Introduction: Turn a Photo Into a Stencil!

Using just Photoshop, we're going to turn an ordinary photograph into a stencil worthy image in just a few minutes!

I was bored today and decided I wanted to make a stencil. Looking through my old profile pictures on facebook, I found a particular one that I thought might make a good stencil. After playing around for a bit, I discovered this process for turning it into a two-color image on photoshop.

Keep in mind, you can also use this for silk screening, or any other process that requires a smooth edged image.

Step 1: Rough Shapes

First we make it into a rough two-tone shape:

  • Load the image
  • Image>Adjustments>Posterize - You don't want it to look too different. I posterized it to 10 levels.
  • Image>Adjustments>Threshold - Slide the bar around until you see something that looks like a stencil. You have to keep it as simple as possible, for ease of cutting it out, and also watch out for islands that wouldn't be connected to the main stencil i.e. floating blobs. I set my threshold level to 100.

Step 2: Cleaning It Up

Right now we have a very rough, jagged stencil. It won't work well for cutting out with a knife at all. This step is what took me some time to figure out.

  • Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur - Set the radius to a level that still leaves a distict image, but with evenly blurred edges. 4 pixels was perfect for me.
  • Posterize it again, this time at 2 levels, and you should be all set!

Step 3: What to Do With It?

I printed my stencil out, and then used a cardboard cutter to cut the stencil out from a shoe box. So far i've only spray painted it onto newspaper, but it definitely turned out well!

A few tips:

  • When you print it out, change the color from black to a light gray. It'll save you some ink.
  • This instructable gives some help on making stencils with islands.
  • A light layer of spray on adhesive can help give you cleaner edges when you're spray painting. Make sure to remove the stencil immediately after painting, or it may get stuck!

Have fun with your new stencil!

UPDATE: I ended up putting it onto a T-Shirt. Acetate sheets (over head transparencies) work well for reusable stencils, so I printed it onto one of them and cut the images out with scissors, and voila! It's drying as I speak.

Comments

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ShwedishFish made it!(author)2016-09-22

thanks for posting this!

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%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%85 made it!(author)2016-08-03

Something interesting

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LindseyOwn made it!(author)2016-06-18

Thanks for this tutorial!!! My vinyl sticker on my laptop didn't turn out awesome, but decent for a first try. :-) I copied into Illustrator and image-traced to cut the sticker.

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SzczekS made it!(author)2016-06-15

thank you for this idea!

I was making a stencil like this one, but a more bigger then you...Firts of all i was doing all steps like you. Then thx to poster softwere I've printed it on my a4 printer.

Now it's looks realy good :)

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DejonieL made it!(author)2015-09-19

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vcsekhar made it!(author)2015-09-08

Sorry, but what software is used here? Please share a link for info.

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Itsmewil18 made it!(author)2015-07-12

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AnwarK1 made it!(author)2015-06-01

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mee-mee made it!(author)2010-10-08

these are mine...yeah I love cookie monster, and Edward cullen also...
I did these with photo studio months ago...but didn't find you 'ible

cookie-monster-cupcake.jpgstencil-edward-cullen-twilight.jpg
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dreadshed made it!(author)2015-01-24

Hi mee-mee, I know this is a really old post but if you're still around would you mind telling me if you used the photo studio app for this?

If you did, would you mind telling me how?

Thanks, Sam :)

author
Hollabaloo made it!(author)2009-07-20

This is awesome, and much better than most similar tutorials! Except.... My photoshop (elements 4.0) doesn't have the image>adjustments option. Is there an alternative solution? Or, failing that, would anyone be willing to do this process on an image for me?

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borogoves made it!(author)2014-06-29

Now there's a super-simple way to convert any image into a stencil: http://stencil.zatchu.com

Some recent examples below

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Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2009-07-20

Try Filter>Adjustments

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M4industries made it!(author)2009-12-08

 Or just keep photocopying an image until it is just a stencil. I got that tip from photojojo

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ahmed545 made it!(author)2013-09-26

ahmed

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firehawk23 made it!(author)2012-08-29

Just an addition to this if in the last step you do smart blur>edge only and play around with the radius and threshold levels. It finds the edge for you. do ctrl+i to invert it and you have a cleaner stencil that won't waste as much ink when printing.

