Introduction: Stencil-Like Vinyl Transfer for Laptops

Picture of Stencil-Like Vinyl Transfer for Laptops

This instructable was submitted by Xerocraft Hackerspace in Tucson for the Instructables Sponsorship Program.

Stencil art is a popular and fun way to personalize your otherwise ordinary, uniform laptop. With this tutorial you can make your own customized vinyl transfers cheaply and easily.

For this project you'll need:

Clear Contact adhesive paper (; sold by the foot or in rolls at hardware stores)
Black Contact adhesive paper
#11 exacto knife
Ruler (with a cutting edge)
Printed image to convert to stencil


Rubbing alcohol
Paper towel

Step 1: Choose Your Image

Picture of Choose Your Image

Print out the image you want to stencil. The best images to use are black and white with stark contrasts and not an incredible amount of detail. You can print it out on regular paper. Cut off any unneeded borders.

Step 2: Cut the Contact Paper

Picture of Cut the Contact Paper

Cut out one piece of black Contact paper and three pieces of clear Contact paper. Cut them out to a slightly larger size than the image.

Flip the black Contact over so that the wax paper side is up. Peel off the first square of clear Contact and adhere it to the wax paper side. Do the same with the second square of clear Contact (two layers are used to help hold the vinyl transfer together after you start cutting). Leave the third sheet of clear Contact aside for now. You'll need it later.

Step 3: Position Image Over Black Contact Paper

Picture of Position Image Over Black Contact Paper

Tape the image directly to the black Contact paper. Tape the clear Contact paper to the cutting surface.

Step 4: Cut Out the Stencil

Picture of Cut Out the Stencil

With your brand new #11 exacto knife blade, CAREFULLY cut out the image. Go along the black lines.


Take your time here. As you pick off the unwanted pieces using the tip of the exacto knife, make sure there are no small sinews that will cause wanted pieces of black Contact to come off with the unwanted pieces.

After you've cut out the last unwanted piece, cut along the perimeter of the image to free all of the black pieces from the border of the black Contact paper.

Step 5: Prime Your Stencil for Adhesion

Picture of Prime Your Stencil for Adhesion

Remember that third square of clear Contact I had you set aside earlier? Grab it, peel off the wax paper and set it down with the sticky side up. From end to end, lay the vinyl transfer against the clear Contact (stencil side down) and firmly press down. Push out any gaps and air bubbles.

Once the two pieces are firmly adhered, peel off the wax paper. The black Contact paper of the decal should stay stuck to the clear Contact.

NOTE: If you have trouble getting the black Contact to peel free from the wax paper, use the exacto knife to slowly pick the pieces free.

Step 6: Clean the Laptop Surface

Picture of Clean the Laptop Surface

Use rubbing alcohol to clean the surface where the transfer will go. This gets rid of substances that would hinder the Contact paper from sticking properly.

Step 7: Apply the Stencil

Picture of Apply the Stencil

Place the transfer over the cleaned spot of the laptop where you want it to go. Take your time to position it just right.

When you're happy, press down firmly on the black pieces of the decal for a few minutes. Blast it with a hairdryer to help with adhesion.

Step 8: Bask in Your Awesomeness

Picture of Bask in Your Awesomeness

Now you're an individual, just like everyone else.



grenzenlos (author)2017-11-08

Is this removable?

GoodAsh03 (author)grenzenlos2017-11-10

Yes, the vinyl I used could be peeled off without tearing and left little to no adhesive residue.

DH101 (author)2015-08-18

If you were unable to get the exact xacto knife, what would you suggest as a good replacement?

GoodAsh03 (author)DH1012015-08-18

Just get as thin a blade as possible. The thinner it is, the easier it is to make small, precise cuts. If what you're cutting does not have a lot of detail you could cut it with a razor blade. But be careful.

lorleans (author)2012-09-22

Is it just me, or does no one sell black contact paper anymore? I checked several stores to no avail, and I looked on their website, and they don't even have it there.

crewof502 (author)lorleans2012-10-02

Home Depot my friend. In the cabinet section. That was the only hardware store that had it locally for me.

mykiscool (author)2012-09-19

I know most people don't have this, but another good option would be to use a vinyl plotter to cut out the pattern.

pipsqueakboy (author)2012-09-04

Is there a way to remove it once its on?

cattitude (author)2012-08-30

Nice idea! I'm wondering though (this could be a stupid question)... why don't you stick the black contact paper on a sheet of glass, then cut it, then cover it with transparent contact paper and glue it to the laptop? Or am I missing something?

And before I'll make one for my brother's laptop: doesn't the decal let loose if you only have those small tiny stripes left? Instead of one big sticker?

I never made a decal so sorry if I am obnoxious or ignorant. Also sorry for my possible lame English since I'm Dutch.


BarginsTech (author)cattitude2012-09-01

Im not sure why its done this way either. It seem like the first two pieces of contact paper are sticky side up on the black wax paper backing? Im not sure if this is to protect the work surface or to add bulk?

I think one layer of clear paper facing sticky side up would be to catch the pieces being cut out of the black paper? otherwise it would be a puzzle right?

