Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Making stencils from photos

I wanted to make some stencils but the stencil film is always a bit of a pain. Also, I wanted to use my own pictures and transferring the design is a pain.

I printed my pictures on standard copy paper, applied contact paper to the front and back, and cut out the image.  Next time I may use cardstock to print my image on, as these are pretty floppy.

Here are my photos:

And my stencils:

in progress

finished stencil
 My dining table after gelli printing:

Most of these (below) were printed on paper that had been gelli printed before. They already had at lease one color on them, if not more.  I used the bold large curvy stencil first, that was placed over a loopy circle stencil. I didn't like how it looked, and printed over them all of them with the tree stencil. You can see that first stencil on a few of these tree pieces, they were done in orange. (All three on the bottom row have it, as well as the top middle in the second picture).

I love how bold and graphic the cacti look in turquoise and orange/pink.

I have done previous posts about gelli printing, but thought I would describe my process again.  I use acrylic paints, which may be heavy body artist's acrylic, artist's fluid acrylic, and/or acrylic craft paint (my least favorite, but if I like the color I will use it).  Now that I live in Nebraska, I am not worried about the paints drying out before I get the prints made.  When I lived in Denver, I sometimes used Golden Open acrylics or added Open Medium to my paints to slow the dry time since Denver is such a dry climate.  When I print on fabric, I prefer the heavy body acrylics so I can get better coverage.  For paper, I prefer the fluid acrylics, but will use any of them. 

First, I splurt paint on my gelli plate. I use a Speedball hard rubber brayer to roll the paint over the surface. Sometimes I may do different colors on different sections, use two colors (not over-blending) over the whole surface for a mottled affect (some of the cacti have an orange/pink mottling),  or a solid color. If I want to lighten a color, I will add white directly on the plate with the other color and brayer it until it is a uniform color. Now I have a painted plate, and a brayer with paint all over it.

Second, to "clean" my brayer, I roll it on a piece of deli paper I have next to my gelli plate until no more paint is transferring.  Lately, I have been putting a stencil under the paper, then rolling the brayer over the paper, and the pattern from the stencil will show on the deli paper.  So I get another print of a sort from this. Since I haven't put a stencil on the plate yet, I could use the same stencil for cleaning my brayer that I use for my gelli prints. (I will use the same piece of deli paper for cleaning my brayer multiple times with different colors. These papers often are my "starter" papers when I gelli print again. The last cactus picture above is a blue print over one of my brayer cleaning papers).

Third, I either put one stencil, layer a few stencils, or butt stencils next to each other, on my plate. I put my paper or fabric down and rub.  I usually use my hands and fingers, but sometimes use my brayer.  Typically I use my hands and fingers when there are stencils on top of the plate so I can get the paper or fabric into all the details. I may do a second and possibly a third print on another piece of fabric/paper if I think there is still enough paint on the surface.

Fourth, I remove my stencil and lay it paint-side down on another piece of fabric, paper, or deli paper. I use my brayer over it to transfer the paint. I typically only get one print from this.

Fifth, I make another print from my plate on a new piece of fabric/paper. Usually I can get one good one, but may get one or two more that aren't so great.

Sixth, I usually lightly mist the plate with water and get one or two more prints. These are usually watery and messy, but are great starter pieces to add more layers to, when I do gelli printing again.

Tip: If you want to do some fabric and paper prints, print the fabric first. The fabric needs a lot of paint on the plate to make a decent print.  I usually will do Step 3 first with fabric, then with paper for my additional prints. Same with step 5, fabric first, then paper.  If I am doing a fabric print, and peek to see how it looks and it is not transferring well, I sometimes mist very very lightly with water on the back side of the fabric and then rub it some more. 

Update 4/27/2015: A new stencil cutting/gelling printing post is here.


  1. I love this idea! I am just beginning to research gelli painting and will try this out when I get my supplies. Thank you for the detailed explanation of what you do!

    1. Thanks Julie! You will find it quite addicting. It's amazing how many pieces you can make in a couple hours. And definitely add another layer to any prints that aren't quite wonderful yet, all of the ones I posted are multi-layered. You may ruin some, but sometimes you make gold!

  2. Very clever and really so simple. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Thanks! I could print cacti all day long! I love them. I definitely recommend printing onto cardstock instead of printer paper as they are very floppy.

  4. I adore what you did with the carrying case.

  5. I really love these. I'm not familiar at all with the gelli painting but want to learn for sure. Do you ever do your stencils with a projector? Just wondering if it might be easier to cut out.

    1. I don't have a projector, and have been making my stencils by printing an image on cardstock and sandwiching it between two pieces of contact paper. It is fairly easy to cut, but was time consuming this time since the detail one had so much detail. I thought I had a better post detailing my gelli printing method, but didn't find one. I will have to make a future post with step by step photos. Gelli printing is addictive and I can easily make dozens of prints in a few hours. These were more time consuming, just due to the number of layers and getting the details to print.