Stencil Techniques for Card Making
Learn fun stencil techniques for greeting cards using a wide variety of coloring and paste mediums. There’s no end to the creative fun that awaits!
Stencils are wonderful little tools that have been used in many creative avenues over the years, and card making is no exception. Although they are not new to the paper-crafting world, they definitely have experienced a rebirth. Created from paper, plastic and metal, they can be found in a variety of stores ranging from office supply and home improvement stores to art and craft stores. Aside from real-life images and words, there are also many abstract images and patterns to choose from. Not only have the variety of stencil designs grown but also the techniques that may be accomplished with them.
The renewed popularity of using stencils in card making is due in part to the art journaling and mixed media world as well as the variety of products available to the crafter today. Products such as inks in every color of the rainbow, paint daubers, metallic creams, stains, color wash sprays, glitter, metallic and iridescent sprays along with embossing, modeling and fiber pastes, and embossing powders all can be used to create a variety of effects with stencils.
Both the open and solid image styles are often referred to as stencils. Technically though, the open image design is typically called a stencil and the more solid image styles are masks. That being said, they can all be used to create wonderful effects using many of the same techniques. From backgrounds to focal points and accents, stencils are a wonderful goto product!
Creating Your Own Stencils
Another very popular method of acquiring a stencil is to create your own with the use of punches or die templates. Objects and products not specifically designed for this purpose can also be used to create stenciled patterns. Fiberglass drywall tape creates tiny square patterns, and paper joint tape, popular in art journaling and mixed media, will create multiple circle images. Even punchinella, the waste from punching sequins, can offer beautiful results. Many of these popular patterns have even been reproduced in stencil form. So keep your eyes peeled for everyday items with interesting patterns that may be used as stencils (Photo 1).
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the inks you have. After all, happy accidents are how many great ideas are born.
When working with stencils it is sometimes necessary to secure the e stencil down using repositionable tape depending on the technique and medium being used. The use of a nonstick craft sheet on your work surface is very helpful. The stencil and the actual paper being stenciled can then be secured to the craft sheet temporarily without damage, and clean up is just a simple swipe away with a baby wipe, paper towel or rag. Some techniques, however, require the stencil to be moved into different positions. In this case simply lay the stencil in position or hold in place. The results will vary according to the paper and medium being used. Both printed and plain papers can be used to create interesting effects for your cards. Always wash the stencil immediately after use or at least place it in a bin of water, then clean thoroughly when finished with your project. Let's discuss how to use different mediums with stencils to create some truly unique effects.
For a basic direct-to-paper inked background, begin by securing the stencil and paper to the surface with repositionable tape. One or more colors of ink may be used. If using more than one color of ink, it is best to work from lightest to darkest. Apply the ink with a sponge or blending tool in a pouncing or dabbing motion. Intricate stencils can be damaged if a circular motion is used. However if using a large open-style stencil, a circular motion is acceptable.
There are many different types of inks, each with their own unique personality. For example, if using an ink such as Ranger Distress ink, a simple direct-to-paper approach will afford beautiful results with the method above. Since this ink is water activated, the stenciled design may be lightly misted with water to create a blended or watercolor effect. Another great technique using this type of ink is to apply the ink to the paper, then lay a stencil on top of the inked paper. To generate the stencil design, simply take a lightly dampened rag or baby wipe and remove some of the color with a sponging or dabbing motion. By doing this, a reverse effect will be achieved (Photo 2). Don't be afraid to experiment with the inks you have. After all, happy accidents are how many great ideas are born.
Using Color Sprays
Color sprays are probably one of the most popular mediums presently being used in the paper crafting community. As with inks, there are also many types of color sprays, each with their own unique properties. There are a plethora of available colors and some even have the ability to create a shimmer effect. Be sure to protect the area directly around your work surface or spray inside of a cardboard box. For easy cleanup, it is recommended to work on a nonstick craft sheet. Not only will this allow you to simply wipe up the excess spray, but you can also wipe up the excess with papers and tags to use later in other projects.
