I have to admit it. I'm kind of a do-it-yourself person when it comes to most things. Possibly that came from having frugal parents, who were also do-it-yourselfers. We lived on a farm, and many times you just had to do-it-yourself to get the job done.
Whatever the case, when I looked at stencils as a face painter, I knew I'd love to try them out, but having invested quite a bit lately on equipment and paint, I couldn't invest more (approximately $2.50 or more each) on something I wasn't sure I'd use a lot, especially if they were small pieces of plastic which I could somehow make on my own from materials at hand.
So yesterday I pulled out some Medium Weight Dura-lar overlay film from my college days art supplies and decided to give making my own stencils a go. If you'd like to try it yourself, here are the instructions.
Materials you'll need:
• Self-healing cutting mat
• X-acto knife and blades
• Metal ruler
• Hold punch
• Overlay film (clear) in a heavier weight
• Fine tip permanent marker
First cut your large sheets of overlay film into rectangles of about 3.75 x 3.25 inches using the cutting mat, X-acto knife, and metal ruler. Be careful. Overlay film is slick, yet the X-acto knife tends to stick a little. Scoring it lightly and then going back over it works well. Always keep the non-knife hand well out of the way while cutting. When cutting freehand, cut away from your fingers rather than toward them. That way if you slip, you won't cut yourself. (This is an activity for adults only, since it involves a very sharp knife.) As an artist, I've been using this kind of knife for years, and about six years ago I had just the tip of my finger in the way as I sliced down the edge of a ruler. It was a painful lesson in being more careful and concentrating when using a knife.
Trim the corners with your scissor so they are nicely rounded. This is important, since overlay film corners are sharp, and you don't want to stab anyone you're face painting. Use a hole punch to put a hole in one corner. (Pick the same corner on each rectangle so you can later mount your stencils in a group on a metal ring from the craft store.)
Now you're ready to chose designs for your stencils. I started with something that looked organically reptilian for adding a little pizzaz to dragon skin, monsters, and snakes. Also, since the shapes were uneven, it was easier to hide errors in my first attempts at cutting. Draw your design on your overlay film with the permanent marker. If you don't like to draw, you can find a pattern you like from any visual source and put it under the film to trace.
Using the X-acto knife, score the shape you'd like to cut out. You don't have to go through the overlay the first time. I found it easier to score it and then go back to go through. You're less likely to slip and make a cut you don't want this way. Also, I found that it was easier to hold the knife still and turn the overlay under the blade to make curved cuts. Slow and steady will give you the best results, so take your time.
After you've removed your cutaway pieces, you're pretty much finished. Your stencil should be as usable as any other stencil available by purchase. When using it, experiment with light texture over dark and dark over light to see which colors you prefer. Enjoy!
Face painter alert! Be careful using your new stencils anywhere around a person's eyes. The rounded corners will help, but you should always use caution with any piece of equipment which is used around the eye.