Introduction: Photograph to Stencil

Picture of Photograph to Stencil

Instructions on using photoshop to convert a digital photo/image to a multiple layered stencil.

Step 1: Open Your Image in Photoshop

Picture of Open Your Image in Photoshop

Open up your image in photoshop.

Now is a good time to crop out the subject and adjust the 'levels' (Image>Adjustments>Levels) as well as the contrast. Get the subject's colors different from the background.

In this image I just have the original photograph before I cropped and adjusted the colors.

Step 2: Apply the Cutout Filter

Picture of Apply the Cutout Filter


This will bring up a preview window and some extra controls (image attached)
Your options will be:

Number of Levels - The number of colors that will be used to make up the image. The stencil was a 3 layer stencil, but if I set the levels to 3 it just became too difficult to make out.
Edge Simplicity - Higher the number the straighter the edges become but you lose detail.
Edge Fidelity - experiment with this one, I dont think it makes enough difference when you have the x-acto in your hand though

Step 3: Final Changes

Picture of Final Changes

This is what I finally came up with.
Using the 'magic wand' tool and lasso tool I got rid of the background.

Step 4: Print and Cut

Picture of Print and Cut

For every color you plan on having in your stencil, print out a copy of your image. I have 3 colors, 3 prints.

After you are done printing grab an x-acto knife, box cutter, scissors or whatever else you want to use to cut out the stencil.
When planning a cut think in layers. For example I have a base layer, so I cut the entire outline of the pillbug out (bottom image) then the midrange color which covers alot of the base color, then the highlights on top, all sprayed in order of course.

Step 5: Spray!

Picture of Spray!

You can use spray adhesive to prevent underspray (spray that gets under the details of the stencil) and cover around the stencil with other paper to prevent overspray (spray that goes over the edge of the stencil)

Be sure to wait and let the paint dry between layers.


son of s8an (author)2011-09-26

looks like a cocoon when you turn it sideways.

p.s great 'ible!

plummdogg (author)2011-09-13

Giant Isopod = Waterbed Bug ^ - ^

tibet (author)2008-12-07

hi, it´s a piece of inspiring work, well done !!! by the way, it must be a terrrible experience to find this cute pill bug at your home :-)

pls (author)tibet2008-12-07

omg? is that real!

blablabla123 (author)pls2008-12-08

They actually start out fuzzy, like a dog (at least I think they do :p ) , and well, look at the result :D! Nice instructable :D

pls (author)blablabla1232008-12-08


blablabla123 (author)pls2008-12-08

incredibly, it is :p lol....

pls (author)blablabla1232008-12-08


Thomahawk1234 (author)pls2008-12-09

They are called Giant isopods. Google it! :D

pls (author)Thomahawk12342008-12-09

Theres no way i would ever want to find out more about that!

nak (author)pls2008-12-09

It is better to live with your head buried in the sand! Ask your neighbors, and if you could ask the people of the dark ages... humanity at its best. ;)

pls (author)nak2008-12-09

What lol?

tibet (author)pls2008-12-09

Our stencil star Says "hello" to our friends here !!!

...don´t worry, you won´t be bitten by these cute creatures in your bed :-)
they´re living happily in the water as you can see here
by the way, a very nice marine party ...
" let wish them Happy New Year 2009 ! "

pls (author)tibet2008-12-09


tibet (author)pls2008-12-10

come on ! this is just an amazing prehistoric creature ! it´s unbelievable, that we can still see it alive.

pls (author)tibet2008-12-10

No way, I don't wanna see it alive haha, its like a huge bug:(

shortone (author)pls2009-01-15

how could u think its nasty?? its INCREDIBLE!!!

pls (author)shortone2009-01-15


Imptheshrimp (author)pls2010-06-28

You might think so, but they are certainly allowed to feel pretty.

hrodriguez7 (author)Imptheshrimp2011-09-13

i agree

nak (author)Imptheshrimp2010-06-28

Cute, is that a tshirt?

Imptheshrimp (author)nak2010-06-29

Yeah, it was done by Jeph Jacques of but I don't think he still makes them. There are some other pretty cool ones, though.

hrodriguez7 (author)pls2011-09-13

are you kiding! these things are awsome!!!!!!! theres a bunch in my backyard. there cute!(i'm talking about the tiny ones. just an FYI)

NinjaSloth (author)pls2009-01-16

I think it would be a cute pet.

pls (author)NinjaSloth2009-01-16

No way, lol!

NinjaSloth (author)pls2009-01-20

if i ever got one of these for a pet here are some of the names i might use: Cuddles, Spot, Duke, Prince, The pill bug formerly known as prince, Donky Kong, Chewbaka, Han-Solo, Optimus Prime.... the list goes on

cornflaker (author)NinjaSloth2009-03-31

I'd go for the first one lol

pls (author)NinjaSloth2009-01-21


blablabla123 (author)pls2009-02-05

chewbacca is simply the absolute power inn the universe :D

blablabla123 (author)NinjaSloth2009-01-17

Yes, i would love to have one of these scurry out of under my bed from time to time.... I would simply look at it and say "eh" and go back to sleep.

cornflaker (author)nak2009-03-31

Well as they say, "Ignorance is bliss" ;)

cornflaker (author)blablabla1232009-03-31

WOW! lol

zomfibame (author)tibet2009-05-08

is that some sort of horseshoe crab?

Giant isopod. Deep sea crustacean, and you will never find one in or around your house (promise.)

zomfibame (author)zomfibame2009-05-08

van-damn; I just looked these things up... apparently is some places people eat these things like lobster or crab.

superlukie17 (author)zomfibame2009-07-26

Yeah, like on "The Emperor's New Groove." LOL!

epizeuxis (author)superlukie172009-08-06

I was thinking the same thing!

XOIIO (author)tibet2010-07-12

What the hell is that?

ArvindTheNinja (author)tibet2009-05-01


Fear, hate and frightened people who kill what they can't understand.

struckbyanarrow (author)tibet2009-04-16

holy mother****** that is freaking scary

cornflaker (author)tibet2008-12-07

DAMN! WTF? Is that real? lol You could almost put a leash on that thing and keep it as a pet.

jeffconnelly (author)cornflaker2008-12-08

ya, u could

cornflaker (author)jeffconnelly2008-12-09

Haha I wonder what would happen if you took it to a vet...


Gaark (author)tibet2008-12-18

HOLY CRAP! is that thing real?

TheNetwerk (author)2011-09-13

What if you don't have photoshop?

Which photoshop did you use for this instructable?

alpal (author)2011-05-21

Great stuff, should have said cheers long ago.

cookieboogers (author)2009-01-26

Usually when I do stencils I just put layers of clear masking tape over the front or back...It works pretty well, most of my stencils are in tact. :) I've only tried doing layered stencils once...didn't turn out too well. I'll try this way. But, uh...I don't have photoshop.

use GIMP it is 100% more user friendly and it is free.

About This Instructable




Bio: Twitter: @mindsforge
More by nak:MSP430 Accelerometer microSD DataloggerHow to make a Filiberto's post cardHomebrew C64 "Paddle" box
Add instructable to: