Introduction: Stencils With Islands - Pt. 2

Picture of Stencils With Islands - Pt. 2

So you want to spread your message with spraypaint, but you don't want your designs to be held back by worrying about pieces of a stencil connecting? Just use some cardboard, wire, and duct tape and you're ready to do the "impossible."

Big thanks to Tim Anderson for taking the action shots.

Step 1: Cut Your Stencil

Picture of Cut Your Stencil

Here I took Aphex Twin's symbol off the ol' Interweb and converted it into a vector drawing with Illustrator. I then cut the design out of cardboard with a laser cutter. You probably don't have this costly bit of gear at your place and neither do I. I just make do with what others are kind enough to let me play with.

The low-tech version would be to print out the design in reverse, tape it to cardboard, and go nuts with a box cutter or Xacto blade. But that's another story for another Instructable and you're smart and clever enough to figure it all out, right?

After you've made your cuts, put all the pieces back together. This is how you're sure the placement is right.

Step 2: Get Some Pieces of Wire

Picture of Get Some Pieces of Wire

Cut it from a spool, straighten out some paperclips, or snip out sections from a coat hanger that's lost its crappy little cardboard tube. Four or five inch lengths are great. Three inches is good, too. Just look at the next step and your needs will become clear.

Move along.

Step 3: Make Some Wire Bridges

Picture of Make Some Wire Bridges

You're now going to "bridge" the gaps to the islands. Place at least three wires from the outside of the stencil to the island in the middle. Two are good for a quick job, but three will give you a solid connection. Four are even better. Five starts to get silly looking. Six are goofy. Seven starts to get kinda cool again. Eight is glorious. Nine sucks. What the hell was I talking about?

Step 4: Tape 'em Down

Picture of Tape 'em Down

Secure the bridges! Ready the ramparts!

OK, this is duct tape. Duct tape on cardboard. Duct tape that is holding wire onto the cardboard. I'm sure you're not even reading this. Absolutely positive. Crap, I need some more wine.

Step 5: Holy Crap! It's Holding!

Picture of Holy Crap! It's Holding!

OK, no big shocker, eh? Kind of anticlimactic, huh? But holy crap, it freakin' works!

Step 6: Stick It, Spray It

Picture of Stick It, Spray It

Place the stencil on a nice and legal target, such as a piece of masonite with a big blue tarp behind it. The tarp was stained with some previous efforts at something... else. I really have no clue what that is. Make it up.

Oh yeah, then spray it with some spraypaint. Be smart and get a can that isn't about 40 years old that you found in the back of a closet. But if you're gonna make something to put up online, then grab whatever. These small pictures hide the gruesome details.

Step 7: Enjoy Your Stencil

Picture of Enjoy Your Stencil

Cardboard is thick and the gap is big enough (3-4mm) between the top where the wires are to the target surface that the bridges will become completely invisible.

This is one method, there are others. I made this method up myself, but I'm sure I wasn't the first by a long, long shot.

This is one design of infinite possibility. Copy it from a source like I did here as an example or make something new. New is better.

Push yourself. Post your own efforts in the comments or simply spread it to others around you.


Kirbsome! (author)2011-09-25

Simple and clever. Love it.

ilpug (author)2011-08-09

this is known as wire bridging. very useful, but i reccomend using fishing line in place of wire. its harder to attach but creates less lines. im glad someone showed how to do this, few people know it. i figured it out myself before i knew it had already been done.

typo3150 (author)2010-06-27

Photo v. helpful! Did you know that silkscreening is thought to have developed this way, from women tying silk threads to stabilize paper cutouts in Japan or China I think …

arudiver (author)2010-06-13

what settings do you use in the laser to cut the card board and not burn it completely? I have a 75 Watt machine. thanks

l96470fps (author)2010-05-12

if u want an everlasting stencil, use plastic, and chicken wire, i just thought of it, great idea, great ible

xilefakamot (author)2009-06-17

I've always wondered why people never do this - it's so simple! If you're using this cardboard, you could always bend the wire up then down to make an arch over the gap

KoolAidDisaster (author)2009-01-06

i think you need some work on your spray technique lol just playin man i need some wine too lol good job

OutOfStep (author)2008-11-14

I think you murdered someone on that tarp. Good idea no less. Where do you attatin this laser cutter?

california145 (author)2008-08-28

great idea, im such a dumbass, ive been stenciling for years and hevent figured that out

FunkNattidelic (author)2008-08-20

My friends and i just recently (i mean just five minutes ago) made a large Boo stencil. this wouldve helped alot, there are gaps left unpainted in ours... =P

RyanV (author)2008-06-15

Thank you so much for your tutorial! IT certainly made a first time stencilers project easier!

Sgt.Waffles (author)2007-12-30

Badass. I approve.

Whaleman (author)2007-09-12

Sweet! I have always used tape, but then the pieces could shift, this is way better! This is the stencil I am making.

