Introduction: Sweet Stencil/screen Printing on the Cheap (Great for Teachers 8th and Up)

If you are a creative person, then at some point in time you've wanted to make an original shirt or stencil.  Here is your chance to learn how to do it on the cheap and get really nice quality.  Just follow these steps and enjoy the process.  By the way, all of the stencils you see here, except the motorcycle, were completed by...........8th graders.  If they can do it, you can do it.

-a cool image printed on paper
-an x-acto blade
-a sheet of clear plastic overhead material
-small sponge in a clothespin
-some paper, a tie, or a shirt to print on

Step 1: Get Your Students Excited and Review Safety.

Make a really cool display on the board and create a slideshow of sorts.  Show students work by Shephard Fairey, Banksy, and the like.  Make sure they know not to do illegal art.  Review safety with x-acto blades and then have your students find cool images to print or draw their own.  

Step 2: Review Safety Again.

I always find it smart to count your x-acto blades and know how many you have.  I have 25 total and after every class I count them before anyone can leave.  Last thing I want is a missing blade in school.  Just for fun I have my students sign an agreement that is in no way a legal document, but at least frees me of feeling guilty if they do cut their fingers.  You should read it.  It's kind of funny.

*start with new blades.  They cut much nicer, and actually a sharp blade is safer because you don't need to force it at all.

Step 3: Find a Really Cool Picture or Logo

Do an image search and look for something cool.  I found an old Honda s-90 bike from the 60's.  I tell my students to look for images that are simple and look like logos.  Sometimes just adding the word "logo" after what you're searching will really help.  Images that have straight clean lines tend to be easier than curvy lines.  

Remember that you are going to be slicing holes in an overhead sheet.  Try to think of your object as a bunch of shapes that are separated with gaps.  If you cut the whole outline of your object, you'll just have a big hole the shape of your design.  This is a difficult thing to explain but once you wrap your brain around it, you get it. 

Step 4: Slice It Up

Lay a clear sheet of overhead material over top of your image, tape it down if you don't want it to move and start slicing. Be careful, pay attention, go slow, and remember that most of the time you spend on this will be cutting the stencil.  A good stencil will print nice, but a bad one never will no matter how good you are.  Also remember to put a board underneath it all so you don't slice up the table.  

Step 5: Check Your Stencil

Now you should have basically a clear overhead sheet with a bunch of holes sliced in it.  All of these holes together should make your design.  (this one has paint on it b/c I took the picture post-printing). sorry

Step 6: Print It Yo.

We use straight up acrylic paint and little sponges on clothespins to print.  The key is to go slow, go straight up and down (dabbing it), and to not have a lot of paint on your sponge.  Too much paint will bleed out under your stencil. 

Step 7: Show It Off

You've worked so hard and now you should have a pretty good idea of how the printing works.  Print your super awesome design on a tie or a shirt and show the world how great you are!  Who knows you may be taking orders soon.