- Thin plastic. I used acetate. You could also use clear craft plastic 0.007 for a slightly thicker stencil.
- Fine point blade (This comes with your Cricut machine)
- A Cricut machine.
- Paint. I used acrylic paint
- A stiff bristle paint brush
- Optional: Elmer’s craft bond spray
- Optional: glue
- Optional: My bird design or something to apply your stencil design too
The first step is to make your stencil. I will be showing how to make stencils in Cricut Design Space, but you can also make them in several different programs. In my demonstration I made a text/word stencil, but the same technique can be used for patterns and others things. I started out by hitting the text button on the left side of my screen and typing my desired text. You can also change the font in the upper left corner of your screen. I kept mine as the standard text for this example.
Next, you will want to create a shape, a chose a square, larger than your font or pattern. This will be the background shape of your stencil. I like to click on my shape, then hit arrange, more to back. This will make your new shape go below your font, so you can see your font when you move your shape over it. You can also change the color either your font and/or your shape to help you see them as well. Once you like the size of your shape compared to your design select both, and hit align, then hit center in the drop-down menu. This will make both your shape and design/words aligned this each other, and just looks nicer.
Now that your stencil design is to your liking, you will need to select both the shape (square) and your words/design together and hit the slice button in the lower right side of the page. This will cut your design out of your shape, and thus creating your stencil. You can delete the design inserts. We only want the one with your shape attached to our design.
If your font or design has letters or pieces with centers that will fall off when cut, like the letter A, then you will need to attach them to your piece. To do this make a very thin small square by selecting shapes Then unclicking/unlock the lock symbol associated with size buttons at the top of the page, and size your square into a thin small rectangle. Move this rectangle so that it is touching the center of your letter, goes through your letter, and touches the other side. Select this small rectangle and hit duplicate or just make another one. Now move this new rectangle to your next center that needs to be attached to your stencil. Keep doing this until all of your centers are touching your stencil. Now select everything and hit weld. This will weld the little rectangles to your stencil and make it all one piece. When you are applying paint to your stencil, the attachment piece we just made so we do not loose our centers, will not get covered in paint. So, once you are finished painting on our stencil, just go in with a small paint brush and cover these little sections if you wish.
You can make stencils out of stencil vinyl or other types of vinyl, however these types of stencils are not reusable. If you would like to use the same stencil design for multiple projects or just like the design and want to keep it for future projects, then you will need to use something a little more sturdy and thicker.
I tried a few different plastics to make my stencil. I was going to buy clear craft plastic, 0.007 thick. I then found this gray stencil plastic at JoAnn Fabrics. It seemed to be a similar thickness, and a better deal. I also read some reviews where people said they were able to cut it with no problem with just 3 passes. So, I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be 0.02 inches thick. So, it was a bit thicker than the clear craft plastic I saw others recommend.
I tried several different things to get my Cricut Maker and even my Glowforge to cut my stencil out of this stencil plastic. The first thing I tried was making a custom setting on my Cricut Maker. To make a custom setting you can do this two different ways on either an Explorer Air or the Maker. The first way is to click on your settings/menu (3 dash lines in the upper left corner of Cricut Design Space). Then click manage custom materials, and select the machine you will be using. The other way is when you click make it, and are selecting your material. Select browse all materials. Note if using an Explore Air model, you will need to set the dial on your machine to custom. Then click material settings at the bottom of the screen.
Either method you pick you will then get a list of all the materials you can cut. You will want to scroll to the very bottom of this list. Now, click add new material. Then type in a name for this new material. I named mine stencil. Click save, then you can set up your custom settings. For the stencil I moved my power bar all the way to the right (350) and for testing I only did one pass. This way I could count how many passes it would take. You can then go back into the custom settings and adjust your settings accordingly. Since I selected the max power/pressure it will not matter if I select more power later. You can also indicate which tool/blade you would like to use for this custom setting. I tried both the fine point blade (the blade that comes with your machine) as well as the deep point blade. Spoiler it did not make much difference which blade I used. They both cut this stencil plastic about the same.