As with all techniques, one or multiple colors may be used. Just be aware when choosing multiple colors that some color combinations will result in brown or muddy colors, which may or may not be the desired effect. Follow the manufacturer's instructions as some sprays require prepping to mix the particles. It is wise to test first to see how a particular product is going to spray. Most often, spraying from a slight distance offers the best results.
Simply place the stencil onto the desired surface and lightly spray. Multiple effects can be achieved from one application. For a reverse effect, after spraying, remove the stencil and lay it wet-side down onto another piece of cardstock. To press the design into the cardstock, place a piece of scrap paper on top of the stencil or roll brayer style using a paper towel roll. (Thanks to designers Dyan Reaveley and Christy Tomlinson for this helpful tip.)
Another technique which results in a ghosting effect involves the use of a
spray that is water activated or water reactive, such as the Dylusions brand of color spray. For this technique, apply the color spray to the cardstock and let dry or use a heat tool to speed up the process. Next, lay the stencil onto the cardstock and lightly spray with plain water. Dab up any excess water and remove the stencil. Voila! The water on the stencil removes some of the color, leaving the stencil design visible. This technique results in a similar effect to the ink method previously discussed.
The use of paint and paint daubers will result in more wonderful effects. With acrylic paint, it is good to take the less-is-more approach, especially if it is a fluid paint. A good method to ensure a lighter coverage is to squeeze or dab some paint, from a dauber onto a nonstick craft sheet. Next take your blending tool or sponge and tap into the paint and tap off some excess onto the craft sheet before applying the paint to the stencil. Remember, it is easier to apply more medium than it is to take away.
Layers of paint, inks and sprays may be combined as well to create beautifully layered effects. Make sure you are aware of the properties of each of the mediums being used and dry each layer before proceeding to the next. An easy and quick way to dry each layer is with the use of a heat tool.
A tone-on-tone or watermark effect can be achieved by sponging on a watermark or clear embossing ink through the stencil and onto the paper. For best results with this technique, it is best to stay away from white and black cardstock, unless adding clear or glitter embossing powder. To give it an opulent effect, apply the ink through the stencil onto any color of cardstock. Remove the stencil and apply opaque embossing powder. Tap off any excess powder, then heat with a heat tool to melt the embossing powder. The result will be a beautiful, slightly raised design. There are a variety of embossing powders available from clear, opaque and iridescent to glitter and metallic, each will result in a different effect Colored chalks may also be applied by first using a watermark ink.
For a wonderful sheen without the dimension of embossing powder, sponge a watermark or clear embossing ink through the stencil and onto the paper. Next, remove the stencil and apply mica powder using a soft brush in a circular motion. Remember, a little goes a long way when using these powders. Mica powder can even be sprinkled onto wet embossing paste but must be left to dry for a couple of hours before blending with a soft brush. These powders can be found from various companies such as Ranger's Perfect Pearls, Jacquard Products Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments or Imagination Crafts mica powders, just to name a few.
Doodling or repetitive pattern and mark making may also be completed with the aid of a stencil. Trace around the open image stencil and then complete the hand-drawn pattern inside. The same idea can be completed using rubber stamps. Simply stamp images through the stencil onto the paper.
Stencil rubbings are a fun way to create some wonderful patterns, and this fun is not reserved just for children. Place a piece of paper on top of a stencil and rub the edge of a wax or watercolor crayon over the top. Magically the stencil design will appear! Leave as is or take it a step further by applying inks or sprays over your wax crayon for a resist effect. Or mist a watercolor crayon rubbing with water or color spray to achieve a blended effect.
While we are discussing resist techniques, keep in mind that by embossing a stenciled design with clear or white embossing powder and then adding color over top with inks or sprays, a different type of resist can be created. Airbrushing onto stencils produces