I looked on all the Instructs tagged with stencil, and not one gives a step by step for making a stencil in my favorite open source photo program The GIMP.
Step 1: Materials and GIMP
-surface to cut on (self healing mat)
-spray mount (optional)
GIMP is an open source raster based graphics editor. It was designed to replace Photoshop.
You can get it here. gimp.org
Install it, open it up, and familarize yourself with the interface for a bit. Done? Good. Isn't open source great? Didn't cost a dime!
Step 2: Pick an Image and Open Your Picture in GIMP
I chose a tasteful Stormtrooper sculpture to stencil. Nerdtastic!
Step 3: Crop It
a. GIMP allows you to save a copy in case you want to use the uncropped-unedited image later. Save the copy, then go open the copy in GIMP. (File>Save A Copy)
Step 4: Simplifying the Image
a.One way is to go to (Tools>Color Tools>Colorize). If you use this method, you will want to set the Hue and Saturation to 0, and adjust the lightness to fit the image (this can be done to taste, generally you want about an even light to dark for a stencil.)
b. The other (and redundant) method is to go to Filters>Colors>Colorify, and select your color (you'll be selecting white).
Both methods are pictured, I chose to use the filter.
Step 5: Tweaking the Contrast and Brightness
Step 6: The Threshold Tool
Step 7: Stencilable Image
The key to stenciling is to editing out the "islands" of white in your image. You can make little bridges for them if need be. Once again this can be accomplshed in whatever bitmap editing program (MSPaint) you have lying around. I think the image I have can be edited by hand, so I'm going to print it now.
Step 8: Get Ready to Cut
Step 9: Outline Your Cuts (optional)
Step 10: Cut and Spray
As for spraying.
A guide to cutting stencils
• Think from outside the box.
• Collapse the box and take a fucking sharp knife to it.
• Leave the house before you find something worth staying in for.
• It's easier to get forgiveness than permission.
• Spray the paint sparingly onto the stencil from a distance of 8 inches.
• Be aware that going on a major mission totally drunk out of your head will result in some truly spectacular artwork and at least one night in the cells.