GorillazMiko (author)2007-08-21

Dude, you guys don't have to change anything, this is a quick, easy, and great instructable.

pinski1 (author)2006-08-30

Surely if you used thinner wire you could use thinner pieces of cardboard? You'd have to watch them for breakages, but if the wire wasn't too thin it's be alright.

fungus amungus (author)pinski12006-08-30

This techique is easily modified. I cut this out of thick cardboard because the laser cutter did all the annoying work for me. This makes for a sturdy stencil that can easily be tossed into a backpack, although you'll still need something strong and flat so it doesn't get bent, like that piece of masonite.

If you want, you can cut thinner cardboard or even card stock. Cereal boxes work pretty well and who doesn't want to dig through the extra massive bag of Cheerios?

I forgot to mention it in the instructable, but another use for this is to help secure long peninsulas. Spray enough times and the cardboard or card can get a bit soggy and droop a bit. Wires provide the extra support until you can afford to get a stencil custom cut from masonite. These guys can cut a piece for you. Costs money, but if it's out of the hardboard it should last forever. Cutting the same design over and over on flimsy stock gets old.

Ribs (author)fungus amungus2007-07-28

can a laser cutter cut masonite? cause if it can you could just make your own!! it may seem like a dumb question but i dont know this stuff

fungus amungus (author)Ribs2007-07-31

It can. That link I had before is a service that does just that. I've cut several masonite stencils and they rock. I used cardboard as an example because laser cutters aren't easy to come by.

AlphA303 (author)2007-07-30

Sweet idea.

Grendel (author)2006-08-30

You can also use screen material (like you use on a door, porch, or window) and glue to make a stencil for both spraypainting and screen printing (and spay screen printing!) Now if I knew of a spray paint that would make it thru the washer without ruining things...

CaffeineHouse (author)Grendel2007-07-16

actually the mesh used in screen printing is a lot finer than the stuff you'd use on a screen door, and if you used actual silkscreen or the like, the spraypaint would gum it up immediately.

fungus amungus (author)Grendel2006-08-30

You could do that, but spraypaint will quickly fill up some of the squares if you aren't diligent about cleaning it off. Also, I never have any spare bit of mesh lying around, but I have a veritable bounty of paperclips and clothes hangers just waiting to be put to work.

neuralstatic (author)2007-06-18


master-of-chaos (author)2007-03-28


hughdowner (author)2007-01-23

Why didn't i think of that?!

gary delatte (author)2006-12-07
hey. my first post as a new member.if you use plastic cardboard (available after any locol election,ask first ,the people with them in thier yards will let you have them for free)insted of paper and your stencil will last long enough for you to get tired of painting things.i love this site,you guys are increadable.but i think some of you have waaaay too much time on your hands,lol.
neural_cosmonaut (author)2006-08-31

excellent, but another sturdy and fairly economical way to further secure your creation is to use a hot glue gun to hold the wires in place. less likely to shift during transport, etc. just keep some duct tape handy, just in case.

True, that's another method that works. It's just quibbling over an adhesive, but I like the tape just because I don't like waiting for the glue gun to heat up.

Kactapuss (author)fungus amungus2006-10-24

lol, i totally feel you on that one, whenever i MUST use the glue gun, i hold the tip after i pulg it in so i know the instant that it's hot enough to use.

kennytatheguy (author)2006-09-27


FrenchCrawler (author)2006-08-28

Cool idea, now if I only had something to spray paint...

walk downtown and spray paint garbage cans allyways street signs ext

Um.... Live in the forest.....Kind of surrounded by trees. Spray painting trees won't work neither cause for one thing it makes toxic firewood and two the bark is too rough.

Grendel (author)FrenchCrawler2006-08-30

There is a spraypaint you can use actually on trees. Its designed to not harm the tree, many city / county governments use it to spraypaint trees pink at christmas time to keep people from cutting down public trees. I don't know the name of the stuff off the top of my head butt I've seen it while driving down the interstate, and on CNN a few times.

kellusion (author)Grendel2006-09-21

Its probably the same kind they use to mark hiking trails too, I'd imagine.

brob (author)Grendel2006-08-30

interesting. Didn't know that,

stonehenge360 (author)2006-09-04

good job. another great instructable is which does the same basic thing on a laptop.

nak (author)2006-09-01

Cool! Ive been getting into stencils the last couple months. (props for aphex twin)

antirem (author)2006-08-29

I posted that the aphex twin pic cause i made it in to a shirt before, for a second i was like, oh man someone else is making aphex twin stencils too ive seen wire used before but the reasoning for it didnt connect at the time. Great job im going to try this one soon!

fungus amungus (author)2006-08-29

The whole thing came out of this conversation, so thanks to Anitrem for that. Since the challenge was an Aphex Twin icon I had to do it. Haven't listened to him in a while, but man did I used to play that stuff loud back in the day.

SirGrok (author)2006-08-29

Much respect for the Aphex Twin reference. Awesome instructable as well. I hadn't thought of that.

Doom_Goat (author)2006-08-28

nice idea good instructable aphex twin :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to make things for the internets. I also sell a pretty cool calendar at You'll like it.
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