the machine take it in.
Take care not to apply too much pressure while pushing it. Once the mat is loaded correctly, the white Cut button should start blinking, meaning it’s ready to start cutting.
Press the Cut button and let the Cricut Machine work its magic!
Weeding The Stencil
Once your stencil is done, the Cricut machine should stop making any more sounds, and the Load button on the device should start blinking again.
Press the white Load button to unload the mat from the machine. Peel off the vinyl from the mat, and you can now begin weeding.
Take out your weeding tool and start scraping at the corner of the vinyl sheet. Remember to be extra careful as you minutely peel off the excess frame around the whole rectangular border. Peel it off and then move on to the central zone.
Similarly, start to pinch at one of the letters on your vinyl stencil using the weeding tool. The letter cut-outs should begin to come off nice and smooth without any excessive force.
Using the welded script fonts (like we previously suggested) will let you pull off the entire word in one go instead of going letter by letter.
After you’re done weeding, you should be left with a lovely cut-out sticker that you can use as a vinyl stencil.
Using The Stencil On A Surface
This part is pretty much self-explanatory. You can paste the sticker on to a wooden board or any smooth surface.
Simply paint over the sticker and apply the stencil of your favorite design on the surface.
Properly painting or etching over a stencil needs an extra set of skills. Some specific tips and tricks can make the process easier for you. But, hey, that’s a tutorial for another day!
There you have it! If you’ve read this far, you should now know how to make a vinyl stencil. Correctly following the tutorial step by step will leave you with a perfectly neat cut out of your favorite design created on to a Vinyl Stencil.
You can use this process to create a simple DIY wood sign for your home or even make professional-grade vinyl stencils to sell online. It’s all up to you and your wildly creative imagination. So, until next time, Happy Crafting!