Picture of Complete Stencil Tutorial Using a Free Program
A tutorial on making a stencil with an open source program called the GIMP.

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

-What You Need-
-craft knife
-surface to cut on (self healing mat)
-spray mount (optional)
-spray paint

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!
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jean.babille4 months ago
bradshaw15 months ago
Great job on this instructable and you get extra points for making me laugh!
slimguy3797 years ago
hello great job... this isn't Really about this instructable but though you could help... I currently have a screen printing business and I'm trying to make a 3 - 6 color shirt.. is there a way to separate each and every color? (using gimp, word, or publisher?) the response would be greatly appreciated...

For automatic color separation (2-5 colors) and auto-bridging the stencil, try out


It turns any image into a color-separated stencil with bridged islands.

It's really easy to do just go image>mode>indexed, select the amount of colors (white backround will count as color) you want and click convert.
yeah, you can select each color and separate each one as it's own layer.
!revenge!4 years ago
hi i have a question about the spray painting itself,
i made a stencil a while ago and i wanted to test it before spraying it to my old guitar. but this is what happened: after testing the stencil, the paint caused the paper to curl up.
do you have any idea how i can prevent this the next time i do this?


my English may be not very good because i am from the Netherlands and i am 14 years old.

You can spraymount (3M spraymount) the printed page to a piece of cardstock, then when you cut it out you have a more durable layer that will stand up to several sprayings. Make sure to lay the stencil flat while it dries. Another option is to use Grafix stencil sheets. 5mil or 7mil works best.

borogoves8 months ago

You can stencilize any image without Gimp or Corel Draw, using http://baystencil.com

For example, the stormtrooper here:


You can totally cut it out yourself after printing the bridged, decomposed images from the website.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 7.06.17 PM.png

What if I want more layers?

katman1011 year ago

this was very comprehensive, thank you for making this you are a swell individual.

how did you blow up the image?
Threshold doesn't work :/ My image comes out pixelated
skyhawkes4 years ago
My God man!! This is a giant help and I think I love you... just sayin'... and thank you so much for using GIMP. I fell in love with it like 2 years ago but I never knew I could make a stencil with it. That was stupid easy.
JoshuaTerrell (author)  skyhawkes4 years ago
No problem. :)
ilpug4 years ago
Nicely done. i will check out the GIMP. Can it do something that a high-levcel Photoshop program cant? cuz i have one and it works fine.
BkrevWlevqe4 years ago
Thanks a LOT for this i'ble man!
Here's Mine: Just can figure out how to print it.
Nice. The other side of the helmet (if this is the one from Full Metal Jacket) would have made for a nice ironic stencil, too.
zs CerealKiller5 years ago
ctrl +p
I don't even print mine. I just use my laptop's LCD screen and I would tape the bond paper on it and just trace on it. That's if you have access to an LCD screen. You also skip the outline and printing part too.
Haha I tend to do the same, I also use a piece of thin transparent plastic in between the paper and the screen. (A4 fits very well on 15,4") Bless!
mhkabir zatla6 years ago
Don't pixels get stuck on the screen?
theRIAA8 years ago
nice! if you are doing a face or something tricky you may want to try out changing the hue or color of the image to greater tune in details when its in B&W (adjustment layers in PS is the only way i know how to do this)

such as:


(before stencilizing it)
92033 theRIAA5 years ago
3-1/2 Years Later :-) (just discovered this)...THANKS For Posting the URL. GREAT STUFF.
Charles IV5 years ago
Here's mine:
King Crimson Red.jpg
PKTraceur6 years ago
Anyone Guess how long? I did this with ONE very sharp pocket knife, cutting it on top of about 20 more papers. Nearly 2 HOURS. The result was kickin' though!
Here is what it's based off of...
w00t! parkour rox!
bvulgarin6 years ago
Very useful, thanks!
soongone6 years ago
Thanks it was easy to understand
robbs6 years ago
I tried to change the color of my stencil using "select by color" but it remained black. What am I doing wrong? Thanks for the input.
ericgay6 years ago
fwjs286 years ago
PKTraceur6 years ago
If it's any help, and your colours are inverted, try colours
runkrocker7 years ago
cool instructable! vey vey helpful. i dont fully know all of what photoshop and gimp can do and this was awesome. i made an invader zim stencil. yay!!!
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