To run my tests to see if my Cricut Maker could cut this material and these very detailed cuts, I took a small section of my design and ran my custom setting (max power). I tested the fine point blade. Once a cut was finished I looked at the cut, but never unloaded my mat. I then hit the go button again to have it run the cut again. If you unload the mat the next cut will be slightly off from the first one, which we do not want. I did this about 10 times. It started to cut out parts of the design, but after awhile it just did not seem to make any more progress with the cuts. It would have been very difficult to finish cutting out the design. I did the same thing this time with the deep cut blade (black). I got a very similar results. I thought about purchasing the knife blade and testing it. I was able to easily cut the corner of the gray stencil plastic with an exacto blade (very similar to the knife blade tool). I was just worried about the knife blade being able to make these intricate turns in my designs. Maybe I will try it in the future. Let me know if you have tried a knife blade with intricate cuts, and how it worked.
I then decided to try my Glowforge to cut my stencil plastic. I tried several different setting on my Glowforge. I tried 300 speed, 31 power, one pass, and it did not cut through the plastic very well. I then upped the power to 62, and it still did not cut all the way through my plastic. Instead it melted the plastic. I then tried lowering the speed down to 230 and the power down to 31. I also switch to 2 passes. It still melted it, but I was able to work out the pieces to test the stencil, however with the bending I did to get the pieces to come out and the melting that happened to the plastic, it did not work well, and it was thrown in the trash. So, I would not recommend using a Glowforge for this material. Please let me know if you had better luck and if so, which settings did you use.
It then occurred to me that acetate is a thin plastic. So, I decided to give it a try. I have cut acetate many times on my Cricut Maker for my shaker crafts. I used my fine tip blade and the acetate setting, more pressure. Because I had many stencils I was making, and lots of details this did take a long time to cut, but it worked! There were some pieces I needed to finish popping out, but it was not too bad. This was mostly for the very small and detailed pieces only. For more intricate designs, like my flower stencil, I may try doing two passes. I tested the acetate stencils quickly on a scrap envelope. I did these tests quickly as examples of what they would look like. When I apply them to an actual project I will insure not to get as much paint and to do the up and down motion vs paint strokes to keep my designs cleaner.
I used my newly made stencil on my bunny banner. Make sure to click here to check that out. I also used it on a left over piece from when I made a bird shaker. Make sure to click here to check that out. For the bunny banner I just laid my stencil directly on my piece and dabbed my stiff bristle paint brush up and down. This worked really well when you take your time. There was only one spot where I must have gotten to much paint on my paint brush, and it seeped between my stencil. For the bird I applied Elmer’s craft bond directly to my piece and let it sit for about 3 minutes. I then placed my stencil on top. If you do not wait the 3 plus minutes, then your stencil will be more permanently stuck to your piece. So, it is important to not place the stencil immediately after spraying the craft bond. There are other similar products you can use, I had this on hand already. This made my piece tacky and helped hold my stencil down. In both tests I applied my stencil to some painted wood. Both methods worked well, but I did prefer using the craft bond. Applying the craft bond helped prevent my stencil from moving as I applied my paint. It also meant I did not have to carefully move my fingers around my piece to hold down my stencil, which allowed me to work much faster. There was also less bleeding of paint. The stencil worked just fine without the craft bond, but it did make things easier and cleaner when using it.
To clean my stencils I just ran water over them. You could also use some soap to help clean them. It is easier to clean if you do not let the paint dry. Once the paint dried it was harder to clean. I did not mind having dry paint on my stencil. So, I just did a quick rinse and let them dry.
I really love my flower stencil. It really changes the entire look of a piece. I got a little carried away and applied the design to my entire bird. It still looks nice, but my original idea was to only apply the stencil to the wing. I was then going to tie a thin little bow around my bird’s neck. It is fun to see which directions you think you are going and how you actually end up going.