Stencils With Islands - Pt. 2




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

So you want to spread your message with spraypaint, but you don't want your designs to be held back by worrying about pieces of a stencil connecting? Just use some cardboard, wire, and duct tape and you're ready to do the "impossible."

Big thanks to Tim Anderson for taking the action shots.

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Step 1: Cut Your Stencil

Here I took Aphex Twin's symbol off the ol' Interweb and converted it into a vector drawing with Illustrator. I then cut the design out of cardboard with a laser cutter. You probably don't have this costly bit of gear at your place and neither do I. I just make do with what others are kind enough to let me play with.

The low-tech version would be to print out the design in reverse, tape it to cardboard, and go nuts with a box cutter or Xacto blade. But that's another story for another Instructable and you're smart and clever enough to figure it all out, right?

After you've made your cuts, put all the pieces back together. This is how you're sure the placement is right.

Step 2: Get Some Pieces of Wire

Cut it from a spool, straighten out some paperclips, or snip out sections from a coat hanger that's lost its crappy little cardboard tube. Four or five inch lengths are great. Three inches is good, too. Just look at the next step and your needs will become clear.

Move along.

Step 3: Make Some Wire Bridges

You're now going to "bridge" the gaps to the islands. Place at least three wires from the outside of the stencil to the island in the middle. Two are good for a quick job, but three will give you a solid connection. Four are even better. Five starts to get silly looking. Six are goofy. Seven starts to get kinda cool again. Eight is glorious. Nine sucks. What the hell was I talking about?

Step 4: Tape 'em Down

Secure the bridges! Ready the ramparts!

OK, this is duct tape. Duct tape on cardboard. Duct tape that is holding wire onto the cardboard. I'm sure you're not even reading this. Absolutely positive. Crap, I need some more wine.

Step 5: Holy Crap! It's Holding!

OK, no big shocker, eh? Kind of anticlimactic, huh? But holy crap, it freakin' works!

Step 6: Stick It, Spray It

Place the stencil on a nice and legal target, such as a piece of masonite with a big blue tarp behind it. The tarp was stained with some previous efforts at something... else. I really have no clue what that is. Make it up.

Oh yeah, then spray it with some spraypaint. Be smart and get a can that isn't about 40 years old that you found in the back of a closet. But if you're gonna make something to put up online, then grab whatever. These small pictures hide the gruesome details.

Step 7: Enjoy Your Stencil

Cardboard is thick and the gap is big enough (3-4mm) between the top where the wires are to the target surface that the bridges will become completely invisible.

This is one method, there are others. I made this method up myself, but I'm sure I wasn't the first by a long, long shot.

This is one design of infinite possibility. Copy it from a source like I did here as an example or make something new. New is better.

Push yourself. Post your own efforts in the comments or simply spread it to others around you.

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    42 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    this is known as wire bridging. very useful, but i reccomend using fishing line in place of wire. its harder to attach but creates less lines. im glad someone showed how to do this, few people know it. i figured it out myself before i knew it had already been done.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    Photo v. helpful! Did you know that silkscreening is thought to have developed this way, from women tying silk threads to stabilize paper cutouts in Japan or China I think …


    9 years ago on Step 1

    what settings do you use in the laser to cut the card board and not burn it completely? I have a 75 Watt machine. thanks


    9 years ago on Introduction

    if u want an everlasting stencil, use plastic, and chicken wire, i just thought of it, great idea, great ible


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I've always wondered why people never do this - it's so simple! If you're using this cardboard, you could always bend the wire up then down to make an arch over the gap


    10 years ago on Step 6

    i think you need some work on your spray technique lol just playin man i need some wine too lol good job


    10 years ago on Step 6

    I think you murdered someone on that tarp. Good idea no less. Where do you attatin this laser cutter?


    11 years ago on Step 7

    great idea, im such a dumbass, ive been stenciling for years and hevent figured that out

    My friends and i just recently (i mean just five minutes ago) made a large Boo stencil. this wouldve helped alot, there are gaps left unpainted in ours... =P


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you so much for your tutorial! IT certainly made a first time stencilers project easier!


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Sweet! I have always used tape, but then the pieces could shift, this is way better! This is the stencil I am making.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Dude, you guys don't have to change anything, this is a quick, easy, and great instructable.


    13 years ago

    Surely if you used thinner wire you could use thinner pieces of cardboard? You'd have to watch them for breakages, but if the wire wasn't too thin it's be alright.

    3 replies
    fungus amunguspinski1

    Reply 13 years ago

    This techique is easily modified. I cut this out of thick cardboard because the laser cutter did all the annoying work for me. This makes for a sturdy stencil that can easily be tossed into a backpack, although you'll still need something strong and flat so it doesn't get bent, like that piece of masonite.

    If you want, you can cut thinner cardboard or even card stock. Cereal boxes work pretty well and who doesn't want to dig through the extra massive bag of Cheerios?

    I forgot to mention it in the instructable, but another use for this is to help secure long peninsulas. Spray enough times and the cardboard or card can get a bit soggy and droop a bit. Wires provide the extra support until you can afford to get a stencil custom cut from masonite. These guys can cut a piece for you. Costs money, but if it's out of the hardboard it should last forever. Cutting the same design over and over on flimsy stock gets old.

    Ribsfungus amungus

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    can a laser cutter cut masonite? cause if it can you could just make your own!! it may seem like a dumb question but i dont know this stuff

    fungus amungusRibs

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    It can. That link I had before is a service that does just that. I've cut several masonite stencils and they rock. I used cardboard as an example because laser cutters aren't easy to come by.


    13 years ago

    You can also use screen material (like you use on a door, porch, or window) and glue to make a stencil for both spraypainting and screen printing (and spay screen printing!) Now if I knew of a spray paint that would make it thru the washer without ruining things...