Also your english is perfectly fine :] Kudos!

ratedgee (author)2012-08-27

Vinyl Decal sticker paper is relatively cheap, as low as $4.00 a yard, with that in mind it seems pricier to buy the contact paper. I guess it means a whole lot more if you can figure these projects on your own, I guess...

fishbear (author)2012-08-27

Here's some cheap Contact paper I found:

And an even less-expensive version here:

monsterlego (author)2012-08-27

Lol, trollz

STEPcoach (author)2012-08-27

Thank you! I've been wanting to promote my business this way, but it is pretty expensive to have the exact decal made, complete with logo and the wording I want. I work on my laptop in coffeeshops quite often and have wanted to make my computer into a mobile billboard. Thank you!

MichielB (author)2012-08-27

This is a great idea!!

But why do you ad 2 clear contact papers to the back of the wax of the black contact paper?


MarkinDetroit (author)2012-08-25

After seeing this Instructable, I remember coming across some clear contact paper in the closet and recently some green contact paper in the garage. Somewhere around the house one of the kids has an X-acto swivel blade knife just for this detailed cutting.
I have the supplies, the instructions.... let's see how well the system works!!

icecreamterror (author)2012-08-23

Really good instructable!

And please don't take this the wrong way, as im totally down for the DIY spirit, and its purely a public service announcement ...... 99% of sign writers would cut you a decal on scrap vinyl for less then the cost of a bottle beer if you go in with your vector image on a disk.

I definitely don't want to start a flame war or anything, but I'm thinking the whole point of Instructables is to learn/teach how to make things yourself rather than to pay somebody else to do it for you.


No, your totally right!

my comment was meant much more for people who want a decal as part of a project, rather then the whole project in its self (as an example, see my instructable on screenprinting with vinyl)...... Or want to use a more complicated design of their own creation that cant be hand cut opposed to ordering a overpriced generic one on-line.

Fact remains people can be a little intimidated going to a sign writers for a little bitty one off decal for a project, and I just trying to brake that down.

In no way to I want to take away or criticise this very cool instructable!

I agree, the DIY aspect is offered here and for those who think this is really cool but feel it's a bit much for them, there is also a cheap alternative.
You never know... go hang with the signmaker and you may pick up some ideas and see how easy it might be for someone to try this on their own.
Maybe they'd give you some scrap pieces of vinyl to play around with just to see what you can do with it.
Lots of thought starters...

radmans (author)icecreamterror2012-08-23

Ha ha...I had to giggle! What's funny is icecreamterror's comment could have been taken as trolling. Good stuff!

We're all into DIY as we wouldn't be on this site...but it's also nice to know there are CHEAP alternatives too.

Good comments and good instructable. Love this site.

ac7ss (author)2012-08-23

Not a stencil, but a vinyl transfer. Still a very good instructable.

clazman (author)ac7ss2012-08-23

Yes, I'm glad you made this correction. It bothers me to see how naming of processes, equipment, procedures that I grew up with are being changed as done here. In addition, the comments made here are making the same error.
This Instructable is describing the steps for creating and applying a vinyl applique.
A stencil is a thin sheet of material, such as paper, plastic, or metal, with letters or a design cut from it. This sheet is then placed on the surface so that it becomes a “mask” for controlling the painting of said surface.
A decal is a film layer attached to a stiffer backing with a water-soluble adhesive. A design can be printed or painted on the film. The film with the design can be released from the backing by dipping in water. Once the film is released it can be slid from the backing onto the work piece.
What I am saying is that with multiple definitions the “dictionary” is being corrupted and useless The result is a compromise of basic communication. No one will be able to communicate with another since each individual will have a different meaning of a particular word.

GoodAsh03 (author)clazman2012-08-23

I get what you're saying. I'm using the word "stencil" more in reference to the urban pop art style the piece resembles. What it's actually made of -to be honest I had no idea what Contact paper was made of- or how it's applied wasn't really something I thought about. It was just this stuff I found at Ace that was cheap and easy to get hold of.

But I take you point. Thank you.


seargent awesome (author)2012-08-23

If you did this in reverse, would it be a white outline? I have a black laptop so that would help.

You'd have to use white contact paper, but the process would still be the same. You'd cut out the white sections of the print and remove the white bits under the white sections. Then, once you've cut it all free, you'd be left with the same outline you're seeing here, but it would be white vinyl instead of black.

Drumbum8 (author)2012-08-23

This is great! I'm now browsing for a decal that I want to put on my own. I'm having a hard time deciding. Do you know if there is anyway to take off and save them if you wanted to make and use a new one?

GoodAsh03 (author)Drumbum82012-08-23

I bet if you reversed the application process: cut another square piece of clear Contact paper, pressed it firmly against the decal, and slowly peeled it off, you could remove it for reuse later. Keep the wax paper you peeled off the clear Contact to keep the decal dust-free.

Thank you for your interest!

mattopensource (author)2012-08-23

Ha, great final comment about being an individual and I like the concept of decaling this way, very nice.

jkendall1 (author)2012-08-23

Now I want a trollface on all my stuff!

woodmagnet (author)2012-08-23

Great idea. ;0)

barista (author)2012-08-23

Cool. I Invested in one of these, and custom vinyl decals (stickers) is one of its many uses.

jessyratfink (author)2012-08-22

Hahaha! Love the placement. Great first instructable. :D

GoodAsh03 (author)jessyratfink2012-08-22

Thanks a lot!

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