Introduction: 3D-effect Stencil

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

Creating a two-color stencil that delivers a 3D perspective. This uses SketchUp and Illustrator.

Step 1: Pop Into 3D

To start off with, I take a classic videogame image and import it into SketchUp. After that, trace the images to create four polygons. With the push/pull tool, grab the polygons and pull them up to create a solid shape. Double-clicking on the three remaining shapes will repeat the action and bring them up to the same height for consistency.

Step 2: And Back Into 2D

With the shape existing in 3D form, move the camera around to get an angle that shows off the shape in a dramatic way. Once you have a camera location you love, export a 2D image.

Open up Illustrator and import the resulting image it. Once there, create two layers, one for the shadow and one for the white front. For the shadow layer, outline the entire image. The reason is that when you put white paint on black it pops out more in the final result. It's also a little easier on the alignment. Nothing throws an image more than having the object be separate from the shadow.

After that, outline the white sections and then print one image for each of the two layers. These will become your stencils.

Step 3: Print, Laminate, Cut!

This is where the work comes in. After printing out each layer, laminate it. I did this at Office Depot for $1.40 each. I used to have my own laminator, but then a friend walked off with it. It's a long and stupid story.

When you have the sheets all shiny just get out an Xacto knife and get cutting. Use a ruler or do it freehand. Be sure to have plenty of blades on hand since you'll likely need to swap them pretty quickly.

Step 4: Stick It Down

Almost time to spray some paint. But first, put a light layer of spray adhesive on the backs of the stencils and let that dry for a few minutes. Now put it on the applied surface and press on it, especially on the edges, to make sure it's down. Put some paper on the side to prevent overspray.

Step 5: Spray!

This is the fun part and likely where you're going to make a mistake. Be sure to shake up the can and spray it onto a scrap piece of paper. You want to be sure that the paint is coming out nice and clean before you start the real work.

When spraying, start and stop the spraying off of the stencil. This will give you a more even coat. Build up some light layers and even take a break or two along the way to let the paint dry before applying more.

Step 6: You're Done! Now Clean Up That Mess.

Now I admit I got a little sloppy here. I stuck down the second stencil and then got distracted by my kitten running around. After some rustling the stencil came up a bit and I got some underspray when I got back to work. Better luck next time. Click the other image to see a cleaner version.

Nothing to do now but have a beer and move on to the next stencil. Got some more cutting to do, after all.