Cutting out stencils is the extra step of a cut-and-paint stencil design. Cut-and-paint stencils require you to actually cut out the openings (islands) where paint is applied. However, for the extra work, they provide some great advantages.
A cut-and-paint stencil design is usually printed on paper and so it can be reduced or enlarged to fit almost any project size. This is a big deal. If you like a Plastic Pre-Cut Stencil and it comes in two sizes -small at 2′ and large at 4′- and the area you have for an image is 1′ then the plastic stencil will not work for you. Take a cut-and-paint design to a copy machine and resize it to whatever your project area requires. Flexibility is great!
Also, cut-and-paint stencils are less expensive. You are not paying for the manufacture, warehousing and shipping of a product. If you can find downloadable stencil designs you can have your stencil immediately and no delay to your project. Just download the design and print out on your printer.
So far I referred to cutting out stencils on paper, but you have other options. You can purchase sheets of materials like acetate, mylar, wax paper, stencil film or clear overlays. These options allow you to create a permanent stencil that will be resistant to the penetration of oil, dyes, and water-base paints and ink. Simply trace your design onto the stencil film and cut.
You will find many options for materials useful in stencil making. They can be found at your local craft supply store, on line and office supply stores. You’ll find it sold in letter size sheets or rolls for larger stencils. You may even find some clear sheets that will work in your printer or copy machine. When you are looking for a good film for making stencils, you want a material that will accept ink or marker so that you can trace onto it. Look for a matte finish. Also, a matter finish is best for the finished stencil because it will not encourage paint to seep under the edges.
Well on to the one disadvantage: Cutting the stencil.
If your paper stencils are in a book, I would recommend making a copy of each stencil overlay for the project you have chosen. By using the copies, your book and originals are preserved for future use. Don’t forget that you can reduce or enlarge the size to fit the area you want to place the picture when you make copies.
Using a craft-knife cut out the objects on the stencil. Make sure your blade is sharp at all times. Dull blades may cause a paper stencil to tear or not go completely through plastic sheeting. The goal is to cut along each line only once with a firm, smooth motion. With your free hand, hold the stencil firmly and rotate the stencil so that you are always cutting with your wrist at a comfortable angle. This will help you maintain control over the blade and not veer off course.
When cutting past a thin bridge area carefully use a firm finger to hold down the paper. Try to keep your fingers well away from where you are cutting. If you are working with a multi-layer stencil don’t forget to cut out the registration holes in each of the four corners, which will be used for the alignment of the stencil overlays.
As for recommendations on craft knives, I prefer an X-Acto knife with a #11 triangular blade. But an OLFA knife with the snap off blade refills is a fine option too. Again, just make sure the blade is sharp. Of course, be very careful when working with a blade and protect your fingers. Always be alert.
Well, I am sure that once you get the hang of cutting out stencils you will find the many advantages well worth the extra work. Happy Stenciling!