Picture of How to Make Stencils with Islands
I wanted to make up some stencils for the rafting company I work for that we could use to spray paint our gear.  Our logo has some floating islands in it so I created some paper tabs in Illustrator to hold the islands in place.  Big islands can then be held in place with piano wire used as reinforcement along the paper tabs.

For best results, you can forgo the paper tabs entirely and bend the wire into a handle shape and float the island on wires that won't even appear when you go to spray paint your image.  I did this for the islands where it mattered most, like in one of the logos where it would matter most that it look clean and professional.

I found the paper tabs to be acceptable and a time saver on the letters and numbers since the eye is more accustomed to seeing stencil tabs in fonts.

More info on making floating islands in stencils can be found in Fungus Amungus' classic Stencils with Islands - Pt. 2 Instructable.
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Step 1: Start With an Image

Picture of Start With an Image
Start with an image, in this case, a .jpg, that you want to create a stencil from.

Take a look at it, does it have floating islands?  Like the white circle inside the "a's", "o" and "g"?  

If it does, proceed.

Step 2: Draw Rectangles to Create Tabs

Picture of Draw Rectangles to Create Tabs
In the photo editing software of your choice (Illustrator is pictured below) draw narrow white rectangles that have no outline or stroke value across your islands.  You can draw them vertically, horizontally, any which way you like, just make them line up in respect to each individual letter is all that matters now.

The width is up to you, pick a value that's both structural, but not so wide that you'd notice it at first.  3/32" is around what I used.

This creates tabs which will hold the island in place.  Two tabs are sufficient for small islands, but if the island is really big, make more.

Step 3: Save .jpg

Picture of Save .jpg
Save the file as a new .jpg.
Saved my life! I have a huge stencilling project and was worried I'd have to do it one tiny it at a time! Seriously! Thanks sooooo much!
HMice3 years ago
So that's how you do it!!!
ilpug3 years ago
This works very well. A lot of the graffiti and Street artists I know use this technique to great effect.
rimar20003 years ago
Very clever! Thanks for sharing.