This is a pretty simple but infinitely useful idea for how to create a unique 3D printed stencil from a drawing. Then use it to create interesting patterns and shapes.
Step 1: Draw Out Shape for Stencil
First, figure out what you are going to use the stencil for. In my case, I needed to make shapes that would represent flower pedals, stems and seeds. I drew out the shapes on grid paper. You can skip this step if you prefer full digital.
Step 2: Digitize Shapes
Use any vector based app you like to create your digital shapes, I used illustrator to trace around my scanned drawing. Also in this step its important that you arrange your shapes to best work for you stencil. I created two stencils from the amount of shapes I drew in step one. Duplicate shapes and scale and skew them to add variation.
Step 3: Extrude 3D Shapes
Next, used a 3D application to extrude the 2D vector shapes to 3D polygon shapes.
First, import your file into your 3D software via the best option for importing vector shapes. *Note: Some software require you to import with a specific file type, so check the import file type options. Once you import successfully you will see you vector shapes in the viewport of your 3D application.
Now, use the option in your software that allows you to bevel or extrude the flat 2D shapes into 3D shapes. The name of this tool will vary depending on the software used.
My 3D application of choice is Autodesk's Maya. Feel free to use any software you choose. Once you have created you object and the stencils thickness is to your liking save the file as STL or OBJ.
Step 4: Open STL or OBJ in 3D Printing Software
Open your newly created STL or OBJ in your 3D printers software. I used Makerware. Setup the print: scale, rotate and move model into position.
Slice Settings: I used the lowest print setting because I don't care about the vertical resolution.
Step 5: Print the Stencil
Now that it's all setup. Choose a filament color and Print It!
Step 6: Use It: Make Cool Patterns
I made four different stencil for my Art series. I created dozens of unique patterns for my art. Be creative think of various ways you could use the stencils not just for art but anything you can imagine. Have fun and Happy Creating