Using a Vinyl Cutter to Make an Airbrush Stencil

About: Educator, designer, tinkerer.

In this instructable, I'll give a brief introduction to the process of using a vinyl cutter to make stencils that you can use for painting with an airbrush setup or really, with just about any type of paint. In these pictures, I used an airbrush booth, but spray paint would work fine.

Hopefully, this will give you some new ideas about how to use your vinyl cutter. I love all the applications vinyl cutters work for.

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Step 1: Step 1: Get Your Materials & Tools Ready

To get started, you'll need some equipment and materials.

Equipment

  1. Vinyl Cutter -- Not going to specify a model since any vinyl cutter should have no issues cutting stencil film. At our makerspace, we use a US Cutter MH 871-Mk2.
  2. Airbrush Setup – We use a basic compressor and airbrush gun setup that is easy to find on Amazon for ~$100 bucks, along with our own DIY airbrush booth.

No airbrush equipment? Not a problem. You can really use any type of paint. I've used all sort of paints— spray paint, conductive paint , and acrylic paint.

Materials

  1. Stencil Film Vinyl — Personally, I see no reason to use anything but Oracal ORAMASK 813 Stencil Film.
  2. Vinyl Transfer Tape Greenstar TransferRite is my favorite. I like that it is transparent, others are mildly transparent or not at all. It makes working with it just harder.
  3. Painter's Tape
  4. Paint
  5. Something to Paint

Step 2: Step 2: Cut Your Design

Go ahead and use your preferred software to create your design & cut it out on your vinyl cutter.

I wanted to paint some little donation-based icons onto a laser cut box when we collect donations at our makerspace.

Really, this entire process is just like creating a normal vinyl sticker, except stencil film vinyl is low-tack and can be pulled off cleanly after being painted over.

Step 3: Step 3: Apply Your Transfer Tape to Your Stencil

Easy enough...apply the transfer tape to the stencil you just cut out.

You will notice some issues while using the stencil vinyl compared to regular vinyl.

Being low-tack, it is much more prone to bubbling and pulling off it's backing paper. Just go slow and spend as much time as needed to get the vinyl onto the transfer tape without bubbles. This part is pretty key since you will be painting over this vinyl and any lifting/bubbles and you won't get clean lines.

Step 4: Step 4: Place the Vinyl and Peel Off Transfer Tape

Just like applying a normal vinyl sticker. Place it onto your material and peel off your transfer tape.

Inspect to make sure the vinyl is placed totally flat.

Finally, apply any painter's tape around the material to prevent it from getting paint on it. (sorry forgot to take a picture of the box all taped up.

Step 5: Step 5: Go Ahead and Paint It!

And you know what to do next! Paint it up.

You'll need to wait for the paint to dry in some form or fashion based on the paint type. For airbrushing, the paint dries pretty quickly, and it is pretty forgiving when peeling off the stencil film. Typically, you want to peel it off when it is just about dry. Too dry and the paint will chip, too wet and you'll get bleeding and your lines won't be clean.

And success! Another use for your vinyl cutter.

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