Large Stencils Via Projector




Introduction: Large Stencils Via Projector

Sometimes you need to get your design onto paper or whatever you use, and a plotter is either too expensive or unavailable. If you have a projector, your day is all saved and stuff. See how.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: What You Need

Well, I think you could theoretically use lots of stuff, but here's what I used:

-stencil material
I like to use very thin polycarbonate plastic. You can get large 2'X4' sheets for ~$2 from
-stencil design
I usually do either pure photoshop vector or image manipulation with the cutout filter
We had one around the office for playing Halo on.. I mean... meetings.
-permanent marker
Any kind will do, but Sharpie has my money.
-cutting knife
I like exactos. If you cut anything thicker than .004" polycarbonate, try getting the thicker-handled ones.
-fresh, sharp blades
Cost: ~1.50USD. Benefit: Much, much easier on your hands.
-cutting mat
I don't really care that much about this- I only have this nice one because I rescued it from a dumpster. Cardboard will do in a pinch.
Anything will do, even tacks if you don't mind holes in your wall. I had cellophane tape handy.

Step 2: Design Stencil

I like using Photoshop.

For colors like this light blue, you can lose your mind trying to trace the untreated edge... or you can slap a 1-3px black stroke on those layers.

Step 3: Project Stencil Onto Wall

Use a projector.

If you're concerned with scale, you can project a few elements with a defined scale, and adjust the projector until it fits.

I wasn't really concerned with that, and I don't think many people making stencils will be.. so I skipped it.

Step 4: Tape Up Material

Use some tape or tacks to put up the material so the image projects onto it decently.

Step 5: Trace Stencil

Carefully trace the stencil projected onto the material with the marker. It's kind of a pita to do this accurately, especially with lots of caffeine and/or energy drinks in your system. I suggest a good portion of healthy fruits and/or veggies and a stool to steady yourself.

If you had to do this a lot, I'd suggest a setup with a large transparent glass table, and the projector below it. Tracing things while seated is much easier than doing it perpendicular to a gravity well.

Actually, that makes me think... I wonder what tracing something in zero gravity would be like? I think you might have to brace yourself of a bulkhead or something of the sort.... weird.

Anyways, you'll likely need to modify your design for contiguity- an island of material will fall right out of the stencil, you need to build it with little 'bridges' to connect it with the rest of the stencil- see the images to see what I mean.

A technique I like to use to double-check what I draw before I cut it out is to simply draw a little X on the bits I'll be cutting out, then stepping back and imagining them all falling out.

Step 6: Cut Stencil

Now's the fun part. Grab your knife, once-over the design again to make sure you haven't screwed it up, and start cutting it out.

Make sure to use the cutting mat, or you'll have your mom / significant other / whinydude on your case.

Step 7: Go Spray Something

Now go take your stencil, and, in a place that's nice and legal- like your basement- spray paint through the stencil.

Be the First to Share


    • Fandom Contest

      Fandom Contest
    • Jewelry Challenge

      Jewelry Challenge
    • Backyard Contest

      Backyard Contest

    6 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Question: I'd like to do this, but not with a video projector, rather an old school overhead projector--the ones from grade school. So my questions are 1: while standing in front of the projection to cut, does your shadow obscure and interfere much? 2: Silly question, colors show well on these overhead projectors, right?



    12 years ago on Introduction

    @kbacalis: part number 85585K102 should do it.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    this instructable is great! When ordering the stencil material on, i am having trouble navigating....what exactely do i need to order. I would like to purchase a roll or this plastic like you have shown in the picture. Thank you for your help.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    This is actually the method that sign makers used before the advent and broad usage of plotters. Back to the future.


    if you don't have a video projector you can print your stancil (tiny) on transparency, cut it, put it into a slide and project it with a diascope. i used this several times with a laser-printer and it worked perfect.