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Discojess made it!(author)2008-11-26

How did you handle the forehead island? Looks good!

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Discojess made it!(author)2008-11-26

nevermind, I read the linked instructable :D

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Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2008-11-26

While the linked instructable is an option, I opted to just place the forehead in manually after spraying it with adhesive.

author
water+rat made it!(author)2011-09-18

Regarding islands:
If you're silk screening the stencil, you can make a small loop with blue painters tape and gently tape it in place. After your first pull it will adhere to the screen & last as long as the rest of the stencil. Freezer paper works well for most short run water based projects :)

TYSM for the very basic & practical introduction to stenciling!

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cornflaker made it!(author)2008-12-07

lol I thought you were saying that he had a massive forehead when i first read that

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jbeyssac made it!(author)2011-06-06

Same here, haha.

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mjagitsch made it!(author)2011-09-13

I tried using Photoshop and had better luck just tracing a photo with a Sharpie. Maybe if I could figure photoshop out, it would better for me.

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burnerjack01 made it!(author)2011-06-26

Did you know that "Coyote" sell a program specificaly for this? Various levels of
shading, edge manipulation and island handling? Scan and run. Transfer to final medium and bingo. Done. I've used it for scrollsaw work and it does work.

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Mr.Phil made it!(author)2011-02-03

Very Good technique for creating scroll saw portraits as well.

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joel383 made it!(author)2011-01-31

lines are a bit thin but I think it will work.

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Gage987 made it!(author)2009-11-17

a shirt of your face?  WHY?!

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Foaly7 made it!(author)2011-01-24

Why not?

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superMacaroni made it!(author)2010-11-16

You could use the pen tool instead. OH YEAH VECTORS!

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MrL33TPenguin made it!(author)2010-05-02

These are mine :D

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z3ro_infinite made it!(author)2008-11-26

hey any one kno where i can buy the spray thing tho?

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Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2008-11-26

The paint? I bought mine from Joann's. Any craft store should carry something like it.

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mg0930mg made it!(author)2008-12-27

Mine doesn't. Our craft stores suck!!!!!

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cornflaker made it!(author)2009-01-15

Haha gotta love Monty Python XD

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mg0930mg made it!(author)2009-01-15

Doersn't everyone? Our math teacher last year, could talk to us for at least two hours, about python.

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cornflaker made it!(author)2009-01-16

Haha sounds like an awesome teacher

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mg0930mg made it!(author)2009-01-16

She was!

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M4industries made it!(author)2009-12-11

 My friends did this sketch for drama last year. There werent any missing limbs, but their dialogue was enough to make everyone laugh.

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volquete made it!(author)2009-06-11

my teacher loves it and played there sketches in class

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Bright+Shadow made it!(author)2009-01-28

aahhh, I love that part...

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Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2008-12-27

They don't have any fabric paints?

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mg0930mg made it!(author)2008-12-27

Nope. Going to philly next weekend. Hopefully they have something. My test today didn't work well.

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LILhazY made it!(author)2009-06-13

did u use abdobe photoshop

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INSTRUCTUBAL made it!(author)2009-01-26

does michaels have it?

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Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2009-01-26

I got mine from Joann's, but i'm sure Michael's would as well. Just to be safe, I'd call them before hand and make sure.

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volquete made it!(author)2009-06-11

nice

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M4industries made it!(author)2009-12-08

 here are mine

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Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2009-12-08

They turned out pretty well!

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gir-.- made it!(author)2009-06-07

what software did you use?

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Weissensteinburg made it!(author)2009-06-07

Photoshop

About This Instructable

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Bio: I enjoy photography, horticulture and carpentry, and am almost always doing something relating to of those things.
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