Thursday, January 24, 2013

Digital "Stenciling"

Happy Thursday! Ron here with another digital tutorial! Today, I'm gonna talk about stenciling, or maybe I should say 'faux' stenciling, since we don't actually have stencil files in our digital kits. (Club Scrap Digital™ kits used to contain stencil files, but they're not really a digital item, so they were discontinued a few years ago. But if you have any, they'll work fine for this technique.) We're going to use stamp files to create our stencil look today. Bold stamps with lots of dark areas work best, but you can really use just about any stamp image you like. Fonts can also work for this technique.

Note, as always, I'm using Adobe Photoshop 5, but most programs that support layers should work; steps in those programs may vary, however.

1. Open a new document. I like to start with a 12x12, 300ppi file, so that I have lots of room to work.

2. Fill the layer with white. This will make it easier to see what you're doing!

3. Open the stamp image that you've decided to work with. I'm using the Horse stamp from Equestrian.

4. Drag the stamp image onto the new file that you created.

5. Resize the stamp image so that ti's a bit larger - this will make it easier to work with.

6. in the Layers Palette, Ctrl-Click (Windows) or Command-Click (Mac) on the thumbnail of the stamp layer. You'll see 'marching ants' around the image to show that it's been selected.

7. Click on the 'eye' icon for the stamp layer in the Layers Palette. This will hide that layer.

8. Create a new layer above the stamp layer and make sure that layer is selected in the Layers Palette. This will be the stencil layer.
9. In the Tool Bar, select the Brush Tool and choose a fuzzy round brush. The size will vary, depending on the size of your image, but I like to start with something fairly large. I chose the soft round brush and made it about 450 pixels in diameter.

10. In the Color Swatch Palette, choose a light color. I'm using Tan.

11. Use the brush to swipe across the image, coloring in the majority of the image, but don't worry if it's not even - this will better simulate the look of inking a stencil with a sponge applicator. As long as you're still seeing the marching ants, only the selected portion will change color.
12. Choose a darker color and swipe again, but stay closer to the edges so that part of the image will be darker. Again, this mimics the sponge applicator.
13. Repeat with a third, darker color, very close to the edge, if desired. You may want to make the brush smaller for this last step.
14. If you feel the image looks a bit too dark, you can lower the opacity of the layer to lighten it up a bit. This will also allow some of the background to show through, like it would if you were using ink and a stencil on paper.
That's all there is to it! You'll find that some images work better than others, but the more you practice, the  easier it will get. If you create one that you especially like, remember to save it so that you can re-use it!

Here are a few other images, to (hopefully) inspire you.

That's it for this week - go create something wonderful with digital stencils!


  1. HOLY COW, That is such an awesome technique Ron! I always wondered how you do that! Great tutorial. Thanks!

  2. Thanks, I always need help with this during PSL

  3. Love this technique and was thinking that we needed a quick refresher. Thank you very much.


  4. Brilliant! Would make an awesome addition to any layout...I gotta do more digital darn it!

  5. Omigosh, Ron...this is just awesome. I can't WAIT to give it a try!

  6. Thank you for the technique!

  7. WOW Ron. Can't wait to try this! Thanks a bunch.


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