Picture of 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

Picture of 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.
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Itsmewil181 month ago
AnwarK13 months ago
mee-mee4 years ago
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
dreadshed mee-mee7 months ago

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 :)

Hollabaloo6 years ago
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?

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

Some recent examples below

3.png5 (1).png
Weissensteinburg (author)  Hollabaloo6 years ago
Try Filter>Adjustments
 Or just keep photocopying an image until it is just a stencil. I got that tip from photojojo
ahmed5451 year ago
firehawk233 years ago
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.
Discojess6 years ago
How did you handle the forehead island? Looks good!
nevermind, I read the linked instructable :D
Weissensteinburg (author)  Discojess6 years ago
While the linked instructable is an option, I opted to just place the forehead in manually after spraying it with adhesive.
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!
lol I thought you were saying that he had a massive forehead when i first read that
Same here, haha.
mjagitsch3 years ago
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.
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.
Mr.Phil4 years ago
Very Good technique for creating scroll saw portraits as well.
joel3834 years ago
lines are a bit thin but I think it will work.
Gage9875 years ago
a shirt of your face?  WHY?!
Foaly7 Gage9874 years ago
Why not?
You could use the pen tool instead. OH YEAH VECTORS!
These are mine :D
hey any one kno where i can buy the spray thing tho?
Weissensteinburg (author)  z3ro_infinite6 years ago
The paint? I bought mine from Joann's. Any craft store should carry something like it.
Mine doesn't. Our craft stores suck!!!!!
Haha gotta love Monty Python XD
Doersn't everyone? Our math teacher last year, could talk to us for at least two hours, about python.
Haha sounds like an awesome teacher
She was!
 My friends did this sketch for drama last year. There werent any missing limbs, but their dialogue was enough to make everyone laugh.
my teacher loves it and played there sketches in class
aahhh, I love that part...
Weissensteinburg (author)  mg0930mg6 years ago
They don't have any fabric paints?
Nope. Going to philly next weekend. Hopefully they have something. My test today didn't work well.
did u use abdobe photoshop
does michaels have it?
Weissensteinburg (author)  INSTRUCTUBAL6 years ago
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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